The Network We Need

lightning icon

 

I can say with 99.99% certainty that if you are reading this, you may have a need for a new network, but it may not be a network service provider that you would normally consider. I’m not referring to ISPs for the fastest download connections, but rather the grid that brings you energy to power your laptop, tablet, or other mobile device. For such a technologically centered society, we rely on a tenuous network of wires to make sure all our energy needs are met. If we are to advance, we may need to consider some alternative networks and evaluate what makes an effective network for a vital utility.

After reading another article on the subject of smart grids from TechCrunch, I recall the necessity for a better system each time the lights flicker or go out for extended periods. We’re only two years on from a devastating hit during Hurricane Sandy, but I recall outages of all sizes, including in 2003 when the Eastern seaboard of Canada and the US went out because a tree limb overloaded a line. The strength of a network, as in a chain, is only as strong as the weakest link, and we need to consider how to add redundancies for increased effectiveness in a crisis. Some of the recommendations from this article include very sensible steps, but may not go far enough to cover what we need. Renewable energy and smart meters are only part of the solution as the network infrastructure must be responsive to unplanned events.

In the next stage of networked grids, a homeowner will have a multi-stage system to keep the lights on. Renewable energy collection from solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal sources will come into a home and power all needed consumption during normal operation. Smart meters will also direct the electricity to other areas around the local grid as demand rises and falls. One challenge today is that if there is an outage, solar panels and other energy collection sources shut down to prevent overloads and shock hazards. If there is excess energy, a future grid might benefit from enhanced battery capacities or other energy storage such as stored potential energy such as producing hydrogen through electrolysis. If one pocket of users goes down, a resilient network will be able to maintain itself while repairs are made to the smaller affected area much like today’s holiday lights with one burnt out bulb no longer affecting the entire string of lights.

From a technology perspective, as well as a communication or Millennial perspective, the need for and benefits of this system would work to bridge the gaps in the system. We may not see ourselves as constantly connected in a wider system, but it helps get a focus on the bigger picture. If I can make sure I have power, and my neighbors are safe in an outage, then my neighborhood is protected from a potential crisis. Technology of all kinds, especially social media, makes us feel we are in control and able to reach anyone. However, if that system goes down, we don’t have the redundancies to see us through a crisis. By building in redundancies now and helping connect us with others in our society, it may serve to keep the lights on as well as grow the world community we wish to have.


Share your thoughts on interconnected grids and communication. How do you share the power?

Graduates, Commence!

Graduation Cap

The tassel is worth the hassle!

On campuses across the country, people celebrate the month of May like no other. Years of effort find reward with a bit of pomp and circumstance as students and families ponder the words of wisdom shared from every lectern. The life lessons imparted by each speaker are as varied as the individuals sharing them; their goal: to prepare students for the life beyond the learning institution.

In preparing some thoughts to share with the class of 2014, I recalled my various graduations and commencements. My toolkit grew over those educational years from basic literacy to advanced equations, small observations to scientific procedures, and inner awareness to shaping external narratives. As I’ve written about grit, my tenacity certainly helped in my achievements, but I owe my many teachers a debt for fueling my love of learning.

To the graduates of 2014, no matter how far you may go in life, never stop the search for knowledge. The persistent pursuit of knowledge gives us a platform for improvement in our lives as well as a deeper understanding of the world around us. When you reach a peak along your path of experience, remember that it is one mountain in a range, and that fulfillment and success do not come from resting on laurels. Human understanding can only advance when people continue to ask questions. With this in mind, I will paraphrase what others have told me: “Trust the person in search of the truth, be wary of the one who claims to have found it.” Nurture a love of learning and discovery in all ways and it will serve you throughout your lifetime. This lesson was given to me by the many teachers on my journey, and I must share it as you newly minted graduates venture on your way.

There is no greater threat to discovery and understanding than certainty. -J.C.

