We live in interesting times. The generation that preceded us lived in the most powerful nation in the world. They reached the top of the geopolitical food chain by investing in their physical infrastructure (Eisenhower’s National Highway Program cost a cool $128 billion), making college widely available through generous government subsidy, and ensuring a stable global order than furthered trade and global interconnectedness. After so much success with that strategy, the powers that be decided to follow that up with… the exact opposite strategy.
I can’t blame them. After Baby Boomers passed through the public university system, there was no need for them keep funding it. State and federal tax dollars for public universities began to dry up, leaving Millennials to rack up large amounts of debt to finance their own education. After undergoing massive public spending programs to build the national highway system, the federal government has refused to raise the gas tax (the primary means of paying for our roads and bridges) since 1993. After decades of pushing the gospel of free trade around the world, the powers that be are actively putting up tariffs and starting trade wars. It’s as if they simply decided success and wealth were no longer cool. Lets try poverty instead. Hey, Colombians are some of the happiest people in the world. Maybe they know something we don’t.
There’s many other trends that have conspired to make Millennials the first generation in decades to be worse off than their predecessors. Bloomberg covers financial markets with great professionalism. But they don’t cover them with us in mind. When they speak of reduced home ownership, they don’t mention how an entire age cohort witnessed how in 2009 houses suddenly weren’t worth what everybody thought. When they report that Millennials are holding more cash than they should, they forget to mention that it was complex financial instruments that brought the global markets to their knees.
Many of the systems that made America great will simply not be available to us. Pensions are a thing of the past. Societal safety nets like Social Security and Medicare may not outlive Baby Boomers. Pretty soon, full time jobs will dry up as companies favor part time employees that don’t require expensive benefits such as healthcare.
Faced with this, Millenials have not cowed. Sure, home ownership is down among our generation. Sure, crippling student debt means life’s finer things may be beyond many Millenials. However, we have come up with a societal response to such adversity: we HUSTLE.
What is Hustling? Simply put, Hustling is the act of thinking outside the box to make your life just a bit more awesome. This awesome-ness can take the shape of added income, an easier way of accomplishing tasks, or a better quality of life. It’s all the ways we make being an adult easier. A hustle is not malicious. We are not used car salesmen living in a zero sum game. We can add to society, if we so choose. Whether it’s because we know of a way to do things more effectively, we have knowledge others lack, or we simply see the game of life for what it really is, hustling allows value to be added without directly harming those around us.
Now, [the haters among] us might dare say we’re appropriating a term that does not belong to us employed, highly educated folks (Millenials are the most educated age bracket ever). Perhaps that is the case, but that is a very GenY thing to do.
With the right amount of Hustle, we can make the best of what’s been given to us. These will be interesting times. I look forward to taking the ride with all of you.