Learn, earn, and then return.

I recently read these words in Aaron Hurst’s The Purpose Economy.

Hurst was referring to the traditionalist philosophy that structured careers first and philanthropy later. In the first third of life, it was necessary to obtain an education and skills that would serve you in the workplace. In the second third, it was time to build your career, foster leadership opportunities, and climb that corporate ladder. During that time, you supported your family and built wealth. In the final third, you finished with your career and only then, began to think about philanthropy. It was at that time that you would question how can you best give back to society now that you have the time and resources to spare?

This is an honorable way to live your life and I know many traditionalists whose generosity provides countless individuals with a better and higher quality of life. However, we are witnessing a shift in that Generations X, Y, Z and the Millenials want to integrate learning, earning, and returning all at once into our careers and our lives. And this is indeed what we must do.

Integrating learning, earning, and returning all at once is a conscious practice that takes effort and requires balance. We must all be continuous learners. It is what keeps us relevant and helps us grow both personally and professionally. Earning a living is what most of us need to do in order to pay our bills and survive. Beyond that, our work can also be the source of our purpose and help us to thrive. And it is the returning that often fosters our sense of connection to something larger than ourselves. We can no longer wait until the time is just right, at the end of our productive careers, to determine what and how we will choose to make that happen.

Combining learning, earning and returning gives us more immediate access to our higher sense of purpose by fostering the connections, making the impact, and encouraging our ability to adapt and grow throughout our careers and our lives.

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