Category Archives: Millennial POV

A Look Back: the Making of a Stronger Orlando

By: Megan Lanier

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Orlando. The City Beautiful.

I never truly understood the meaning of the city slogan until a week ago.

Orlando has never been more beautiful. Sadly, the catalyst for this profound beauty was a sudden jolt of tragedy, anger and despair. Never has an event like the Pulse Nightclub shooting affected me so deeply. Every day, we turn on the news to hear of murder in our cities and war in countries overseas – all horrific tales of unnecessary death and violence. Somehow though, the Pulse shooting was different. It was more than just a news story. It wounded my neighborhood.

I did not know any of the victims nor did anyone in my immediate circle of friends and family. Orlando is a close community, but even in a city of over two million people the supposed six degrees of separation can seem monumental at times. Even without knowing the victims and their families, the whole world seemed to bear the same pain.

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By the afternoon of June 12th, rainbow flags already adorned the entrances to local businesses, Facebook groups for a citizen’s response was started and an outpouring of volunteers waited in lines for hours to donate blood. I still do not have the words to express the incredible support, unity and acceptance that surged out of this city. It was obvious that we were all in this together. Complete strangers were now friends and pride for our city had never been stronger.

A week after the shooting on June 18th, my husband, some friends and I attended the candlelight vigil around Lake Eola (Orlando’s mainstay public downtown park). The Central Florida commuter train, SunRail, opened for a special Sunday service that day to provide another transportation option for attendees. 20,000 people were expected to attend. The group of us all rode our bikes to the nearby station planning to ride the train to the downtown stop. When the trains cars pulled up they were already packed to the brim with riders and dozens more pushed their way in. We knew this would be a big night.

Forgoing the train to cycle the entire trip instead, we arrived at Lake Eola Park 30 minutes before the vigil was scheduled to begin. The 23 acre lake was surrounded by people at least 10 feet deep along the perimeter. The park was strikingly beautiful and painted in a sea of colors by everyone in attendance. The final attendance count was estimated to be over 50,000 people.

Although it had been a weekend full of gray skies and rain, just minutes before the program began a massive rainbow emerged across the sky – directly over the park. Everyone erupted into applause as our gazes all turned upwards. We knew the meaning of that message.

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The vigil commenced with words from Orlando Mayor, Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor, Theresa Jacobs, and several other figureheads who were involved with the incident. Everyone shared a message of love, humanity and strength. Our city would not be overcome the actions of one. In the final moments, we lit our candles and the area sparkled as the names of the 49 victims were announced. It was a beautiful moment and one that will be fixed in my memory forever.

Following the close of the program, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” played. It was as if everyone was frozen in time. Although the announcement to leave had been given, it was as if we all just needed a few extra moments to take it all in. The lake glistened from the reflections of candlelight and there was a great sense of belonging.

The social media hashtags surrounding the event – #OrlandoStrong and #OrlandoUnited – could not be a more accurate representation of the feeling and response. We are together in grief as much as strength.

I have never been more proud to call Orlando home and I know that we will only become stronger.

Coping with the Student Loan Burden

Image from Bascom Hill on Flickr
Image from Bascom Hill on Flickr

Written by: Megan Lanier

I am crippled. Not in the sense that I have a physical impairment, but rather a financial burden that looms over me and my husband day every day. That aliment is student loans. We are just one of the 40 million Americans inflicted with this weakness that was supposed to be our saving grace.

To be honest, this was somewhat self-inflicted. While I was one of the lucky few who was able to escape college and graduate school debt-free, my husband was not so fortunate. He (and now we) carries around an absurd amount of debt which makes me sick to my stomach to even think of the number, let alone share it with others. Although we make substantial payments each month, the total only seems to rise.

Knowing that we must not be the only ones stuck in one of those zero progress clichés, I started thinking: what are other millennials doing about this issue? We are a young, inventive and curious generation that will not be stopped a little issue like paying back over $1.2 trillion in our lifetime…right?

While most repayment plans are put on a 10-year track to debt freedom, the average bachelor’s degree holder takes 21 years to repay his or her student loans. That is also taking into account that the average loan amount is about $30,000. Gulp. Sadly, that amount is far less than the figure my husband and I are dealing with.

So, enough with the facts and figures. What are millennials actually doing about this “crisis”? Here are some creative ways our generation has tackled this mounting societal problem.

  1. Be a Volunteer. While the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is widely known now, it is not a feasible option for everyone. A couple of innovative millennials have crafted a way for the service-minded to receive the benefit of loan repayment assistance. Two organizations with a similar concept in mind, reward volunteers for participating in volunteer projects that receive funding from sponsors. Zerobound and SponsorChange have different funding models, but the same idea to make the burden of loans a little easier for those who give back. In a sense, volunteer work is crowdfunded by companies, friends, family, etc. to pay down student loan debt.

