Sunday, July 31, 2011

Turning 21: Give Us Hope

The inevitable happened at the end of July.
I turned into an adult.
Oh gosh.

It was horrible – seriously. I woke up, ready to take on the world as an adult and guess what??!
I didn’t feel any different!
I didn’t have that much of a big night out, but seriously…come on! I thought adults were supposed to be responsible and awesome and I well…felt the same!
I have come to the conclusion that every parent, adult, teacher, youth worker, manager…they are just the very same 16, 18, 20 year olds in an older person’s body. No big transformation exists! No Easter Bunny, Santa Clause or Tooth Fairy came to transform me – I still looked the same, I FELT the same.

I have used the same techniques in numerous speeches where I get adults in any given audience to remember what it was like to be a teenager, or a young person, and the only thing everyone always agrees to is that the only difference between how they used to be and how they are now was the sense of absolute freedom they felt. It’s interesting though, because as an adult, we have more responsibility – for ourselves and others. But isn’t the whole point of having freedom that we have more responsibility? Were we more responsible when we were younger if we feel we have less freedom than we did back then? Or is it the feeling of no consequences that fades as we age?

All these are valid questions, but the one thing I’m starting to feel kicking in is the hope I have in the world. When you get older, we feel more hope, more opportunity to change the world. Partly because we are allowed to do more things, but isn’t hope something that every human being on Earth should have?

Time and time again, I make sure to share with my audiences the grim future that was painted for me at primary school: the two divorces I was apparently prone to as a young person living in today’s world, and the 15+ career changes I was expected to go through. Now, I’m all for teachers being honest with us as kids right from the beginning, but the one thing they forgot to instill and paint for us at school was hope. The one thing that will keep us going through the tough times; the hope for a better future. When you look at all the possibilities, it’s exciting that there are numerous ‘things’ we will go through during our lives, but at the same time, it instills a feeling of insecurity of our futures. With the expectations of many changes, how are we supposed to grasp the concept of goal setting, and more importantly the concept of goal achieving when we are told the rules are going to change so many times on us, that we will never have a feeling of security?

I guess the reason I write this is because youth cannot go as far as they can if there is no adult support. And as an adult, there is so much support you can give us just by instilling hope. Try it – let’s have a look at a number of options.

If you are a parent or teacher, instilling hope means supporting us through the good and bad times. Every parent wants to do this – I’m not saying they don’t. But the way you can help show that there is hope is by reassuring us; your kids that whatever we want to achieve, we need to stick at it. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was really little. By then though, my dreams were doomed. School told me there is no point in striving for something that was already possible. Great. OK, fair enough. But the way they went about giving me other options (or in this case option) was to try a career in animation. 3D animation was the ‘it’ thing back then, and all the teachers were enthralled that this had become a job, so it almost seemed like it was their mission that we all needed to become little ‘animationists’ because that was the way of the future. Ding dong! It’s now 2011 and that is not the hottest or newest job anymore. The world will keep changing, but don’t just try get your kids involved with the latest trend – that is almost a formula for them to fail. Look at me now – if I had followed the advice I was given, I would just be finishing my studies, looking for a job in an over-stocked market. I’m not suggesting I would have been the world’s best astronaut, but hey, who knows – if I had stuck at it, I could have been the first New Zealander into space (by the way, there hasn’t been one YET), so although I was like what, 8 years old, that dream was dead in the water. So be careful how you pose your support. Make sure you are giving us hope through the support – not by shutting down our ideas.

OK, say you’re not related to a young person – say you are a manager, or some high exec, and it’s your job to mentor some new employees. How do you instill hope in them? They are likely to be at the higher end of teen years, or even over 20 – so how can hope become alive in these ‘kids’?
A popular technique for employers is to sit a young intern or employee down and draw up a 5 year plan. OK. Do you remember what you were like when you were 20? Wasn’t the only thing you knew you’d be in 5 years time was OLD? How about going at it from a different approach – ask what they want to achieve in the industry. They may have no idea, they may have some idea, or they may have already made their own plan. No matter where on the scale of assurance they are, you can help by showing them some options, and offer advice around how they can get to wherever they want to go. I think many young people think in achievements rather than years in today’s world. It’s possible to slice 3 years at University into 2 years – anything is possible in today’s world, so it may be your way of thinking that a 5 year plan is best, but we have grown up with speed, and the best way to instill hope in the fact that we have a future, and better yet, a future in your industry is to let us know that there are pathways we can take to achieve whatever we are there to achieve, or at the very least that there are people that can help us decide what we want to achieve.

