Leadership Reading: Books to read for your Leadership Development Journey

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

Part of your leadership development journey is changing up the way you educate and learn new things. Although change can be a great thing, getting back to the basics can be just as effective. Reading is a great way to education, encourage and inspire! If your goal is to cultivate change for your community, start by cultivating change within yourself.

Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life by Humble the Poet

Unlearn: 101 Simple Truths for a Better Life,’ as it is titled, is a work written by Canadian MC and poet Humble the Poet.  It is a compilation of learnings and experiences of his everyday life, written in simple language for all to read. Through 101 short chapters, the emphasis is put into the attitude and thinking needed for individuals to live a better quality of life. It is remarkably blunt! Reasoning questions that force you to think about your everyday circumstances and how these circumstances can affect you. Acknowledging the things that make you happy, sad, confused, and inspired. This book allows the mind to wander into the unknown while constantly reassuring the reader that they are not alone.

For young professionals, part of learning and developing into the powerful leaders of tomorrow is understanding how experiences shape you and grabbing a newer perspective to build your sense of empathy. It is important to show compassion for the uncomfortable circumstances you may see others face, especially in leadership roles. This book helps you find the silver lining in your perception of the world; inspires you to become more self-aware and empowered, and to no longer be limited by the lessons we have learned throughout our lives. It stimulates you with ideas that challenge conventional learning that has resulted in sabotaging behaviors and go against the grain.

This book is an absolute read for growth! A sample e-book is available to read on Humble the Poet’s website for those wanting to dip in and see what UnLearn is all about! The book itself is available now in hardback, paperback, and electronic editions online at http://humblethepoet.wix.com/unlearn101.

A Coach or a Mentor?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

A coach has some great questions for your answers;

A mentor has some great answers for your questions.

As we learn, discover,  and explore in the beginning stages of youth development, having access to valuable guidance and support is important! Learners turn to individuals, who are invested, knowledgeable, and committed to empowering them to make a positive lasting impact. These individuals can be coaches or mentors, who act in the learners best interest in their development.  One tells you how to accomplish something (mentor), the other holds you accountable and challenges you to physically reach your goals (coaches). Nevertheless, each of these roles has the responsibility to influence the young professionals of tomorrow.

A coach

As a coach you are not limited to coaching aspiring athletes, rather you can be a coach in any profession or field of interest. Coaching aims to achieve goals and improve performance over a short-term period of time. In most cases, a coach provides a structured plan for action. This plan will not only guide a young professional on how to achieve their goals but it will exactly guide them onto the results they wish to gain from this plan. As a coach, you will be the best inspiration for this action plan for success. Young professionals will seek out your instruction for discipline and resilience so that they can achieve success for themselves.

A Mentor

The role of a mentor is designed to help shape a young professional’s beliefs and values in a positive way. This is often a long term relationship from someone who has ‘done it before’. Mentoring encourages an informal way to guide individuals on their personal development journey. They provide consistent support long into adulthood and beginning a professional career. In return, as a mentor, you gain the opportunity to get to know one another by sharing your stories and building a life-long friendship.

This program emphasizes the opportunity for young professionals and their families to partner with our professionals to gain the highest-quality leadership, by providing access to resources and educational tools that empower the next generation of leaders. Whether locally or globally, the relationship amongst young professionals and their mentors or coaches is crucial in identifying values and beliefs they hold about the world around them. With a burning desire to create change for the betterment of their communities, it was important for us to provide these aspiring leaders with the missing link!

Over the course of 8 months to 10 months, our participating young professionals will be partnering with a BGood coach. We are striving to cultivate the potential of everyone to be a coach and positively impact those around them. We want our coaches to each bring their unique capabilities to their role in this organization. Specifically, in being equipped with the skill to create an environment where our young professionals can learn, grow, and enrich their peers as a result.

