QUOTE OF THE WEEK 📜
"We learn who we are in practice, not theory."
-- David Epstein, Journalist, Author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
Young people 👩🏽🎓 👨🏽🎓👨🏿🎓are incredibly hardworking 🧗🏽♀️and resilient, 💪 not the “snowflake generation” ❄️
Spinning Forward often talks to young people about their careers, their side hustles and their changing views about work. These digital natives are more entrepreneurial, and driven compared to previous generations. One reason they spend so much time online is because many feel the older generation doesn’t care what they think. Young people with traditional part-time or full-time jobs, often have one or more side hustles. They want meaningful work and regularly think about the question, "What should I do with my life?" Many take action on this question earlier and more often to help them get a handle on what feels like permanent financial insecurity and uncertainty.
Young people worry about the rising cost of everything. They worry they won’t get a job in their field chosen field, get stuck doing odd jobs and be a burden to their parents.
More people question the value of higher education A recent New York Times article, Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College, shows,
There are 2.5 million fewer Americans pursuing college or university since 2010. In the US, 52% of adults between 25 and 34 graduate from a two or four-year college or university program while in Canada, the number is 67%.
While more Canadians are well educated, the number one challenge remains the number of barriers highly educated immigrants and graduates face trying to find work in their chosen field. They often get stuck doing odd jobs to pay the bills and feel trapped in a constant state of financial insecurity and uncertainty.
Young people see how stressed older people are. A 2023 report by Gallup called the State of the Global Workplace found that:
52% of employees experience a lot of stress on a daily basis. Canada, and the US are the most stressed countries. Women employees are more stressed out at 57% than men at 42% in Canada and the US.
Happiness at work has plummeted since 2020. Human Resources cloud platform BambooHR’s 2023 report found that employees are more unhappy today than at the peak of the pandemic. They surveyed 57,000 employees from June 2020 to June 2023 across 1,600 companies in various industries. Macro stressors like rising inflation, the cost of living, return to work policies, disengaged employees and overall frustration are trickling down into everyday stressors. One alarming finding is that:
“Employees aren’t experiencing highs or lows—instead, they are expressing a sense of resignation or even apathy.”
Gen Z is the “side-hustle” generation. For all the talk of quiet quitting, a 2023 report by data analytics company, Kantar, called Connecting with Workforce, found they are not the “snowflake generation” but incredibly hardworking and resilient. 40% of Gen Z have two or more roles (jobs). What’s driving them is economic insecurity and uncertainty, the lingering effects of the pandemic, and seeing mass layoffs in well known companies.
Gen Z has experienced an unprecedented number of shocks. The start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2022 was followed by the global racial protests, shifting to school online and the war in Europe. Then came the global rise in inflation, rising food prices and food insecurity, mass layoffs in high wage jobs and the affordability crisis in cities around the world. Toronto is the most expensive city in Canada and ranked the 90th in the world according the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living survey.
Gen Z creators of color want to be business owners. Given the challenging environment, they strive to turn side hustles into viable businesses. Adobe’s 2022 "Future of Creativity” study found that,
”53% of Gen Z content creators of color want to be business owners while only 42% of Gen Z white creators want to own businesses.”
Young people of color in traditional jobs believe they’ll be laid off first in a recession. Most don’t expect to be promoted into management positions in Corporate Canada, no matter how hard they work. Another reason for wanting to be business owners is to create generational wealth and have something to pass on.
Niche is the new mainstream. Earlier this year, YouTube Canada Head, Andrew Peterson, said,
”Niche content really is the new mainstream”.
He believes YouTube’s algorithm will find people just like you and your content. But what he doesn’t mention is what if you don’t yet know yourself? What if you’re unclear about your interests and proclivities that help you eventually discover your niche?
Most creators, especially creators of color, early on, don’t get support for family when struggling to find their niche. If the “Bank of Mom and Dad” is paying your bills, they expect their kids to find a traditional day job instead of becoming a creator. Parents who don’t get what the creator economy is, tend to focus on the bad stuff like the cryptocurrency crash that wiped out savings, and long hours that lead to burnout. Many mistakenly view it as a scam or gimmick often because they don’t know where to get trustworthy information.
Look for the helpers 🤲 👏🏽 if unsure 🤷🏽♂️ what to do with your life 🎓
Andre Rodrigues, aka DJ Andre 905 (@djandre905) has been a DJ for fifteen years. Since 2015, he’s been the official DJ for the Toronto Raptors Farm Team and has a weekly Saturday afternoon show on Toronto VIBE105 FM. He immigrated to the city of Mississauga as a kid and like so many immigrants, becoming a DJ was never on his radar. He says his goal, when he graduated high school was “just to get a degree, get a job, and start living my life.” In university, after he made new friends who also wanted to make music, he followed this interest in his spare time. He says,
”I tried to rap and I wasn’t good at it. And I tried to make beats at that time and produce, and I wasn’t good at it either. I guess DJing was like the next natural step. But I had a friend of mine at that time who told me, Andre, you look like a DJ. For some reason, that just stuck in my head. And then a few years after (after university) is when I kind of acted on that, and I bought turntables and started to learn and practice and start to DJ.”