How do you instill hope in the young generations?

I have a hope for my future, and for the future of this world in general because of all the wonderful adults that have helped me gain this, and I hope that the young people who’s lives you touch – today and in future can attain this. And while thinking about this, maybe you also need to ask yourself – how bright do you see YOUR future? And do you trust it (the future, I mean

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What they didn’t teach us in school

At the start of last month, I was asked to present at a local High School around the life lessons I’ve learned from my journey of being an author, speaker and consultant.

I was shocked to find that after sending my presentation through, I was asked to write out a new one…some of my suggestions and lessons were too ‘provocative’ for the student body, and something that they didn’t want their students exposed to.

It was an interesting piece of feedback to hear, as I’ve never been censored in such a way before, so I thought, for this to not go to waste, I’d re-tell some points in the online world (where everything is allowed). Many have heard, or have heard of Bill Gates’ speech he gave at an American High School around his life lessons, and I must say, it was nothing different to it…apart from the fact that I don’t have any sort of billion dollar empire, I’d love to see the day that some of these life lessons are at least discussed at school – after all, isn’t this the institution that’s supposed to prepare youth for the ‘real world’?

At the same time, I know of many schools that have Leadership Days where they invite speakers, and teach them some of the real life lessons…maybe this school was just a bit too sheltered for the truth, but here we go, my three points that I wanted to share with the school…judge for yourself how it may break students as the school thought…

1. You Need to Work Hard
In our generation, somehow we get it into our heads that life is going to be easy. Who can blame us? Our parents are Generation X, or for some, even Baby Boomers and all their life they had to work really, really hard to get whatever they wanted in life. They obviously didn’t want their kids to go through some of the same struggles, so they tried to make an easier life for us – their kids. Back in the day, some of our parents were working at 13 or 14 years of age, whereas today, that’s illegal! Our parents had to work hard to get their first job, while we expect to have a steady job in our late teens, because we hear of how some of our parents had been promoted to manager positions in their late teens. What we forget, or what our parents forget to tell us is that they had to work up for years before then to get to that position. You are going to work hard to get to wherever you want to get to – whether it’s a promotion, or starting your own business, or anything else, you’re going to have to get out there and put in the hard yards. That’s what we don’t get to by parents or teachers…not because they’re lying to us, but because perhaps they forgot about their own journey and challenges. The best advice I was ever given is to choose what I love and put in all my passion, blood, sweat and tears into it. And I have. Have you? What do you want to do? Whether it’s a short term or long term goal, what do you really want from life? Find out, pin point it and get ready for some hard work – there are no shortcuts there!

2. Take the Opportunity to be Curious
When I came to New Zealand, I was the most outgoing child you could ever imagine. Even now, I can’t contain my excitement when telling a friend some good news that I end up telling the whole street rather than the person I’m talking to. But what happened for a little bit when I came to New Zealand, all of a sudden people were speaking a funny language, and I didn’t understand a thing. So I became really introvert and started to really take in what other people were doing. I guess my observation skills have stuck with me since that time, but now that I finally know what language everyone is speaking, I can add my extrovert-ness into any conversation. What I’ve learned over the last 4 years of being in business, being an author and speaker, is that people think that celebrities and opportunities are out of their reach. If only people knew the truth. I’ve learned to be brave, which is what I’ll touch on in the next point, but the biggest thing I learned is the importance of being curious. I wrote my first book when I was 17, and luckily, I was invited onto a live radio interview with some of the other top parenting authors of the country. After the interview, I e-mailed all of them – even the ones that I disagreed with on the radio, and expressed my gratitude and honour for the opportunity to be heard alongside them on national radio. One replied. But you know, that one was, and still is THE biggest, most respected parenting author in the country. The busiest people are the ones that have enough time for everyone and I now know this and am not afraid to e-mail or even call some of my most admired heroes. This parenting author is now one of my dearest mentors and friends, and always makes time for when I’m in her city and vise versa. The lessons she’s taught me and all the information she’s helped me out with has been priceless. Get mentors, contact whoever can help you – even if they’re at the very top of their game – they always have time for you! Take some time to be curious about the world around you – whether it’s contacting someone you think is out of reach, or doing some extra research about some topic, job, or person – just do it! What’s the worst that could happen?