As many graduates turning tassels today are in the Millennial cohort, I thought I’d share another recent item for discussion. I caught a rebroadcast of an Intelligence2(read as Intelligence Squared) debate on the statement: “Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance.” The structure of the debate puts two teams of two on opposing points of the statement and by comparing before and after votes, the team who garners the greatest growth in support wins the debate. I’ll let you listen to the debate or read a transcript if you want to know what happened, but I’ll share a perspective on the premise of the debate.

Those supporting the (rather pessimistic) view of Gen Y’s hardships were not Millennials themselves, but they did state  valid points on the struggles we must face. However, if you have learned anything in your lifetime, whatever your generation, I hope you know that taking someone else’s word for your own success is shooting yourself in the foot. Yes, there are issues that we must face to elevate all of our generation, and society at large, but declarations before results can lead to “egg on face” (I’m looking at you, Thomas Dewey). This connects back to the search for knowledge and understanding. If you recognize the issues that need to be addressed, then you can begin testing or implementing changes to bring about positive results. It doesn’t take an advanced mathematics degree to know how many infinite possibilities exist with the variables in society, but it does take optimism (with a dose of realism) to figure out the next steps forward.

So to you my Gen Y colleagues, I tip my hat to your accomplishments in education. Seek knowledge as though it were the air for your lungs, and stay positive in the face of life’s challenges. These skills will help you go far as you commence to spread around the world.

Carpe Diem!

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Want to share your graduation story or favorite advice? Do you believe Millennials are doomed or destined for success? Listen to the debate and share your thoughts with the Gen Y crowd.

A Dream Deferred?

MLK at Wash. DC

Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Fifty years have passed since the historic oration given by King in the summer of 1963. In the years of torment that embroiled the childhoods’ of many Boomers (and the first Gen X-ers), a voice of peace spoke to the masses gathered in Washington DC on that hot August day.

As  a child of 1 Boomer and 1 Quiet, I was raised with a focus on seeing people for who they were, not the characteristics that defined them. This could have had as much to do with my diverse urban environment as my parents and teachers consistently guiding me to value people as people, and not lose myself to quick judgments. Stereotypes may have been helpful when determining snap judgments for survival like food and predators in early times, but in society today it remains an issue rooted in much of the conflicts we face.

We cannot blame stereotypes for all of society’s issues. When lack of knowledge leads to fear and fear leads to hate, no one receives the dream that King envisioned and that so many have struggled to make real. Racism still holds an insidious grip on the hearts of many in this world. It could be much less pronounced, often seen as “inappropriate,” but it still seeks to divide people. It may not be possible to eliminate all snap judgments (again, our brains saving energy and taking shortcuts rather than thinking), but people around the world need to see a shared community that takes the lead over smaller divisive issues. If we see ourselves as part of the community, even disagreements and tough feelings can be addressed effectively.

In preparing this post, I read Langston Hughes’s “Harlem” and thought about the progress that has been made over 50 years. Hughes wrote the poem more than 12 years before the historic march, but the imagery is deeply prescient for today’s society. The poem questions what happens to a deferred dream, and over the years I believe there have been moments to match each description. We have entered the crust stage as people try to sugarcoat the issues of racism claiming to be in a “post-racial” world. The issue is still there, only our treatment has changed. The same could be said of the equally insidious problem of poverty in this country when so many work and can’t reach financial equilibrium because the system won’t allow it.

Millennials may focus much on the inner self, but when it comes to the suffering of others, we don’t think it appropriate to sit by and do nothing. To be frank, we feel it’s the right of every individual to achieve the level of personal development that the individual wishes, and things like racism and poverty aren’t helping that process. As trials and legislation flash through the 24 hour news cycle, we must try to see the issues from all perspectives and find ways of balancing justice and amending the habits and the hurts of our past.

In order to make King’s dream a reality, we need to see ourselves as the people of the dream. We must embrace our neighbors, respect all people as they are, and live as part of a larger community. No great accomplishment or terrible wrong was ever achieved by a sole agent. If we are to remove hate and discrimination, raise families with a means of self subsistence, and make peace happen, it will be because we said “NO!” to division and “YES!” to working in unity for a better future.