 

  1. Debt Realization. The first step to tackling debt is knowing exactly how much you have to pay off – and the time it will take you to do so based on your monthly payments. The federal student loan calculator is a marvelous tool. One millennial had the help of her boyfriend to finally come to terms with her student loan debt issue. By implementing some creative solutions to cut back expenses and make additional income, she has paid off $90,000 in debt. She discovered some unique ideas for earning extra income which made those monthly payments a little easier.

 

  1. Earn Rewards. Almost every credit card nowadays offers rewards for cash back, airline miles or hotel points. Another company has taken a similar approach by offering the benefit of student loan repayment. SmarterBucks allows users to sign up for a free account and shop the online marketplace featuring popular brands and earn up to 10% back paid to the student loan carrier of your choice. Additionally, family and friends can sign up for a “Gifter” account and their rewards will be contributed to repayment as well.

Although the issue of student loan debt can be frightening, it is reassuring to know that others have tackled the problem and are now thriving, debt-free individuals. Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you (and me!) make further progress on repayment and break free from student loan debt.

CNN Money Coverage on Student Loan Crisis.

New America Study on Student Loan Debt in the U.S.

U.S. News article on the realities of paying off your loans.

Information on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Zerobound – how you can use volunteer hours to pay off your loans.

SponsorChange – complete special projects and get a loan payment.

A calculator to help better plan on how to pay off your loans.

Forbes – How one person paid off $90,000 in student loan debt in a year.

Happy 2016! The Perfect Time for a Pivot.

One of my early supporters of the Millennial Takeover, Patrick McKelvey provided creative direction and never ending enthusiasm.
One of my early supporters of the Millennial Takeover, Patrick McKelvey provided creative direction and never ending enthusiasm.
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Another early supporter of the Millennial Takeover, Jewel Jennings Wright, provided enthusiasm as well as structural guidance to building the blog.

When I first started this blog, I did all the research to figure out what the heck I was doing so that I could give this blog the best shot possible. With a firm set of rules in mind, I started to build out content to meet meaningful metrics: a post a week, at least four social media interactions a day, etc.  And over time, the influence grew and I was seeing results. As things got harder at work, the more I pushed on the blog, until the predictable happened: I burned out.

I had to travel to Afghanistan for work and I was nearing burn out with the blog. Frustration, fatigue, and disappointment started to settle in and I was not delivering the quality product I wanted to deliver. When I tried to maintain the momentum once I arrived in Afghanistan, I just gave up. It was too much to be devoting the kind of energy my job needed to then go back to my room and sit in front of my computer (again) to write  about things that felt so far away from where I was. So I put blogging aside with every intention of picking it back up when I returned home. And I tried and tried, but when I came back the reverse culture shock had me questioning everything, including my initial intentions for the blog.

The Millennial Takeover was designed to spotlight kick a$$ millennials in a world that loves to hate them, that wants to put them back into the 1950’s boxes of polite and predictable society. Even using the label “millennials” has placed our entire generation into yet another box, into the plan that every “good” citizen is expected to carry out. As my generation continues to grow up and morph the milestones (car, house, etc.) for the lives we are crafting, we are recreating the world to the way we want it to be, no matter how bad it hurts in the process. And I want to share their stories to demonstrate how we are disrupting the way the world works.

One of my favorite writers and long time friend, Megan Almasi and her husband Erick.
One of my favorite writers and long time friend, Megan Almasi and her husband Erick.

So, while I debated on giving up entirely on this blog and the incredible progress I was able to build over 2015, I simply couldn’t. The Millennial Takeover has become such a key part of my development that I could not close up shop and move on to something else. Instead, I am making some adjustments. This year I will be posting twice a month instead of weekly and I’ll be featuring posts from my dear friend Megan Lanier. 2015 ushered in for Megan a whole slew of “adulthood milestones” that her and her husband have made their own.

As The Millennial Takeover makes this pivot, I want to thank you so much for being with me through the ride so far and look forward to your feedback in the coming year. Happy New Year!

Looking back to my first Startup Weekend

Recently, I went to my first ever Startup Weekend event. Focusing on social impact, the whole 54 hours was devoted to finding real scale able solutions that have a positive impact on society. While I went to check out what the event was all about and stretch out my business savvy muscles, I learned so much more about myself as well as the field that I so desperately wanted to join.

