This month’s Youth Day celebrations recognise the importance of our country’s young people. While originally in honour of the courage and sacrifice of the school children in Soweto forty-six years ago, today still, the youth of South Africa needs support, encouragement and leadership. We might not always understand younger generations, but they are our future and we have to embrace them.
At my age, the youth is not limited to children. More than brave teenagers like Hector Pietersen and Greta Thunberg, when you are older, the youth also includes young adults in your personal and professional life. Those who have to continue the legacy, take forward the tradition, further the business. When it comes to the youth, we have many responsibilities, but in business, we have two distinct duties: 1) ensuring that the business is sustainable and 2) empowering younger generations to take it forward.
Our responsibility to the youth is to be wise in our business decisions, to capitalise on opportunities and to be open to fresh contributions. Of course, we can educate young people in a certain line of business. In the wine industry, we can share tradition and experience. We can teach best practice and skill. Wine is an age-old form of art and it is important to respect the traditions and to study the history and story of wine. It is, however, also essential to keep our industry relevant. We need to understand how important young people are to our industry and embrace what they can contribute. In the competitive modern world of wine, it is about more than tradition and romance, sound business practice and yes, even the quality in the glass. In the world of wine today, it is also very much about keeping up with trends and technology, being innovative and creative and making the best use of data and information to understand consumers. And this is not only true for wine.
Age can be such a relative concept. I believe you are only old when you are too old to learn. It lies in your attitude. Technology and an online world are nothing new, but they are ever evolving, and you need to stay up to date. Change is important and necessary. Even if we don’t always understand or agree with the way younger generations think, we need to try harder. The importance of a new way of thinking is also recognised by the Forbes annual 30 under 30 list acknowledging the brightest young entrepreneurs, leaders, and stars. And, I’m happy that SA wine also keeps its finger on the pulse by recognising promising young SA wine professionals in its own 30 under 30 awards!
Are you still considering Millennials to be the young generation? They are already between 25 and 40 years old! Generation Z is entering the scene. Perhaps you find young people to be somewhat entitled and overconfident, but can’t you do more with confidence than insecurity? Of course, what older generations contribute is crucial and the youth would be ignorant if they don’t capitalise on a wealth of information and experience. But rather than get estranged by their new ways, we should embrace the youth’s energy and enthusiasm, learn them and learn from them.