It will be a never ending cycle that will last a lifetime. But it is imperative for leaders not only, to develop these skills, but receive the necessary guidance, in order to effectively drive positive impacts.

Leadership Reading: Books to read for your Leadership Development Journey

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself


Part of your leadership development journey is changing up the way you educate and learn new things. Although change can be a great thing, getting back to the basics can be just as effective. Reading is a great way to education, encourage and inspire! If your goal is to cultivate change for your community, start by cultivating change within yourself.

Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza

One of my favorite books on personal development I have read is Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza. When I think of cultivating something beyond the self, I think that we first have to align ourselves with what we believe is worth cultivating. Yet in our current age of technology, conditioning, and bad habits; putting our best foot forward to become the leaders we strive to become, can be difficult. This book offers a combination of fundamental principles of neuroscience, psychology, and necessary knowledge to change any aspect of yourself. The beautiful result of what you can obtain is that your mind shapes your reality! Therefore by changing your thought process, how you view the infinite possibilities available to you, within your quantum field, you can create your desired reality. I think this book provides an in-depth look behind the meaning of ‘anything is possible’ if you position your mind to believe in the possibility. Part of cultivation is creating. As a developing leader, unpacking the foundation of your morals and values can be beneficial in your presentation to the public. If you aim to teach others what it means to create a better community for all, it helps to first understand for yourself, the look of a better community. What does it mean? How can you manifest that community? How does it benefit the members? Can the members instill faith in your vision?

Youth & Community Engagement Goes Hand-in-Hand

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

What is community engagement?

Simply put, community engagement is an initiative by its members to create a positive social change.

It is the partnership between members of the community through their involvement with the planning and decision-making process. They can express their opinions and exchange new information that would be helpful to others. This engagement is very hands-on ranging from community council meetings, parent involvement with academic initiatives, youth organization events and programs, as well as environmental initiatives. 

Since, the idea of a ‘community’ is inclusive of all members, their engagement provides perspective. If one’s opinion differ from popular opinion it creates a balanced understanding through conversation and can add layers to the decision-making process. 

Youth have voices too!

With communities growing every day, it is important to encourage and educate the next generation. Allowing younger members, the opportunity to voice their opinions and share new information can offer a new perspective to a discussion.

Most often, we look to our youth as the leaders of tomorrow, because are the members of our communities who actively participate, explore, and engage in its development. Dedicating their time and talents to produce a positive impact is a fundamental pillar of what defines youth community engagement. Youth involvement provides a space to recognize personal abilities by helping improve upon the conditions and challenges that directly impact their lives. It can also increase the amount of empowerment felt within the members and themselves.

To keep up their desire to be involved in their communities, youth need to be educated by methods not commonly found in a classroom. Making use of programs that emphasize technology use or discuss topics of interests, for youth; can increase awareness on issues affecting the community while increasing engagement. Taking advantage of communication tools such as social media platforms, will allow a middle ground between what changes are need and how external members can aid. Youth are more likely to be involved in fundraising initiatives such as sport tournaments, selling desserts and beverages, or creative arts showcases. These initiatives create the opportunity for youth to be able to showcase their unique abilities and use their social medias to share this information with peers from other communities.

Empowering youth to be a valuable part of the discussion is another great way to get them engaged in the community. They would be more likely to provide their input if they feel it will be a valuable contribution to the discussion. Not only do they gain a stronger sense of self-efficacy and confidence, but they build stronger connections through their sense of belonging and relationships built with older members. 

With information being shared and relationships being built, community members are building lasting traditions that can be practiced over generations. For example, community sweep days, clothing or food drives, holiday sports tournaments, summer picnic parties and various other ideas that can strengthen the connection and pride community members share.

Having both youth and adult members, working together to produce meaningful results for the community is what a true community is all about! If you are considering making a positive social impact in your local community, establishing a partnership with other members of your community is a chance for you to co-lead, by providing frequent and thoughtful contributions.