But how does a startup weekend work exactly? Imagine a mini conference with the requisite check in table, swag giving and name tag collection. Then, at least in my case, sheepishly scan the room for a friendly face and a place to sit through the impending talk that gets participants in the right mind set. After about an hour of that, participants are invited to pitch their ideas and the top 10 or so become the businesses that will be developed over the weekend. Once the 100 or so participants are released they search for a group that will hopefully win the competition for best business idea. That’s when the gloves come off and the race to build a validated business is on.

While our team did not win the competition, the experience itself allowed me to learn some very valuable lessons. The top three are below.

1. Just because you have an idea, doesn’t mean you’ve got a business.
There were a ton of inspiring and seemingly solid ideas that were pitched during the weekend. But the businesses that rose to the top of the heap, were the ones who were able to clearly articulate who their customers were and had proven that they would be willing to pay for whatever they were offering.

2. Shiny object syndrome is a real thing.
When you are trying to develop a project from an idea, having an unwavering commitment to your mission is crucial. Without that focus, your idea quickly becomes a Frankenstein of features that don’t have anything to do with the original intent. This doesn’t mean that your idea can’t change and evolve, but the original problem you are trying to solve needs to be the center of your work until you can prove that it’s not a problem people are willing to pay to solve.

3. Building and keeping your team engaged is half the battle
Getting a group of very passionate people together can be energizing and motivating. You are exploring ideas with each other and all of a sudden anything seems possible. While idea development is a ridiculous amount of fun, getting your team to go from the idea to actually testing your idea is the only way to know if you’ve got a business or a fun idea.

So if you are looking to take your idea and test it out in the real world, find a Startup Weekend event in your area.

Why Millennials Won’t Be Defeated

Today’s blog post is the 50th! And as a testament to the true mission of the blog, promoting snake people, I mean millennials, who are creating impact in our world, over the last couple of days there have been several articles that heaped on the fears and doubts if any millennial hoping to live a happy life. For example, this Vice News video does an overview of how our economy is changing. By the end of it, the expert panel paint a patchwork economy vastly different from the one we’ve prepared for. I closed the tab feeling a sense of dread for this “new” economy and fear that I have played all the wrong cards during my 20’s.

After taking a sip of my white wine and some deep breathing, I realized that the fear and panic I was experiencing  was inherited baggage from our older generations. The rate at which things are changing, it is absolutely terrifying and creating a panic across all of society. Think of it this way, 7 years ago the first Iphone was premiered and fundamentally changed the way we use phones. Now, everyone has a smartphone and are using them to make money. Millennials are perfectly poised to capitalize on all of these changes for the following reasons:

1. We are young.

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Although I often feel as if I’m 45 and I’ve figured everything, there’s a greater sense of relief that I have at least 30 years to correct my life’s course. This also applies to my peers,  what ever past mistakes we have made we have plenty of time to make our way to a life that works for us. Having that much time is a very precious gift that our parents would often kill for. As my roommate always says, “Most successful people started from a different place than  where they are now.”

2. We are creative.

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Never have we had the opportunity to express ourselves in mediums beyond the classical arts. So keep working those Insta filters, embracing your creative side not only improves your mental health, but the future economy will heavily rely on out of the box thinking and doing more with less.

3. We’re resourceful.

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Yes, the Great Recession was terrible, I lived in Florida at the time, I can tell you stories. The dramatic shift of a spend happy middle class to one losing houses and jobs which lead to feeling, and still dealing with, the pinch of stagnant wages and rising costs. Whether we’re building money saving apps or embracing the DIY instructions from Pintrest, we’re finding ways to save here and there.  Creating that kind of value is what our future economy demands, and millennials have completely embraced it.

4. We are thirsty for knowledge.

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Cited as the most educated generation , our incessant consumption of media demonstrates leads one to believe there is a strong desire for knowledge.  According to this Entrepreneur article, millennials spend 18 hours consuming media material.

 5. We are strategic.
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With the rise of Postmates, Uber, Lyft and, others, millennials have found ways to create an income that funded by a variety of sources, and have time to socialize. Making the world work for us will be critical as we cope with this rapidly shifting economy.

The Takeaway?
So the next time you are faced with the inevitable millennial tear down, take the time to sit back and identify all of the ways you’re getting ready to handle the quickly shifting economy. No other generation will be ready like we are for this evolving economy, no matter what it ends up looking like.

Top 5 Lessons from Millennial Takeover Interviews

http://bit.ly/1CS9U75
http://bit.ly/1CS9U75

For the past 6 months I’ve been collecting interviews from millennial leaders from around the world. And while each one has been working on something drastically different, their insights have a lot in common. Inspired by the work that they do, here is my list of the top 5 lessons I’ve learned from the millennials I’ve interviewed so far.

