As a digital marketing teacher, United Airlines is giving me life. Around ten years ago they changed social media forever when they manhandled a few guitars and the owners took to the new thing called YouTube to sing a song about it. Cut to April 2017 and another level of man handling is going on. There are, of course, a lot of opinions about what happened when United Airlines forcibly removed a man from their plane. Most very critical of United Airlines. But I live in Silicon Valley and many of its inhabitants simply can't help themselves.

One such inhabitant, a white guy, shared with me that he thought the man who was forcibly removed from the plane was equally at fault. "He should have complied," he said. "This is why I travel on United only. I have status. This doesn't happen to people with status."

Needless to say, I was appalled. He completely missed the larger issue, not to mention the fact that his "just do what they tell you" attitude makes him perfect for the picking by an authoritarian leader.

For more on the larger issue, you need to know that United Airlines is Not Alone.


Young and Isolated

A great recent piece in the New York Times, Young and Isolated, by Jennifer M. Silva spoke to me. I'm not the young and isolated, per se, but I can definitely see myself in their group.

"These are people bouncing from one temporary job to the next; dropping out of college because they can’t figure out financial aid forms or fulfill their major requirements; relying on credit cards for medical emergencies; and avoiding romantic commitments because they can take care of only themselves. Increasingly disconnected from institutions of work, family and community, they grow up by learning that counting on others will only hurt them in the end. Adulthood is not simply being delayed but dramatically reimagined along lines of trust, dignity and connection and obligation to others."

I was once a confused, isolated, debt-saddled 20 year-old from working class roots.  I bought into the idea then that there was a formula for success: go to a good college and get a good job.  Turns out that formula worked for only so long.  Times have changed. There is no formula.

As a member of Gen X, I'm starting to see my group hit their 40s and come away feeling just as duped and uncertain as the younger people quoted in the article.  Even with experience and college degrees there are no guarantees.

What's different about now and then for me is I'm learning not to numb out and turn inward, but to feel and connect.  Self-reliance is a good starting point, but it turns out that your community matters more than ever.  When things get tough, people, I've found, turn tribal.  Who's in your tribe?


What I See

Pulling some of my thoughts together. What I see:

1. The 18 to 25 year-old set. These folks have to either know immediately that they want to be nurses (good economic choice, btw) or auto mechanics (ditto) OR they have to have the grades, focus and resources to go the Stanfords/Dartmouths/Yales of the world. There is a huge gap in the middle that is filled mainly with state schools, online universities (univ of phoenix) or community colleges. All are more and more expensive and often quite directionless.

2. The lack of high school counselors and good ones at that

3. The boom in career/life coaches

4. Reality TV and interactive TV (see Bravo Channel) as a distribution model; it’s still super hard to get anything to scale in the online world

5. The more and more entrepreneurial world – meaning because there are no IBMs anymore, people, in order to survive, have to become entrepreneurs – approach their lives like running a business

6. Self-awareness or lack thereof and the lack of these skills in young people – you seem to learn only if you’re lucky; no educational focus or system around it: Who am I? What am I good at? What can I do with that?

7. Life long learning – how education or taking a class can be viewed as a way into self-awareness and personal growth (even if the class isn’t about self-development)

8. Good teachers – there’s a trend online where more are being highlighted – see MIT Open Courseware Initiative

9. What we say about ourselves implicitly and explicitly – the beauty of online is mostly in the data; a way to use that data in a valuable way to the provider of the data, the consumer

10. Learning on the job – there are teaching hospitals, why not teaching businesses? Educational co-ops

This all amounts to something. I'm working through what.