Schools have a standardized system and protocols in place for every aspect of student learning — except one: Schools have no system at all in place to teach students how to bring about change in the world.
Few, if any, schools offer a set of lessons and practices that guides students through the process of how to approach a problem, insist that change can happen and make it so.
If we believe that today’s students are society’s change agents, creators of innovations that will disrupt the status quo and transform our world, then we need our classrooms to be a place where they experience the changemaking process.
Over the past year, at 8 Choose2Matter LIVE events throughout the country, I have had the honor and privilege of helping 15,000 change-makers realize their potential and extend their reach and ability to make an impact in the world.
I now know unequivocally that all children can be inspired, equipped and mobilized to make a difference in the world, if they understand and are taught the following lessons:
1. You Must Own and Share Your Genius
When we spoke these following words to students: “YOU ARE A GENIUS and the WORLD NEEDS YOUR CONTRIBUTION,” we were not just saying it to make them feel good. Each and every one of us has an opportunity and an obligation to take this message to heart.
Our talents and skills are not intended only to be used for our own good. They’re meant to be shared as an offering to the world. A gift in the truest sense of the word.
Answering the question, “What is my genius?” holds out the promise of achieving both power and impact.
2. Vulnerability is Power.
At every Choose2Matter LIVE event, every student, teacher, mentor and speaker had the opportunity to tell their story. We listened to story after story of failure, of fear, of humility, of embarrassment, of projects gone wrong, of an idea not turning out as planned or desired. Yet, time after time, these so-called “failures” were in fact life-defining lessons, teachings that led to a transformative experience, a new life purpose and hard-earned success. It’s only when we expose our darkest fears and our greatest mistakes that true growth occurs.
3. Don’t Follow Your Heart — Follow Your Heart Break
Rather than stressing about finding our elusive “passion,” we embraced an attitude of compassion.
Operating much like its close cousin, compassion opens us up to feeling others suffering so we can make ourselves useful to them in their moment of need. Perhaps it should not be surprising that the word compassion derives from the Latin root com and passio, as well as the Greek word patheia. Taken together, this literally translates as “[to] suffer with affection.”
In a process we call “HeartBreaking Mapping,” we strategically and empathetically explored the suffering happening in the world and worked together to discover ways we could use our talents and genius to be useful to those in need. See this post and also this post for more information.
4. Passion Matters
The world is not changed by people who sort of care.
The world is not changed by learners who sort of learn.
The world is not changed by leaders who sort of lead.
Sort of caring will get you run over by someone who actually does care.
Sort of learning is the path to ignorance-a road that starts comfortably enough, but soon leads to disengagement and despair.
Who changes the world? People who are fiercely passionate
The world is changed by people who are fully and completely, relentlessly sometimes, unreasonably committed to something they love. People with the focus and excitement to bound through the inconveniences and over obstacles.
When you’re passionate about your work and about the people you are doing your work with and for, there are no limits to what is possible.
Nothing in this world has ever or will ever be accomplished without passion.
5. Take Your Ideas Seriously — We Do
If students have an idea, however big or small or crazy or epic or ridiculous, we asked that they write it down, pursue it and most importantly, share it with others.
Sharing your idea and asking for help can change everything. We practiced sharing our needs and gives and used every new and emerging technology to ensure this happened.
6. You can’t do this alone. (Seriously, you CAN’T do this alone).
We are smarter together.
Anyone that’s built a thriving business or led a successful project knows this already. You need to surround yourself with people who make you fulfilled, that make you smarter, that support you when you succeed and love you when you fail, that constantly push you to be the best you can be. Collaboration is disruptive - it’s replacing competition as the new way to work.
To demonstrate the power of community, we invited our network to join us. Business Innovation Factory and other partners have provided a community of entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, teachers, mentors and friends, united in the pursuit of self-potential and social impact.
When students understood that their community had their back, everything changed.
7. Dwell in Possibility
Realize the impact you could have. Embrace the possibility, the insane possibility that you can make a difference in the world.
These are powerful possibilities that are difficult for the average citizen, let alone the average high school student, to take seriously.
The moment students began to dwell in the possibilities, they were capable of so much more than they had given themselves credit for. This was the moment creativity was unleashed.
This new belief becomes contagious. And that’s when responsibility set in.
Students started to realize their ideas, those possibilities are not just there to casually dream. They had responsibility to work collaboratively, honor all contributions and not let one idea or dream be held back.
8. Once you make an impact, you can’t go back.
I cannot tell you the joy I experienced watching these young learners and leaders working together as a community of intention, engagement, passion and love; with the mission of becoming their best selves, living the lives they were meant to live and creating positive social change.
I cannot explain the feeling of gratitude and pride I felt knowing that the work we did in this past year directly impacted the way students (and myself, and other mentors and staff) see their lives and what they are capable of achieving in this world.
And now that I’ve felt that, and having known 100 percent what it feels like day after day to NOT be making a direct impact in anyone’s life, I know we cannot go back to teaching and learning without meaning.
We refuse to. Until we can ensure these lessons are taught in every classroom, we will not rest or waste my time doing anything less impactful.
Which brings me to our last and final lesson.
9. Do Not Waste Time
The most dangerous word in the English language is tomorrow.
The time to dare, to make a difference, to embark on something worth doing, IS NOW.
You already have permission
You have permission to create, to speak up and stand up.
You have permission to be generous, to fail and to be vulnerable.
You have permission to own your words, to matter and to help.
Do Something Epic — NOW!
The world is ready. The world is waiting.
When we asked students, which of these lessons was most valuable, they responded in this way.
It is my hope in sharing this with you that we may we hold our world to this new standard we know it’s capable of.
More than anything, that is what these events were about; to liberate the genius you have sitting in your classrooms now and leverage their collective abilities as changemakers to create differences in their lives and the world.
A Plus’s for all!
Learn how to create a #YouMatter culture in your school with our toolkit, “Mattering IS the Agenda.”