Above: Students from the University of Leeds hold my feet to the fire about inclusivity. Right: SUNY students ask about leadership
Over the last several weeks, I've traveled to Manhattan twice to be with a room full of bright and buzzing university students. The first time was intimate - only about 15 of us in the room and they asked me questions that ranged from how I dealt with inclusivity in our company to what advice I'd give them to prepare for their futures. The second was larger - and I got to share the time with a wise leader from Schwartzman Scholars - but no less intense. These students know the world is theirs to change and they want to know the best ways to do it. Hunger, passion, drive, and excitement nearly oozed out of the room.
I wanted to share about this for two reasons: first, little brings me more joy than rubbing shoulders with hope, which is what these students embody. Secondly, I wanted to share some of their questions and some of my answers, because the themes are ones I encounter nearly every time I meet with clients.
What advice would you give to people just starting their careers, to prepare themselves for the future? Such a big question, eh?! It's honestly the same advice I'd give folks in the middle of their careers - surround yourself with voices that you trust, respect, and disagree with. Study history and understand context. Talk less, smile more. Seek diversity of opinions, but know your own self. Be your authentic self at all times, but practice discretion. Be kind to yourself and others, for that is never wasted time.
I feel overwhelmed with the problems of the world and all the things I have to deal with. What should I do? This answer is so simple and yet so difficult. You love the person in front of you the best way you know how, all the time. That means being patient and kind, thinking of others over self, service, sacrifice, and grace. In the immortal words of Bing Crosby, talking about General Waverly in White Christmas, "we ate, then he ate, we slept, then he slept." Same thing.
I have a boss who disrespects me because I'm young. "They look at me like I'm stupid, I'm not stupid", as Hamilton would say. How do I change their opinions? First of all, you just may be stupid. Part of youth is a lack of experience and that is simply part of youth. Perhaps they don't think you're stupid, but there are pieces you don't know that you don't even know you don't know! So, you change their opinions by learning and growing. Develop relationships and trust with those around you. Second of all, be faithful in the small things you are given now, so that you can be faithful in the large things when they come. Practice makes permanent, after all, so see this season as a time to make permanent the habits of leadership you wish to carry forward.
There were so many more moments I treasure, and so many more questions. If you have an organization of young people who may benefit from picking my brain, I would love to serve in that way. Get in touch and let's set something up! And thanks to Common Purpose for asking me along - such an honor.