Relationships in Transition

Transition Point Coaching Logo

A couple of my friends have had adult children who moved back in with them. In one instance, a son returned from a long term overseas assignment to restart his professional career. For another, a son lost his job, and estranged from his wife, moved home.  I learned from both these friends the importance of openness and compassion in the midst of change.

These transitions, for both child and parent, are difficult. The found space that parents retrieved after their children began their adult life is taken over by their children whom they love. The question that nags in these situations is, "What should our relationship be now?"

Transitions in life and work are not simply processes of change and economic reordering of life and work. The social and organizational contexts that encompass them are intensely relational. They strain the well-worn path that relationships built over time develop.

When life altering change comes, and we find ourselves in transition, we need to focus on the social as much as the practical questions of job search and finding a new place to live.

Long-standing relationships develop a predictability that becomes expectation for continuity. Disturb that pattern, and relationships become frayed.

Something as simple as a job change that requires a move can become highly disruptive. It isn't just the one employed who moves, but the whole family who is uprooted to a new place to establish roots in a new place.  If the family unit is fragile, the transition can be more difficult than it should be.

When we enter a transition space moving toward that point where change is made and a new course is set, reflection, communication and a refocusing of values is needed.

Reflection is a form of self-criticism that enables us to see the logic of change in the midst of the transition.

Communication allows us to see a broader picture as we discover how those who are also impacted feel. We listen and learn from them how best to manage the transition.

Refocusing of values serves to ground us in what is matters most to us, which serves to focus our purpose as a vehicle for those values to live.

All of this is best done in open and honest conversation regularly scheduled.

If you are a parent whose adult child has moved home, talk with one another about how this is personally impacting each of you. Discuss what is important in the function of the home, and reach an agreement on the basics of living under the same roof again.  While the adult child is still a child to the parent, and the parent to the child, they are also adults who should share responsibility for living together again.

If you are in transition, and find yourself, living at home again, especially after years away, recognize that you are not reentering the home of your youth. You have entered a social environment that has changed. No longer is this place oriented around the nurture and protection of children. Your parents, while they still love you, have moved through their own transitions into new stages of their life as adults. There is a place for adult children in the lives of their parents. But it must be discovered, and not merely assumed it is an extension of what their childhood was like.

Change is hard. It doesn't have to be as hard as we make it.  All is required is for us is openness for the relationship to be what it needs to be today, not as it was in the past, or wish it had always been. Going through the transition points in our lives are hard enough without our relationships becoming an obstacle to positive change.

FiveActionsOfGratitude
A Support Plan for Relationships in Transition

My proposal is not a widget that fits every situation, but can beneficial in many situations.

Simply apply the Five Actions of Gratitude to how you live together in the midst of change.

This is a tool you can use to negotiate how you live under the same roof again. A simple translation could be something like this.

Say Thanks - At least once a day, with sincerity and specificity.

Give Back - Take responsibility for caring for both the private and shared spaces.

Make Welcome - Be hospitable to one another. Be open to the gifts that you have to offer and receive. Think of this as a new relationship.

Honor Others - Even at the most difficult moments, treat one another with dignity and respect. Be honest, caring and trustworthy. Be apologetic and forgiving. Be kind to one another.

Create Goodness - Establish new paths of interaction and sharing. This is particularly true in the transition is to be lengthy.

Practice these things, and the transition will go more smoothly, and new dimensions of your relationship will emerge.


The Initiative Generation

On top of Max Patch

Leadership is a product of personal initiative.  

It is a decision, a thought process, an act of the will, and an expression of identity and personality.

However, for initiative to constitute leadership, it also demands that it produce change, a change that matters, a change that makes a difference, a change that advances toward a goal.

The context for change is almost always some group of people socially connected around an idea that matters to them.

This is a basic understanding of what leadership is becoming in the 21st century. It is different than in the past because it is not based on wealth, social class, educational credentials, national origin, religious preference, geographic location or organizational title, position or rank.  

This new sort of leadership is based on personal initiative, social connection and the desire to make a difference. As a result, it is a kind of leadership that anyone can do.

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that, 

Passive followership is over; Personal initiative for impact is in. 

