Dear Grads: How can you make an impact on this world? Michael Keaton told Kent State students, “I’m Batman.” Ronan Farrow encouraged Loyola Marymount’s class of 2018 to “trust that inner voice.” Human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney told Vanderbilt grads last week, “Courage is needed more than ever.”
Maybe you’re looking for something less vacuous than warmed over “Wizard of Oz” themes? If so, put down your JUUL vape pen, unplug from “Fortnite,” tuck in your “I Am the Change” shirt, and listen up. Scale or bail.
Many of you graduates think you want socially conscious careers—giving back, fighting injustice and making a difference. “Well, you know, we all want to change the world.” You want to reduce inequality, end poverty, comfort the homeless, expand human dignity. Guess what? Me too! But you’re going about it the wrong way.
Some 44% of millennials believe they do more to support social causes than the rest of their family, according to the 2017 Millennial Impact report. If you’re volunteering at shelters or working for most nonprofits, that’s all very nice, but it’s one-off. You’re one of the privileged few who have the education to create lasting change. It may feel good to ladle soup to the hungry, but you’re wasting valuable brain waves that could be spent ushering in a future in which no one is hungry to begin with.
There’s a word that was probably never mentioned by your professors: Scale. No, not the stuff on the bottom of your bong or bathtub. It’s the concept of taking a small idea and finding ways to implement it for thousands, or millions, or even billions. Without scale, ideas are no more than hot air. Stop doing the one-off two-step. It’s time to scale up.
I hear you talking about food deserts and the need for urban eco-farms to enable food justice. You certainly have the jargon down.