A Virtual Learning Experience

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

We know that an amazing adventure awaits you when exploring the unknown. When you know what your purpose is and what you can provide to the world on your journey. Even if you know where you would like to go or even if you have no idea, we can start by helping to navigate the ins-and -outs the best version of yourself.

Currently, the market is filled with various educational materials on leadership. BGood Worldwide’s B The Light program curriculum will use Google Suite for Education to compile a comprehensive curriculum to teach leadership through various mediums.  It will track five main themes that constitute the foundation of BGood Worldwide’s mission: Integrity, Friendship, Dreams, Forgiveness, and Honor.  BGood believes these fundamentals are critical for any community leader.  

Using an online platform as an educational tool allows participants to constantly have access to the curriculum materials at all times. It creates a space for discussions to be documented, participants can review and critically responds without missing a beat. The online platform will use interactive video, imagery and writings to push the boundaries of leadership education.  The curriculum will also require participants to upload their own content to personalize the experience and create strong bonds with their fellow teammates. BGood will evaluate the curriculum yearly to ensure that the content remains up to date in addressing certain pressing current issues.

As a result, each lesson will use these themes to highlight important concepts and teach the best practices for how to maximize each participant’s leadership abilities. Our curriculum will be designed to be both challenging and rewarding to participants of all backgrounds.

Uniquely designed to utilize a virtual space, we have combined online leadership mentoring and education delivered through applications which allows participants to engage in their leadership education anywhere, anytime. Specifically, using Google Suite products such as Gmail, Hangout, Blogger, Youtube, Calendar, Drive and more, as the communication hub, are powerful and easy-to-use tools available across  access all mobile, tablet and laptop devices.

Team members receive interactive leadership workbooks that lessons and assignments with rich video, imagery and writings about leadership concepts.  Each workbook enables team members to load personalized text, pictures, and video to fully customize each team members’ experience. The workbooks are completed independently and should take each team member approximately one hour per week.  

Each team will be assigned a team leader, who would utilize Hangout, Google’s video chat and messaging tool, to connect with each team member for approximately thirty minutes per week to help support the team members throughout the program.

A Morning Routine Aspiring Leaders Should Do

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

Our day-to-day habits can be hard to build and break. Being young allows us to try and understand what is interesting yet beneficial for us. Whether you dedicate just a few moments a day or a few hours a day for your own self-development, you are setting the tone needed to produce productivity and creativity.

Start by planning your day the night before. Leadership is about having a vision. And developing a vision requires a plan of action. Good leadership skills are essential to advancing your individual development, but leadership is much more than simply being in charge.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”


John Quincy Adams

If you can effectively translate your vision enough to inspire others, this is setting the example. Having an idea of what you would like to get done in a set a framework for smooth functionality. Be sure that the task and strategies you have come up with, contribute to your vision both long term and short term. Make these strategies realistic and measurable so you can monitor your progress.

Then, time for sleep! Getting proper rest is key to revitalizing the body and mind. You want to be able to tackle the day full of energy, with a great attitude. A good night’s’ rest should consist of at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

After getting your proper rest, rise up early enough to ‘get the worm’. One of the ways to succeed in getting the best possible start to winning your day-to-day is by setting rituals or routines so you can avoid the scrambling of putting together a to-do list. If you can make such routine more of a habit, you can create a positive momentum of proactive behavior. There are numerous studies that link individuals who begin their day in the early morning hours to more positive traits such as being proactive, having better attitudes, more likely to be kind to others, and tend to be smarter. An early start creates time for self-development. It provides more time for reading, meditation, prayer, recollection, making a nutritious breakfast, even getting some exercise. Including a means of higher learning, health, or creativity at the beginning of the day, redirects your energy into being more doing rather than reacting.

While in this momentum of ‘doing’, completing small tasks such as making your bed is a success habit of ‘getting things done’; followed by feeding your second brain, the stomach. After waking up, drink glass of water, orange juice, or apple juice to help replenish and awaken your body, activating your nerve cells for the day.