The implications of this shift are significant. If you are the senior executive leader of an organization, it means that the game of recruiting talent is changing.

This is an ongoing conversation that I'm having with Gretchen Zucker, Executive Director of Ashoka's Youth Venture. Recently, she gave a presentation on Talent for the 21st Century. She, graciously, shared her presentation with me for this blog post.

Gretchen points out that

"8 million jobs have been lost since 2008 in the US; nonetheless, employers are still having difficulty filling jobs with the right talent." 

She quotes Robert Litan of the Kauffman Foundation.

Between 1980 and 2005, virtually all net new jobs created in the U.S.were created by firms that were 5 years old or less. That is about 40 million jobs.

Who is creating these new businesses and the jobs that follow?

People who take initiative, are socially connected, and have a clear purpose that drives their desires to make a difference.  The difference though is in the numbers.

While there may be a long history of small business in the US, entrepreneurism did not become the world changing movement that it is until about 30 years ago. 

This came clearly to mind recently as I sat across a work table in the office of a web designer, colleague and friend who is in his mid-20s. As he took a call and left the room for a moment, the difference hit me that when I was his age in the late 1970s, I did not have a single friend or acquaintance, in my age group, who had started their own business. I know entrepreneurs existed, but I didn't know any. Sitting in my friend's office, I realized that his circle of friends were creating a new culture of entrepreneurism in our community.  

According to Paul Reynolds, entrepreneurship scholar and creator of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor,

"by the time they reach their retirement years, half of all working men in the United States probably have a period of self-employment of one or more years; one in four may have engaged in self-employment for six or more years. Participating in a new business creation is a common activity among U.S. workers over the course of their careers."*

My own path to entrepreneurship began in the mid-1980's with the reading of Peter Drucker's Innovation and Entrepreneurship. My contact with people who had started their own businesses was very small. Not so today.

What this indicates to me is that there is a growing class of initiators whose leadership is changing not only the landscape of business, but of communities and nations worldwide.  

This is the point that Gretchen Zucker presents.

Gretchen's organization, Youth Venture is part of Ashoka, created by Bill Drayton, who coined the term social entrepreneur.  Ashoka and Youth Venture invest in people who are changemakers.  

Ashoka and Youth Venture are shaping an Everyone A Changemaker™ society: every individual will take initiative, develop solutions to social needs and drive positive impact.Every part of society will benefit from having more changemakers, from a company to a school to an entire country.

Ashoka and YV help ensure the success of any entity, region or field by finding the best new ideas, by cultivating the changemaker talent to act on those ideas, and by designing new ways to allow major change to happen.

Ashoka and Youth Venture are helping to nurture the people I describe above. Currently Ashoka is supporting 2,500 Changemakers in 60 countries. So you can see that as this trend continues, it not only changes the world within the proximity of each person who is a changemaker, but it also sets a standard by which their peers begin to understand themselves.  

This standard is appealing because it isn't based on someone else's idea about who they are, but their own. It is out of their passion and commitment that these Changemakers venture forward to change the world within their reach.

This is the world that is coming to schools, congregations, scout troops,  and businesses everywhere.  This is a societal change that is being led by children and young people. This is a grassroots, entrepreneurial movement that begins at an age young enough to care for the needs of the world that they can identify, even at six or eight years old.

Recently I asked Gretchen Zucker to respond to two questions.

What is the single greatest misperception that businesses have about the current generation of young people as employees?

Businesses need to realize that the current generation of young employees (Millennials) is very different from the last generation (GenX) or the generation before that (Baby Boomers).  Times have changed dramatically and Millennials reflect that accelerating change in a new information era.  Millennials are very purpose-driven, tech and information savvy, globally aware, highly engaged (volunteer at twice the rate as their parents), and struggling to come out from under the very broad wings of their parents.

The best thing a manager can do to maximize the productivity of young employees is to encourage and enable them to be changemakers.  They are craving this!  Don’t be threatened.  They will amaze you with their creativity, drive and ability to mobilize teams to get things done.  

I've seen this trend grow over the past twenty years. A tipping point is approaching that will mark a shift that is of historic proportions. This point will be when a critical mass of people worldwide decides that they are going to take personal initiative to make a difference, and do so within a social context of shared responsibility and commitment.  When they do, they will no longer look to institutions to take care of them, as in the past. They will join together to take care of each other and their communities. 