It helps to have friends, coaches or teachers who recognize something in you and point it out when you are blind to it. Rodrigues was destined to do something in music. But nothing would have happened without experimenting. It turns out the secret to having good life is to look for the helpers. Everyone needs at least one person who has their back according to an 85 year Harvard Study of Adult Development.
So many creatives are lost 🤷🏾♀️today
“There are so many creatives who are lost. Either they give up along the way for financial reasons, because of family or other circumstances. Many compare themselves to top notch creators and get discouraged when success doesn’t follow.”
Kim’s strategy when he started was to copy his favorite popular YouTuber, Casey Neistat. He believed that copying a popular YouTuber would make him a popular creator. Instead, he dreaded the creation process, and his energy dropped. By reflecting and journaling his steps and missteps, he realized he was better behind the camera as an introvert telling other people’s stories. He believes his other job as a pastor on weekends at Korean Church influenced his videos. As a pastor, he likes to leave his audience with an important lesson which resonates in his videos. He never publicly revealed he was a pastor. Yet, he says, many YouTube subscribers leave comments like:
“You sound like a pastor. You sound like a shepherd to lost sheep . Even though I didn’t tell them that I was a pastor, I think my background is in my video. My natural tendency is to care for people, which I think, is imbued in my videos.”
If you don’t have a village, 🌆one person ☝️ at a time will do. 📈
Actor, Writer and Podcaster, Michael Jibrin, originally from Nigeria, married an American, who we also met in a previous issue. The couple decided to live in Boston instead of Nigeria. Like most new immigrants, he was overwhelmed and did side jobs like driving Lyft and Uber, Amazon delivery, painting houses and working retail. One of his first full-time jobs was working at Best Buy as a sales consultant. He knew he could become a sales manager but realized “it was a trap because once you get comfortable, you have a steady pay check.” He started getting modelling and acting auditions but his agents were reluctant to book him because he wasn’t available in the day.
One day at Best Buy, Jibrin was trying to sell a man a Samsung Curve TV, explaining the bells and whistles and how the fancy TV worked. He said,
“Out of nowhere, this man stops me and says, Do you know [the actor] Sidney Poitier? I said, Yes. He said, ‘You’re better than him’. Then he walked out of the Best Buy.”
Jibrin saw this as a sign, and told his wife he just quit his job. He travelled to LA, found an acting coach on Twitter, and learned he was the only student in the class who had never worked as an actor. After Jibrin shared his story and they started working together, his acting coach said:
“I’ve worked with a lot of actors and I haven’t seen anyone who’s got what you have. I don’t want you to lose it.”
Jibrin has never really had a village in his corner. Instead, he's had many encounters with one person at a time on his journey. In different ways, the overall view from people who be barely knew was,
“Hey, you have this thing. You’ve got to - to just push that.”
Jibrin thinks your setbacks, getting to know yourself and one-off encounters with helpful people is necessary for everyone who is struggling to find their way, saying:
”You really learn who you are and what you’ve got when you’re alone on that journey... that’s when you’re really tested. That’s when you really have the opportunity to prove, do you really want to do this or you’re just talking about it?"
RESILIENCE HACKS 💪🏾 ✌🏽💯
If you want a long and successful career, 💪 start as a generalist 🎯🎯🎯
The prevailing view in society is that finding your niche and specializing early is a winning strategy. Students and professionals who start as generalists, often feel guilty and behind their counterparts who focus early and accelerate. A quick search on Amazon for the word, "niche" results in more than 50,000 books.
The risk of specializing too early. David Epstein, author of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, argues that generalists have more successful and fulfilling careers in the long-term. He says the risk of specializing early in school and your career reduces the ability to experiment and sample across areas. Following your curiosity and interests improves your chances of shifting to your next option if the first one doesn't work out. The New York Times captures Epstein's Range in one sentence:
"Breadth is the ally of depth, not its enemy."
Epstein has four reasons why starting as a generalist, specializing later and not obsessively planning is the best path to career joy and success.
(1) Most learning environments are unpredictable and change often. First, in the real world, the media glorifies athletes like Tiger Woods. He specialized at a very young age and became the best golfer because that's all he did. He followed the 10,000 hour rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, by doing one thing repeatedly. Conversely, tennis ace, Roger Federer, meandered across different sports -- skiing, basketball and soccer -- before focussing on tennis much later at 14, compared to his peers. Federer's parents didn't pressure him and preferred he follow his interests.
Epstein describes two learning environments - Kind versus Wicked - using research from psychologist, Robin Hogarth. Kind learning environments like golf are predictable with a clear and finite set of rules, and routines that don't change over time. "Wicked" learning environments are unpredictable with an unclear set of rules and routines that change more frequently. Most careers operate in wicked learning environments. Incidentally, Epstein and Gladwell debated about "depth vs breath" and Gladwell accepted that the 10,000 hour rule had shortcomings.
(2) Develop a "test and learn" mindset. Second, when you sample and experiment early on across activities, subjects, interests, jobs, careers, and work environments, it gives you breadth. This helps you observe how you are doing. You can also listen to feedback from a teacher, coach, colleague or a friend if you can't see what they see.
