Liz discovered her love of writing at the precocious age of 7. When she finished up her assignments before the rest of her classmates, her teacher asked her to write up a poem on happiness. She enthusiastically dove into the assignment, and then fell in love with writing. She went on to major in English and Creative Writing and upon graduation, hoped to continue developing her career as a writer.
But, the tough reality set in and Liz focused solely on finding a job and stopped nurturing her writing. When she found a good paying job as a customer service representative, Liz couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing, that she felt incomplete. So, she started to invest more in her writing. She pitched to a variety of publications, and soon was overwhelmed by writing commitments, performing at her job, and having time to spend with friends. One day, at her wit’s end, she had to face the reality that she couldn’t have all of that pressure to succeed at everything and still be happy. She started dialing back and evaluating what exactly she wanted at that moment. Frustrated by “click bait” pieces and “nostalgia porn,” Liz wanted to create pieces that people would find useful as opposed to something that would fill in their time.
That goal drove her to develop two projects: the Getting There Podcast (formerly Lady Bits) and Real Talk Magazine. Although both provide honest, real perspectives on the struggles that many of us are facing on a daily basis, Getting There is an uncensored collaboration with her friend Sarah Stewart. The weekly aired podcast started as a small project for the two friends, but through the power of social media, Liz was able to reach out to the executive producer of 5by5. Two and half months after they started the podcast, they were asked to join the network and have been hitting their stride ever since.
And while Liz’s resume of accomplishments are impressive, they came about with their own fair share of challenges. For Liz, the greatest challenge came in the form of developing and adhering to a schedule. As most of her friends had structured and routine activities, Liz had only herself to get things done. Developing the discipline and the balance of paid work, passion project, and her relationships took a while of trial an error. Now, she sets aside her evenings for her new husband and to recharge for the next day, and leaves working on everything else for mornings and weekends.
Finding that balance was a tough process for Liz, and while she has finally found a way to make things work, she often worries about her peers. Having been told by parents and supporters their entire lives that they could do anything, millennials are often unprepared for what happens when life does not follow the plan. “The term the quarter life crisis has been created for our generation, because we are struggling with the disparity between our dreams and what it takes to reach that dream.” But as many millennials continue to develop “side hustles” and invest in passion projects, Liz hopes that millennials can find fulfillment in that way. Her advice for passion seeking millennials? “Just start it, and don’t be afraid to ask your idols for advice. They are your idols for a reason.”
Volunteering. Its something that was weaved into our DNA from our very first bake sale fundraiser. With such an early practice of engaging and giving back to the community, millennials have earned their place among the most civically engaged generations.
While this usually leads to high political involvement, modern politics has turned into an awkward dance for most millennials. Not entirely pleased with available leadership options paired with an oppressive amount of misinformation, the data and facts driven millennials are often opting to tweet their views in lieu of casting their votes. And while we could point to a “tech addiction” among millennials, the big business of political campaigning creates a far less friendly climate for millennial involvement. Can it be fixed? If so, how?
For Rio Tazewell, regulating how political candidates can use donated funds will be the key to breaking down this barrier for all voters. As the Campaign Coordinator at People for the American Way, Rio has been building a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to regulate campaign spending.
But before his big move to Washington D.C., Rio started gaining public policy experience while in college. As a student he was involved in advocacy work to address climate change. Impressed by his dedication, a professor approached him upon graduation with the opportunity to help develop the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy (AIRE).
While working with AIRE, he realized that there were so many great resources, but the community needed a way to connect with each other. He then founded the Boone Community Network, a social media platform designed to help community members build relationships. After years of personal and financial investment, and significant growth with the organization, Rio began to look for the a way that he could impact the world beyond the Boone’s borders. Having visited the nation’s capital on multiple occasions, Rio decided to pack up and move to the nation’s capital. A couple of months of job hunting and he landed his current position with People for the American Way.
Tasked with getting a constitutional amendment passed, Rio and his team are planning a campaign to get two thirds of Congress on board. If you’ve been paying attention, getting Congress to do anything is already difficult, but to get a solid majority? And while the challenges are countless, Rio looks to the smaller successes. For example, about 6 months ago, their sponsors in the Senate presented the resolution called Democracy for All and it passed with by 54 to 42 vote. That success serves as an example that an amendment could be possible.
But while this career success for Rio keeps him moving forward, nothing disappoints him more than millennials who give up on their dreams. Understanding that our generation is faced with unprecedented challenges, he also fears that we will run away from change as opposed to embracing it. And while Rio has his concerns, he hopes that we continue to explore and engage in our communities. Already we have more socially conscious organizations and people, that continuing on that path can only lead to a better society.
