The Secret to Millennials

The Secret to Millennials

In April of this year, I had the privilege to once again join the Forbes Under 30 Summit, this time for the EMEA edition in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel. It was my third summit.

Like the experience in Philadelphia and Boston, Israel left me optimistic, recharged, and motivated to continue viewing the world with opportunity and gratitude. It also reiterated trends I had observed during prior summits: that Millennials are the most creative, selfless, driven people I have ever met. That they are innately curious. That they are restless in the best way. And that they are going to change the world drastically - because they already are.

Millennials see the world differently. They are the anti 9-to-5, boundary-averse, digitally inclined, socially conscious, and change-oriented generation. Where you may see defiance, laziness, waning focus, excessive social nature, or lack of respect for authority and rules, Millennials see opportunity for collaboration (team building and engagement), learning new skills (increasing competitiveness), identifying new trends (capitalizing on market opportunities), leveraging diversity in product and culture (cross functional development), and global engagement (networking and market reconnaissance). As this timely article by Forbes explains, Millennials adapted because they had no choice: they are social, collaborative, and resilient.

We are the generation who grew up watching our parents dutifully work for companies that later laid them off. We listened as they shelved away dreams in favour of the "security" of a steady paycheque. We observed boomers save for a safe and comfortable retirement, only to learn a terminal illness or market crash would cut their dreams short. And we learned.

In turn, Millennials have taken the world in their hands and embraced what is "now". In a world that changes so rapidly, this generation has learned to seize (or create) opportunity and run with it. At times it may not make business sense - it's a pursuit of passion - but as we gain appreciation about the notion of "authenticity" we are increasingly learning that those with enough courage to follow their passions are those bearing fruit (for example, LokaiBarnana, and Better Walk).

What does this all mean?

If you want to understand the Millennial "secret", there are just a few elements - DNA if you will. Feeding the DNA of a restless generation may not set you free, but it will certainly change your levels of engagement and understanding for the better:

  1. Purpose: Millennials want to know their work has meaning - that it counts for something and has impact on the world (for the better). Link their work to purposeful outcomes and/or strategies that touch your team, city, market... and so on. If they have earned it, give them increased exposure. Roles and responsibilities with a position to influence are important. It does not have to be significant influence, but Millennials want to be heard. Listen to their ideas, feedback and concerns. You don't have to put it all into action - but the simple act of consideration will go a long way, and their loyalty and creativity will grow.
  2. Passion: Millennials want to fulfill their deepest passions through work. The categories of work and life are not mutually exclusive for this cohort. Help them identify areas of interest, passion, and talent, and let them explore. Need a corporate social responsibility strategy? Give it to Millennials. Need champions to spearhead a community giving and engagement strategy? Give it to Millennials. Need a task force to explore product and market innovation? Give it to Millennials. Letting them exhibit leadership and creativity to "own" a project and unleash passions will rarely yield disappointment.
  3. Agility: Millennials are restless. They want to see the world. They want to learn, experience, and reflect on different cultures, people, markets, and trends. They want opportunity to connect with other leaders, doers, and dreamers - an international tribe of peers. It is no surprise the concept of working from home, working remotely, or working from multiple cities is growing. They take new learning into account and connections into play, whether leading their own business or developing new products and markets for corporations. They are not afraid to take on multiple challenges or businesses at once, and they are hyperconnected (almost to a fault), meaning you have responsiveness and productivity far beyond the "9 to 5". Agility is not about working less, it's about making work and life work together - it's a seamless divide for Millennials.

Millennials are earnest and driven. They have an innate sense of community and an endless curiousity about the world. They crave mentorship and learning, and understand that longterm prosperity requires sowing seeds of sustainable business now.

The only secret to Millennials is understanding nuances in motivation, and appreciating the different perspective they bring to the table. Like anyone else, they're looking to make their mark on the world.

Forbes on How to Fail Better

On the heels of my TEDx Talk earlier this year, I was interviewed for an article and podcast by Forbes writer and Millennial entrepreneur Jules Schroeder on what it takes to "Fail Better". 

