It’s true, we ask why way too aften.
I was trying to make my dad understand how Airbnb works. For him, it’s either I rent or buy, but I do neither.
“Well, it’s kind of renting. Except I can leave whenever I want.” I said.
“There’s no contract?”
“Not really. I mean I pay monthly, but I’m not obligated to stay. I can choose another Airbnb if I want to.”
“How about the bills? It’s a lot of work to move services.”
“It’s all included so my host takes care of that. I just pay one amount for everything.”
“How about plates? You need plates.”
“It’s fully furnished, including the kitchen dad. I mean, it better be or I probably won’t leave five stars.”
“Why do you have to leave stars?”
“It’s a review dad. I don’t have to, but I want to build my profile so hosts will want to keep hosting me.”
I lost count how often I had this conversation with my dad. It seemed incomprehensible to him that I don’t have a permanent home. But like many people my age driving the pandemic exodus of big cities in America, I revel in this option to move on a whim.
My dad found his place in Las Vegas. He built his roots there and wouldn’t think twice making commitments like 24-month internet service contracts, hoarding, and weekends with neighbors. To me, that’s an awful long time to stay put. I’m too comfortable with change that I long for it. For my dad, things are fine when nothing’s going on, everything’s settled and routinary. For me, things aren’t fine when everything stays the same. In a life of constant change, it feels an anomaly when things are fine just as they are.
This pandemic will mold our mindset for years to come. One of the many takeaways from this event is the importance of flexibility. Those who can’t shift and pivot as necessary are the first ones in trouble when fortune takes a different mood.
I also want to be in control. I don’t want to depend on one company, one source of income, one straightforward career. It ties well with independence, as we are in that stage in our lives where we have gained respectable skills and experience that we can now command societal shifts.
And it’s been happening. Airbnb and a plethora of cancel-anytime subscription options from Netflix to Spotify became industry-disrupting busnesses because these companies understood our need to change things when things aren’t right. They catered to the millennials and the rest of the world followed.
Hong Kong was my first overseas travel experience. It exposed me to a different fraction of the same fractured world. As soon as I landed, with my luggage still beside me, my camera was at work. People looked perplexed as I took photos of their public transportation, a red double-decker bus reminiscent of the English’s influence in the city. I frequented the egg tarts sold in the streets, got lured in a restaurant with roasted peking duck hanging on display, and lost my budget walking through the Fa Yuen Street’s night market. I was hooked with travel.
I spend most of my early 20’s on the road. I traveled to about 30 US states and lived in idyllic cities like Breckenridge (Colorado), Key Largo (Florida), and Sun Valley (Idaho). I’ve snowboarded, snorkeled, mountain-biked, and hiked my way from one place to another. My life goal at the time was to visit every national park in America. Then social media took over my mind and got me thinking,
What am I really accomplishing?
I perused the Instagram posts of people traveling like me, except that they took better photos, went to more places, and ate more sumptuously than me. I couldn’t compete with that. I didn’t have a trust fund financing my pursuits or rich parents behind my back. I took jobs on the side so I could keep moving. I wasn’t really doing anything worthwhile. And travel had been so ubiquitous that it became unimpressive, especially hearing about some 21 year old who had been to every country in the world.
I thought it was something a young person had to do. Now that I flushed it out of my system, I was ready to, God forbid, settle down.
So I got a serious job, single-family home, stable middle-class life and even an SUV. Yet here I am writing from Colombia. Maybe we’re just the generation of cheap airline ticket hunters with an unquenchable itch to travel.
Getting my military gears is among the highlights of my basic training in the Army. With two empty rucksacks in our back, we snaked through warehouses and filled it with army issues from booths to helmet. I was a low-key nerd about these things. I reveled the fit of the carrier in my torso adorned with hand grenade pouches. I was known to wear my tactical wet weather parka in the slightest hint of rain. I’d also played a few games in the barracks that involved the need for combat helmet and body armor plates.
I wore my parka less often after I learned that it would cost north of $100 to replace it. Then I wrote my initials on them all.
No matter how worn-out our gear got from training, the Army would charge the full price of a brand new one if we were missing anything. If I misplaced anything, I had to hunt the surplus shops where people sell “lost” gears for extra cash. If that proved fruitless I had to turn to eBay. In the online marketplace, the Army-issued combat helmet sells for $500, while the body armor plates for $350. I heard that a typical soldier these days gets issued $17,500 worth of gear.
You tell me I’m financially responsible for that, and that’s all I need to know. Nobody could touch my gear.
“You have to whine, don’t you? You always have to ask why. Everything has to have a reason.”
I’ve heard these words and slight variations of it many times from older non-commissioned officers (NCOs) while I was in active duty. Unable to see the paradox in their complaint, older NCOs tend to have a hard time grasping about our insatiable need to know why. They grew up in a do what you’re told generation and works in a do what you’re told organization, I get it. But they could admit that the Army is changing with a new wave of millennial recruits moving ranks.
I hated laying out and doing inventory of my gear three times in a day. I had to do it for my team leader, squad leader, and then platoon leader. Sometimes for my commander too. I just had to ask why. I understood the point of it — we could be called for mission at any point so our gears had to be as ready as we were. But if a personal sense of financial-loss aversion wasn’t enough to get our gears straight away, one inventory should suffice. I would begrudgingly do what they asked for me, but not with a closed mouth. If there isn’t a good reason why, then there is a good reason to ask why.
Millennials are leading the Great Resignation, as the often-described ‘me’ generation hold the upper-hand in a tight labor market. But we’re also driving the shift to socially responsible way of doing business.
ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing seems like a fad. What does it have to do with fundamentals? ESG requirements may even seem to be a hindrance for a company who makes good profit, is consistently growing, and have respectable balance sheet. But my avocado-obsessed generation was demanding a breakup from the profits over ethics mantra through the vote of our investment choices.
Just last August, a bunch of ETFs aimed at ESG investing hit the market, notably from institutional asset managers like BlackRock and Nuveen¹. ESG assets are expected to hit $53 trillion by 2025², and the demand for sustainability can no longer be ignored.
We’ve seen the world at an earlier age than the generations before us, so maybe that’s why we care so much in preserving it.
We see CEOs with tremendous power, acting more like the fourth branch of the US Government. They can accelerate or hinder social change with their business decisions, and we have the most future to be affected by their actions and more blatantly, their inactions.
We see the importance of diversity, and America itself is a diversity success story. With more diverse governance comes more ideas. It’s conducive to innovation and equality for all. Isn’t that what this country strives for?
We see transparency as an ideal business etiquette. It’s a tough world for any company without connecting with us through social media, and we are watching everything they put out.
We can’t commit, we move around, we ask why way too often, and we demand social responsibility. We’ve come a long way for a generation criticized for indulging in ego-puffing selfies in our nascent days. But now even my dad posts selfies.
(1) Yahoo! (August 2021). ESG Investing Is Hot: Bunch of New ETFs Hit Market in August
(2) Bloomberg (February 2021). ESG assets may hit $53 trillion by 2025, a third of global AUM