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.
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!
Meet Dmitri Adler, the founder of Data Society; a startup that’s helping everyone learn about data, but in an approachable way. Together with Merav Yuravlivker (Education Expert), Josh Touyz (Advisor) and a team of collaborators, they are helping professionals of all kinds begin to harness the power of “data.”
The Back Story
But how did this power team come together? Fittingly, Merav, Dmitri and Josh all met at various places in their schooling. Dmitri and Josh from elementary school, Merav and Josh from university, and Merav and Dmitri through Josh.
By maintaining their friendship over the years, the three were able to share insights from their very different fields. When Dmitri could beat his competitor’s capital gains using data science at his Wall Street job, Josh was perfecting an algorithm that could generate an almost perfect picture of someone’s life by simply using their Facebook profile. Merav was building her teaching skills in New York and obtaining her Master’s in Education from Pace University. Their vastly different backgrounds have provided the perfect needs for their online education company.
Not convinced? Check out Data Society’s site here and use the discount code DS100. If that kind of commitment is too much, check out their DC area Meetup group Data Driven DC. How has learning about data analysis helped you?
An Iraq war veteran, Peter found an escape from his rough Miami neighborhood in the Marine Corps. Gaining a variety of experiences from up-armoring Humvees in the daytime, and providing convoy security in Fallujah at night, Peter learned the ropes in a variety of fields. As part of his final assignment there, Peter assessed vehicles destroyed by IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and re-utilized parts that were salvageable to maintain the Marine Corps’ mission in Al Anbar Province. Coming face to face with how short life truly is, he left the Marine Corps and moved to Orlando and found work as an automotive mechanic. Concerned by the potential physical toll of being a mechanic, Peter started his college education and tested out a couple business ideas.
While doing some research, he went to Washington, DC to search out the Travel Channel’s Jumbo Slice in Adams Morgan. It was then Peter noticed the hundreds of red bikes that cover our Nation’s capital through Capital Bike Share. Inspired, Peter tried to get public transit services to start the program locally in Orlando. Peter decided to team up with Tampa Bike Share’s operator, CycleHop, to develop Orlando Bike Share that launched earlier this month.
When asked about his greatest challenge, Peter is quick to point to working with any new project: “all stakeholders must understand, that in order to move forward, the status quo, must go”. The “red tape” associated with starting a new project, has required constant perseverance. But as for great successes, obtaining sponsorships has been critical in bringing the Orlando Bike Share to fruition.
Peter’s experience has allowed him to develop a variety of perspectives, and notes that the Millennial Generation has inherently adopted the Marine Corps attitude of “Semper Gumby”: always flexible. This attitude is especially fitting in Orlando today, where almost every empty parcel is ripe for development. Peter adds that “We must make sure that we don’t go back to our past habits of creating places that are homogenized, single-use, and designed with the car in mind. Instead, lets focus on creating neighborhoods where we feel comfortable walking to the market into our 90s, where we can age in place.” Peter’s insight echo’s the new direction of urban redevelopment of walkable, concentrated cities.
“Orlando has many cool and funky ‘third places’ such as coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, but the streets of these third places are not enticing for walkers or bikes” says Peter. In a city that relies on the car, people rarely get a chance to see how their favorite spot fits in with the surrounding community, almost developing a patchwork view of their city instead of being able to see the big picture. How can you change that perspective? Peter believes, “get out there, on a bike. If you don’t have one, rent one and start to see people, eye to eye.”
A couple minutes drive from one of the largest universities in the country, and you arrive to what many deem a standard Florida strip mall. But, a look beyond the colorful walls and plentiful parking, will take you to a unique craft coffee shop known, as Vespr. Once you enter, academics aspiring and established alike, claim their tables in this modern oasis. Sitting at the windowed bar, Lauren Cantrell, a Jacksonville native, was waiting for me. A mutual friend had identified her as the local millennial who was working to improve the student homelessness issue. Simultaneously working as an AmeriCorps Vista and obtaining her Master’s in Public Administration and Non Profit Management, Lauren has been developing her expertise in poverty alleviation.
But, what does student homelessness even look like? While the stereotype dictates an image of living on the street and attending classes, homeless students are typically those who are couch surfing, living out of their cars, or have some other sort of temporary unreliable housing. Usually students become homeless in the wake of something like a car accident or medical emergency for students who survive off of loans and other college assistance that don’t have incidentals built in. Often, these students don’t build a cash cushion into their budget reducing their resilience to life’s obstacles. Usually, all these students need is access to a couple hundred dollars to make rent or pay for food.
