My message to teenagers at a Graduation Ceremony

I delivered a talk to an amazing group of Graduates on 26th November 2018. They were graduating from a Further education College called North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College. 

Hired as the keynote, I was quite in awe when i arrived at the event and saw the stunning room the gowns and the excited students, parents and teachers. The emotion of the Principal Marion Plant OBE, which was beautiful, reflecting her incredible commitment and passion to her students.

After my keynote, I was asked by a number of parents and students if they could have a copy of my talk, so i thought I would blog it here and allow this to be shared and seen by anyone else who feels this is of interest.

My keynote

What an incredible privilege to be here and witness the achievements of all the students from North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, plus observe of all those who have worked hard to support, love and help you be successful, feeling their pride as you walk around in your gowns.

Thank you Principal Marion Plant OBE and her team for inviting me to be your Keynote.

I was thinking last night about X Factor.

The song sung by Scarlett this week, the much loved song from the film, “The Greatest Showman”, called THIS IS ME.

All around us we are being given quite conflicting messages

One moment we feel we are not enough and we lack, seeing all the starry pictures of celebrities, and even our friends, that make us feel “they are so much more beautiful than I am” or “they have such an amazing life compared to mine”

Then the other message we receive – the kinder ones of

  • `”You are enough
  • Encouraging you to say “this is me
  • Word spoken on Love island “it is what it is”, basically saying ‘accept what has or is happening

Even this magazine I picked up in a supermarket yesterday aimed at teenagers called “TEEN Breathe”, clearly implying that you should not forget to breathe

That in itself sounds quite funny, yet the growth in meditation, mindfulness and yoga is no coincidence and the way people go to classes to learn to…… B R E A T H E

I looked at the title of the articles in this magazine

  • “Blanked by a friend”
  • “Insta-anxiety”
  • “How to build assertiveness”

It all sounds quite challenging being a teenager, but does it have to be?

More about this later… I was asked to tell you a little bit about my career….

I started aged 19 in telesales, selling computer hardware and software over the phone. I wasn’t seeking a business career on top of that the concept of selling to someone was taught to me in a complicated and manipulative manner in a training course I was sent on.

The first two weeks of being on the phones was terrifying, I pretended to speak to someone whenever my supervisor walked over. Then one day, I actually plucked up the courage and when a man I was ‘targeting’ answered the phone, I heard his croaky voice, he clearly had a bad throat.
I explained to him that my role was to sell to his Computer Dealership and that I was so sorry to call him when he was clearly unwell. He thanked me and we agreed that I would call him again next week.
Relieved that I had been ‘let off the hook’, I then went to lunch and bought a sandwich to eat at my desk. By the till was a display of cough sweets. I thought about Roland, and his bad throat and I bought them. Returning to work, I asked my supervisor if I could send the cough sweets to him, using a company Jiffy bag and Franking machine. ( the way we posted things back in the 80’s).
She laughed at me and said I was ridiculous, agreed to the idea but said I had to pay for the post and bag. Which I duly did.

One week later a call was put through to me. My first call. Roland thanked me for the kind thought and told me to grab a pad of paper and pen. He then gave me a very large order for HP Printers, some software and a few accessories. I wrote them all down, thanked him hugely and then proudly walled to my supervisor to ask her how to enter it all into the computer system.
She was so thrilled, Said it was the largest order this month and asked who it was from I said, “the chap I sent the cough sweets to”. Her face said it all.

From then on, I felt I could build my career on my emotional intelligence, which is far higher than my IQ

At 26 I was the Sales and Marketing Director of a large IT company, earning well. But, let me tell you a secret, – everyday I had imposter syndrome, convinced that someone would one day find out just how much I was winging it

At 28 I gave birth to my daughter, and over the following 4 years I was blessed with two sons.

At 33, I became an entrepreneur , I came up with an idea to create a place where I felt I could be a leader of a business that held my values and beliefs, and in doing this,  I could truly be myself in business lead others to feel and be the same for themselves.

You see, I didn’t WANT to go into business EVER, I actually wanted to be in the caring professions, to be a nurse, now was my chance to focus on caring in the way I wanted to in business.

When the internet emerged I came up with an idea that became global and put me on the map. It was the first social network online for business, before linkedin, called Ecademy

I went on a huge roller coaster everyday for 14 years until we sold the business and then I joined the skills sector and brought the Digital Marketing Apprenticeship to market

Now, I mentioned two things in this introduction

1. Imposter syndrome
2. I didn’t think business was right for me

I want to share the major aspect of my life that has kept me okay…….. IT HAS BEEN THE COURAGE TO BE MYSELF

This is what I want the rest of my talk to be about…….