I asked Gretchen, 

"Where do businesses go to find people like Ashoka’s Changemakers?"

Any employer (businesses included) needs to look upstream to figure out how to get far more changemaker talent (entrepreneurial problem-solvers with strong team, leadership and empathy skills), as the proportion of our society who are changemakers today is only 2-3 percent, making the “war for talent” as fierce as it’s ever been.  By enabling and supporting dramatically more people – in particular at a young, formative age – become changemakers through actually experiencing taking initiative to address a social need and leading change. 

Once a young person experiences the power of entrepreneurship, teamwork, empathy and leadership, he/she will forever carry the mindset and skill set with him/her in all aspects of life.  As change accelerates and employers must stay ahead of that change, the single greatest factor of success will be the proportion of their community (staff, stakeholders) who are changemakers.  

So, you can see how monumental is this shift for organizations.

No more passive followers who care little about their company. No more disgruntled employees who only care about how well the company compensates them for the sacrifice of personal time and the personal inconvenience they must go through to be away from the things they do care about. Strangely, it means that owners and managers will have to respond to a higher form of expectation for how their organizations function.

The cause of poor morale in the workplace isn't the external realities that affect the business. Rather, the internal ones. Morale is not some mysterious human social phenomenon, but rather an outcome of organizational design and management. It is an indicator of uncertainty, and produces a passive aggressive followership which is antithetical to the genuine leadership of personal initiative. The talented and self-motivated will leave or force change.

Regardless, organizational leaders have a choice to make. To resist the emergence of a generation of leadership initiators and watch their organizations decline, or to embrace them as a beneficial movement by accommodating their energy, ideas and influence to create new opportunities.

What, then, must a business person do to create an environment that is most conducive to attracting the young men and women that Ashoka and Youth Venture support?

First, envision the possible.

See it in this illustration from Gretchen Zucker.

What if this was your typical employee?

"I saw a problem with our operations and so I got our team together to devise a solution, which we’re now working on implementing with the involvement of other colleagues. I just wanted to make sure with you that I’m moving in the right direction. Is this okay?"

Second, invest in people.

Read my post Return on Initiative: ROI for the 21st Century. You can take a regressive cost/benefit approach to the development of people. It isn't a zero-sum game. Instead, it is a game of survival. Every business' survival is dependent upon creating an environment that accommodates and nurtures the kind of social entrepreneurial initiative that Ashoka and Youth Venture are developing in people worldwide.

This shift changes the talent recruitment game from a race to hire the best credentialed person to the one who has demonstrated that they are a Changemaker.  

Third, understand what motivates people to take initiative to make a difference that matters. 

No one asks people to initiate. It comes from an inner desire to make the world a better place. Ancient philosopher Aristotle saw this motivation as a function of the purpose of every individual. Something inside points to something outside that connects the two together and creates what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia which is happiness or human flourishing.

In simple terms, this desire for happiness, that is a kind of completeness, can be seen in three goals that I observe in people.  These goals are active reflections of their inner purpose. This is what people want from their life and work.

Life that is Personally Meaningful

Relationships that are Socially Fulfilling

Work that Makes a Difference that Matters

The children and young people that come to RandomKid** have these goals, as do those who work with Youth Venture. The people with whom you work, play golf, and share the subway have these goals. Each person's expression of them is unique. Yet, we are the same at a very fundamental level.

We look for social and organizational settings where these goals may be pursued. This is why children and young people are coming to RandomKid.

RandomKid's mission is to provide staff and services to youth, of all backgrounds and abilities, for the development, management and accomplishment of their goals to help others.

We educate, mobilize, unify and empower youth to directly impact local and global needs. By helping kids to become innovative and successful world problem-solvers, we are securing a better fate for our world now, and into the future. We don’t ask you to be a part of us; we become a part of you (emphasis mine).

In this sense, RandomKid provides an organizational structure for these young leaders to take initiative by creating projects that make a difference that matters to them. As Anne Ginther, RandomKid Co-Founder recently commented,

"What is most important to remember is that our mission is to help KIDS help others. It’s about empowering youth to make a difference. It’s about building the change-makers of tomorrow."