Once you are awakened, you should take at least 10 to 15 minutes for mindfulness. Mediation, reading or writing are great ways to center and focus your mind and energy on producing a clear space for the day. This also helps to relieve the excess tension that might have remained after getting your 8 to 10 hours of sleep.

With a refreshing start to your day, you are now in a more positive space to begin your day. It is important to carry a positive, can-do attitude during your daily interactions. Others can gain a sense of inspiration simply by way of conversation or working alongside of you. The best way to strengthen these interactions is through more communication. Getting the opportunity to build relationships with your family, peers, or colleagues to learn more about what their interests or concerns are, creates conversation full of depth and meaning. For any individual, active listening is a great trait to build upon. Someone who listens to suggestions, ideas, and feedback from other people, and provides the same for others in return, it all about building advancing in your self development as well as aiding in someone else’s self development.  

Another thing that individuals naturally do is learn. Engaging in your surroundings by taking in the knowledge of everything you experience from your day, can be shared with your peers and members of your community. Learning is one of the major keys to success! It keeps your mind sharp, and your skills fresh.

It prepares you for new challenges that may come your way. In leadership, this is someone who can see learn from an obstacle and see the bigger picture enough to later anticipate problems before they occur. This is a valuable skill to have when handling complex problems. The ability to foresee and provide suggestions for avoiding potential problems also helps you recognize opportunities that others overlook, which will certainly aid in your self-development.

A great way to reflect upon your day is to dedicate more time to mindfulness, specifically sitting in silence or journaling the events of the day.  Reflection helps you to discern the value of your day, whether your behaviors, energy, focus were enough to contribute to your vision. Everything you do acts as a building block to how you intend to become what you have envisioned for yourself. By following these daily habits you can take the grunt work out of you self development journey and focus on the real work to achieve your vision.



Top 5 Reasons For BGood Worldwide

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

Since the beginning of humanity exploring the unknown has been one of the storylines we’ve consistently played throughout all of history. To explore the unknown means to uncover truths and undiscovered worlds; embracing the fascinating nooks and crannies of these divine world to feed our indulging minds. It offers inspiration, encouragement, and motivation to continue further into the depths seeking new possibilities for things we have we have always known.

But what happens after our explorations have come to an end? What happens with all the acquired knowledge? Simple, we share it with others! The best things in life are better when you can share it with your family, friends, and peers. It gets even better when we can participate together.

When knowledge is shared amongst members of a community, we create a means to spark new conversations. From these conversations, we establish new concepts and ideas. Sparking the conversation, this how leaders are inspired.

Leaders transform the world by creating new productive and creative pathways to learning. It involves the development of your personal qualities, family support, and your philanthropic qualities. Take athletics for example; to be a well-rounded athlete we must train hard, most often using various training methods. This concept is called cross-training. A swimmer will cycle, run, and lift weights to improve their skills in order to become a better swimmer. For the leaders of tomorrow, learning, sharing, and participating are the cross-training mechanisms needed to become a better leader.

This is what BGood Worldwide encourages! Our B The Light leadership program is designed specifically to help uncover your leadership capabilities, perform work in various communities, and getting involved with those in your connected circles. The results of your participation can be extremely fulfilling in terms of gaining new skills, networking, and a variety of other aspects.


