As a society, we have a tendency to make a lot of generalizations when it comes to age. We often bestow authority and wisdom to those that are older. We listen to our elders, lending them unquestioned trust, due to the years of experience they possess. Conversely, we assume that the youth is incapable of understanding the depth or gravity of the challenges the world faces. We often dismiss their opinions or perspectives as a result of naiveté.
However, in the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, that predisposition for turning to the older generation — our “leaders” — did not provide us with the answers, solutions, and hope that we needed. Instead, it was the kids — the teenagers of Generation Z — who were able to break through the noise and rise to the occasion. These teenagers offered inspiration, solace, hope, and a clear call-to-action, while many of our leaders from older generations fell short.
The Parkland students are inspirational for so many reasons. They’ve suffered immense loss and have seen unspeakable tragedy, but they refuse to let it define them. Instead, they’ve channeled their grief, pain, and anger into a force to be reckoned with. They built the #NeverAgain movement, and organized March for Our Lives, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people.
These students mobilized with efficiency and they did so because of the clarity and power of their message.
As we continue to watch what these amazing students do, there are some valuable lessons we can learn about Gen Z and what it takes to create messages that motivate and inspire.
Fight for what you’re passionate about
Effective messages must have soul. It’s clear that Gen Z is extremely passionate about their mission. We see the way those involved in the March For Our Lives movement light up when they talk about it, and we can feel the energy behind every word. It’s made even more powerful because of how authentic it feels.
Engage in discourse
Gen Z has taught us not to sit back and accept the status quo. We must engage in conversations about the things that matter to us or get lost in the noise. Participation in dialogues where we’re able to share our arguments, listen to others, and gain a better understanding of the other side is critical. We cannot motivate others by talking at them; we must talk with and to them, challenging and pressing each other, while also offering support.
Be fluent in your chosen medium
If there’s one thing that Gen Z has shown, it’s their extreme dexterity in using the technology and tools at their disposal to spread their message. They’re extremely adept at navigating social media and using it to organize and galvanize. Gen Z is not on a particular social media platform for the sake of having a presence there; they understand the subtleties of each platform and work them to their advantage. Their fluency across media enables them to deliver their messages more effectively and successfully.
Embrace yourself and be authentic
Gen Z has done away with carefully scripted and curated messages. As a generation that has grown up with advertising coming at them from every angle, they are disenchanted by and impervious to corporate speak. These messages are empty, meaningless, and don’t carry any weight. Instead, we should be focusing on delivering messages that get to the root of what matters to us most — our passions — and showing who we truly are, for better or worse. Being real with our audience only strengthens the relationships we are able to build.
Stand strong in your convictions
Once we’ve determined what we’re fighting for, we can’t back down. Gen Z has stood by their every conviction without apology. They know what they stand for, they are confident and steadfast in those beliefs, and they will defend them with pride. We can learn a lot from this — not changing what we stand for just because someone disagrees with us or gives us a bad review. There is something incredibly admirable about being able to stand up for what you believe in.
Don’t let cynicism win
If there’s one thing that Gen Z has truly taught us — it’s that we have to let go of our cynicism if we want to believe we can make a change. They forge ahead with their message with unrelenting hope that it can and will be heard. Often, our experiences can make us jaded, after dealing with failures and disappointments one too many times. It’s easy to forget the power of our voice, and sometimes it feels easiest to do nothing at all. From their stance on diversity and inclusion in the workplace to their views on gun laws and school safety, Gen Z uses their voice to keep moving forward.
Gen Z might still be young in age, but they are poised to be the largest generation ever. They’ve already proven the impact their voice holds and how they can use it to inspire not only people in everyday society, but the corporate and political worlds as well. One need look no further than the decades old legislations being reformed and the exodus of corporate sponsors severing lucrative partnerships, due in large part, to the groundswell movements that Gen Z has built.
By incorporating these lessons into our daily lives, both business and individuals can do a better job of motivating and inspiring people to take action to make the world a better place.