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A question to my fellow Millennials: How do you see King’s dream being made a reality? What things are preventing that reality, and what can we do to overcome them?

Where’s My 3am Friend?

Digital Alarm Clock

It’s 3 am. Do you need a friend?

It’s 3 am.

And for some reason you are awake.

Now unless you are shuffling between your bathroom and your bed or wrapping up a night shift on the job, this is somewhat of an inconvenient time to be awake for many people. Our society is focused on daytime systems, and those with insomnia or major problems in the wee hours have a hard time with it.

That is, unless you have someone to depend on at 3 in the morning. Those folks are what I like to refer to as 3 am friends. I’ve been fortunate to never need a kidney or bone marrow, but these folks whether blood relation or not, would probably step up to the plate because they value our friendship, and they are just good people.

Millennials don’t seem to have a lack of friends as our social media apps describe us, but we may be feeling the effects of fluid friendships all too well. I use the term “fluid friendships” because I happened to have many friends as I went through school. I would not have characterized myself as popular; I define popularity by the number of people that seek to be your friend. I had friendships based on my ability to work within different circles and connect positively; I had to make an effort and got friendship as the reward. These friendships may not have had the depth of other friendships I’ve maintained, but I had a wide circle of people who would include me as a friendly person. As other Millennials have experienced the same situation, what will happen when we need someone at 3 am?

Taking a page from our predecessors, we should cultivate friendships throughout our lifetimes. Boomers and X-ers had to do social networking before social networks, and the connections people share over small things helped to build a community of support when larger needs arose. You could call this a survival strategy, or you could call it a common goal, but here are some tips to assist in building and maintaining those rare 3 am friendships:

1. Connecting has more to do with real connections than internet connections. Take time to acknowledge your friends with phone calls, cards,  or gatherings. Social media isolates people, and the fun times are usually when you are hanging out together.

2. Learn to live in the now. Some friendships pick up right where they left off and others seem stuck in the past. Don’t hold onto past issues if a person seems ready to address things and move forward. Life feels much better when we have less emotional baggage to carry.

3. Be prepared for the unknown. Most times I reach out to folks, I can get through without too much issue or delay. For the times that someone is unreachable or plans change unexpectedly, take it in stride and plan for the future. Friendships should and can endure interruptions, and it’s up to all the people involved to make an effort. This is especially true when something comes up or a person is very busy; a little common courtesy in communicating will strengthen the friendship and help everyone stay on the same page.

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Millennials are changing the world with our ability to forge relationships, but it takes time and effort to maintain these relationships. If you find yourself without many or any 3 am friends, it might be good to work on this in case you ever find yourself in need. By trying to empathize, communicate, share, and reciprocate, we can become that 3 am friend for others and in turn draw more people around us. It doesn’t mean we sacrifice our personal time or space, we increase these things to cover the people in our hearts. If everyone opens their friend circle a little bigger, it may help everyone who needs someone in this world.

Share your thoughts on friendship and Millennials. Tell your stories of the best thing a friend has done for you or maybe you did for someone else.

How I Wonder What You Are

Night Sky

Night sky in Upstate NY

Last weekend offered a chance to get away from it all and travel upstate. From the balcony of my room, I could see a huge swath of stars across the sky. As the night grew darker, the Milky Way stretched across the mountains. I took this shaky image by holding the shutter and increasing the exposure length. If you look carefully, you can see the galaxy spread further out into the night.

I was always a fan of science as a kid, but looking at the night sky would move me to a more philosophical frame of mind. I knew that stars were not just “fireflies” as Timón would say, but “big balls of gas burning billions of miles away” as Pumbaa suggested. While the scientific knowledge satisfied my logic brain, I began to think of deeper questions of existence.

The questions that cross my mind these days are still philosophical, but have moved from inward consideration to the outward. Gen Y is thought to be extremely self-centered, but I believe that’s just a misperception of a classic introvert trait. Yes, as we move/d through our adolescent years, we spend/spent a good deal of time worrying about ourselves, our appearance, our standing, but so have the generations that preceded us. We develop and learn that there are things beyond our microcosm, and Millennials are still progressing on that path.

