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The Power of Conversation

In a world becoming increasingly integrated with technology, conversation is becoming a thing of the wayside. Relationships that were based on conversation in the past are now virtual, to the point that we may feel we know people as well as some of our good friends having never met them.

When we speak to each other, we speak in sarcasm, metaphors, and idioms. We personify, hyperbolize, and stretch the truth to create lively conversation. This figures of speech spark emotions and reactions that build trust, depth, and value in a relationship in ways reading text simply can’t. And so when we strip verbal, face-to-face communication and replace it with text and virtual learning, we simply can’t get as much out of our relationships and friendships as we could in the past.

The number one cause of mental illness in Canadian Universities in 2013 was loneliness. I can only assume that this is caused from the false representation of ourselves on social media, and the lack of traditional communication. The way we post about our daily lives isn’t a proper reflection on the days we live, but more of a highlight reel that shows our followers who we are and how we live.

When it comes to education, the most powerful exercises are those where young students have the opportunity to talk and learn with each other. The problem solving that occurs during this time of action and reaction simple can’t be matched. As one student makes a mistake, calculations are being made and expressions are read from the other people in the group that may teach them more than the teacher ever could. This experience, conversation and interaction is invaluable and cant be replaced.

Too often we hear about a shift in technology to be more focused on an ipad format, where students can grow and learn at their own pace. Though this is very valuable, the interaction between students proves to be incredibly important in the development of social skills.

As students move from the younger grades and into high school and university, it becomes less about the conventional learning, and more about the development of friendships. A recent study by has revealed that the average person spends 90 minutes a day on their phone, which may not seem like too much, but when we think about it closely, it means that over 10% of a typical day would be looking at the screen. Thinking back 10-15 years ago, these phones didn’t exist and we had 10% of not only our day, but our year back as well. This suddenly becomes a staggering statistic all of the sudden.

What is scarier, is that these statistics are now considered old. While the U.S. did not lead global markets in terms of amount of time spent on social media networks, it was far and away the highest consumer of monthly data, spending the most time per day on their phones with a staggering 4.7 hours. Considering that the average American is awake for just over 15 hours a day (seeing as we sleep for an average of eight hours and 42 minutes), this means that we spend approximately a third of our time on our phones. Sure, using your smartphone isn’t mutually exclusive with completing other activities, but still, 4.7 hours is a significant chunk of the day.

Conversations can’t be replaced. We’re losing the way we communicate and people are suffering as a result. Yes, the cat video was hilarious, but was it worth losing (or failing to make) a friend over?

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The Irony of Success and What We Can Do About It

Oprah, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Musk, Branson: My heroes. Ok, well that might be a little dramatic but if I listed Dominic Barton (Mckinsey), Jim Turley (EY), Paul Jacobs (Qualcomm), Richard David (US Bank), you (like me) would probably wonder who these people were.

We’ve come to glorify and exemplify the CEOs of ‘unicorn’ start-ups to be the pinnacle of success.

What do they all have in common? They’re all founders and entrepreneurs, sparking a high interest in starting a company and setting an alternate standard of what it means to be successful.

To add to this, classes teaching entrepreneurship have gone up some 20x since 1985. We’re programmed to think that we need to work in that remote office, ‘hustle’, and be a part of that ‘start-up grind’. Why not? We all want to be successful.

If that is the case though, why is it that entrepreneurship is at a 40-year low? According to the US Census that just over 450,000 firms were founded in 2014, which is way less than the 500,000 to 600,000 new companies founded every year from the late ‘70s to the the time of the Census.

Success is hard to find in entrepreneurship. Consider being 20-something kid that wants to start a small tech shop rather than being a consultant for a major firm after spending four years, racking up an average of $37,000 student debt. The data shows that it takes just over three years to be profitable and statistically, they have a 1 in 10 shot at making a sustainable living at all. The bottom line? Making a living in entrepreneurship is tough, and being among the Zuckerbergs is, well, nearly out of the question.

And hey, it isn’t limited starting a tech company, this is entrepreneurship as a whole. Perhaps that is why the idea of a side-hustle is on the rise too. Forbes reports that more than 1/3 of Millennials are working a side job. But is it possible to fully commit? Well, given the difficulty of becoming not only profitable, but also to make a sustainable living, not likely; well not right away at least.