1. Stop dragging your feet and go for it.

You could wait until the timing is right, but that may never come. The sooner you start working on pursuing your passion project, the sooner you’ll know if you’ve got a great idea. Not a single person interviewed has regretted the decision to take that leap of faith, so chance are you won’t either.

2. This is hard work… but it’s totally doable.

Most of these millennial leaders have been clawing their way to grow their ideas into actual entities. That has come from many late nights, weekend long work sessions, and a commitment to see the project through.
3. Don’t forget about your greatest asset, your sanity.

The whole purpose of building out your idea is so that you can be happy. When you are pushing yourself (and your support system) to focus solely on the development of this project so you stop sleeping regularly or eating, you are on a one way train to a breakdown. Those are never pretty and often damage more than you’d ever imagine. So get that sleep, get to that work out because if you aren’t on your A game, then your company/organization/project won’t be either.

4. You are not alone.

While the rest of your friends are hitting up happy hour after work or have an established routine, starting out on your own can feel isolating. Your schedule is designed to squeeze every minute out of it so you can be productive while their’s are structured and predictable.

Finding a community of fellow entrepreneurs is critical to remind you that you are on the right track and that you’ve totally got this.

5. Put your “why” at the center of everything that you do.

You will face set backs and obstacles, it’s an inevitable part of life. But if you put your “why am I doing this” at the center of everything you do, you’ll be motivated to keep pushing and keep creating.

I have gained so much insight from the millennials I’ve interviewed so far and I hope that you have gained a little insight from them as well.

Until next week!

How to Get Started

Now that the confetti and glitter has been successfully cleaned away, you’ve got to be 40% or 50% of the way to accomplishing that killer new project that’s on your 2015 vision board. Right?

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1DEAMtH
Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1DEAMtH

Well if you are,  CONGRATULATIONS! You are one committed go-getter!

If not, don’t despair, knowing how to start is the hardest part of any project, especially one that may be outside of your comfort zone. The gnawing self doubts, the fear of failure, make even saying your idea out loud about as enjoyable as getting your blood drawn.

I know that fear all too well and that fear kept me from starting the blog for a couple years. And if I’ve learned anything at this point it’s that when it comes to building anything, you don’t have time to waste. So, if you have a fabulous idea, but don’t know how to start, here are the five things I did to start the Millennial Takeover.

1. Talk about the idea with close friends, family, and trustworthy strangers. Their feedback will help you gauge what might be your target market or if your idea even has legs.

2. Get an account using the name for your idea, even if it’s just a Gmail account or a twitter handle. Just signing up for a Gmail account created a sense of accountability for me.

3. Find your cheerleaders, those first few steps require a good deal of vulnerability, especially if you are going into something you aren’t as familiar with. My incredible friends who were there at the beginning to kept me motivated and dreamed with me. Those late night bar planning sessions really allowed the idea of the blog morph into a plan for the blog.

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/14xegGG
Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/14xegGG

4. Start identifying who is out there in your intended field and build from there. Knowing your competition will not only give you a source of inspiration, but it could also lead necessary partnerships down the line.

5. Be patient and kind to yourself. There is still an extremely long laundry list of things that needs to take place every week to keep this blog going and at least 70% of it are things I don’t know how to do. But, with patience I’ve taught myself many of the skills that I needed to have things like a logo, or a website.

Now that you have my list, what’s on yours? What are some things that have helped you start a project? What project or idea are you working on 2015? Post your answers in the comments below or tweet us @themtakeover or on Facebook.

Why I Started this Blog

Going into 2015, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks thinking about what The Millennial Takeover has accomplished so far and where I’d like for it to go. Before I could even start to plan, I had to revisit why I started the blog in the first place.  It all started in the summer of 2011.

 

I had just wrapped up two summer classes, moved out of an apartment, into a new one and packed to go to Santiago,  Chile in the span of two weeks. For the first couple of weeks in Chile, I adjusted to life in the valley of the Andes as an Embassy intern. While I literally couldn’t stop grinning from the high of accomplishing a dream, that summer was filled with critics of millennials.

 

Granted there were several destructive protests, that summer had me feeling inspired by all that my young colleagues were accomplishing, especially Camila Vallejo the leader of the Chile protests asking for the government to redesign their management of the educational system. Every night the pierced nose, curly brunette made an appearance on the Chilean news eloquently leading the discussion.
Camila Vallejo Photo Credit :http://bit.ly/1BdO1jp
Camila Vallejo
Photo Credit :http://bit.ly/1BdO1jp
Sitting on the TV room couch, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the thousands upon thousands of millennials in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, England, Chile, and the United States, calling for a more equal world and were doing whatever they could to bring about that change. I wanted to know their stories, I wanted to know how they went from an ordinary 20-something to  toppling governments. But, those stories rarely made an appearance.