During our interview, I explained the power of evolving through failure, developing resilience to learn and fail better, and to realize and embrace individual strengths as an entrepreneur. 

With nearly 5,000 article views and a podcast rank as one of Jules' highest-hit episodes in her Unconventional Life series, the notion of failing better is one that continues to grow and resonate with business owners, millennials, and entrepreneurs alike. 

Read the article, How to Become a Better Risk-Taker, From 'Fail Better' TEDx Speaker Lindy Norrisor listen to the podcast on iTunes

For more on developing resilience, failing better, and refining your vision, visit


In March 2016, I had the opportunity to join TEDxUMANITOBA as a speaker.

As an independently organized TED event, it brought together academics, community leaders, and entrepreneurs to deliver ideas worth spreading. Participating was a little different than "status quo" public speaking - I explain my experience further here

I chose to speak about failure. As a subject most avoid, I honed in on the value of learning to "fail better" and leaving social armour behind. I explained how - through holding yourself accountable - you can develop resilience to better navigate hardship in future, and to come closer to your tribe. Interested?

Watch my talk HERE.  

About TEDTED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.



Last week, I was privileged with the opportunity to speak at TEDxUMANITOBA, and independently organized TED event at the University of Manitoba. My talk focused on how to "Fail Better" - specifically on the power of failure, accountability, developing resilience and finding your tribe (you can watch it here).

Like many, I wondered about the experience of speaking in a TED-sanctioned forum. With TEDxUMANITOBA now past, I wanted to share observations from a firsthand journey through preparation, execution, and conclusion as a TEDx speaker. They fit into three themes: 

1) Pressure: Public speaking has an obvious element of pressure, but speakers alike agree TED-related events carry a new level of stress. Not normally a nervous speaker, I'll admit my knees were shaking. This is for a few reasons: 

  • Short-Format: Condensing highly technical or complex concepts into 18 minutes or less, when they would normally take over an hour. Think writing, rewriting, editing, an expert proofreader, and more writing. 
  • Limited Time: Learning to structure, deliver, and transition said concepts verbally, visually, and articulately before time lapses. Think dry runs. In my case, it was at about 50. 
  • Memory-Based Execution: With talks requiring pre-approval of content anddelivery sans crib notes, speakers must craft their talk well in advance and be ready to fly solo day-of. It's easy to speak from the heart, but it's much more challenging to follow a memorized playbook. Again: dry runs.
  • Distinct Platform: TED is a widely recognized and reputable brand, and being invited to speak is not a challenge taken lightly. Most speakers dream of reaching the bar set by renowned TED-talkers around the globe.

2) Community: From organizers to speakers, to audience members and online viewers, to supporters to friends, TED seems to rally remarkable people - through curiousity, intellect, courage, and energy. 

  • The Thinkers: TED events are notorious for bringing curious, open-minded individuals together and as such, connectedness of ideas and people is innate. I left having met several likeminded people with fascinating ideas and concepts to share - some with potential for future collaboration.
  • The Speaker Tribe: Once you speak at a TEDx event, you're welcomed into the "speaker tribe". These are remarkable people who stood in your shoes months or years prior at various TEDx events, and thus share the now-familiar (and often intimidating) journey to the TED stage. In the case of event day, this also meant greenroom conversations with awesome speaker peers and establishment of new friendships.

3) Connectedness: Sharing your "idea worth spreading" means others share too. A lot. 

  • Storytelling: Since the event, those who saw, heard, or later livestreamed TEDxUMANITOBA reached out - unprovoked - to share their stories.  These are journeys of challenge, similarity, resilience, failure, and success - all relating to my "Fail Better" theme. By now, other speakers have also received notes of thanks, encouragement, and inspiration from those touched by their compelling talks on a vast array of ideas worth spreading. This human connectedness is what makes TED so powerful, and catalyzes both conversation and fascination around novel concepts in the world. 
  • Dovetail Effect: The conversation is far from over. If anything, respective conversations are gaining momentum - whether tips for a healthy brain, composting for climate change, robot intelligence, bridging the income gap, or indigenous university. All ideas shared sparked even greater dialogue to continue development and progress in respective areas of Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED). 

