Sir Walter Scott said, “All men who turned out worth anything have had a chief hand in their own education.”
The parking lot at the library was much like the Christmas season mayhem at the mall. What were all these ‘kids’ doing here? It was a beautiful day in the middle of summer. I hadn’t been to the library in a while – just needed access to a printer. As I found a space, plugged in my laptop and started to work, I took a moment to look around. Most of my fellow library nomads were between fifteen and twenty-five years of age. As I relished the silence of the room I observed something that was worth noting. These ‘kids’ were here to work. Sure, some were playing games on their laptops or chatting on Facebook, but most were working or reading. There was no school and no assignments due. Suddenly I realized that I was sitting amongst the do-it-yourself generation.
We younger people have been raised to do these things by ourselves. Need a restaurant? Google It. Where was George Washington born? Look it up. Our generation is expected to find things out for ourselves. A lot of it has been thrust upon us because of where technology has gone, but this is where we are. We find a way. Our generation is different, no doubt. However, different doesn’t mean bad. We know how to work. Most of us know by now that there isn’t a lifelong corporate job waiting for us. No watch at the retirement party after thirty years of service. We know those days are over. If we want to find a path, we will have to chop some brush to clear it. I have witnessed this as I have gone out and talked to other young people about LIFE Leadership. There is an entrepreneurial spirit about our generation. A spirit that is needed.
In the Spring of 2009 (my first year of teaching) I was motivated to instill these entrepreneurial principles into the lives of my students. It was a bold move at the time because I was only a few years older than the very ‘kids’ I was trying to influence. However, I was not much older than them when I started to learn the same principles. I was a physical education teacher so as you can imagine the response to reading books on personal development in gym class was not real welcoming. But my goal as a high school teacher was not to develop their frisbee throw or their volleyball serve; my goal was to develop young leaders.
Recently I connected with one of my former students, Allie Ganswindt. She was a freshman at the time and 15 years old. As we were catching up she mentioned the ‘reading assignment’ we did in her class. Today she is 18 years old and just graduated high school. I asked Allie (who is not connected to LIFE leadership) to answer a few questions as a 3rd party to help us understand the importance of leadership education for the next generation:
- What was your first reaction to receiving a ‘leadership book’ as a young adult in physical education class?
As a Freshman receiving this book it was a little weird. At first I didn’t think it was going to help me at all. I was like why are we reading in gym class???? We have to sit all day in desks and gym is supposed to get you energized and active and I knew reading was not going to do that. Since we were only freshman we didn’t really listen well and Ms. Seidl would have to force us to read for 15-20 minutes. I think now though looking back it helped develop good reading habits and the stuff I learned I have been able to use as I prepare for the future.
- Prior to reading that book, did you ever consider yourself a leader? What qualities do you think defines a leader? Now that you are older do you see yourself as a leader?
I did not consider myself a leader. I thought that I may be a leader to someone but I didn’t look at myself as someone who could lead. I think a leader is someone who is a good motivator, knowledgeable, dedicated, willing to get there hands dirty and a good communicator. I think I am a leader now, especially in my family and with my baby brother Josh who I am able to teach right from wrong.
- What principles have you applied in the last few years after reading that book and do you think looking back it has helped you at all with decision making and thinking differently?
When I read that book it talked about thinking through your decisions and preparing for the future with stories that related to us as teenagers and how just doing the little things over a period of time will make a big difference. It helped me think about college and what I wanted for the future and how much different life will be like if I make the right decisions now – talking about the slight edge principle.
- What are your current aspirations and passions and where do you see yourself in the future?
My dream is to be in the medical field. I love to help people and I want to make a difference in someone’s life so being a physical therapist, a surgical assistant or a nurse would be so AWESOME!!! I am passionate about making a difference and helping people.
- Do you think leadership education/information is important for young adults and why?
Yes, I have realized that in order to be successful in any field leadership qualities are a must. I believe it will give you an edge in any field you pursue.
- Have you ever received this type of information in formal schooling?
Except for a brief discussion about ethics in my health occupations class I have never received this type of information before.
- At what age do you think it is important to start learning and applying these principles?
I think 6th grade – the earlier the better!!
Leadership education is self-directed education. It is personalized. Not only did my students read but they reflected on how they could apply the information into their lives. Matters of leadership or entrepreneurship are often seen as distant or irrelevant to the day to day lives of young people and I believe it’s because most adults don’t regard young people as ‘leaders.’ We just see them as young people. But the shift is among us. Leadership education or self-directed education is just as important, if not more important, for young people as it is for adults. After all, it is the next generation that will be leading our country. That being said, it is critical we give young people the same opportunity as adults to receive a leadership education.
I am very proud of Allie and extremely optimistic about the do-it-yourself generation. The very concept screams leadership. When I was a teenager learning these principles I never would have imagined the impact it would have on me as an adult. The genius of Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady, George Guzzardo and all the LIFE founders have taken LIFE Leadership and self-directed education to a whole new level by bringing in the young people. By offering subscriptions to the EDGE series; allowing teenagers to attend LIFE LIVE seminars and showing parents that it’s important to be a model for leadership in the home, the future is bright indeed!