The discord during the years that shaped our generation has made many of us examine all information presented to us. Learning from the problems of the past has led to a desire to collaborate, especially when everyone works together effectively. To say we are self-absorbed may not be inaccurate, but in helping others, we learn how to help ourselves. The deep question that I ponder aside from our legacy will be what defines us and “what can we give to future generations?”

I may not have known the words at the time, but I understood on a deeper level the need to connect with others. Teamwork is in my DNA, though solo projects can be just as pleasant. The quality that most unites people is empathy. I may not know each perspective of people I meet, but by listening to them, I can empathize and understand their views. Empathy leads to understanding and understanding leads to success for all people.

Millennials won’t take information for granted and will try to form their own opinions. We work out our own thoughts whether it’s what to wear or those deep philosophical questions we consider when looking at the stars. Take time to quiet your mind and consider these thoughts, and perhaps your contribution will present itself.

Is empathy our strongest tool/legacy? Share your thoughts.

Still the Bread? – Generation Y Sandwich

Sandwich

The next sandwich generation.

Don’t fret, faithful readers, this week’s post was only moved to Friday.  I wanted to address an issue that many in Gen Y may know, but few may have ways of effectively addressing. Our parents are aging and requiring help, and we are quickly moving from the bread to the center of the generation sandwich.

This topic was sparked by my recent discussion with my Godfather. Since the passing of his parents, he has assumed “Bread” status in referring to his caregiver responsibilities and his own caregiver needs. At the moment, he is healthy and staying busy in his retirement, but many Boomers are declining and their Gen X and Gen Y kids are moving into caregiver roles. Considering that the world had not seen a generation the size of the Boomers, (until Gen Y) there will be an increased demand for resources and knowledge as Boomers continue to age, and in many cases, require some level of care.

As Millennials start having families, our coveted bread position is going to our children. Longer lifespans through medical advances have meant many Millennials are not blind to care needs and end of life decisions. We’ve seen our great-grandparents and grandparents decline as our parents had to balance those needs with raising us. Many institutions and nursing homes have grown over the decades as parents needed ways of supporting the next generation while giving their own parents a higher level of care. This is a financially taxing proposition and current trends have seen a rise in multi-generational homes, but level of care is still an issue. The following is more of a logistical guide, but future posts will discuss the medical issues as well.

Some areas to understand and consider:

If your parents are still living, healthy, and independent, (whether you live with them or separately) make sure that you can talk about future needs and concerns. These conversations should not be as awkward as when our parents may have tried to tell us about the birds and bees, but speak with purpose and compassion so your parents understand your concerns for their future. This is also a great time to consider long-term care insurance before they need it and before premiums grow too expensive.

Whether your parents are in good health or starting to decline make sure to have:

1. A current Last Will and Testament. It is a far too common for older people to have an outdated will (executor predeceased) or to not have one at all. Setting this up when you have your full faculties will help make sure your wishes in the event of your death, and possibly limit headaches and drama for your family.

2. Power of Attorney – Rules and regulations may vary by location, but care needs and decisions are generally reserved for the person with “POA.” In the event that there are differing opinions, a trusted person with POA can uphold your wishes and represent your legal interests if you no longer have the ability to do so.

3. A living will and DNR (If applicable to personal views) – It is vital that while you think about life after your passing that you not neglect care decisions in the event of failing health. Depending on your personal beliefs and practices, living wills and “Do Not Resuscitate” notices may alleviate undue suffering. I’ve personally seen the result of missing these documents and known people who suffered before eventually passing.

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For a generation that is characterized as being “me, me, me,” Millennials will soon step into a role that requires a great deal of selfless action. As with any generation, there will be struggles to make things work, but don’t discount us yet. Seeing the problems of the world as we grew has made many in Gen Y attuned to the common good. We’ll make an effort to support work/life balance, and perhaps find a way to care for our children and for those who brought us to the world.

Education…Continuation

*Al Pacino impersonation*

Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!