We live in a very complicated and sometimes overwhelming world now. Some of you will not be aware of what it was like before Facebook and Instagram, but I do. We could escape…. We could hide a little, in books, on a walk, on the bus, we could look out the window and calm our minds.

Now we fear our minds and the internal dialogue we have with ourselves, the very reason that people are now encouraging us to B R E A T H E – we reflect on the way other people are living their amazing lives, only aware of the one -dimension they share, and comparing it to the 360 degree awareness of ourselves.

We think about our flaws, our weaknesses, what is not good enough about us, we want to be like someone else…

And why is this?

It is because we have a shallow site of everyone’s life, and we need to feel just as valuable as they seem to be in all their images and posts.

Let me let you into another secret….. every person I meet, whatever age, feels this way…. You are not alone if this is how you feel sometimes

Oprah Winfrey the famous American Chat Show host and amazing contributor to so many causes says…

“Whoever I interview, whether I interview the President, Barak Obama, a famous actress, the highest and the lowest in society, they all say this “was I okay?”

She says…

“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation,” Oprah has said. “I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire.”

Validation, this is the definition:-“recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile”.

This is now the LIKE or the Share, or even a kind comment…and we have become addicted to this. Worse still we judge ourselves by this ridiculous measurement
But what about when we don’t get a LIKE, or a kind comment, or worse still, when we feel we are of no significance.
We all get that, we all feel it and we all want to be of value.

There is now a clinical terms for the way we all feel, “Compare and Despair”, we compare ourselves with others and we despair
The reality is that few of us get to feel amazing all the time; and you can be sure that the moment that we see something amazing online that a friend or a celebrity is doing or looking like, we all feel we are NOT enough, that we lack.

So, why am I sharing this with you tonight?

I’ll tell you why. Because you are all young enough to change the way you feel and the way you treat yourself and others and make them feel. At 54, I discovered I was still young enough to accept myself, after I had been through some troubling times.
Because how you might be feeling is real, but it is not based on reality.

Because you really are amazing, unique, YOU are incredible.
Because of WHO you are.
Because of the love and kindness that you would really like to show and be known for

BECAUSE YOU ARE TAKING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR FUTURE CAN BE WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE..

You have started on this great path by educating yourself and seeing the value of skills

You have taken personal responsibility for your life and you have realised that with skills you can be more. You can feel better about yourself, you can contribute more, you can have impact and you can feel valued

This is what you are made of, this is the whole you

1. Your emotional you – the way you feel and the way you treat other people’s feeling – kind, caring, determined, driven

2. Your mind – the mental you – how you think and how you use your thoughts to create your beliefs and take action with them, your definition of what success, ambition and happiness is to you, PERSONALLY

3. Your soul – WHO you are, what you would like to be known for as a person, the things people say about you when you are not in the room, the feelings you leave behind when you talk out of a room.

4. Your physical health, how you treat your amazing bodies, honouring the complex way our bodies work, not abusing them, keeping them healthy so you can live a long and healthy life

As you step into the world and you look forward into life, you will all have your own set of values, the things that you hold most dearly.
It might be family, friends, health, money, success, freedom, kindness, love. It is for you to define your values in life

You will decide what level of integrity and trust you want to be known for.
– Being on time,
– Saying and doing what you promise,
– Keeping the secrets of people that you love,
– Allowing others to trust you

You will build assets in life, …
a car, a nice watch, a ring, money, maybe even a house,
but I want you to know what your greatest asset is, and no one can take this away from you and you can’t lose it EVER if you take care of it, it is not the capital things you will acquire, like a car, money, wealth.

Want to know what it is?

It is the SOCIAL CAPITAL you have as you go through life, the people around you that believe in you, trust you, like you, honour you and care about you.
Emotional wealth will lead to Financial wealth – it starts with who you are… I started speaking about this back in 2002, when it was so clear to me what social media would do to us all.

Your PERSONAL BRAND –
THE MOST PRECIOUS THING YOU CAN BUILD IN YOUR LIFE, BUILD IT EVERY DAY, STARTING FROM RIGHT NOW
.
I want to end with a beautiful poem written by by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) an American Essayist and Poet;

What is success

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and ensure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a health child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier, because you have lived; This is to have succeeded”.

Congratulations to all of you, the work you put in, the integrity you showed to your teachers, employers, and one another
The moment you are in, is always the start of your life, the past is gone, the future is in front and you can make it what you want and be what you want to be

Your life, your choices, your thoughts beliefs and your story, no one else’s, so never compare and despair, as no one is like you, you are unique

Thank you