Bob LeDrew has gone from garage bands to Garageband, and from typewriters to tablets. He’s embraced technological change, and he lives to write. But he’s also pretty sure that the future is fundamentally human. This is his poignant letter to Millennials… and GenZ.
I’m writing this in the fall of 2015, and even though I’m not yet 50, it’s making me feel old.
When I started my working life, it was as a freelancer. I guess that’s one thing that’s done well for me over the years I’ve been in the workforce, and it seems like our world is moving more and more to a world of on-demand and freelance working lives.
I have seen some massive changes in the working world. When I did freelance radio in the late 1980s, I used a portable cassette recorder to capture audio and an editing deck with a razor blade and a chalk pencil. I typed scripts on a typewriter on carbon forms to make multiple copies.
Now, everything is digital, and it happened in a seeming instant. The internet changed so much of daily life for people of my generation, and did it incredibly quickly — at least it seems that way now. It starts to feel like that chapter in Genesis where everything is begetting at breakneck speed.
So here’s my advice to you, O dewy-eyed and fresh-faced youngsters:
1. It’s a cliché, but get used to change.
And be prepared for it to pass you by. The pace of life is frenetic. Chances are you aren’t going to be able to maintain it for your entire working life. I don’t see it changing any time soon.
2. Find ways to live well.
Not so long ago, there was a newspaper story about a guy who had paid off a mortgage in three years. How? He worked three jobs, rented out part of the house, took one overnight trip to Milwaukee, mostly ate Kraft Dinner. When I saw the story, my immediate reaction was that I’d never do that. But if I were in my early years of working life? Maybe I would. If living mortgage free opened up the ability to take six week vacations at the cost of three years of nose-to-the-grindstone, maybe I would.
3. Time is all there is.
You don’t know how much time you have on this planet (and, if you’re like me, you believe that the lifespan is all there is). USE IT WISELY. And part of that is buying yourself time. When you find yourself making some money, don’t spend it all. Find ways to buy yourself time for when you need it.
Hand in hand with that is that experience is all there is. I’ve done vacations at all-inclusives, but the ones that really stay with me are the ones where I’ve had EXPERIENCES. Make things happen that are meaningful to you. Love art? See the best. Adventurous? Go forth and adventure. Don’t settle for crowds and silly things that you’ll forget in a week.
4. Accept that you are going to break from time to time.
For a long time, I thought I was essentially unbreakable. And then I got cancer. After that, an employer I loved made it impossible for me to stay with them, and I took another job that was horrible, and I ended up with a major depressive episode. I broke. It’s entirely likely that you are going to break too. It’s estimated that up to 20% of Canadians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. If you don’t experience a mental illness directly, you will likely be affected by a parent, partner, sibling or child with one. Part of squirrelling money away is making sure that you can be okay when you’re not okay.
5. Find independence wherever you can.
Don’t live in your parents’ place, or let them buy you stuff. Don’t think any job is for life. Be ready to be fired at any time.
6. Be the best friend you can be.
Do good for people. Reach out. If you think about a friend and it makes you happy, reach out to them and say so.
7. Drop your masks.
For a long time, I wore masks in my life. I hid insecurities, flaws, weaknesses, failings behind that mask because I was convinced that if they showed themselves, nobody would be able to stand my existence. That was a mistake. It’s easy to put on the happy face, to deny your own feelings. It’s harder to be honest. But when you reveal yourself, when you’re honest, the chances of making a real, human connection with another person are far higher. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Bob LeDrew is a communicator, podcaster, and teacher in Ottawa. He is unnaturally affectionate towards stringed instruments and single malt whisky.