Ok, ok. I actually want to go back to school. This is something I’ve considered carefully, and I think now is as good a time as any to learn more skills and get a leg up in the future job markets.

Many Millennials grapple with the same issue of education benefit vs. education cost of time/money, and I believe it really depends on the person. When weighing the possible outcomes many people fear that the return on investment will not be adequate. However, I know quite a few Gen X and Boomer workers who would not be able to get their current job today based on their previous skills or education. This is to say, as skilled, qualified, and well-suited as a worker might be, they might lose a job opportunity because they don’t possess a specific credential in today’s market. By expanding our skill sets, we become more marketable, and increase our chances for success.

And what am I going to study?

I’ll save the long form title and just say it is a master’s degree in public relations. Based on my research and quintessential Millennial self-reflection, I felt it would be the best path for me.

“PR, really?”

Yes. Really.

“Why”

Have you ever seen the show Star Trek?

Before you roll your eyes or discount this post as something unimportant, I should say this idea is only conceptually tied to the show.  From seeing the various productions over the years, I found an interesting thread. In order for a ship to travel the stars for extended periods, one would assume there would be a great cost involved. There are forms of currency and exchange in these series, but almost every need or desire can be fulfilled without any money required. In this kind of world, I wondered what skill would be in demand.

Relationships.

I’m not just referring to family or what people do when they are in love. Relationships (professional, personal, etc.), and the ability to understand and nurture relationships are the core of society in the future. Yes, there is disagreement, and even major conflict, but that only goes further to support the need for people who can bridge those gaps. I hope to work towards a future like the one imagined in Star Trek lore, but I have many ways of accomplishing this. Public Relations does not just represent marketing or spinning a situation to fit a particular story. Training and later working in this field will help me help others and support a necessary function of society. Bonus points as well that this kind of training and work could never (I hope) be replaced by a robot.

My takeaway ideas from entering this degree program are the following.

1. If you invest in education, find a degree or interest that is marketable, and will have longevity throughout your career.

2. Try to do things that match your personal goals. If you want to make the world a better place, find ways, even small ways of trying to do that. If your work is in conflict with this, you will probably be unhappy unless you can find other positive ways of furthering your goals.

3. Any education is an investment and it cannot be taken from you. However, try to be conscientious in your planning so that you don’t have crushing debt. This is a challenge for Generation Y, but as we pull ourselves out of this economic pit, we will be better prepared with new skills, and (one hopes) able to sustain ourselves through future endeavors.

Do you have a perspective on whether higher education is a necessity or a waste? Get in on the conversation and you could be adding a guest post on VFMG.

Just keep swiming, just keep swimming

Keep going on that journey

Keep going on that journey.

Hello, July. You just seemed to sneak up after June left. But time has a way of flying.

Ahem… let’s try this again.

After a hiatus taking care of this, that, and the other, I wanted to find a way of getting back to this writing. I am probably one of a small demographic these days who enjoys taking time to write. While many are busy finding ways to make, market, and distribute content, my writing is focused more on the goals of understanding and bringing people together. Yes, I would like to find ways of reaching more people and expanding the dialogue, but there is a different intensity than someone trying to move “X” amount of product. Using the Millennial’s signature ability to life hack the issue, I came up with the following:

Blogplan v. 2.0

1. Get blog posts out the door at regular intervals.

This may be obvious to many as a necessary part of maintaining a web presence. I say let the one among you who is plugged in 24/7 and does not neglect any life issues, relationships, or sleep can cast the first stone.  It can be a challenge at times to make time for the things we enjoy when things that require almost immediate and usually focused attention keep knocking on the door. To resolve this, I’ve decided to start utilizing the delayed publish feature in a more effective manner. Starting today, I will have a minimum of one post per week to go out on Mondays.

Why Monday?

Monday gets a tough break being the first day of many people’s workweek. I’ve had jobs on every day of the week, so I can’t say I dislike Monday as others do. I prefer a positive outlook, and for any people following this blog, perhaps a thoughtful post would be a welcome item to start the week.