UCF provides students in need with access to a food pantry through the Knights helping Knights fund, and there were over 11,000 visits to the Knights Helping Knights pantry during the 2013-2014 academic year.
Dealing with this population is tricky, due mostly to a variety of stigmas. First, understanding what student homelessness is and knowing how to get assistance. Second, the belief that if students can get to college, then they will be fully capable to stay there. Third, as a student the need to fit in can often delay asking for assistance. Although a nationwide problem, research on the topic has been minimal creating a challenge to identify the needs of this population. However, social media has provided the platform to share these stories and bring awareness of the issue.
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?
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.
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.
Nothing compares to visiting a new place like a local. The killer food, the friendly conversation, and the opportunity to peek into the lives of others is something that tourists the world over are demanding. Living in an area dominated by Disney, Universal, and the others, to a one time visitor might seem that’s all there is to Central Florida. But like with any tourist destination, there is a local population that loves to live beyond the football field parking lots and nightly firework shows. But jumping into a city to get the local experience can be overwhelming and most definitely terrifying. Trey Dyer and Mike Black have solved that issue by starting Get Local.
High school friends and Central Florida natives, Trey and Mike grew up fishing, wakeboarding, surfing and taking advantage of the thousands of outdoor activities the region has to offer. After dating a pair of cousins, the two grew to become very close friends. When Mike (a University of Florida alum) decided to fulfill his dream of backpacking across Asia by leaving his accounting gig, Trey (an American University alum) was supportive and joined him in Vietnam. In Vietnam, the Florida boys went beyond the tourist stops on the map and traveled with a local guide named Ju Hai. They were so moved by this experience that immediately they started to think about how they could replicate this experience and become the Sherpas of Central Florida.
Since Mike’s return in May of this year, Trey and Mike have been hard at work launching Get Local. Using their personal experiences and recommendations from trusted friends, Mike and Trey have partnered with local businesses. Through these partnerships, they offer packages online and help drive traffic to these local spots. Ranging from paddle boarding and airboat rides to guided tours and art galleries, the duo are capturing what really sets Central Florida life apart from anywhere else.
While the serious upside to starting a boutique travel business is curating the experiences, the greatest challenge the duo faces is the aspect of self-promotion. As both members are working from home, the lakes they live on can be incredible sources of inspiration as well as distraction. “We’re just staring at this body of water that begs to be fished, or paddle boarded on, or wakeboarded on, all day. Right now, we’re just paying our dues to set the right foundation for the business,” said Trey.
Their approach to building the business is truly millennial. With a strong social media presence inspired by their travels abroad, Trey and Mike are living their dreams. But, what do they think is the greatest drawback for our generation? Trey believes that “our biggest drawback is how connected we are to the superficial things in life. It keeps us from really connecting to the world around us.” According to Mike, “We have a hard time focusing. It’s too hard to focus on one thing at a time because there are so many things to do and we are constantly entertained. But that is also something great, because it is pushing us to be better and greater.”
On the flip side, what excites these two about being members of the Millennial Generation? In Trey’s opinion, “We are already the ones trying to fix what our future problems are going to be. We aren’t waiting around for them to kind of take over.” For Mike, “our generation’s greatest attribute is that we are rebellious, not accepting of typical career paths, and that is allowing us to see a lot more of the world. We aren’t about please me, cater to me. We are more about show me who you are, be authentic, be real. It’s a healthier way to live and will serve us well in the future.”
Until the day Get Local is nationwide, those in Central Florida can access their services by going here. In the comments below, we’d like to hear about your favorite Central Florida experience or a time travel has inspired you to do something different.
All photos courtesy of Get Local
In anticipation of Small Business Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet Jenny of J&G Chocolate and Tea. A self-taught chocolatier, she used Youtube and Pinterest to learn the delicate art of making chocolate. While working in a traditional job, Jenny learned that she was actually pretty good at making tiny moments of delight with her creations. One thing led to another and then she was able to leave her job to start building the business with her sister Gina.
Having launched J&G at the beginning of the year, the startup chocolate shop has seen success pretty early on. With an ultimate goal of being a chocolate and tea cafe, the sisters have grown their reach by selling online and at farmer’s markets throughout the Central Florida area with new locations to be announced.
While many may pick up chocolate making as a hobby, Jenny’s commitment to building a business took timing and “growing a pair.” Not a natural risk taker, Jenny was encouraged to take the leap by her supportive husband and sister. With their backing starting a chocolate and tea company seemed completely doable.