Dana Leman, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President tells me that they have learned that kids want ownership, fun and measurable impact from their projects.

There is a parallelism between what I observe in people and what RandomKid has identified in their project leaders.

Personally Meaningful = Ownership

Socially Fulfilling = Fun

Make a Difference that Matters = Measurable Impact

There is no dividing line between the child and the adult in this regard. Their goals are one and the same, just expressed differently.

This is the environment that initiators and Changemakers want. This is not the business environment of the 20th century. It is of the 21st century. 

Dana Leman commented to me recently about what she sees in the kids who take on a RandomKid project. 

Today's kids are not about trying to fit their ideas into standard business models. They are trying to develop business models that fit their ideas. They think about process as an afterthought and tend to engage in a more organic and responsive approach to today's emerging markets.

This is why so many young people in their 20s and 30s are starting their own businesses. Because they don't see themselves fitting in the institutional setting of the last century. And what organizational leaders must understand is that their competition for talent is not within their industry, but rather between the business structures of the past and the future. Either accomodate or become irrelevant is the reality that we face.

I started this post with the following manifesto.

Leadership is a product of personal initiative. 

It is a decision, a thought process, an act of the will, and an expression of identity and personality.

However, for initiative to constitute leadership, it also demands that it produce change, a change that matters, a change that makes a difference, a change the advances toward a goal.

The context for change is almost always some group of people socially connected around an idea that matters to them.

This is the future of leadership. And its future can be seen in the 10 year olds, the 14 year olds, the 18 year olds and the twenty and thirty somethings who are taking initiative to follow their passion to make a difference in the world.

Sixteen year old RandomKid Co-Founder and CEO Talia Leman speaks of her organization's mission as 

Leveraging the power of kids worldwide to drive an economy of positive change.

This is the purpose they share with Ashoka's Changemakers and Youth Venturers. This is the 21st century talent pool that stands apart from the rest. 

If you want these young people to work for you, then you must become like them. You must become an agent of change by encouraging and equipping the people in your business to take initiative to create an environment that can make the difference that matters. 

This may seem to be one of many options for the course of organizations and businesses. I'm convinced that this is the future that is fast approaching.  It isn't an option.  

When Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom in their book The Starfish and the Spider write about "leaderless" organizations, they are advocating for a leader-filled organization.

In a traditional sense, it could be said that organizations like Ashoka, Youth Venture and RandomKid are developing the next generation of organizational leaders.  In reality, these kids are already leading random organizations of social connection that are making a difference in local communities across the globe. The future is now, not tomorrow or next year.

This new future may seem filled with ambiguity and doubt. The reality is that as you accommodate your organizations to the ingenuity and 21st century leadership skills of these young people, a level of impact that your organization has never known will emerge. I'm convince that our best years are ahead of us, and they are going to be fun.  Because the children who are leading us today would not have it any other way. 

The Initiative Generation is here. Welcome them with openness, support their initiatives, and celebrate the difference they are making now.

*Wikipedia: Entrepreneurship-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship

** Disclaimer: I am the Board Chair of RandomKid.


Kids get Philanthropy

Acumen Fund Fund Day for Kids

Oh, to be a kid again with the whole world opening up to you as you get exposed to people like those at the Acumen Fund. Watch this video of Fund Day at the Acumen Fund.

And how cool to hear a kid say,

My favorite part of the day was creating a business.

Share the video with kids that you know. Influence them to see that they can make a difference in the world.

This week's The Economist has a article - The Patient Capitalist - on the Acumen Fund. I also encourage you to read founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz book, The Blue Sweater. I posted my review of her book here.

RandomKid/ Sustainable Cambodia/ Green Valley School (PA) water project

If you children want to get involved in social enterprise opportunities, check out RandomKid, a place where kids can get the mentoring to take their own ideas for helping and making a difference and change the world.

Yesterday, I received a report from RandomKid president Anne Ginther about one of their projects. Here's what she wrote.

