Young People Making a Difference Is Entirely Possible–and Needed
It begins with you and your purpose
October 2, 2023
Your motivation, passions, and purpose can be a powerful tool to uplift you and others around you. Miracle Olantunji, a Generation Z leader, advocate, entrepreneur, and author of Purpose: How to Live and Lead With Impact, recently shared her experiences and advice at a Teach For America Equity Talks event, a flagship series bringing together thought leaders across many intersectional issues. Olantunji spoke on Finding Your Why (& Why It Matters).
Olantunji comes with an impressive track record, including being featured in Forbes and named Young Futurist and Game-Changer by The Root magazine. She is the founder of Her Wallet Media, a financial education platform to empower women with the tools and resources they need to effect generational wealth.
Olantunji offered her insights to show how using your purpose as a guidepost can help you influence positive change.
Change Makers Come From All Ages
How has age played a part in your journey? Did you ever deal with discrimination or negativity due to your age and experience? If so, how did you navigate through that?
Absolutely. I’ll start on the positive side. My age has been a source of inspiration. I was meeting a lot of young people who were very passionate and putting their passion into action and that in fact inspired me to keep going and keep moving forward.
I encourage you, no matter how old you are, if you are Gen Z or Millennial or the youngest person at your company or in your school or wherever you are, I encourage you to own your unique story, own who you are. Regardless of how old you are, everyone has something they can learn from others.
“Finding your purpose involves reflecting on our personal experiences, uncovering what we're passionate about, and ultimately using those passions, skills, and strengths to meet the needs of our society.”
Discovering Our Purpose, Fulfilling Our Beliefs
How do your lived experiences give shape and purpose to your life? How can folks in the audience take inventory of important moments in their lives and figure out how those moments give them personal purpose?
I’ll share what inspired me to create my organization Her Wallet Media. When I was 17 years old, I attended a workshop at a local library in my hometown. The presenter was talking about the lack of widespread financial literacy education, especially for women and underrepresented groups.
Financial literacy is a skill that I didn’t learn from my parents because they weren’t taught by their parents. And so it’s a cycle, right? It further widens inequities that are in our society. I became super passionate about this topic and I chose to study finance in college because it blended my passion for numbers for advocacy. I combined my passion and skills to create educational resources to help people learn more about financial topics.
Going back to purpose, finding your purpose involves reflecting on our personal experiences, uncovering what we’re passionate about, and ultimately using those passions, skills, and strengths to meet the needs of our society.
Change Is a Beautiful Thing
Can a person’s purpose change? What advice do you have for someone who is realizing that they’re not working or living within that purpose?
I feel like purpose is definitely something that can change over time, as we gain new experiences and as we meet new people and pursue all the passions we have. To someone who might be struggling or not walking in their purpose, I say take the time to reflect but also and more importantly take purposeful action.
Some purposeful action that I recommend is volunteering for an organization that has a mission that resonates with you or participating in programs, fellowships, and internships. I did a lot of that in college because when I first started, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was still trying to figure out what my Why is.
View the full interview
One Person Can Spark a Change
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” How has your educational experience contributed to you living in your purpose and impacting the lives of others?
I strongly believe that educators are one of the most impactful people in our community and society. Educators have the power to make a lifelong difference in their students’ lives. I still remember teachers that impacted me from grade school.
In seventh grade, my algebra teacher, Mrs. Smith, was such a gem. I had been struggling in the class and my parents couldn’t hire tutors. So she went out of her way to provide me with one-on-one tutoring for free every single week.
By the end of the semester, my grade went from a C to an A-minus, all thanks to her tutoring sessions. Through her guidance, I actually became more confident with math and numbers. And then my whole mindset changed from I’m not good at math to I can do anything’ It completely changed the course of my life.
“My whole mindset changed from I’m not good at math to I can do anything’ It completely changed the course of my life.”
Whether you are a young soul finding your place or someone with more life experience, you have the power within you to change lives. It all begins with the courageous act of discovering your purpose. Embrace the journey of self-discovery, leverage your unique skills, and use it to make a difference in the world.
Practical Tips You Can Use Right Away
Being a change agent and an inspiration to others is no small feat. Here are Olantunji's top three action items to get you started.
- Find opportunities to put your passion and skills into action—contribute to the issues you care about the most.
- Focus on one to three key issues you want to change—prioritizing helps you avoid burnout. Remember to also focus on self-care.
- Find community—enhance your impact with people who support you and work with you to create change.
Closing thoughts: Make the Most of Your 20s
Olantunji’s mantra: I’m learning as I go and evolving as I grow.
There is so much adventure, success, opportunities, community, and experiences ahead for you. Use it all to power your passions and explore your impact. Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers now, you just need to have the curiosity. You’ll be amazed by how far that can take you.
Interested in using your career as a catalyst for positive change?
Download our Career Values Workbook: A Practical Guide to Designing a Career that Fits.