Here are the top 5 reasons for joining a team or starting a team with the BGood Worldwide, B The Light leadership program:

  1. You can gain and discover new skills. Interactive learning and opportunities to support a worldly cause can give individuals access to untapped potential. You can discover skills that are transferable to aspects of everyday living. Skills such as building a presentation presence, time management, organization, teamwork, problem-solving, and creative thinking.
  2. You can explore different career options: Understanding where your capabilities fit in on the broad spectrum of the workforce can be weeded out during this development stage. You can improve on the areas that you excel in and bridge a connection in areas in which you don’t excel. The key is determining what you are best at doing.
  3. Bringing value to your community: You never know when your new found skills can improve someone else’s quality of life.
  4. You can improve your CV: Employers value programs that target individual development as a means of industry experience. Crediting such exposure on your resume or cover letter, allows an employer to see that you have learned valuable skills from an internship, volunteer work, missionary work, or shadowing. First-hand experience can build confidence in your abilities. Responsibilities become easier the more familiar you are with the kind of work performed in your area of interest. You get a sense of motivation to say ‘this is something, I KNOW I can do’; and an employer can have a sense of confidence in considering your capabilities when considering you for a position.
  5. You can expand your network of people: I am sure we have all heard the saying” it’s not about WHAT you know, but about WHO you know, to get you where you need to go”! Taking on the opportunity to communicate with others enables you to build lasting relationships with people in various walks of life.

“Skill is fine and genius is splendid, but the right contacts is more valuable than either,” -Sir Archibald McIndoe, consultant surgeon to the Royal Air Force during the Second World War

The relationships allow you to gain new perspectives about your experiences. For example, having interests in certain career fields would benefit from internship and shadowing opportunities to get a better idea of the daily responsibilities of a professional in that field. Networking to build relationships with these professionals in such career fields gives you a better chance of helping individuals deciding on the best career option.


5 Reasons Why Leaders Travel

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself
  1. Travel Develops Your Courage

Traveling takes courage. It is no small feat to pick yourself up, get on a plane and go somewhere new. Most times, it’s also not that simple. It takes a lot of planning, saving and preparing yourself for your adventure abroad. But even during the preparation stage, it takes courage to make initial decision to get up and go. That ability, to act with courage, before, during and after your traveling, is an important lesson all leaders must develop and put into their “toolbox.’

 

  1. Travel Makes You More Flexible

Whether you’re going to Europe, the Caribbean, South America or Africa- there are always going to be things during your trip that aren’t going to go as planned. It could be a flight delay, a lost bag, reservations at a hotel were mixed up, or my favorite- losing your wallet and bank cards, you’re going to face uncomfortable situations. How you deal with it is going to make the difference. Leaders understand these experiences only add to your mental, emotional and even spiritual flexibility.

 

  1. Travel Increases Your Awareness

Leaders know this rule; you don’t know what you don’t know. There’s no way around it. If you’ve never been to London, to Tel Aviv, or to Cape Town, you simply can’t speak to the current ideals, values, and points of concern of the people living in those places with any personal experience. You may have read books, seen media, or talked with friends- but it’s not quite the same. In order to truly understand, you must experience those places and people yourself, firsthand. Leaders understand this concept, which is is why exposure to foreign countries and cultures is critical for modern leaders.

 

  1. Travel Increases Your Gratitude

The city and culture you live in is quite different from other places around the world. Some places in the world don’t experience daylight every day. Other places have months of heavy rain. In some places, fish is the only protein in your diet. In other places, they eat bugs and insects you’ve never heard of before. In some places, they don’t have running water or electricity in their homes. In other places, the city never sleeps and businesses never close. It’s a big world out there, and as you begin experiencing it yourself, you’ll be ever so grateful for all the things in your life that lead you up to those moments. Travel helps you cherish who you are and what you’ve been given.

 

  1. Travel Changes Your Life

Travel is transformational. It exposes you to new people, concepts and cultures and in the process transforms who you are. It awakens a part of you that you’ve forgotten, it reminds you of values you once held so dear and inspires you to act. The greatest leaders in history understood the value of travel and made it a priority for themselves. How can you impact the world if you’ve never experienced anything outside of your own city, your own country? It’s a simple concept, yet difficult to undertake. Do you want to improve your life? Lived inspired? Make a positive impact? Make a commitment to travel this year for an adventure worthy of your time. Next year, you’ll be thankful you did. Go to yourself.