Recently we partnered with a group to put a windmill in Cambodia that will provide the energy to water gardens for 40 families. The cost for the project was $4500, and the funding was donated to us by Exelon Nuclear for this purpose, in partnership with a RandomKid school in Pennsylvania. The cost included the windmill materials, catchment, seeds-- everything needed from start to finish. It's being built as I write this.

These kinds of projects are taking place all over the world. Just as the Acumen Fund needs investment funds, so does RandomKid, and a host of other organizations that help kids become social philanthropists. If you can help financially do so, if you can, pass along this post to those who can. Your influence just may make the difference for a child.

Thought you'd like to see one of the children from the village that  received the well. Her name is Sreyvin. Here's her letter of thanks.Nou - Mong Village Cambodia - RamdomKind

My name is Sreyvin, I am a 12 year old girl. I have four sisters, and no brothers. My family and I eat fish for dinner. I live in Mong village, Svay Att commune, Pursat town. I am in grade 4 at Chhom Monny primary school. I like to read books in my free time. I know a little English.

They built a basin next the pond. There will be a fan about the basin to suck water into the basin. There are water tubes to share the water from the pond.

Because of you, I am able to go to study on time and regularly. You have provided me with enough water to use daily, and to cultivate my plants. My community has become a very green community. Because of you, my family will have a better life.

Here's a drawing of their village by one of the children. 

Mong Village drawing - RamdomKid

The children, with RamdomKid's assistance, worked with Sustainable Cambodia on the water project.

Richard Allen describes their organization.

As volunteer CEO and co-founder of the Rotary-supported nonprofit
organization Sustainable Cambodia, I invite you to explore the work our staff is doing in Cambodian villages. We are a working to help the residents of these rural villages create a sustainable quality of life through wells, irrigation systems, schools, training and empowerment. By our founding principles, only native Cambodians may be employed as paid staff, and all international officers, directors and consultants must be unpaid volunteers, ensuring that 100% of funding goes directly into the rural village programs. Please explore more about Sustainable Cambodia at www.SustainableCambodia.org 

These are projects that children through their schools, congregations and other organizations can support. Acumen Fund and RandomKid are doing different things, but they are complementary. Acumen Fund addresses poverty through "patient capitalism" through investment in the establishment of micro-enterprises. RandonKid is a catalyst for children's interest in making a different in the world by connecting with projects suited to their commitments and abilities.

These are the kinds of organizations that will be the media structures for the emerging global society. Stay in touch and support their efforts. They are the real change agents of the future.


Sharing in the USA - USAToday Special Section

USAToday has a special section today on philanthropy in America - Sharing in the USA. Thenewfaceofgivingusatoday

The project that this young man is involved in a water project similar to the kind that RandomKid, a kid's charity that our family is involved in, is doing.  Here is a description of RandomKid's water projects and a post I made on their project.. Here's the article about kid's involved in charities.

Read about what is going on. This is the foundation of the leadership that we need to be giving our nation.

Pick up a copy or read it onlinehttp://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-10-07-charity-newface_N.htm .


Vote for Tiron and Tonisha as the Cartoon Network's Most Talented Kids

The Cartoon Network is conducting a Most Talented Kids contest. I know two of the finalists - Tiron and Tiron_tonisha Tonisha.  They are on RandomKid's National Taskforce to Rebuild the Gulf along with my daughter. Tiron is an excellent artist, and Tonisha is one of the sweetest, most poised kids I've met in a long time. They lost their home in Slidell, Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina, and were the first family in their community to receive a Habitat house.
Here's RandomKid's piece about the contest. Please click through the links and vote for these two kids.

PLEASE VOTE with ONE CLICK to support KIDS HELPING OTHERS!

Cartoon Network selected 20 "Most Talented Kids" across the USA to be featured on their network and on their website.  All of the kids are gifted singers, actors, surfers, etc.  But two siblings stand out amongst the crowd.  Tiron and Tonisha are featured for their
community service work!  These are remarkable kids who survived Hurricane Katrina.  After moving into their Habitat for Humanity home in Slidell, LA, they hooked up with RandomKid to "pay it forward".   They have rallied their classmates around rebuilding their community, and worked to inspire kids nationwide through a wide variety of initiatives to get involved in rebuilding the gulf.  They raised $25,000 to help replenish Tonisha's school that is slated to reopen for the first time this fall, three years after the storm.   And they're currently working with kids across the USA to fund Habitat for Humanity homes in the MS Gulf Coast.   All of the children in this contest have followed their dreams.  Wouldn't it be neat to recognize, amongst these kids, two siblings who are achieving their dreams to help others?!  :) 

You don't have to register, or give out any information. Just click to vote.  Click/vote more than once if you like.


