Millennials get a lot of flak. We’re called the lazy generation; the lost generation; the still-living-with-our-parents-when-we’re-30 generation, and that’s just the beginning of a laundry list of criticisms. I don’t know about you, but those things don’t describe me at all, and they certainly don’t describe the people in this article.
What’s best about this list of Millennials is that they’re successful in so many different venues and on so many different scales. People who think our generation shows no promise couldn’t be farther from the truth. So whether you need some inspiration, or you need to silence the naysayers, here’s the proof that we’re everywhere, and we’re doing awesome things!
Simone (22) & Jake Bernstein (19), VolunTEEN Nation
In 2009 when Simone was 17, and Jake was 15, the two siblings founded VolunTEEN Nation to make finding volunteer opportunities easier. According to Forbes, by 2013 the site had helped over 7,500 teens give back through volunteerism. VolunTEEN Nation has since blossomed to include resources for financial assistance, stories and advice from other young, successful volunteers, and the latest news in volunteer projects across the nation.
This great organization was created because Simone had trouble when seeking out volunteer projects in her community. Simone offers this advice to other young people: “In reality, it doesn’t cost much to start up your enterprise. If they don’t find something they want to do, they can start it themselves.” If something isn’t already out there, the Bernsteins are proof that the world is just waiting for you to dream it up.
Kevin Stonewall (19), Cancer researcher
Chicago is considered one of America’s most dangerous cities. So much so that it is often called the “murder capital” and “Chiraq.” In particular, the south and west side of Chicago are noted for the amount of violent crimes that occur in these areas. Kevin Stonewall hails from the south side of Chicago, and despite what statistics or stereotypes might suggest for a young, male minority in the windy city, Stonewall has thrived and is on the way to finding a cure for colon cancer.
He speaks on initially being criticized by his friends for his interest in science, and how his success eventually became an inspiration for those same friends who doubted him. His story only goes to show that no matter your background, and despite what others may say, with focus, you can achieve your dreams and maybe even change the world in the process.
Marita Cheng (25), Robogals
Named the Young Australian of the Year in 2012, Cheng founded Robogals in 2008 to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers. Starting out in Melbourne, Robogals now has chapters spanning Australia, Japan, the US and the UK, and the organization continues to push others to start chapters in their areas. In 2013, Cheng went on to found 2Mar, a company that seeks to make robotic tools accessible to the masses. Their current project is called Jeva, a robotic arm that can be controlled by an iPhone or iPad to help those with limited upper mobility.
On her personal website, Cheng cites her single mother’s ability to successfully raise and send Marita and her brother to college after making only $20,000 a year. She felt she could do anything, and says, “Knowing what the worst that can happen looks like makes it less stressful to take a leap of faith and reach for the stars.” Ultimately, if you take a chance, the worst case scenario is that you’re back exactly where you started.
As fellow G20 writer Autriel Galloway says, “You’re never ready, but you need to take the leap anyway.”
Brandon Stanton (30), Humans of New York (HONY)
If you aren’t familiar with the blog Humans of New York, do yourself a favor and check it out now. After losing his job trading bonds, in 2010 Stanton decided to move to New York and pursue his passion for photography and storytelling. For his blog, Stanton wanders the streets of NYC taking snapshots of strangers, and asking them to share their heartbreaking, hilarious, candid, and inspiring stories to foster a sense of human connectivity.
In an interview with Time, Stanton notes that for him, the photos and conversations mean knowing that you’re never alone in your experiences. He also shares this great advice, “Everybody’s waiting until they have the perfect idea to start working. Even if you have kind of an inkling of what you want to do, start working towards it, and it’s going to flesh itself out through the process of moving towards the goal.”
You & Me
My dad always tells me there are a million ways to be successful. That means there are several paths to choose from, and more importantly, there’s no wrong path to choose. Bob Dylan said it best, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” If you feel good about what you do every day, and it grants you what you want and need from life, then you too are a Millennial making moves.
We’d love to hear how your life as a Millennial challenges those who question our potential for success. It’s an open invitation to toot your own horn and maybe inspire someone else in the process.