It is rare that any human being gets the kind of chance given to today’s youth in Mongolia. This giant country has a tiny population, and yet its people are entrepreneurial, hardy, and open. And the economy will thrive based on strong economic conditions, robust civil society, freedom of the press, and great education.
Today’s youth have advantages that people my age (I am a young 40) never had. When I was ten, I used the Encyclopedia Britannica as a reference work at home. Parents would buy the set of books in installments (A-B, C-D, etc). If your parents did not have enough money, you would not get all the books. Can you imagine not having access to any word starting with the letter ‘M’?
Of course not.
Now, at the click of a button, or the swipe of a finger on a smart phone, you can get access to information, tips, insights, connections in a way that was considered witchcraft just a few decades ago. This means that today’s youth have an information edge.
You also have a permission edge. When I was at school, the teacher directed our learning plan. We were told what to do. Now, as a creatively disruptive child, I only mostly followed. You, on the other hand, have the ability and freedom to connect to whoever you want to, to ask whatever question you want, without having to ask permission. It is up to you now whether you use it or not as an individual, and how you use this power.
Even if you decide not to use your powers, you will still benefit personally from these changes in the world. This is because of your group edge. All human beings are social creatures. The youth of today have grown up dramatically more social than any previous generation in mankind. This is because it is so easy to connect with others, to share, and to help. I used to make model airplanes (don’t laugh). My frame of reference was only the model shop in the high street. If I were still building model planes today (which I am not), I would have a wealth of community knowledge, experience, and support to get more engaged in my area.
Things have also gotten easier, even though you would never believe it (and rightly so). It used to be almost impossible to do anything in the past. I used my first computer when I was seven (using cassettes to store data). I used my first mobile phone at 22 years old (1982). Can you imagine doing anything without either device – and that is pre-Internet. It turns out that you have the easy edge in that many things, like creating companies, doing advertising, finding talent, solving problems have become much easier, faster, and cheaper with today’s technology and global experience sharing. This will sound incredible to you that it is easy, and to a large extent this edge is fleeting as the edge can be exploited by anyone with the right mindset, whatever the age.
While there is a lot of goodness in the youth of Mongolia, the future will not happen by itself. You need to make your future happen. “Luck… is winning the lottery when you haven’t bought a ticket”. As you embark on your journey, you’ll need to watch out that your strengths do not become your weaknesses. Remember that other people can help you, young and old, and often all you need to do is ask. Not everyone will respect you as a young person. And yet, if you get a good feel for who you are, and how you can help, you can achieve incredible things. At the age of 24 years old, I was consulting to the CEOs of major multinational companies – and earning twice as much as my professor! The work I pioneered in my twenties created an industry (even though I had to spend a painful five years without much money starting up a business).
The opportunities are out there. Be creative. Be smart. Use what already exists. Work together. You’ll do great. I look forward to joining you at the celebration parties!