The Mission Driven Millennial

Well world, I’m starting a new blog. I wrote most of my original blog during college, but I'm a young professional now living in a city buzzing with social change activity. Just like me, millions of millennials around the world are graduating from the education system and beginning to define our place in the world. It’s exciting and a little scary to take our passion and energy into a world with so much social unrest and environmental turbulence. Now more than ever our journeys toward purpose, fulfillment and happiness are in our control.

I'd like to kick this blog off by introducing three questions I've been grappling with a lot as a "mission driven millennial". I foresee these questions coming up in some form or another pretty regularly in my writing. From my conversations with others, I believe these are some of the most poignant questions facing mission driven millennials today.

1) What am I passionate about?

I care about a lot of things. I look at the world (and my city!) and see hunger, homelessness, lack of education, poverty, obesity, abuse, violence, injustice, pollution, corruption and disparity. I want to do something about all of them, but focusing on everything doesn't get anything done. I've also grappled with which causes I'm "qualified" to pursue. It feels silly when I write it out like that, but I definitely feel the conflict of whether my ability to relate to those I'm trying to help affects my ability to help them (certainly the topic of a future post!).

I've found some resolution in narrowing down what I want to focus on right now. These causes don't have to be my life mission. They're just issues I'm motivated to change for the better.

Right now, I want to create a more equitable economic system and grow the renewable energy sector in Washington D.C. Still very broad I know, but it gives me some focus and clarity to actually take action. That action is key to finding my passions. As Mark Manson writes in an awesome post about life purpose"passion is a product of action, not the cause of it."

2) Do I get more involved or build my skills?

Millennials are at an interesting point in life. Many of us are now full-time contributing members of society, but we're still only in the first or second stage of our careers. We have so much to learn and so much room to grow as professionals and leaders. Especially for mission driven millennials, we feel the weight of the world shifting toward us to be the generation that changes things for the better. Pressure's on. Better live up to the hype, right?

The question becomes, do we get more involved in our passion areas or build the skills needed to create a better world? Here's where I've landed at the moment.

I strive to be excellent at what I do. But, the causes I'm trying to affect aren't about me. They're about helping other people. While I stand in my bubble, learning graphic design and front-end web development, thousands of people in my community alone are looking for my help. When I convince myself that I need to get better or rise higher to affect change, I feel like I’m rationalizing my own ego and ambition. Could I be better at what I do? Yes. Could other people use what I already have? HELL YES.

As long as I stay conscious of my own development and am open to learning, I’m going to hone useful skills by being involved. Full disclosure: I change my mind on a monthly basis (why not build an expertise that allows me to have a BIG impact on any cause?) so this will come up again for sure.

3) How do I lead a life of meaning and happiness?

A quote by E.B. White resonates with me:

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

It reminds me of the leaders of major social movements. Ghandi, Martin Luther King jr., Nelson Mandela. Their positive impact on the world is pretty much universally accepted. But were they happy people? Fulfilled maybe, but probably not happy most of the time.

As mission driven millennials, are we expected to endure the same level of sacrifice in order to achieve positive social and environmental change? Changing things for the better is fulfilling, but it’s still hard, hard work. Being happy is about balance, relationships, play, creativity, health and so many other factors. Where do we strike the balance between purpose and happiness?

Of the three questions I’ve posed, this is the one I have the least figured out. I feel ready to make some pretty big sacrifices for what I believe in, but is it worth it? Does leading a happier life make me better capable to create a better world?

I don’t know, but I will say that I find some natural balance in my relationships with others. When I spend time with close friends, I end up doing things that make me happy. It’s never a conscious decision, but they definitely pull me toward a happier life. So for now I’m content focusing on pouring time and energy into them. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

Shoo! Well there you have it. Excited to dive in with me? Through this blog I hope to explore my professional interests, including digital community building, models for economic equity, marketing strategy and renewable energy. But, woven into this journey will be the questions above – the questions that keep our generation up at night.

Or maybe it’s just me. What big questions weigh on you? I’d love to chat about it in the comments!