THE OPTIMISTS - Kimala Bennett

Managing Director | The LAB Limited

Sunday, November 11, 2018

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It seemed the right thing to do ahead of diving straight into the 'silly season', and in this time of incredible love and hate, confidence and fear, fake news and alternative truths, to hear shared voices of optimism. SO asked the question: What's your take on optimism?

My generation grew from analog into digital. We saw the dawn of iTunes and witnessed the fall of Napster. From birth we experienced science fiction becoming reality; what was on TV became our reality. In my childhood alone, I saw technology evolve from dial to press to click to swipe. We grew up in a constant state of change so it should be no surprise that we expect our situations to evolve just as rapidly. Our generation and those after us were raised on the possibility of the impossible. I share this on behalf of my generation and those just beyond, because I want people to understand that our boundless optimism — that sense that we intend to conquer the world, that confidence that is often misread as entitlement — is there because we believe. We believe we can do and be and see and experience anything .

We are the Facebook generation and we have seen our peers change the world though innovation. Talk to any Jamaican under age 35 and you will find that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. Gone are the days of the “side hustle” being a little backup, now we are focused on building empires; everything we do counts. Multiple streams of income are considered normal and building from the garage is the new norm.

We know it is possible so we refuse to hold back. Instead of complaining about problems we innovate to create solutions. Being born native to digital interfaces we use these tools to turn thought into action no matter our passion. Usain started from humble beginnings and has become an international phenomenon, a living legend. Tashai and Blake Widmer founded Deaf Can, where deaf millennials learn and earn in the café business. Jessica Hylton-Leckie's vegan food blog “Jessica In the Kitchen” has been featured everywhere from Self and Essence magazines, to YahooBuzzfeed and the Huffington Post.

This generation didn't arrive overnight. We are the product of centuries of innovation, the labour of those before us. Our lifetime has been spent scrolling through screens, soaking in knowledge. We've studied at the University of Google, networked in the dorms of Instagram, and have emerged with the understanding that we are all connected. The Jamaican millennial is one click, tweet or DM away from our heroes at home or abroad. Modern youth is one YouTube video away from learning to speak another language. We don't see boundaries the way our parents did. For us no one is too far away or too high above. We don't see failure as a mark of weakness or shame. For us a challenge is something we inevitably will defeat. We fail forward.

We are the “right now” generation, and while some see only impatience, I see acceleration toward a better future. There have been dark times in recent years, and young people often feel the brunt of it. But Instead of shutting down, or dwelling on our circumstance this generation has chosen to rise. This generation isn't waiting for a hero; we are our own hero and we see no point in wasting time. Our parents solved problems in the 70s, 80s and 90s that have made our journey exceedingly easier. The immediacy that our parents didn't get to enjoy, we take as normal. As a result, we are able to solve our problems right now. We create opportunities right now, we improve lives right now. And we demand to be heard. We are the generation that tells the world what we want, how we want it. No more waiting, no long talking. We simply do. We create our own destiny. We rise.

My own optimism has taken me further than I had imagined. Ten years ago I started a film production house and I am humbled to say I now run one of Jamaica's most well-respected advertising agencies. It is not lost on me that this has all happened before age 40 and while I am grateful, I give credit in large part to the inspiration of my generation and those coming after, while acknowledging that I stand on the shoulders of giants.

So I say with conviction that when I look at the future of Jamaica, I do not struggle with my own optimism. Instead I salute my colleagues and peers who “tun hand mek fashion” turning fear into optimism, and challenges into opportunities.


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