Millennials are often pegged with unfair stereotypes — lazy, egotistical, narcissistic, etc. But there is one stereotype I believe all Millennials have embraced that others should learn from — entitled.
I watched a PBS News special recently about a dying coal town here in Western Pennsylvania. They interviewed families afflicted by the shutting down of coal mines due to new regulations, lack of demand, and a plethora of other reasons.
The out-of-work miners told heartfelt stories about getting screwed out of life-long healthcare, pensions, and other benefits promised by the coal companies. Their way of life — jeopardized by greedy politicians — was slowly decaying.
I have no sympathy for their plight.
(**Please note, I sympathize for the families falling on hard times, I do not however, sympathize with the dying coal industry**)
This coal town, and other small American towns like it, benefited for years from the exploitation of a single resource. They didn’t innovate. They didn’t evolve. They didn’t seek new sources of energy.
Instead, they spent decades pulling a finite amount of compressed carbon from the earth. Without the help of an alchemist, they were doomed from the start.
The coal industry dug its own grave.
Future Generations are Entitled to a Better World
I hope to live in a world where coal energy is no longer required. A world where cleaner, efficient forms of energy are tested, developed, and brought to market.
Besides the energy crisis, I hope to see war, famine, disease, hatred, fear, Trump, and corruption — which dominate our 24/7 news stream — become a thing of the past.
Maybe it’s the optimistic Millennial in me talking, but I hope my son will live in a better world than the one now. I feel he’s entitled to it and in a way, I feel entitled to it as well.
To settle for the status quo that this is just the way things are, to accept that all the problems we face will always exist is nothing short of betraying future generations.
Generations to come are entitled to us trying to leave behind a better world. They’re entitled to us taking a stab at the problems that plague us today.
Acting entitled means not accepting the status quo. It means looking at our situation and saying, We can do better.
Previous generations accepted what was handed to them. They didn’t dream of a better future and instead liked things just the way they are. They held no regard for the future because to do so was not to be grateful for what they had. To them, change was the enemy. And they were right; change devours the stagnant.
That’s why the coal industry is dying. That’s why Blockbuster is busted. That’s why Yahoo sold for 3% of what it was once worth. That’s why you don’t ride in a taxi anymore.
And that’s why disruption of the education and health industry is next.
People who don’t act entitled for more, settle for what they have. We must not settle for what we have, because although we may have enough to survive today, it isn’t enough for us to survive tomorrow.
Steel Dreaming of a Better Future
I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Just like the three rivers that run through our great city (but unlike our neighboring coal towns) we keep moving forward.
Up until the 1970s, Pittsburgh was the steel capital of the world. At one point in the twentieth century, a quarter of America’s railroads were laid with Pittsburgh-forged steel.
However, during the seventies and eighties, the steel industry faced pressure from smaller, technologically advanced mills as well as foreign mills in Germany and Japan.
Pittsburgh’s out-dated mills couldn’t compete.
Tough times followed the implosion of the steel industry in Pittsburgh. Other local corporations were bought and sold. Families moved to where there was work. Hope was nowhere to be found in this rust belt city.
Little did people realize that this was the best thing to happen to Pittsburgh.
In the years that followed, Pittsburgh cleaned up her act. We brought in new tech companies, green innovation, better healthcare, higher education, and civic improvements. We didn’t dwell on the past. We dreamed of a better city and set out to make that dream a reality. Today Pittsburgh is ranked as one of America’s most livable cities.
Other than a few ol’ timers, if you ask anyone today, no one would want Pittsburgh to return to the smog-ridden “glory days.”
Pittsburgh may be a small city, but we always feel entitled to more (that’s why we win so many championships). Our sense of entitlement led us through our renaissance because we knew we could be more.
Change is the Only Constant
There is nothing wrong in dreaming of a better future for you and future generations. I can assure you, fighting to keep things “the way it is” is a lot more work than adapting and evolving.
Change is the only constant in this world. Have you ever heard of a species that didn’t evolve? Probably not, nature has a way of weeding out the dwellers.
Innovation, evolution, and iteration are man’s best survival tools. Failing to use these tools is insanity.
Nothing in this world is permanent, and that’s a good thing. It forces us as a human race to consistently seek out what is possible, to discover what we are capable of accomplishing, and tear down obstacles that stand in our way.
So here is my call to action for Millennials and non-Millennials:
The next time someone pulls the entitlement card on you, kindly remind them you’re seeking to create a better world.
We must desire and believe we are entitled to a better world, but more importantly, we must act to achieve it. If not, we will hand over the world to future generations in greater despair and ruin than it is today.
Act entitled. The world depends on it.