I recently returned from a two week volunteer trip with our 13 year-old daughter and 16 year-old son, to Ghana. We had been there 18 months earlier and were looking forward to being back in the community with the incredibly friendly adults and beautiful children. Three days into the trip, while visiting the senior high school, I was invited by the Assistant Head Master, Samson (not his real name but he told me to call him that as even Ghanaians have trouble with his name), to speak to the students about investing in their future. I explained that I typically speak to adults, but if he thought it would be helpful I would be happy to talk to the kids. I assumed it was for a class of thirty -I later learned it would be for 1000 students and their teachers!
A Packed Room
A few days later I arrived at the Akwamuman senior high school to a packed room of students, teachers and administrators sitting on benches waiting for me to begin my presentation on success. As I took the microphone from the assistant headmaster and said my first words, I realized only one syllable from each word was actually coming through the speakers. The high school AV team quickly took the microphone to try to get it to work. After about 10 minutes it was suggested that I stand on the floor behind the 5’ tall speaker equipment to get the best sound. That didn’t seem like a very good plan so I went back on the riser and proceeded to speak very loudly (yelling at times over the sounds coming from outside the open-air dining hall that also serves as the school auditorium).
For the next 45 minutes I shared strategies for success and prosperity with these young future leaders. We talked about the Success Formula: What you think + What you say + What you do = Your results. I explained that most people focus solely on the “doing” part and miss the other two crucial components of this formula. These kids are often told “study hard, do your assignments, come to class”. Yes, and… it’s also important for them to remember to think positively about their abilities and to say good things to themselves and others. If they only study hard, but doubt their abilities or say that the work is too difficult or that they aren’t very bright it won’t matter how much time they put into their school work – their results won’t be as strong as they could be.
I told them “You are GREAT!” They told each other “You are GREAT!” and celebrated with high-fives. They listened attentively (for the most part – they are teenagers after all) and many took notes.
I hope that I shared information that was valuable for them.
I know that I learned 3 major lessons from this experience:
1) The importance of being creative and flexible. I was initially very intimidated at the prospect of speaking to high school kids – I typically speak to adults. As I was preparing I knew that the presentation I use in the US would not work in Ghana– my stories and jokes would not play with this audience! This inspired me to create new material and ideas for this group (all of which I will continue to use).
2) The importance of ingenuity and support. With the help of other volunteers we were able to get a lap top and projector working to show a video that I knew the kids would love. And, even though the microphone didn’t work I was able to get my ideas across to this large group.
3) The importance of clarity of vision. The week before I left for our volunteer trip to GhanaI shared with a friend that I wanted to expand my speaking reach globally. I assumed this would happen with a new business venture that I have started. Already, my goal to speak internationally has manifested in a big way!
As I was leaving the high school that morning I met a boy named Confidence. What a wonderful name! It reminded me that when we have “confidence” in our dreams and passion and purpose, we can easily create what we desire in our lives – it just may show up differently than we expect.