Jimmy Fallon, Elon Musk Lead An Overlooked Generation X

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In case you were out cold the past month or so, here’s news: Jimmy Fallon is now the host of the Tonight Show. And, if you’ve heard of Tesla, the electric car company, Elon Musk is its founder – plus the founder of a rocket ship company, SpaceX.

Jimmy Fallon was born in 1974. I was born the same year. Elon Musk was born in 1971. So, I connected to both in one way — we are GenXers. Or, as I like to say, the lost generation.

Generation X has just 46 million members, sandwiched between 80 million baby boomers and 78 million Millennials, making it a dark-horse demographic “condemned by numbers alone to nicheville” according to Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking. We are old enough to remember typing classes and knowledgeable enough to track changes in Microsoft Word.

But, one thing is clear. We are no longer 20-somethings, or 30-somethings (at least Fallon and I will turn 40 this year). So, what is clear is that the future – at least for the next decade or so is really up to us.

This movie is a rerun. John Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

While I have heard and watched that grainy film of his inaugural address, I never imagined we would fast forward to my generation holding the flame of the immediate future.

Barack Obama, who ushered into the U.S. Presidency under the banner of “change,” is the tail end of the baby boomers – born in 1961.

So, besides the fun of the Tonight Show passing to its third generation – Carson to Leno to Fallon (I considered Jack Paar and Johnny Carson almost the same generation) – Generation X is now in charge of driving the next economy.

I have been lucky to catch the solar industry at the right moment in time to play a part in disrupting the trillion dollar electric utility industry. Elon Musk has reinvigorated the electric vehicle and space exploration movements.

But we are just getting started. We feel a bit like President Obama coming into office in the face of the worst financial crisis since the great depression. Generation X is taking over the reins with government falling behind on pension obligationsdemocracy under great stress,commodities getting expensive from population growth, and income inequality at an all-time high.

Starting with the death of the landline telephone, we are simply on the horizon of needed change. As the baby boomers step aside, the next industries we have to rebuild are the electricity, cable TV, and transportation systems. Monopolies grew to be big and lazy in the 20 century and Generation X will oversee their overhaul.

Our generation is the one that must transition away from the fossil fuel economy and end the damaging effects of climate change.

Our generation is the one that must find new way to marry technology and finance to tackle income inequality on a global scale. We still have 1.6 billion people on earth without access to electricity or clean water.

Addressing these issues at scale will cement our place in history by unlocking the largest wealth creation opportunity of the century. What we need to do is serious. What we need to do matters. And it can’t be fixed by hitting “like” on a Facebook page.

Generation X, our time is now. The torch has been passed. It is up to us to not flame out. If we succeed, history will never overlook us.

[Photo Credit: Daniel Oines on Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0]

This post appeared on the LinkedIn Influencer page of Jigar Shah on March 31st, 2014 and can be viewed there by clicking here.
Jigar Shah is founder of SunEdison, the largest solar services company, and was the first CEO of the Carbon War Room (CWR), where he is a board member today. CWR is a nonprofit that harnesses the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change and create a post-carbon economy. As chief executive of Jigar Shah Consulting, he works with global organizations on business solutions to solve climate change. He is the author of Creating Climate Wealth (ICOSA 2013).