When I stand before a group of young people, I leave my judgements at the door. I know that all that matters over the next hour, or half day or day is what is in the minds of those young people. What I can tell them is what I see. I will tell them that I am not seeing a group of young people about to sit their exams, or play the most important match of their season or perform in front of a live audience of several thousand at a major city venue. I tell them I am looking at a group of people who have the capability to lead, to shine, to be the next generation of great engineers, inventors, writers, lawyers and performer. I tell them I can see it in the whites of their eyes.
I also tell them “When I was your age I was told I was a failure, that I would never amount to anything.”
When you are told something negative, it stays with you. You have to find ways to speak to yourself in a more positive way. What’s your ambition? We all have our private moments when we think I wish I owned my own island, I wish I played football for Scotland etc. Johnny Depp didn’t want to be an actor, he wanted to be a musician.
Do you want to be a better person? Do you want to be more confident etc? Here are the steps to start to do that. Go back to their own experience. You have done this, that and the other. I talk about things they may not have realised are strengths. Ie, have they helped someone, cared for someone, held a baby, given someone a boost when they have been depressed, done something for the first time when you think you’re a bit nervous about it?
They’ve probably not recognised that these are vital steps in their life.
Then I have had people speaking about other people in the room, writing down a compliment. You say pick someone you know and tell something about that person that you think is really admirable, how would you describe them in a series of words? How do you know this person and how would you describe them?
You’re saying to people we don’t always tell people what we think. That’s how you look through the eyes of someone else. You’re getting someone to point out a fact about someone that they have not heard before. Think of a time when someone has made you feel something. It’s taking them out of themselves and showing them that they have a huge amount of power and that they could use it in their school, neighbourhood, community or nation.
I might talk about values as well. What is it that really matters to you? Is it friends, family, relationships, equality, because that’s what’s really going to define you in life, in relationships, in school in the work place. Our culture does not always like ambition. It happens sometimes that if you have an idea about yourself you’re stepping above yourself and being a tall poppy.
My message is that it’s time to get above ourselves. Reinvent yourself. It’s almost like creating your own story board. What are my values? What would I like to be? It doesn’t need to be about a job. It can be I want to be more active, more confident. I want to make new friends.
The other thing I talk about is how do you get these skills and attributes? The obvious way is not always the right way. Talk to someone who you don’t know. Get a job in McDonalds and speak to people. That’s a great training. When you sit down to do your homework ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. Look at changing your environment. Could you rearrange your bedroom to reflect the new you? There’s something in doing something you told yourself you would never be able to do. It could just be going for a walk in a wood or picking flowers, something that we might have closed our minds off to.
Passing the exam is an end in itself but trying hard is important to you. If you’ve tried your hardest and you have worked towards it and you don’t succeed then you use that to galvanise you. You’re not going to be defined by your exam results, you’re going to be defined by what kind of person you are and what kind of values you have. If you don’t pass the exams it’s just the start of a different kind of journey. You might resit the exams. You may come back to them in a few years time but you’re still of equal value.