Effective Means It Works

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

I often wonder, “why develop leaders?” Who are these so-called leaders and what do they really do anyway? If you were to Google the word leader you’d come back with, “a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country.” Okay Google, I agree leaders are taking on positions to influence others but it’s a bit vague to use the word in its own definition. At least that’s what I’ve been taught. That definition also eludes exactly what activities, what actions these leaders are doing.

When I first entered the leadership development field in my early twenties I found that question hard to answer precisely. There seemed to be dozens of ways researchers, organizations, universities and companies were defining leaders and leadership. I suppose there will always be different ways to define these words but after ten years in the field I’ve personally come to terms with my own definition of leadership. Let me explain through a couple short stories.

The international outbreak of the SARS virus happened in 2002. Doctors and medical researchers detected, analyzed, collaborated, and then synthesised an antidote to the virus in just twelve weeks- twelve weeks! Sixteen nations around the world studied the outbreak, communicated each morning through video chat, shared research data through online file storage portals, and in less time it takes to complete one college semester, they solved a highly complex international virus outbreak with real world and real-life consequences. It is a remarkable testament to the impact people make when given the tools and opportunity. James Surowiecki does an incredible job going into the full story in his book The Wisdom of Crowds.

Another example. In 2015, the chief of Peru’s forest inspection service, Rolando Navarro, was investigating Lumber Liquidator Inc. for engaging in the illegal deforestation and sale of lumber from rainforests in Peru to international markets. According to the United Nations, illegal lumber is a $50 billion a year enterprise with many powerful parties part and parcel to its activities. Yet, with the assistance of instant communication tools between countries, live GPS trackers and video feeds, and online language translation tools for hundreds of thousands of documents, Navarro and US Homeland Security was able to deny entry of 1,770 metric tons of illegal Amazon rainforest wood into US markets. It was a small victory in a huge illegal trade but it is proof to what is possible when people, technology, and continuous effort is applied to solve complex problems.  

One last example with a local origin. In 2002 Tanya Seaman co-founded a startup called PhillyCarShare, a non-profit car sharing organization. Their goal was to reduce the number of cars on the road, promote gas saving and hybrid vehicles, reduce pollution, save money, and promote a car-free lifestyle for its members. It was a huge success, had 13,000 members using their cars in just five years, had a fleet reduction partnership with the City of Philadelphia, and saved thousands of gallons of gas, money and pollutants from entering the atmosphere. Through PhillyCarShare’s website, with a personalized key fob, and a credit card, members could instantly rent hundreds of cars by the hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was the Uber before Uber existed.  Most interesting to me, PhillyCarShare was a non-profit with a mission to alleviate car ownership in Philadelphia in order to address environmental concerns. Its’ goal wasn’t to make a billion dollars but rather to make a positive impact for members and the environment. Even more interestingly, PhillyCarShare was bought by Enterprise in 2011 and was renamed Enterprise CarShare.

What do these stories all have in common? They all feature problems that needed solutions and individuals who took the attitude that they could make an impact, acquired the knowledge to do so, developed the skills to build support for their solutions, and implemented the habits, day-in and day- out, it takes to succeed in the face of adversity. They all feature individuals who developed their leadership capabilities, integrated useful technologies, and built teams to solve complex problems  in order to make the world a better place, in their own unique way.

So why are we focused on developing the next generation of local and global leaders? Because we know there are lots of issues in our local communities and beyond that need to be addressed; in government, medicine, education, energy, housing, agriculture, philanthropy, in literally every area of business and commerce. And in ten years from now we know we can make positive progress in all these areas if we have individuals who help take on leadership to move the needle forward.

So who are leaders and what do they do? Leaders are individuals who have the attitude, knowledge, skills, and habits to effectively solve complex problems of public importance.  