*** Please visit http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/promos/props/ and click on "Tiron and Tonisha."  Be sure to specifically click on "Click Here to vote for Tiron and Tonisha" so that they get a vote. ***  

For more information about Tiron and Tonisha, please visit http://www.randomkid.org/RockStarTonishaandTiron.asp and click here to read about their recent work with the MS Gulf Coast Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.   
 

And click here to watch this 4 minute video about RandomKid and The Power of ANYone 


Thanks!


Real Life Leadership: Making children responsible for others will develop leadership skills

This week's Real Life Leadership column is online -  Making children responsible for others will develop leadership skills.

As the parent of three children, there is a phenomenon that I have seen over the years. It is simply the treatment of children as objects of activity. The idea behind this behavior is that activity is the source of advantage in life. Do more things, and your become a better person.  An aspect of this activity driven experience for children is the controlling nature of the parent who is coordinating the activities in order to maximizes their child's potential for entrance into college.

As a Boy Scout leader, we've had parents whose sons were awarded the Eagle rank, the highest rank in scouting, who pushed their child to complete the rank. The boy was obviously not interested, so all the initiative to earn the rank was on the part of the parents. In one instance this was so obvious, that the boys would joke about Mr. X's Eagle.

As I've observed this phenomenon over the years, I realized that part of the problem is a lack of understanding of human development generally, and the nature of leadership specifically.  There is an inherent selfishness in the parent whose only concern is to complete some check list of activities as if that is what growing up is all about. I'm all for children succeeding in life, but it does them a disservice to give them a false sense of their abilities through obsessive activities. This is the issue that lies at the heart of my column today.

What is the answer? Oddly enough, the answer begins with the parent. He or she must reflect upon their life and what they are doing, and determine whether their approach is making a difference. I can point to families where activities rule, and the children have little or no capacity for leadership. They are not real people. They are objects of their parents obsessions with activity.  It is sad.

So, if you want your child to develop as a leader, the process must start with your own values and character.  By this I mean, that your child will either grow up to be just like you, or your polar opposite. Either way you are the dominant influence in his or her life, and they will live in the shadow of your influence for a long, long time.

The goal of raising our children to be leaders is to provide them the opportunity to discover who they are, not who we think they are or want them to be.  I have three children. Each is different than the other, and each shares aspects of personality with both my wife and me.  I want each of them to be a leader. But I don't want them to be me. I want them to be themselves and to be better at what they do than me. 

As a result, the great challenge of parenting is not to get them into college, or to survive adolescence. The great challenge is to foster a relationship where by the child becomes a leader in their own right. It is part mentoring, part example, part facilitated experience and part intellectual and moral instruction.

The analog to this process is executive leadership development.  I'm not talking about executive training programs. No, what I am referring to is the influence and relationship that an executive has with his or her direct reports.  It isn't a parent/child relationship. It is however, one where mentoring, experience and example can be utilized to help others learn to lead.  There are aspects of this that can be passed off to a trainer, but the effective influence comes from the executive in his or her relationship with those under their authority.

As I talked with a friend today, it became more clear to me how important it is that executives learn to develop leadership.  It is going to become one of the great strategic advantages for the next generation of leaders.


Never underestimate what a person can do. Never.

Never underestimate what a person can do. Never.

When you look at a person across a room or on the other side of a service desk, or listening to them on the other end of a phone, do you ever think that just possibly my interaction with this person has life changing possibilities?  Probably not. Probably not because no one has ever treated you in this way. No one sees you as a person with endless potential that only needs the right suggestion or right approach to create a transformational difference.

Over the past ten days, I've had this experience with an eight year old kid from the vast, beautiful plains of the American Mid-west. I met Little Wolf - that's his blogging name - and discovered a kid who has more love and imagination than I could ever hope to see in another individual in my life time. Check out his blog - Musings of An Eight Year Old. The goodness of this young kid jumps off the screen. And I am pleased to say that he is my friend.