At first, Jenny didn’t completely realize what kind of risk she was taking by leaving her stable job to start a chocolate company. That is, until people started to say, “Wow, you are so brave” and other things that made her take a second and question the path she had already taken. For example, challenges with figuring out the permitting rules, red tape with licensing, and the very steep costs when it comes to shipping chocolate. These constraints led the sisters to start doubting what they had already accomplished and the research they had done.
But then Jenny had a moment of clarity, “until you know what you are going to do, you can’t do the research.” It took making the mistakes to learn how to ask the right questions so she could get the right answers and get the business to where it is today.
In addition to being in a constant game of trail and error, Jenny noticed how at times she felt like the odd duck in her circle of friends. To have a work schedule where she may not get started until 10am but was working until midnight in the kitchen, sometimes did not come across to anyone else as work. That simple difference in schedule can be hard for others to understand. However, for Jenny, having that flexibility is one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur.
Another challenge that almost every female business owner has dealt with is the self imposed need for perfection. In Jenny’s case, she learned to overcome getting bogged down with the details through the valuable experience of planning her wedding. “As the planner you can get all wrapped up in the teeny tiny details, but no one else will know but you if it is missing. Now with J&G, time is what influences how things will get prioritized and accepting that has allowed me to keep getting our product out there and refining it as we go along” and it might come out even better than planned.
When asked about the greatest piece of advice she would give to anyone who would want to start something like J&G,”research and testing are the most important things for anyone developing a product, especially a food product. Get the feedback of your family, your friends, everyone you know so can be confident in your product.”
Now I had the chance to eat one of J&G’s Caramel Pretzel and Bacon Apples and I can honestly say it was one of the best things I ever ate. But don’t just take my word for it, check out Candace Dyer’s review on her dessert blog Dessert Geek. And if you are interested in purchasing any of their chocolates or teas go to their online shop here or visit them at these locations.
As the dust settles from the midterm elections, citizens far and wide return to their regularly scheduled programming. However, according to the Office of Personnel Management, for 4.312 million people these changes impact who are their coworkers and how their work is accomplished. Working for the red tape laden federal government, as one millennial working at the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has learned, can actually be the most rewarding job.
What is the FMC? Well. You know the screen you are looking at? It’s safe passage, like almost everything else we interact with daily, are regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission. Established in 1961 by President Kennedy, the commission handles tariffs, ports, and trade regulations to help businesses with the actual importation and exportation of their goods. But how does one get a job working with such an organization? Just ask my friend Jewel Jennings – Wright. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Jewel is currently a Counsel at the Commission, meaning she supports and advises a commissioner.
Prior to landing this dream of a job, Jewel received her B.A. in Political Science at Carnegie Mellon, then her Master’s and J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. With an ongoing interest in the strategic aspects of international security, Jewel first became interested in port security during her graduate studies in International Security and Intelligence. “We have ports leading to almost every major city, and almost anyone can ship anything” therefore creating a very murky security challenge. By interning for the Commission she was able to bring together her love for ports and law.
Upon graduation, however, a position was not available. Instead, she went to work with a private equity firm in Detroit. But, after about a year was able to return to D.C. to work with the Commission. “It’s rewarding, yet demanding work” as Jewel isn’t just pushing paper, but is actually making a difference.
Along the way Jewel has been able to learn some important life lessons. The primary among them being,
“Actually listen to your gut. If you are absolutely unhappy and upset where you are change your situation or make steps to change it that may mean changing jobs, it may mean moving (usually both), it may mean taking a leap of faith of some kind but actually try. If you feel it ‘in your bones’ that something is bad, it most likely is.”
When asked about millennials in the workforce,
“I think millennials often get a bad rep because people think that it’s a soft generation. We’ve seen the baby boomers and our parents work lives that didn’t necessarily lead to a good home life. There are a lot of people asking millennials to ignore that and do it anyway. For baby boomers, a hard days work sometimes was at a factory and it was actually hard. Now we’ve seen baby boomers come down with things like asbestosis, unions being busted, pensions going bust and our parents going through bubble after bubble. Are we supposed to do exactly the same thing?”
Although early in her career, Jewel has found herself as one of the youngest counsels at the commission. With that experience she has identified the key issue that drives millennials. During our childhoods, we’ve witnessed the damaging side effects of our current systems and how our families have coped with them. Is it entitlement to demand for more from our professional lives, or simply a desire to avoid the terrifying challenges our families have had to weather? Post your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @themtakeover.