I wonder if you ever hit the wall as a teenager and wanted to quit either school or a position you held in the school or a team or cultural group?
Brad was in this situation.
Brad was battling with his peers. He came from a different cultural and social background than most of his peers, though was strong academically and talented in a variety of areas, social and sporting.
When he had had enough of the negative peer pressure and mocking, disillusionment set in.
With less than six months until he completed his schooling, Brad was ready to give up a superb education because of the hypocrisy and racism he was being subjected to. He was a School Leader and wanted to step down from this role as well.
Brad was a boarder and I was his Housemaster. We had a long discussion one Saturday night, exploring different ways he could approach the issues that were concerning him. I did a lot of listening and guiding of the conversation towards Brad suggesting some positive solutions.
In the end, we agreed that Brad must be himself, continue working hard towards his academic goals – indeed, make academic achievement his number one priority. Once he was through with his schooling, the world of tertiary education would offer many alternatives.
Brad made this choice and gained superb academic results. He went on to University, gained his Business Management Degree and soon found a top job in Human Resource Management.
When I later became a School Principal, I invited Brad to come and talk to the senior students, to share his story and to motivate them to chase their dreams. He shared his story and reminded them that there are no shortcuts to reaching one’s potential. There will be obstacles to overcome. It also takes consistently hard work and a great deal of self-discipline to keep one’s eyes focused on the long-term goal.
I was immensely proud of this confident young man and told him so.
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Why did Brad succeed?
While there are many reasons for Brad’s success, there are four key lessons that can be learnt from his true story:
- Brad asked for help. That takes courage. He realized that the situation was becoming serious and he could easily make a decision that he might regret one day in the future.
- Brad had a positive self-image. He had strength of character developed over the years and came to see that he had the ability to respond positively to the challenges.
- Brad made some important choices, one of which was to focus totally on his academic studies for a few months. Life is about making choices and being accountable for those choices. Brad came to understand that. he became accountable to me for the choices he shared with me, so he knew I was alongside him as a non-judgmental Cheerleader!
- Brad had a wonderful sense of humor and so learnt the importance of being able to laugh at himself. This was one of his strengths or resilient qualities that he came to understand would see him through most difficulties he would face in life.
After the Saturday evening chat with Brad, I received the following not from him on my desk a couple of days later:
“.. Thanks, too, for the ‘talk’ we had on Saturday night. It’s very rare that I actually get someone who I can relate my problems to; but you are there and you certainly revitalized my motivation about my whole career at university … Now what I say to myself is: if you can be able to do so much then why can’t I? And that is what is keeping me going.”
Many other teenagers will have experienced similar situations. Brad’s story is a reminder that there are always ways through them and often one key pathway is to link up with a significant adult the young person trusts.
This is what sowing the seeds of mentoring is all about.
Can you remember how you worked through a challenging situation? If so, pause and reflect. You will find at least one reason why you made it through and therein lies a resilient quality.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in New Zealand and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.