If TED believes passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world, last week's event was a testament to that mission. I am honoured to be part of it - thank you again to TEDxUMANITOBA's organizers for the incredible opportunity. 

About: TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.



This spring I developed a series highlighting standout leaders. At inception, Millennials - Evolving Perception One Changemaker at a Time featured Vikas Mohindra, a 29 year old Vice-President with Merrill Lynch. The series has since featured Khoa Phan, one of North America's most highly sought stopmotion animators, and Jeff Boodie, Founder and CEO of mobile app JobSnap. Next is Tara Ansley, a Georgia-born (TV and Crew Member turned) Feature Film Producer, Startup Advisor, Forbes contributor, Co-Founder of Gauge (a market research app for anyone launching in 2016), and working globetrotter (the latter becoming a growing trend amongst this cohort). 
On Motivation and Making It
At 27, Ansley's resume includes the likes of Sony Pictures, HBO, FOX, and the Sundance Institute covering motion features (TV and film) such as the Hunger GamesAmerican IdolAlvin & The Chipmunks, and the Vampire Diaries. Later this year, she will also start filming the dark comedy Tragedy Girls. She cites living globally (dwelling in multiple cities) as a main source of motivation, as well as reaping authentic success past monetary gain to include positive community impact, environmental sustainability, and personal and professional fulfillment.

Daily must-haves include books, hydration and an iPhone to keep productive, and like most Millennials, efficient, collaborative, and multi-channel communication is the norm. Email, Slack, Trello, and (live) phone calls maintain momentum and progress amongst cross-functional project teams.  When asked "How do you know you've made it?" Ansley's response goes against the grain of most her vintage: a pension plan and health benefits ranked at the top, next to travelling as a perk of being self employed.
Looking Forward
Contrary to common assumption, Millennials are not selfish. Ansley considers advances in technology and volume of creative content as a main concern in the film industry for the coming one or two decades, stating "There was once prohibitive barriers to actually filming: having access to a camera, funding, finding an audience, and distribution. Now - anyone with a smart phone can make a film - this is both thrilling and terrifying."
For Ansley, the rise of digital technology has commenced a slow death of "actual film", and the film industry has shifted to focus on preservation, research, and exhibition of past moving images. For this Millennial, preservation of traditional film is front and centre in her craft. On the contrary, she asserts basic education should start to integrate formal computing as a foundation of academics, to push the boundaries of creativity and learning in a digitally relevant way.
"Children must have tools to solve problems and be adaptive, self-efficient free thinkers."
She explains the drastic impact tech has had on the way we work in 2016 - urging consideration of how the future of technology in 2036 - when it combines physical, digital, and biological worlds. Ansley further encourages future generations to pursue careers in artificial intelligence, 3D printing, genetics, machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, and biotech. 
Ansley credits Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, Barbara Broccoli (of the James Bond film series), and scifi maven Gale Anne Hurd as women she looks up to - those unafraid to push limits. "We need those types of women in the next generation, and lord willing, will try to come close over my lifetime."
Her key is persistence and thriving in the unconventional life. In film, and in living globally, she explains that 75% of the job is hard work, and the other 25% is pure magic. The magic, she says, makes the hard days worth it. "To be able to call childhood heroes coworkers still gives 'pinch me' moments. I've never done it for the money, which I think has helped me make better choices."
With two films on the go, Ansley hopes to secure release dates by the end of 2016, as well as have one app developed and launched in the app store. She strives to continue working remotely on a global scale, and in contemplating a legacy, wants to leave the world better than she found it. Tara Ansley truly embodies a Millennial Changemaker, and one to watch in 2016. Connect with Tara on Twitter at @TaraInReelLife.