 

Upon my return to grad school in the fall of 2011, I had to set those thoughts aside to make it through my last year. But no sooner than I packed away my graduation garb, the drive to build a place to celebrate the millennials who are changing the world refused to be ignored. As they say, the rest is history.
Pucon 2011
Pucon 2011
In the new year, I hope to grow the blog so join the email list by signing up to the left, following us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

U.S. Police Officers Have a Bit of a PR problem

Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz
Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz
About a year ago, I wrote about how racism is still a relevant issue in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Never in a million years did I think that within the year, that there would be consistent protesting in places like New York and Missouri with a march scheduled next week in Washington D.C. that revives memories of the 1960’s.
In some ways, one could believe that these protests are completely spontaneous, that these protesters don’t have anything better to do but take to the streets. Protests and social movements don’t just happen, there is always a history of frustration and then, a motivating tipping point. In this case, Eric Garner’s grand jury ruling was that tipping point. While the debates have focused on institutional racism and the corrupt legal system, I firmly believe that what’s being addressed here is not an effort to right past wrongs, but a need to see each other as human beings instead of the agenda we seem to represent.
For example, I’m afraid of police officers. I know it’s silly, but on the rare occasions I’ve had to interact with one in the States, my hands get all sweaty, I can’t look them in the eye and I am just waiting for things to get out of control. When I first arrived in Haiti, I had similar feelings, but they usually inspired a panic mode reaction. Influenced by the horror stories of police officers conducting check points that led to kidnappings, I often avoided police officers at all costs. But, I eventually had to go through a checkpoint and when I did I contemplated the following actions:
        1) Speed past them before they knew what happened.
        2) Let the car roll slowly, jump out of it and run to the                       nearest house.
       3) Cry and pray that they’d leave me alone.
       4) Just go with the flow and see where things would go.
As the first three would only make a potentially non-threatening situation worse, I opted for #4. After the cop checked my papers, he smiled and I was on my merry way, still in my car, still with my wallet, and in my opinion, safe. Over time, I gained respect and didn’t fear the police officers but saw them as people doing their job to keep Haiti’s streets safe. Not to say that are always successful, but little by little they are changing their reputation.
Returning home, that fear has returned. With the ominous blue lights, the incredible variety of weaponry that police officers have on at all times, and the overall aggression associated with law enforcement. It just makes me wonder, how is it that one of the most dangerous islands has been able to build an approachable police force, and the “land of the free” now has a system of terror? These are just my observations, but what do you think? Is our system justified or are our police officers addressing a threat that’s not there?

Changing the World Shouldn’t Come Cheap

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q
Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

If there were no obstacles, how would you change the world? I, like many others, want to build a career on making the world a better place. Traditionally, building a career of service has meant working within the public and non-profit sector. In those types of jobs you are able to directly address the problems that companies simply aren’t interested in solving. Though admirable, with rising education and living costs, being a professional do-gooder has become an increasingly challenging career choice.

A few years ago, I had the chance to watch the TED talk above featuring Dan Pallotta. The fundraising genius introduced the world to multi-day human experiences that raised millions of dollars and propelled issues into the spotlight. Now a writer and advocate for the non-profit sector, Pallotta’s TED talk makes the case for why those choosing to pursue this career path shouldn’t be expected to earn and be valued significantly less than their private sector counterparts.

I raise this issue today in response to Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine’s attempt to “break the internet.” While both entities are encouraged to push the envelope to gain attention, which turn into profits, non-profits are routinely capped by what society thinks they should be doing. Restraining non-profits in this way only stifles innovation in an era where this year’s technology is obsolete in a matter of years, not decades or even centuries. As described in Adam Davidson’s recent New York Times’ piece, for every successful tech startup there are many more that have failed. To investors, it is an accepted risk to starting a business. Why does it have to be any different for non-profits? Donations to a non-profit are just an older version of crowd funding. Why the uproar when one has an incredibly successful fundraising campaign? They did great work and should be rewarded, like a Facebook, Twitter, Uber, etc.

Do you think a non-profit CEO should earn a six figure salary? Personally, as long as the community that is being served is seeing the benefits, non-profit workers should be financially rewarded. They work just as hard, sometimes harder, and shouldn’t be worrying about their finances because they chose to help make the world a better place. What do you think?