2. Maintain consistency.

Ever wonder how those pounds seem to find your waistline during the holidays and then slowly disappear when you workout during warmer months? It’s all about the habits and keeping up with the change. Fad diets are notorious for shedding pounds, but after enough time what once was lost, now is found. This usually happens by depriving you of your normal caloric intake, and then subsisting on lettuce, or oatmeal, or some other single source. Once the weight falls off, there isn’t as much incentive to subsist on cabbage soup, and returning to old habits brings back the weight.

A successful diet is one that looks not only into the next three weeks, but redesigns your food plans so that you can stay on it for the rest of your life. While people debate the best methods, it is the consistency that will keep a person healthy. Keeping a blog means it needs to be fed quality posts at regular intervals. By trying to adjust my schedule and habits to allow time for writing, I’ll be on a better path to consistency. Going further, getting on a creative streak and having a backup supply of posts will mean that any faithful followers won’t be left wanting on a given Monday.

3. Leave room for the unknown

Current events are, well, always changing. What’s hot one moment is old news before I can scroll through my twitter feed. My non-digital life required attention recently, but I do wish to address issues that are timely and can occur at any time. Without shrinking posts to 140 characters, I may need to make mini posts if a topic of Millennial importance comes up. I’ll also try to tread carefully, as news items sometimes play upon our desire for information at the expense of others, and it is not appropriate to add to media noise when people are directly affected. Some Millennials may remember a time before 24 hour news, but if we are to make meaningful impacts, we need to learn from early broadcasters when facts and respect were as important as getting the scoop.

So…

Let’s take that grit and get back to changing the world one blog post at a time. Thank you, and stay tuned.

Learning True Millennial Grit

Sandpaper block

Sandpaper block; a different kind of grit.

While going through my TV recordings, I came across an idea worth sharing. “TED Talks Education” aired Tuesday on my local PBS station. One of the speakers, Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, spoke about her experience in teaching and psychology helping to determine a factor for success in life. From her extensive studies across age, advancement, education, and other criteria, the one predictor of success appeared to be grit. As Dr. Duckworth ended her presentation, she left the source of grit open for discussion based on the currently available evidence. I am a fan of the scientific method, but in lieu of concrete testing, I think Millennials are well equipped to discuss the source of stamina and how we can grow our grit.

What is grit? While I like spending time in the workshop, grit doesn’t refer to the sandpaper I use, but how dedicated and focused I am to the project in front of me. As a wordsmith, I sometimes like to create acronyms that give a memorable definition for the original word. After thinking about the word, “grit,” here is my Millennial definition:

G.R.I.T. – Grounding Reality Instilling Tenacity

This new acronym describes grit as an ability to see the world in front of us, and continue towards a goal. “Grounding Reality” is a reference to accepting where we find ourselves. I’ve been in situations and circumstances that I did not enjoy or desire to experience, but any opportunity I had to move forward began with my ability to see my starting point, and my end goal. In the case of education, there were times I found myself doing homework, lots of homework, and while I may have wanted to be doing something else, I understood that the work was preventing me from the immediate goal. I accepted the reality, even though I wished it to be different, and this provided the fuel for the next part of the acronym.

“Instilling Tenacity,” is probably the one skill every parent and teacher wishes they could impart to their students. My grasp of tenacity is that it is the ability to see a goal, and the ability to work continually towards that goal over a period of time. It does become a little complicated when we cannot control the length of time spent on the goal, or the challenges that may work against us.  Defining tenacity really hinges upon our understanding of cause and effect, consequence, and sympathy/empathy. Continuing with the homework example, I developed tenacity in two major ways. Understanding how my actions would lead to positive or negative consequences for myself was the main motivation. The corollary of personal consequence was the understanding of external emotions caused by my action. If I did not properly accomplish or at least attempt what was asked, I would be letting down others who were trying to help me learn. I wasn’t the kid who eagerly ran home to do homework every night, but I saw my place in the world; it was my choice to learn and be the best I could to honor the work and gifts given to me by those around me.

“How do I get better grit or tenacity?”

