You are valuable #justbecause

Yesterday a 24-year old friend called me concerned that he hadn’t yet done anything meaningful in his life. While this may seem laughable to some, the striking regularity with which I hear this is disturbing.

To give some idea about this young friend, he is incredibly inspiring and likeable. He is creative, compassionate and has a real interest in making a contribution to the world. Yet he like so many people falls into one of the greatest traps of the human condition – comparing oneself to others.

He is concerned that at twenty-four he has not successfully founded a non-profit, started a movement, achieved Young Australian of the Year or been recognised in a Top 100 Most Influential People or 30 under 30 list. The benchmarks by which young people are judging their own success and self-worth are climbing higher and higher each year, to the point that they seem unattainable to many.

Statistics around the poor mental health of young people in Australia has reached epidemic proportions. Young people today are more likely to need mental health care than they are to be admitted to University. Suicide, depression and anxiety seem to be part of the everyday experience of modern Australia.

This is not to say Australia doesn’t care. Australia has numerous innovative and effective mental health organisations, full of competent and committed people who have dedicated their life to supporting Read more

A dream school for changemakers

Last night I had this intriguing dream about a school for changemakers:

In the dream I found myself somewhere in the mountains in a changemaker community, somewhere like Boulder, CO. It was kind of laid out like a festival with a bunch of people ‘selling their wares’. There was one woman who ran a school for changemakers which was some kind of cross between Ashoka, the School for Social Entrepreneurs and Outward Bound.

Students in the school would learn all about changemaking, ethics and how to do good most effectively. The process of this school was a series of ‘Outward Bound’-like expedition where changemakers would go on journeys to discover different dimensions of the problem and how to best make change.

There were about 7-9 different journeys that each changemaker would need to go through to master changemaking.  These would need to occur over a period of years. The first one was simply about how to understand a problem. The second was about storymaking, and how to reframe stories from the negative to the positive. The final journey would be about how to enact the most effective and efficient change.

In the dream a number of people were lining up to participate and learn from the wisdom of the teacher. Many were not Read more

The Pygmalion Effect: who are you living up to?

A number of years ago I learned a powerful lesson about human behaviour. At the time I worked for Outward Bound and led groups of young people through the wilderness on personal development expeditions. On this one particular expedition, I experienced the dramatic and yet surprisingly effortless transformation of a young man who had previously been maligned as the school bully.

This particular expedition involved a group of about eighteen young people in tenth grade at school. They were about fifteen to sixteen years old, and about half of them were guys and the other half girls. The first person I met was the teacher who was along for the journey. She pulled me aside and told me that the school had been having particular trouble with a gang in this year level, and that I was ‘unlucky’ to be ‘dumped’ with the gang leader. I was told that he was trouble and a bully, and that if he stepped one foot wrong he would be expelled.

I had the good grace fortunately to not take on what this teacher had told me. Like all Outward Bound groups, my mission was to extend unconditional positive regard and take them as they came. I simply went into the experience with the expectation that they were capable of compassion, integrity and leadership.

For the purpose of this story, I will call this young guy “Carlo”. Carlo stood at least six feet tall, far above most of his classmates Read more

The rush for change

This world seems to operate on some kind of speed, with the pace quickening and quickening at such a rate that it gains a momentum all of its own. This ‘speed’ is more than metaphorical, our world is actually operating on stimulant overdrive. Over the past ten years we have seen the rise of coffee consumption in the western world, and the prevalence of both prescriptive and non-prescriptive drugs  that are helping our bodies regulate its pace.

I too succumbed to the binds of coffee. Like so many, at one stage my day wouldn’t be able to start without a ritual flat white (Soy FW actually). We justify it saying we like the taste, or we simply love the ritual, and some even say, but it’s just my one and only vice. I am not actually judging the consumption of coffee here. Clearly we have some kind of need it, and perhaps more than simply because of a physiological addiction. In talking with friends and colleagues, they say that they need it to keep up with the frenetic pace of the world around them.

Some jobs and industries are ‘naturally’ fast-paced, like stock trading and base jumping (and look at the risks in those industries). Slowing down the pace of base jumping may make the sport redundant or in the least unappealing to those seeking the rush. The same could be said of stock trading, as well as the loss of opportunity.

Other industries have also caught up with the need for speed, with this pace infilrating education, health and the environment. We want quick fixes, we want results and we want it now. And yes, this is no more true than in the field of doing good. Read more