Epstein says developing a "test and learn" or "first act, then think" mindset helps you get clear on how to optimize your own personal narrative. He says,
“We learn who we are in practice, not theory."
But testing options early can make us feel like a failure because we feel behind people who specialize and look successful early on. Early specialist are less visible and quiet if that one thing they focus on doesn't work out because they minimized or blocked testing different options and possible selves. Epstein says in the long run, generalists perform better because they've tested more options earlier where one or more could become their future self.
(3) Career success is based on your match quality. The third reason to start as a generalist is that career success is based on your match quality. If you have achieved a breadth of experience, it's easier to reflect on your story. Match quality and self-awareness go together.
Match quality is a term economists use to describe:
The degree of fit between the work you do and who you are based on your your abilities and proclivities.
Epstein says that generalists end up with better match quality as they get to know themselves better while experimenting and sampling different possible versions of their future selves. They can optimize and prioritize their various paths based on who they are at the time because they got a taste. Those who specialize and double down early on one thing often get frustrated when their interests change.
(4) Your personality changes the most in your twenties. A fourth reason to delay specialization is that people's personalities change the most between eighteen and their late twenties. It is the time in your life when being open and trying new things helps you learn the most about yourself. Trying new things early gives you a range of options that you can double down on later.
Paul Graham , the entrepreneur, and co-founder of Y Combinator, the best startup entrepreneurial accelerator in the world, wrote a popular essay for high school students called, "What You'll Wish You'd Known". He recommends young people look at different options available to them now without committing to anything for the future. He writes:
It's important to work on things that interest you and increase your options. What you work on should be hard enough such that you learn and understand something. By pursuing options, you can worry about which option to take later.
It's counterintuitive to think that slowing down at the start of your studies or career will speed up your success later. But breadth really is the friend of depth for long-term success. It true that some people will succeed by specializing early. But the majority of successful people who transition and apply a “test and learn” mindset can better adapt to a changing environment. They are more fulfilled and successful in the long-term.
📹 😔Short-form videos on YouTube and TikTok can harm your attention span by engaging through “short bursts of thrills”. The Wall Street Journal reports that a new study from Guizhou University of Finance and Economics in China and Western Michigan University finds that viewing endless short videos can harm one’s attention span, particularly in children and teens. Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, and author of Attention Span, says that “regular viewing of fast-paced videos can make everything else seem boring and cause problems with focusing on slow-paced activities like as schoolwork and reading.”
She offers two tips for concerned parents:
- Encourage their kids to set goals 🎯 by spending time away from screens, like playing with friends in real life and spending more time outdoors.
- Parents can set limits 🛑 and rules for video watching, especially for children, by using tools like YouTube's Google Family Link, or through Apple Family Sharing.
Why it matters? It's important to be mindful of our relationship with technology, so we can better design our day. The goal is for a healthy and psychologically balanced life.
🧑🏻💼🧑🏾💼 ⚖️ “Lazy Girl Job” is a new workplace phrase meant to challenge toxic workplace expectations and like quiet quitting is a response to hustle culture, the Great Resignation, and worker exploitation. Created by Gabrielle Judge in May 2023, it refers to well-paying white-collar jobs that prioritize work-life balance. The #lazygirljob hashtag has garnered over 21 million views on TikTok. Women of color and other underepresented groups may have negative consequences if they promote a “lazy girl job”. As LinkedIn career expert Andrew McCaskill points out,
People of color have always had to work harder for the same recognition. They are disproportionately impacted during times of economic uncertainty and recessions.
In a TikTok, Judge says, the “lazy girl” phrase was a marketing gimmick. While it began with young white collar women, the phrase extends beyond Gen Z and includes men. Related to the workplace, a Cigna 360’s Global Well-Being Survey 2022 revealed that 91% of Gen Zers and 87% of millennials report being stressed due to financial insecurity and uncertainty.
Why it matters? While trendy phrases come and go, the sentiment against overwork and the desire to reassess life priorities after the pandemic are here to stay. This shift in attitude is one reason side hustle businesses are so popular.
🙅🏾🛑🌐 Chinese social media platforms are filled with racist videos and anti-black content, according to research by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
WARNING: This text contains references to racist content that may upset some readers.
Major platforms in China like Douyin, Bilibili, Kuaishou, Weibo, and Xiaohongshu fail to effectively address racist and anti-black video content content, despite their responsibility to respect human rights. ByteDance owns TikTok and Douyin, the Chinese equivalent. Common themes include portraying Africans as primitive and dependent, while Chinese content creators are depicted as wealthy, who save them from poverty. These platforms also promote derogatory views on interracial relationships and label Chinese supporters of anti-black racism victims as traitors. The profit motive for Chinese content creators contributes to the prevalence of racist content about Africans.
Why it matters? It's important that content creators and Chinese social media platforms be held accountable for posting offensive content or for not censoring it.
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About Spinning Forward
My name is Flavian DeLima and I'm the editor and publisher of Spinning Forward. Spinning Forward is an independent media company that publishes a newsletter and soon a podcast about how creators of color thrive in the Toronto region.
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