3. Learn to be Brave
So you work hard and you’re curious about the opportunities out there…with all of this, you need to learn to be brave. Many self esteem books will tell you to be yourself, but the beauty of life is taking risks. I used to hate public speaking. I mean I used to love being the centre of attention, but as I became more and more introvert when I came to New Zealand, I bought into the whole ‘public speaking is worse than death’ belief. I had to get out of it, because very early on, I realized that in order to get the message – my precious message of how people can build better relationships with each other, across to many people, I was going to need to get out of my limiting belief. The fear used to really get to me, but I knew it was for the best. I knew I was going to have to swallow my pride and fear and get out there and do it for the people – without sounding like some sort of revolutionary, I knew my message was going to really help people. Sometimes when following your dreams, you need to be brave. Do you think Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t scared – getting up and speaking about something that he truly believed in? All those people watching him, but his passion and vision drove him. He could have hid in his room and stuck with the life he was given, but his belief that his vision was for the greater good of people, drove him to get out there. Your fear may not be public speaking – it might be getting out there and contacting J.K. Rowling – who knows! But if you really believe in what you’re doing, get out there – be brave, and just do it!

What other advice would you give to youth today? What do you wish you knew when you were 13, 16, or 19?

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Generation - Generation SMART

The term Generation SMART is one I’ve coined over the past couple of years and it covers the 15 to 25 year olds of the world. It’s an important generation – with half of the population under the age of 25, we as a society need to listen and understand what those hooligans are all about, right. I can see people in the audience going yeah right girl, convince me they’re smart. They’re not necessarily smarter than you, they’re SMART because of the world they’re immersed in.

Think back to your teen years. What were you like as a young person? Think back to what you were going through and feeling when you were 13, 16, 18…go on – take a moment.

You know what you just felt?
You felt exactly what young people today feel. We are no different to how you used to be. The only difference between you and us is that you’ve forgotten what it’s like!
Ten feet tall and bulletproof? How about Twenty feet tall and superman! We know we can do anything! You had that attitude way back when, and look where it got you? Tell me all these years have been a waste of time? The attitudes, energy and passion of young people is something I wish I could bottle up and sell to the depressed old men out there who look angry going to work in their suits to sit in a cubicle every day. You see, our emotions and attitudes haven’t changed – the only thing that’s changed is that you grew up.

Although there are many similarities between younger and older generations today, the current young generation comes down to five simple things.
Generation SMART can be broken down into five simple words:
Swift, Mobile, Accessible, Ready, Transparent...get it...acronym for SMART!


Young people are fast. They always have been. Perhaps not THE fastest, but definitely fast-ER. And in many respects, they have no way of channelling this speed at which they can achieve and do things.

This generation is more likely to travel, change jobs and houses more regularly than any other generation. A longitudinal study in Auckland concluded that the under 25-year old newlyweds are more likely to move houses within the first year of getting married. How’s that for the big dream of owning one and only house for the rest of your married life? Generation SMART have more access to travel, cars…they can travel halfway across the country in a night if they wanted to. Back in the day, it was a big deal to have a car…these days more than half of teenagers out there own one!

Generation SMART are more accessible – with the advances in technology, you can make contact with them whenever you need. This generation is easier to reach than other young generations have been, only because of the technology that’s out there…and it doesn’t only extend to cell phones – GPS systems, security systems and everything else can help keep track to increase accessibility to youth.

We’re ready…ready to take action! Coupled with our speed, want to help, and thinking we’re invincible, we’re ready for the challenges you set in front of us…we won’t always succeed, but the main this is we’re ready.

With the age of Facebook, young people are now becoming more transparent – with their thoughts, feelings, and everything in between. Some have no shame putting up intricate details of their lives, while some hide certain facts, knowing these may been seen by any one on the web. Generation SMART are transparent because they understand that their lives are an open book…should they choose to narrate it through some of the new means.

As you can see, there are some aspects that relate to when you were younger, but some that may be a bit new, but realistically, the only thing that different in today’s world is the environment we live in.

There is no miracle cure to make Generation SMART see things the way you do, but there are definitely ways to understand them – how they think and perceive the world because of the environment they were immersed in from Day 1. We can always learn to understand, so why not start today…all you need to do is perhaps something as simple as…strike a conversation.