He's a Vine star, (16M loops), is verified on Twitter, has an Insta-famous dog (24K followers), and big brands clamour for his work on national campaigns. This is reality for a Millennial gamechanger: meet Khoa Phan

Recently, I launched a series that highlights standout young leaders. The first post, Millennials - Evolving Perception One Changemaker at a Time, featured Vikas Mohindra, a 29 year old Vice-President with Merrill Lynch. The series follows quick-hit Q&A insights from leaders in tech, finance, food and more, and evolves an assumption that millennials are lazy. Uncover what drives this generation as it continues with North American animator, Khoa Phan. Named a Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2014 for Marketing and Advertising and based in San Diego, the 26 year old entrepreneur has been featured in Mashable (as "Vine's Most Creative Stop-Motion Animator), was invited to Cannes Lions in 2015 to share his niche work, had his work nominated in the Tribeca Film Festival(Animate category), and was dubbed a new influencer by PR Week in early 2016.

He's worked with mega-brands such as Target, Peanuts Worldwide, Chevrolet,Samsung, Swiffer, MTV and many more to breathe life into brand storytelling through stop-motion animation. Here's what motivates Khoa's creativity, and what inspires him the most: 

1) What motivates you most? My family and my doubters. I’m want to make my parents proud – to give them good things to say about me to their friends – and to not bring shame to our family. I’m also motivated by my doubters: I always thought outside the box and explored where I saw potential, but it got me weird looks. I was made fun of for using social media many years back, and now, it’s a big and powerful tool. Who knew sharing pictures would be the norm?

2) What 3 items can you not live without? Internet access, air conditioning, and water.

3) On any given day, what are the top 3 ways you communicate? Email, messaging (texting – IM app), and calling.

4) How do you know you've made it? When my parents said that they were proud of my work (without questioning it). As typical Asian parents, they pushed me to be a doctor – and I went as far as Harvard to start that pursuit – toward a career with financial stability. I changed my route. While they were initially disappointed, they’re now very content with what I’m doing with my life.

5) Most concerned about 10-20 years from now? Will I still be working and be able to pay for my future bills? What will the state of my country (the US) be? Will there be robots blending among us?

6) Who inspires you the most? My deaf sister. She grew up without the ability to hear, something others wouldn't consider a "luxury." Life was harder for her: she was teased and made fun of. People would say nasty things because she couldn’t hear them. When you’re deaf, it makes learning harder too. Despite these hardships – she continues to live life to the fullest. If she can overcome obstacles, I can too.

7) Advice you'd give your 16 year old self? Not care what people think. I learned many people will doubt you, but they don’t deserve your attention. You will eventually prove them wrong, and all of those moments of self-doubt will seem pointless.

8) What 3 characteristics do you think millennials exhibit most often? They're great multi-taskers, are tech-savvy, and are free thinkers.

9) In your current business, what 3 aspects are a must? To have fun - not goofing around - but "fun" in that what I work on should make me happy. Second, to have plenty of creative freedom. I'm not egocentric – but I do what is best for the client and their audience. If you come to me for help, don’t micro-manage my job (otherwise, what’s the point in allowing artistic license?). Lastly, travelling: I’m young and I want to go to as many places as I can!

10) What are you afraid of? Failure. We all fail at some point in our lives, but it’s never a great feeling. I work really hard to never get to that point. I’m not perfect – no one is – but I strive to be the best in everything I do. 

11) Where do you look first for the latest news/trends? Social media is where I get my latest news from. It’s a quick go-to. 

12) Failure is.... disappointing my family and/or myself.

13) What you hope to accomplish by Dec 31, 2016? More free time to do “nothing” – to sit back and learn to not have work on my mind. Free time is a hard thing to come by. I don’t hate what I’m doing, so work isn’t bad, but I want to have moments I can enjoy. 

14) When you leave a legacy, what will it be? I want to be remembered as someone that inspired others. I want to publish a book (but my life isn’t interesting enough…yet!), and to tell future generations how I overcame struggles. I want to show that coming from nothing doesn’t mean that you won’t have success, it just means that you’ll have more obstacles to overcome to reach your future goals.