It is my gift and curse to see potential in each person I meet.  I see that what stands in the way of that person fulfilling their potential are just a few things. It is their own self-confidence connected to whatever their passion may be. It is finding an appropriate context or approach for their talent to be expressed in a tangible way. It is having someone believe that they can be better than anyone else believes. It is the experience of creating an impact through their own actions.

For me, I see this both on the individual and the institutional level.  When you help individuals learn to lead through their own initiative for impact, then it leads to the same happening for the whole of their organization. What stops it is disbelief.

Back to my little eight year old friend. 

Little Wolf is this caring, imaginative kid who has ASD. It is at a level that limits what he can physically do. However, after hearing him tell me about his invisible gargoyle friend Demona, and to do so over the course of two full days, I knew that he had a gift for telling stories.  I knew that if he began to tell his stories on a blog that others would be able to share in the richness of this kid's imagination. I knew it would be an outlet for his passion and creativity that could make a difference.

I mentioned this to his mother in passing that he should tell his stories on a blog.  Later that week, his blog was born.  In a short few days, and with just a baker's dozen of postings, Little Wolf has become the greatest eight year old blogger on this planet or any other.

I hope you'll visit his blog. Leave an encouraging comment. Subscribe to his feed. Let him join in this great wide community that exist in virtual space.  Never underestimate the impact you can have by simply doing this. You just never know what will happen.


Water for Life - A RandomKid Project

What does it take to change the world?

Watch this NBC News story about a water project in South Africa. Take note of where the money came from to pay for the pump.

What does it take to change the world?

Kids.

Watch this RandomKid YouTube video about the water project.


Get beyond the sweet emotion of what you see here.

Think about what took place.

Kids between the 4th and 8th grades raising enough money to put a well pump in a rural African village.

Think about kids between the ages of 10 and 15 doing this. Picture in your mind kids that you know who are these ages. What do you expect of them? Be quiet; stay in line; clean up your room; don't be silly.

These same late elementary/middle school kids are doing remarkable things because they have the desire to make a difference.  This 10-15 year old age group is the most untapped resource of goodness in all of human history. They are the ones who can change the world because they have not learned that they can't. All they need is the opportunity and the support. This is what RandomKid does.

The celebration that is featured in this posting of Talia Leman, the CEO of RandomKid is for one of the school classes that did this water project.

What does it take to do a RandomKid project? 

It is really quite simple.

First, you need kids who care and want to make a difference.  It only takes one. It is more fun with more.

Second, you need the partnership of caring adults who can mentor and advise them through the process of doing project.

Third, you need organization. Projects don't run on emotion and good intentions. They require organization. Often this means a school or a business who can help.

This is the story of RandomKid, an organization that helps kids make a difference through their own individual acts.

What does it take to change the world? It just takes The Power of AnyOne.

Want to get involved?:
Please share this posting with kids, parents and teachers who you think would be interested in doing a water project. You can email water@randomkid.org if you are interested in having your classroom or youth group get started, visit www.randomkid.org/donate.asp to make a donation, or visit www.randomkid.org/water.asp for links to other videos, as well as a "waterblog" with musings from the classrooms participating.

UPDATE: Guy Kawasaki posts a National Geographic video of PlayPumps.


RandomKid December 2007 Newsletter

RandomKid is an organization that my daughter has been involved in for about a year. I wrote about the organization here.   It is a unique organization because it is focused on kid initiated, kid directed projects.  Check out the project page of their website.  These aren't adult projects where kids can participate. These are projects that kids have thought up, and through the support of their parents, families, friends and RandomKid, are either making a difference or a looking for the funding to start.

Here is their latest newsletter. I post it to bring encouragement and opportunity. Share it with kids that you know. Maybe one of them has a project idea that RandomKid can help them start.

RandomKid NewsletterRk_logo
National Task Force Visits the Gulf

Watch NBC Nightly News This Sunday, December 23*for a Special Report on RandomKid's Water Project. 