By: Ben Goodstein

It All Started with a Question

Posted Leave a commentPosted in B Yourself

 

It’s funny how when you’re young you have this idea of how your life will turn out and then as you get older you realize that life had a completely different plan. At least that’s been partially my experience. I always imagined I would go into finance because that’s what my mom did and she was my role model. Hey, it could still happen, but probably not and that’s okay. 

Life did have one definite plan for me though, and that was to go to Temple University. All the people I love and looked up too went there; my grandparents Harvey and Selma went to Temple, my mom went to Temple, my step-father went to Temple, so naturally, after I graduated from boarding school I went Temple. I had it all figured out too. I would study International Finance in the Fox School of Business and in four years I’d graduate and go work for some international firm. But after one course and a question from a ten-year-old boy that all changed.

In business school, and I imagine they still do this, you’re required to take a public speaking course. My professor charged the class to select one topic to research and give speeches on that topic for the duration of the semester. After of year and a half of business courses, I felt bored and I choose to research something out of the box for me; I choose the Philadelphia School District. I hadn’t gone to public school in Philadelphia, I knew I never wanted to be a teacher or work in a school, but I remember not hesitating at all. Something drew me in.

At the time, the high schools in the district were nicknamed “failure factories” because the graduation rate lingered just above 50%. That is to say, 50 of 100 high school seniors graduated with a diploma, if they even made it to senior year.

During that same time, I was working part-time for Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education teaching tennis at local recreation centers, mostly in North Philly. It was a tough sell some afternoons trying to get kids excited to play tennis when other kids were playing basketball on courts just twenty feet away. Even tougher was getting the kids in the program excited about completing the educational workbooks and activities we were required to teach before they even got on the court. It was an incredible period in my life, tough, but incredible.

This one afternoon I had a particularly bad practice. It was a Friday afternoon, my co-worker was a no-show, the tennis net had been torn down the night before, and I was short on patience. I ended the educational activities early and figured I’d at least get the kids on the court to play some games. Or so I thought. I lost six or seven of the kids just walking out to the courts and could tell the remaining ones were thinking about making a dash for it. So there I am with five or six kids left trying to be the best coach I can be, trying to be excited so the kids could feed off that energy, but just failing miserably. After about ten minutes of trying to “force” excitement about tennis practice one boy said, “Coach Ben, we never gonna be good at tennis. Why should we even try?!” That question hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember looking at that boy, looking around the court, and trying to put myself in his shoes. He had a point. Why try? Why try to excel at anything?

Back in my public speaking course, my speeches changed their focus as the semester progressed. When the course started my speeches reflected a business minded student. I was researching and talking about staff structure, training methods, teachers evaluations and compensation, success rates of new programs, working within constrained budgets, and trying to get the most bang for your buck. By mid-semester my focus changed. I became less concerned about specific data on student test scores or how different programs impacted the district budget and became more concerned with why would students try to succeed in a failing school system considering all of the other trauma and adverse circumstances they face? Why try at all?

Finally, the semester was coming to an end and I had one last speech to give for my course. I didn’t talk much about the school district at all. Instead, I spoke about that ten-year-old boy. I spoke about the community he grew up in, about his mother who sometimes yelled at him during practice from the outside of the courts but loved him dearly, and I spoke about this natural charisma he had which influenced the other kids in the program so effortlessly. Four weeks earlier that boy challenged me by asking Why try? Why try to excel at anything? I didn’t have the answer then, and it’s been over ten years now that I’ve been in the pursuit to find it. But that question changed my entire thinking about how I wanted to spend my time. At the end of that last speech, knowing I was going into unknown territory, I closed with, “And that’s why I transferring to the College of Education next semester.” I did and never looked back.

That boy continued to challenge me and am happy to say I’m still in touch with him. He was part of that program through middle school, joined the high school leadership program I use to run, traveled with our team nationally, and even internationally on a school build mission to Haiti. I watched him graduate from high school, enter college, the reserves, and the workforce. That young man is incredible and with many other young men and women and some truly talented staff, we learned together the answers to that question of why try.