A fun side-hobby? Sure. Lucrative, maybe, but not likely.

But then comes a new problem: Automation, which is something widely talked about, but perhaps not enough when it comes to entrepreneurship. Time said that ‘Jobs with predictable activities in structured environments are the easiest to replicate with robots, a process known as automation. McKinsey estimates that 51% of all job-related activities in the U.S. economy fit this description, largely in manufacturing, food service and retail trade sectors.’ What does this include? Insurance underwriters, Banking clerks, Accounting technicians and bookeepers. Funny, those are among some of the jobs we in society deem to be among the ones that make us more successful.

The irony in the situation is that some of the jobs that we thought were those that were going to be safe and lucrative in the long-haul are going to be the ones to go, and entrepreneurship, though difficult to make full living off of, isn’t what gets us the most support out of the gate.

So what do we do moving forward?

Well, I predict that there will be a spike in Liberal Arts education so that we can solve problems better. The reality is that the world is moving faster than any of us can keep up with and the definition of success is changing along with it.

What we need to be doing is filtering the ‘noise’ of what society (or Instagram followers) tells us to be successful and learn to understand ourselves and what makes us happy. Try disconnecting for a weekend. See what it is you gravitate to when there isn’t the ‘busyness’ of life.

Success doesn’t look like it used to. It isn’t about the American Dream, so much as it is about the dreams of over 300 million Americans, which all look different. Defining what we need to live a sustainable, happy life is the first key step to determining what success looks like to us. Next step: chase it and don’t look back.

The Difference Between Entitlement and Awareness

We’ve all heard the stereotypes around the Millennial generation. They’re narcissistic, job-hop, aren’t loyal, and most of all, entitled. They think they deserve more than they work for, and have unrealistic expectations. Right? Isn’t that what we’re lead to believe when we talk about a generation that populates such a large portion of the workplace? It seems like it, but doesn’t necessarily have to.

The Millennial demographic, as big as it is, is brought up in a technological world that didn’t exist for the generation the preceded it. This generation has better access to internet, cell phones, social media, and information that simply wasn’t nearly as accessible as it was 15-20 years ago. Job postings aren’t posted on a cork board and the resumé is only a small portion of what educating a potential employer looks like.

This means that the expectations are bigger because this next generation knows what can, and is being done.

Let’s take fairly recent news that came out of Sweden, for example. In Sweden, there is talk about moving to a 6 hour work day. Now, as someone in Canada who may not like their job, there are two options. The first is to apply for a job in Sweden with the hopes that the application will be accepted and I can work only six hours a day. The second is that I could ask my employer or government why it is that Sweden is the only country that is doing this, and why we can’t look at a similar practice here in our hometown.

Another example would be around office aesthetics. One office may have a beautiful open concept style and another may be stuck in the ‘70’s with cubicles that limit communication and interaction between employees. Because of the hyper-connected world we live in, information about these great places to work is spreading faster than it ever has before. As a result, people are asking ‘why not me too?’.

No, things haven’t changed around what people need to do to progress another step in the organization, or to work in a more efficient manner by changing the structure and aesthetics of the office, but the way we talk about it might. People need to know that the grass will always be greener, the story is always bigger than the one that is being told, and that there are always exceptions. It is too easy for a story to be posted and go viral, only to be the flavor of the hour and forgotten about shortly after, while still having impact on the people in the office and what they are aware could be taking place.

The world of work is ever changing and the ways we work and the environments we work in are changing just as quickly. Telling stories of the newest office space are nice, but rarely do they paint a full picture of what the office culture is, or what it is like to work there. The next generation is right to ask about the opportunity to advance the workplace they are in, but shouldn’t have expectations to do so. There needs to be open communication within the office from the top-down and from the bottom-up to ensure that the environment created is one the provides the tools necessary and the environment that allows people to naturally do the best work they possible can. This awareness and hyper connectivity, paired with curiosity and desire to change, adapt, and grow, shouldn’t be confused with entitlement, which is a completely different topic.

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