Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dude, raise your hand!

I had to shoot a DVD this week. I am telling you that was one of the hardest things to do, if you have ever done one. There was a director, Peter Carlos, Assistant Professor of Communication at Lindenwood University. There was a producer, Dr. Rau Ayagari the head of Biology and a staff of production people. I was the talking head. We discussed nutrition and how our dining service at Lindenwood has the challenge of providing meals that are healthy, really healthy, serving over 4500 meals per day. It ain't easy.

Now, I am not usually short on words, especially when it comes to subjects that I am familiar with. I had no script, no teleprompter. I was to talk about Wild Thyme's, Pfoodman's new wellness program influenced by our international student population.

Pfoodman certifies certain products as "reduced", "vegan", "organic" and "kosher". Wellness menu items reflect an appropriate "certified" icon. The Wild Thyme's station menu offers cool super foods such as Quinoa, Cous Cous, Barley, lots of neat authentic herbs and spices.

It is our best effort, Wild Thyme's, I am really proud of it. We have t-shirts too, shouting "Get Wild". We are sure it will be award winning and look to set ourselves apart from the competition with type of innovation. So I got to thinking.

We created this program for several reasons. The most obvious is the fact that our students palate is changing and they are thinking healthier, much more than before. But what's interesting it the fact that this generation of students has had influences in their lives that other generations before them have not. For example, they have always had the influence of recycling in their lives. I haven't, nor did my folks, it still seems like a new thing to me, kind of an option. This generation seeks out the appropriate refuse container. This generation is seeing oil and gasoline prices go higher than ever. They saw an attack on our homeland and the resulting knee jerk reaction of an administration. They can actually intellectualize the health care crisis by understanding what the lack of insurance means, because often they too don't have it. They have seen a woman and a black man battle for the democratic nomination for the office of the President of the United States, like it was status quo--all of this while the baby boomer population drifts into retirement.

There is much before them and ironically, little time to be thinking of themselves. And yes, there are students who think this way, more of them than before, concerned students who listen a little more closely to what lies ahead. They are aware of their community responsibility as it relates to living, sustainability and that which is a better path to quality of life. More of them understand and expect certain things this way, certain standards that fuel their ambition. Not all of them, but more than before.

The changing economy, inflation and a slue of other issues will pose challenges for these students and I can see a little reality setting in, there is momentum brewing, urgency, a good thing. Not like with the typical generation X and Y whose sense of entitlement was a huge turnoff to employers in the late 90's and early 2000. The "not wanting to pay the dues" attitude labeled the entire generation lazy, indulgent, an inflated sense of worth. I still struggle creating false hopes when talking to these kids. I don't want to patronize them. It is hard finding your way, even after a bachelor's degree, a masters degree. There should be a reality show on the reality of not finding the job that generation X and Y thinks they should be entitled to. But I am sure that it has already been covered on MTV, the billboard image of generation entitlement.

I took the Johnny-On-The-Spot route when it came to the future. I think everyone should, college degree or not. I tell these kids to pick and industry, a product or a service that nobody else wants to do and go for it. That is what the food service business is. (That is what the crap extrusion business is). Nobody really wants to be a hamburger flipper, right? Hell, Pfoodman flips around 400,000 hamburgers a year. I started as a dishwasher, bus boy etc. Nobody was fighting for my job, but they missed me if I didn't show up. Later in life I simply raised my hand and said I would do what the others bailed on. Eventually getting that spatula to flip the burgers, which eventually led to our business, Pfoodman. I can't help but raise my hand when an opportunity arises.

Yep, it was hard being an expert talking head of a DVD on HACCP, Nutrition, Wellness, Active Living and Fulfillment. Hard being the center of information; opinion on that which students might actually listen, their parents too. What is it that sets me a part from the rest of the community, how did I get my own DVD and an audience to boot? I am thinking it is because each time I raise my hand (and I still do) I take a risk and gain a little more momentum on a path to knowledge--that which creates a relationship to something else, a connection to something, whether it be a business opportunity or, in this case, a chance to change the world a bit.

Don't discount the upcoming generation, they are in a stage of change like no other. It is a great time to watch them raise their hands.

No comments: