“The most exciting news being made at this moment is what human beings have learned about themselves, the planet they’re on, and the universe they’re part of.” -Robert Krulwich

Hi. Anyone there? No? Just me? K…I guess I’ll just start then…

I’m jezra. Nice to meet you. The pleasure is mine. All mine.

I wanted to tell you about a phrase I was introduced to just a few days ago by a man I’ve grown to love and respect in the short time I’ve known him: Robert Hernandez, professor of journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I won’t get into why he’s so awesome now, but I’ll probably reference his ideas and findings again in the coming posts because let’s face it–I’m not that original. I’m glad we got that out of the way sooner rather than later.

Anyway, the phrase that shook my world is “horizontal loyalty,” which was coined by Robert Krulwich during his commencement speech to the UC Berkeley Journalism School’s class of 2011. Why was did it make such a huge impression on me? Because it solidified what I had been living, the direction I’d seen the world going in after the collapse of the financial markets, the concept I believed separated the winners from the losers in this new game.

Horizontal loyalty is a way of behaving that all gen Y and Zers understand but don’t always adopt. You can almost see it seeping out of the pores of the really smart entrepreneurial ones. Instead of boring you with my explanation of what it is, experience it for yourself–it only takes a minute: http://horizontalloyalty.com

No really,  I’ll wait.

Graduates from the past few years (and surely those for at least the next 10 years) have (and will have) a harder time than ever finding jobs due to the worldwide economic slowdown. This may seem like a curse, but I would argue that it is a blessing. Nobody (hyperbole–relax) is hiring entry level college grads because those jobs are being filled by people with more experience whose jobs were slashed because they cost too much money. Or those same people are just absorbing the responsibilities of the entry level workers into their current roles. So what are gen Y and Zers to do?

Find what makes you happy, grab the world by the balls, and make a living out of it. According to Krulwich, you succeed in this world by “not waiting your turn,” by “not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know,” and by collaborating with your friends “or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.” That is the heart of of horizontal loyalty. Be loyal to those who are in the same position as you. Don’t trample on them– engage with them and create new solutions to problems.

It’s as if the world has been in this fog for so many years–people working jobs they don’t really like just to make a living (be it as a lawyer or a housekeeper), buying houses that cost more than they could afford to pay, charging their credit cards like life is one giant video game, while some sat back and profited from this bubble fueled by greed and excess. It’s like people were automatons working jobs that didn’t satisfy them, buying into the idea that getting married and owning a house and keeping up with the Jones’ was the key to happiness. Look how that turned out for the American economy.

Horizontal loyalty applies to the current job market in the sense that the only way people are going to succeed in a job market as crowded as this one is to be truly passionate about what you do, and to creatively engage with others and help your peers along the way.

Since it’s not so easy to get a job anymore, gen Y and Zers have the opportunity to really question what makes them tick. With so many on this somewhat spiritual inward path, horizontal loyalty is a natural progression: why not positively engage with others who are chasing their passions, and why not help them along the way? A week from now they can be doing the same for you.

As Millennials shift the way they look at work, the society in which their parents grew up is undergoing its own transformations. They are redefining gender roles, turning institutional norms on their heads, proposing new understandings of marriage, espousing spiritualism over organized religion, in addition to buildings fulfilling, meaningful careers.

How can you infuse your world with a dose of horizontal loyalty? Here are some ideas from another hero of mine, Seth Godin, borrowed his blog:

  • Introduce one colleague [or friend] to another in a significant way that benefits both of them
  • Teach at least one of your [colleagues/friends] a new skill
  • Go for a ten minute walk and come back with at least five written ideas on how to improve what you offer the world
So tell me–what makes you tick? Where do you go for creative inspiration? And what do you think about horizontal loyalty?