The real Generation Y work ethic

I’ve been in my new job for almost two months now, and there’s something I’ve noticed on the face of the hundreds of young professionals I’ve encountered.

Exhaustion. Our generation is tired. Really tired. Me too.

One of my favorite young professionals is a member of our Entrepreneurial Committee. He works for a Fortune 500 company here in Madison by day, and by night and by weekend, he runs two companies that he founded. Two. He calls it straddling. A leg in the corporate world, a leg in the entrepreneurial dream. His eyes and cheeks and mouth though, they are suffocating in exhaustion. The guy needs a pillow. Seriously. He needs to get some sleep.

The thing is, whenever I see him, I feel energized. He makes me smile because he comes to the meetings. He has great ideas. He contributes. He’s one of the last to leave. He’s insanely passionate. And I know he doesn’t sleep. I know he works ridiculously hard. I also know he’s going to be incredibly successful.

I’m not advocating a no-sleep schedule. I personally need seven hours of sleep. Exactly. If I go to bed at 11:58 pm, my alarm is set for 6:58 am. Exactly. But really, I’m not advocating it, because it’s already happening. For better or for worse, Generation Y is working with our hearts on our sleeves, straddling our work and our lives, straddling our dreams and our reality.

The excitement on the line is palpable. It’s everywhere. The exhaustion is merely a comma in the sentence of changing the world. It’s exhaustion of the status quo. It’s working hard, playing hard. It’s our generation pushing all together in one direction and only moving an inch. A mere inch. But gosh darn it all, we moved that inch forward. And that’s something to celebrate.

At my last job, I worked with some of the top business people in Madison, the CEOs and presidents, and movers and shakers. They inspired me. Now, I work with the next generation of CEOs and presidents, and movers and shakers. Except, we’re already doing it.

We’re already leading, changing, doing. We’ve been moving and shaking since we put one foot in front of the other for the first time. It’s something more than inspiration. It’s exuberance.

I invite the naysayers to come and spend time with the young leaders in my community and tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that the resilience and passion and willingness to do whatever it takes, that the gut-wrenching work of pushing forward against all odds, is not occurring every day, every hour, in the lives of these young professionals. Because I promise it is. We are laid off, or dumped, or abused, or hate our jobs, or are involved in shootings, war, or tragedy, and still we show up. We have great ideas. We contribute. We’re the last to leave. We’re insanely passionate.

That’s the Generation Y work ethic. That’s happiness raw and exposed. That’s what it means to be part of this generation.

Work it, homie.