As a professional trainer, facilitator, and coach, I come into contact with people from different walks of life on a daily basis – different industries, professions, age, race, gender and levels of education. What has struck me, is regardless of where we are in our lives, is that we all have a common goal… a basic need, so to speak.
We need to MATTER! We want to make a difference in the world… We want to be significant.
We all have different ways of expressing this need, depending on our skill-set. One of my favourite stories is one about the starfish by Loren Eiseley:
“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
For me? I sleep well at night when I have seen the light come on in someone’s eyes. When I see a person’s passions ignite… When I know that I was instrumental in creating a more positive future for another human being. Achieving that makes me feel significant, and I feel like I am making a difference.
This is one of the reasons why I am lobbying to have project management and leadership skills taught to high school pupils, specifically grades 11 & 12. I believe that these skills should be basic life skills, helping us to define problems, to get together with others to identify possible solutions, and to be able to use easy, proven processes to solve the problems.
I have been approached to assist a wonderfully progressive school in Pretoria who are not only upgrading their teachers Emotional Intelligence skills, but also taking their 2015 prefects and young leaders though a full leadership development programme. Skills like negotiation, innovative thinking, creative problem solving, public speaking, emotional intelligence, conflict management, analytic questioning, and stress management techniques… these are all things that they are looking at, which should be taught at grass-roots level, so our leaders of tomorrow are equipped to take on the challenges that our technology-ruled future holds.
Take, for example, the impact social media is having on the way we communicate with each other. More frequently, we are communicating via email, online, or a phone text app. We need to neatly and succinctly address the question or concern of another when we engage. Without the benefit of body-language, voice-tone or even appearance, we need to assess and respond with positive results.
Think of yourself, and your life experience. How much difference would these Personal Development skills have made to you as a school-leaver? As a junior manager? As you were climbing the corporate ladder? As a parent? As a spouse? What difference could it make in your life today?
As you can see, these are not academic subjects limited for study by a chosen few, but life skills. Essential, basic life skills! Skills we should all possess regardless of our station in life.
I have seen marriages fail, careers dead-end, and financial freedom stifled, simply because the people concerned lacked the EQ, or coping techniques to work through a difficult situation. At the same token, I have seen people turn their life around, simply by taking control of these basic skills. I have seen brilliant people excel once they overcame their public speaking phobia, or a young man blossom into a phenomenal leader once he learnt how to communicate in a non-invasive, emotionally mature manner.
If we truly, at the core, just want to matter… Then surely we owe it to ourselves to brush up on these skills, and to make sure everyone around us has the opportunity to develop themselves to their full potential.
In my next blog I will be talking about the power of innovative thinking – especially as it relates to starting up your own business.
Want to know more? Contact us if you are interested in developing any of the skills discussed in this article.