Nico Rosberg may have retired from Formula 1 but he’s still a young man at 35-years-old. In fact, that places him in the generational category of a Millennial. Like many other Millennials, such as Lewis Hamilton, Nico is motivated these days by purpose.
When he was young, rising through the junior ranks of motorsport and becoming a world champion was his singular focus but like many Millennials, things have now turned toward being purpose-driven and serve a more altruistic notion.
“Take the European Championships for soccer – I think we should hope to inspire a championship like that to put purpose at its core, to use the reach they have to raise awareness for climate change,” he added.
If you read enough articles about Millennials, you will hear a common refrain in which they say it is important to them that their actions help make a positive difference in the world. Is this a sort of hallmark of the Millennial generation or is it something that’s just being examined more closely due to the size of their generation—with 80 million in America alone.
I’d argue it is the latter as if we all back from the discussion and focus on generations who came before, we can see a pattern in which the years 18-40 are typically focused on self and finding meaningful relationships while 40 and beyond tends to focus on a sense of self with what and how they contribute to the world.
In that sense, Nico and his Millennial cohorts come by it naturally but due to the size of their generation, they tend to make a very loud voice that business seems to cater to. If millennials want a purpose driven workplace, then organizations would be remiss not to deliver. Nico says Formula 1 has work to do if it wants to deliver.
“F1 doesn’t have great purpose yet – motorsport needs to position itself as having great purpose for mankind.
“That race-to-road tech transfer helps. Formula 1 can do better and they are working on it. Synthetic fuels, for example – if they take charge of that space and really innovate, it can benefit millions of people around the world.
Rosberg concedes that F1’s hybrid power unit is an innovative piece of design that does speak to sustainability.
“But F1 has done a lot already with light materials and hybrid engines, which is the most efficient engine in world.”
As a Generation X myself, I don’t resonate with Nico’s call for every crevice in the corporate world having an altruistic, purpose-driven existence that is benefitting humanity and changing or benefiting the world. In fact, I am not quite convinced that every person will or needs to “make a difference” to the world.
There is a line from a song in my youth that said: Some are born to move the world, to live their fantasy but most of us just dream about the things we’d like to be.
Perhaps you could place the stereotype on me as the disaffected Gen X in contrast to the blithe optimism of Millennials but I think there is a much more elegant reality to generational prime movers.
You see, I don’t believe that Formula 1 has to position itself as having a great purpose for humankind as Nico put it. F1’s main goal for decades has been to create a racing series to entertain. Entertainment, in my view, doesn’t always have to have some purpose-driven goal outside of entertaining humanity. Neil Finn once said, “color is its own reward” and he’s right. F1, in my opinion, is its own reward. As is MotoGP and other forms of racing.
If your litmus test for any business, industry, or corner of life is that it must have, as its reason for existing, the purpose of benefitting humanity, I think you have set a very high bar for most to fall short of.
If entertaining humanity isn’t considered a purpose, then we could parse the altruistic nature of entertainment, and the cost of entertaining, in order to determine that F1’s imprint on resources is not worthy of continuance as it isn’t giving back a sort of humanity-saving purpose. I’d argue that, like football, baseball, and other sports, F1 is giving back via an entertaining escape from life’s graft. Isn’t most sport a past time and entertaining escape from the daily grind?
To me, that’s a purpose. Sure, it may not be delivering thousands of bottles of clean drinking water, installing solar panels in impoverished nations so as to remove wood-burning stoves, championing electric and other sustainable methods of mobility, bringing awareness (whatever that really means) to a cause, or solving some oppression around the world. F1 was never intended to do that. It lacks the resources, methods and means to do so.
If Nico feels that the European Championship of Soccer should simply use its platform to tell people about a cause, that’s fine but it does very little to actually address the cause itself. Is simply crowing about a cause altruistic enough because many believe this is green-washing, sports-washing or some of derogatory description and what business entity wants that label?
F1 has ten teams that employ, let’s call it, 800 people. That’s 8,000 people with families and children that the sport sustains, provides healthcare to and education. Then there are all the secondary and tertiary families it impacts in sponsors, suppliers, hospitality, regulatory and other facets of the series.
Thousands and thousands of people are sustained through F1’s existence as an entertainment industry. I am slightly befuddled as to why people feel this isn’t enough when anything they are doing on a personal level comes nowhere near what F1 is doing for thousands.
Nico “bringing awareness” to a cause is not even close to the impact that F1 has on actual lives. Lewis Hamilton may have a large social media platform but simply raising awareness doesn’t always constitute action on the part of those who digest his message. F1 delivers to thousands of people every single day in the form of real, tangible resources needed to survive.
Is that not purpose enough?