I was having a conversation with a friend recently that in true British fashion started by talking about the weather. Our discussion then took a hard turn from meteorology toward young people; specifically, that they are faced with a no-growth world—a world dominated by the new, indispensable monopolies of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon. These are companies with $504 billion in cash (log-in required), which equates to a third of the total $1.7 trillion held on the balance sheets of U.S. non-financial companies.
That same day, I read that an Oxford University study estimates 47 percent of U.S. jobs are “at risk” of being automated in the next 20 years.
Since the mid-1980s, there has been a three-fold increase in young Americans who feel the American Dream is no longer alive. And since 2010, there has been a one-third increase in adults over the age of 30 who claim they are not as happy as they used to be.
As I took a taxi home, I remarked to the driver that I really liked the 1970s rock music playing on the radio. He spoke to me for half an hour about how he loved to play guitar so much, but that these days his wife and 19-year-old son didn't understand it. So he’d go to the spare bedroom and lose himself to rock-and-roll whenever he could.
More Than a Feeling
I knew that sensation well, because I spent my teen years in my Idaho bedroom slamming my 1972 Ludwig silver sparkle drums with my best friends: The Beatles, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and Emerson Lake and Palmer.
In my mind and heart, I was onstage every night with Pink Floyd at London’s Wembley Stadium.
My dad used to play sax in a big band in the 1940s, but I only saw him play once when I was five. When he was in his mid-70s, I asked him why he decided to quit playing the saxophone. He said, “I didn’t. It happened so slowly I didn’t even even know it.”
Back in 1920, Sigmund Freud defined and contrasted the pleasure principle with the counterpart concept of the reality principle. When we are young, we go for what we want and what gives us pleasure. But when maturity, reality and external expectations set in, we defer or abandon our dreams.
So is there a time when people give up on their dreams, or like my dad, does it happen so slowly we don't even know it?
Somewhere along the way, events mount that can either chip away at our idealism or forge our steel. Is it parents who tell you what you can and cannot do, friends who say you aren’t smart enough? Maybe it used to be a leathery football coach who said you weren’t tough enough.
Back in the 1950s, success in a stable world was defined for many across America as: raise a family, go to church, work at a steady job until your gold watch, then retire and relax in Arizona with guaranteed social security and a pension.
For the youth of today, expectations are high, yet undefined. Children are tested for elite preschool acceptance at the infant stage, and then race to achieve high marks at expensive universities, and search for jobs that may no longer exist.
Business in many ways has never been harder. We now compete across the globe with low cost labor or even robots. And it seems as if most every business is in danger of commoditization.
What Do We Do?
In our house, we have always come from a spirit of entrepreneurship, to be prepared to succeed no matter what the situation. And as entrepreneurs, we hold that each day is what we make it, that the best days are always ahead.
We’ve always counseled our kids to think and act independently, so they didn't have to depend upon someone else’s decisions over them. Our advice has always been to become a self-contained mobile unit, a one-person swat team for lifetime survival; to learn all about how money, marketing, and business operations work. The more you can move around the divisions of a business, the better you are prepared to start and run your own.
Your ambitions don't have to make any more sense or logic than ‘because I want to.’ And rather than let your dreams fade with time, know that there can be a bravery with age.
How about taking yourself back to that place you were before life changed your big dreams, and ask yourself what are you going to do differently today?
And as for people who tell you what you can’t do: Stand tall for what you believe in!
Whatever it is you choose to do, it starts today.
As for me? I’m heading to Wembley.