This is the question that Dr. Duckworth allows us to ponder. I believe that the answer is different and personal for everyone. The unifying trait in building your grit is to find the thing that feeds your tenacity. If we were to continue working towards a goal non-stop, we might burn out. Tenacity is like becoming a marathon runner, knowing how to pace yourself to be consistent and always moving towards the goal. Taking time to read, play music, or other activities to recharge is essential before committing to a task. While some are fortunate to have rest periods, life can bring events that last very long and may seem indomitable. Tenacity in this sense becomes a survival instinct, and no matter the current circumstances, something better is possible. Belief in your goal maintains hope; maintaining hope is probably the greatest key to tenacity.

For a generation that seems to have a lot of things working against us, Millennials may prove to be some of the best examples of people with grit. Tough circumstances and challenges that block our goals make us stronger as we try to overcome those issues. When life is easy, we may become complacent, and stop learning. Adversity and struggle are the building blocks for growth, pushing us further than we think we can go. Thomas Edison said that genius is “1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent perspiration.” Edison got it right, but I think possessing yesterday’s genius is owning today’s grit.

Question to the readers: What do you do to recharge? Where does your grit come from?

Count The Grains Of Sand

Sandpipers on beach

Sandpipers at Sandy Hook Beach, NJ, Summer 2012

Today marks an important day in the restoration of damages from Hurricane Sandy. Six months after the devastating storm pounded the Northeast of the U.S., areas are reopening, including Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey. Sandy Hook has always been near and dear to me among the beaches I’ve known. Coney Island, Jones Beach, Ocean Grove, Long Beach Island, can also be counted, and I know that people in these parts have special memories from many of the available beaches. The picture above was taken last year close to the end of the summer. One thing that Sandy Hook allowed me was the chance to relax and contemplate. I enjoy the sand and surf, but seeing the waves and wildlife helps me gain a perspective that is elusive in daily life.

When I was small and learning to count, I thought the sandpipers were counting the grains of sand. I’d laugh and laugh as they ran back and forth inspecting the grains as the waves lapped at the sand. “It must take them forever to count all that sand,” I thought; though from a child’s perspective, a few months to your birthday or holidays can be an eternity. I look at the sand now and I know each grain started as something larger. It took time, a long time, for each grain of sand to find its way to that shore, to find its way onto my beach blanket, and to sneak home with me in my car. Sand doesn’t happen overnight, but it gets renewed by nature, and when people step in to boost the shoreline; these things take consistency. The destruction from this storm will leave marks for years, but we will rebuild, and it may take time, even a long time for some people. The important thing will be consistency. We must remember what happened, and take steps to ensure a safer future. For any person affected by natural disaster, we must not forget after the news crews find a new story. Help will always be needed and appreciated in this world.

As a resident of the tri-state area, I saw great destruction during and after the storm. Yet, for all the wind, water, and debris, the human spirit would not be crushed. I’m reminded of a picture taken in Hoboken, NJ where power strips and a sign inviting others to charge their phones hung outside someone’s home. I remember first responders who worked to save other people even while their own homes were facing damage. Whether by job requirement, religious calling, or human camaraderie, people banded together. We saw the destruction and the suffering of others and tried to find ways of alleviating the troubles. News coverage of the past few days has been showing improvements in some areas, but there is still a great amount of work to be done.

Millennials will face more storms in the future if current trends follow predictions. We must think of ways to ensure safety and live in balance with nature. Let us be the best examples of ourselves in future challenges, so that future generations will be better prepared for disasters. If we cannot offer financial help because we are struggling ourselves, let us offer our time and compassion. You may discover many things by being open to experience, and being willing to help just for the sake of helping others. One day, what was lost will be rebuilt. As Gen Y faces the buffeting winds of the economy and job market, we will also reach our future goals. Overcoming adversity applies for disasters and finding your path; the challenge makes the fruits of our labor even sweeter, because we persevere for as long as it requires.

To any of my readers, if you know of a group or resource that can use help from Millennials in disaster response, please comment to help get the word out. Sometimes willing people just need to know where help is needed, and we will do what we can to share that information.