Growing leaders…

I just put the finishing touches on a presentation that my non-profit partner and I are giving at the University of Dayton tomorrow. Still in awe that we’ve built something that seems so very simple and yet it’s considered worthy of sharing with education professionals – so excited and nervous and super humbled!

In an effort to help me put pen to paper again, a skill an old psych med made nearly impossible, I bought a 3×5″ journal of 365 great quotes that offers a mere 13 lines on a page for reflection. It’s been a good baby step and I get to end my day with great words from incredible people. Tonight, Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom about how we learn were at the top of the blank page and its timeliness wasn’t lost on me. His words are exactly what 9United is all about.

I believe the best thing that my partner and I do is get kids involved; they’re virtually in charge of our projects. We give them a framework, share with them what we’re envisioning as the outcome and then get out of the way; they blow us away every single time! They work together and create community among themselves; talk through ideas and listen to each other’s opinions; look past the things that make them different from each other and see them as ways they can make what ever they’re working on even better.

We spend so much energy doing so much for our kids, in an effort to not make things hard for them, that we in some ways accidentally diminish what we believe they are capable of. We tell them they can do anything they want and guide them to set goals to achieve their “anything” but when it comes time for them to get involved in reaching the goal, we aren’t sure they will do it like we would or as quickly or are so afraid they will fail (which is ironically the best way to learn) that we start giving advice that sounds like “You know you really should…” or we just take things over completely. It’s with completely good intentions but the lesson to them is either “I must not be good at this.” or “I don’t have to put too much effort into this because someone will eventually just find it easier to do themselves.”

I’m of the the belief that none of us want the future leaders of our country feeling they are incapable of or not responsible for their own success or achievements. And no judgement- I catch myself doing this stuff frequently. I’ll never forget the time I emailed a teacher on behalf of one of our boys because I was certain he wouldn’t clear up a grade issue before the end of the quarter. The reply from the teacher went something like this: “Thanks for the email. He emailed me last week and we have it all worked out; I am working on Progress Book updates this week. He’s a great kid!” Ugh – I was thrilled he had advocated for himself but felt horrible I didn’t think he was capable.

So Mr. Franklin’s words will be good to keep in mind tomorrow and beyond. We’ve got amazing young people all around us that will never cease to amaze us (and themselves) if we’d just let them. We don’t need them to follow behind us; we need to grow them into the leaders they are more than capable of becoming.

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