9 Lifelong Lessons from Swimming the English Channel for Youth Mentoring

9 Lifelong Lessons from Swimming the English Channel for Youth Mentoring

Have you ever chased a dream and succeeded in reaching it? I remember, as a 15-year-old, how I chased a dream to represent my State running Cross-Country, the sacrifices I made, the hard yards I put into training and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment when I was selected for the State team at the end of my most successful Cross-Country season and then achieved 6th place in the Inter-State race. Trent Grimsey’s story reminded me of those days, as well as the importance of sharing one’s stories with young people. They love true stories!It was a while ago that I listened to Trent, at that time the current world record holder of the English Channel swim, share his story with a group of impressionable young students. Trent described how, as an average swimmer (in his opinion) he had achieved medals and much more as a swimmer, yet narrowly missed out on selection for the 2008 Australian Olympic Team.  Wondering what he should do to stay motivated, Trent decided to swim the English Channel, not just to complete the swim, but to break the World Record. Listening to his story, I felt that there were at least nine lifelong lessons we can all learn from Trent’s experience planning and swimming the English Channel. Always have a clear goal and share it with someone you trust. Trent firmly believed that, when we have a sense of purpose, it is easier to stay motivated and inspired and to live a positive life. As a swimmer, he needed a Coach, someone who believed in him and what he was  setting out to achieve; someone...
You choose your attitude

You choose your attitude

What attitude did you choose when you woke up today? While young people might not be able to choose the circumstances in which they are living, they are able to choose their attitude towards the environment in which they are living. They are also able to choose their attitude towards their studies, friendships and other relationships, though having a non-judgmental Cheerleader by their side will probably assist most young people on their journey to become the best they can be. These thoughts, while reflecting about the power of mentoring relationships the other day, reminded me of a mentoring journey I undertook with Emma (not her real name), a while ago.When Emma popped in to my office to see me at the beginning of a new term, she appeared to be anxious and worried about how things were going in her final year at school. While she was talking, I looked at my watch and said, “Emma, I’m going to interrupt you.” She looked a little puzzled, even surprised. “You have only been sitting here for a few minutes. What one word have you used more than any other word?” Emma paused for a short while and then shook her head, “I don’t know.” “It begins with a W,” I responded, sharing a clue. “Work?” “No.” Emma smiled and shook her head again. “Worry. Almost every sentence has the word ‘worry’ in it and that is not healthy.” Emma was a top student who will go far. However, through her own admission, she was a perfectionist. I had vowed to myself and to her that, during the time we would...
The Greatest Life Lesson I have learnt

The Greatest Life Lesson I have learnt

What is the most important or greatest life lesson you have learnt to date? This is a question I have thought a lot about during the past 12 months as I have adjusted to retirement after 42 years as an educator. My response to this question is obvious (to me!), yet equally challenging to live by in a 21st Century increasingly secular and politically correct global community.I pause and look at the current global situation. We are told that the level of poverty is decreasing, yet there are still millions of people living in poverty. The Middle East remains a powder keg which could explode any day. The number of authoritarian, egocentric rulers – dictators would be a better term – seems to be increasing. This means more and more people are likely to be living in oppression, some of whom, who know no other lifestyle, probably don’t even realise this. Ruling with fear is no way to bring about global peace. In 2016 I visited Terezin Concentration Camp outside Prague where I was deeply moved by the drawings by children, most of whom were put to death by the Nazis. I have studied the major world religions in an effort to better understand the make-up of our global community. What, therefore, is the Greatest Life Lesson I have learnt? Men or women with big egos are unlikely to bring peace to the world, as their motives lack the heart of the Great Teaching, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I have learnt that God is good and He is working out His plan; that I have no comprehension of...
How you can share messages of HOPE with teenagers

How you can share messages of HOPE with teenagers

Do you remember when you felt overwhelmed as a teenager?  Walled in? Unable to see your way into the future? Frustrated? Angry? Confused? A little lost? Maybe one of those days you just wanted to walk out of the home? Maybe you did walk out! That’s what Wendy (not her real name) did when she was about 15 or 16. This is her true story.I met Wendy, then in her early 20s, when I was running a mentoring program some years ago. Anyone interested in being considered as a volunteer adult mentor, having completed a fairly basic application form, met with me. This was an opportunity for me to see whether or not the person was suitable for moving alongside a confused, vulnerable adolescent for about nine months or longer as a volunteer mentor. It also gave the potential mentor, who would have completed a 21-hour mentor training program by the time we met, to hear more about the program and decide whether or not they really wanted to make this important commitment and investment in the life of a young person. Wendy took me to a large shopping centre and we sat down for a chat. However, after a few minutes Wendy, looking uncomfortable, asked if we could rather go back to her home to talk. While she was sharing some of her story a little later, it became clear to me why she wanted to speak privately. When Wendy was in her early teens her mother died suddenly. Wendy had no father with whom she could form any relationship, as he had departed her life a number...
How you, too, can inspire Teenagers to chase their dreams!

How you, too, can inspire Teenagers to chase their dreams!

Cast your mind back to your teenage years and think about someone outside of your family who was either a formal or informal mentor to you, maybe a coach, certainly someone who positively influenced your life? How and why did this person have such an impact on your life? What skills did this person help you to develop and add to your lifelong bag of skills to make a positive difference in the world? Many of my teachers and coaches made a great impact on my life at different seasons of my journey through adolescence. Dealing with recovery from Cancer, being shy and self-conscious, I had many personal challenges to overcome and often my negative self-talk or feelings of self-pity became obstacles to my personal development – until Anthony Mallett entered my life.The one person who probably had the most impact on my teenage life was my Headmaster, Anthony Mallett, who had played Cricket for England (MCC) and was also active in numerous other sports, especially Squash, by the time I interacted with him. He was a superb actor, a keen gardener and an enthusiastic Bridge player with a wicked sense of humour – a man of many talents! After teaching in England, he married and moved with his wife to Peterhouse in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), taking up a teaching position at this Independent School that had recently opened. There he spent many years helping to develop the strong foundations of a school that is thriving today, before he moved to Cape Town in South Africa and became Headmaster of my old school, a position he...
Do you think there is HOPE for the future? I do and here’s why!

Do you think there is HOPE for the future? I do and here’s why!

Do you think there is HOPE for the future? That’s a challenging question to ask a young person, though you’ll probably be surprised when most answer in the affirmative. “What if _____?” I wonder how many times I have asked this question over the years? I have been an idealist chasing dreams throughout my life. Some of these dreams have been attained. Others – I HOPE I am still on that journey to achieve them, as most involve reaching out in some way to those less fortunate than I am. Hope! I remembered Jason’s story.Jason (not his real name) contacted me over 20 years after I had coached and taught him. All he wanted to say was thank you for believing in him during a challenging time of his life. His parents had separated and he was struggling with the implications of that as a 14 or 15-year old. I had given him responsibility for opening and locking a meeting room. I had no idea at the time that this incredibly small task – in my eyes – had proved a life-changing moment for him. Someone had trusted him, given him a responsible task to undertake and he had been truly appreciative of the impact that had had on his self-belief. A message of HOPE! Retirement encourages a time for reflection and many of those “What if ___?”  questions. While I have a few regrets, that’s for sure, I remain eternally grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way, most especially those involved in working with young people as a teacher, coach and mentor. Behind all this...