December 2007

I’m really excited for you to read what we have to share with you in this newsletter. RandomKid’s National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf, a group of 10 kids from around the country, had the opportunity to visit the largest chapter of Habitat for Humanity, tour and volunteer in the gulf, thanks in large part to a grant from Target Corporation and a kind invitation from the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of Habitat for Humanity.  Our mission was to witness the progress that’s being made, the work that still needs to be done, and report back to kids across the USA to encourage continued support.

There are still nearly 60,000 people living in FEMA trailers over two years after Hurricane Katrina.  Faith has helped them all get through a tough time. It is a message we hear from everyone over and over again. They also are being helped by Habitat for Humanity, the Salvation Army and the countless volunteers that go down there to rebuild homes. But none of this can happen without money. We can’t allow ourselves to be tired of the story because it’s old news and we want to move on to something new. We have to commit to helping every last hurricane survivor back on their feet.  It is the patriotic thing to do, and our human responsibility to help people who can’t help themselves. We need to show them that the power of their faith can also be seen in each of us, their fellow Americans who care.

All but one of the articles here were written by the RandomKid Task Force kids.  One column was written by our newest Board Member, and dad of one of our Task Force members, Ed Brenegar.  Please take a moment to see the gulf from a kid’s point of view.  We hope you’ll help.

Happy Holidays!

~Talia Leman, 12-year-old CEO, RandomKid

“The Gulf trip was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life! I got to meet new people and help out in the Gulf.  After being there, I’ve come up with a new idea on how to children in that area.  I LOVE being a part of RandomKid!” –Task Force Member, 10-year-old Emma

Having Hope and Faith on the Gulf CoastRk_shelby_2
By Task Force Member Shelby of North Carolina

Nasheka Chatman and her three children met with the RandomKid Task Force on a warm Fall day in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Chatman has been living in a FEMA trailer with her three small children and her husband for over two years now. The FEMA trailer that the Chatman family is currently living in is 10 feet by 40 feet, or about the size of your garage.  They are very cramped and there is not a lot of privacy. When Nasheka was asked how she has gotten through everything over the past two years, she replied, "with prayer, lots of prayer." Chatman says she has had lots of support from family and friends. Of all the things that this family lost, what they miss most are family pictures. She wants other people to know that Habitat for Humanity was "sent by God. The people were sent by God." Nasheka's children, ages 4,6 and 7 have put lots of thought into what colors they will paint their new bedrooms.  The family is moving into their Habitat house on November 12th and they are going to celebrate by making a sign for the front yard that says, "Thank You Jesus for our new home." Chatman reminded us that, "People on the Gulf are doing okay. We still need you're help, but we are okay. People here are strong in their hearts." When asked what other Katrina victims should remember, she thought for a moment, then added, "Don't give up on your dreams [of getting out of a FEMA trailer and into a new home]."

“They will remember this trip for years to come.  So will I.   Nicholas is already brainstorming new ideas.  He can’t wait for the next conference call!” –Task Force Mom, Kelly

Leaving LouisianaRk_nicholas
By Task Force Member Nicholas of Massachusetts

As the jazz music dies; the scent of beignets disappears; the wrought iron architecture ends; and the skyline of the French Quarter blends in with the horizon, the memory of the destruction comes back to mind. The bus rattles and shakes along the highway. We pass abandoned homes and empty lots – painful reminders of the past. I can’t help but think of everything lost during the storm. There are so many still left with so little. It makes me feel like I need to do more. Money is really necessary to help others. I am reinvigorated. I am inspired to take up the task where I left off. I will once again look for new and creative ways to get others interested in the Gulf Coast disaster. So many have forgotten. But not me. I want to help the poor people of Mississippi and Louisiana. And I will.

Click here to DONATE  to RandomKid’s “Rebuild the Gulf Fund.”  100% of your donation will go to our “Rebuild the Gulf” program, 90% of which goes directly to building a Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi, MS.

“Being a RandomKid parent has been an amazing experience!  I feel blessed and renewed as I see our children...our FUTURE... at work, giving so selflessly of themselves and their time!  I feel like I’m along for the ride of a lifetime as I see what these children are able to accomplish through their hopes, dreams, and energies!”  -Task Force Mom, Eldonna

A "Taste" of the GulfRk_task_force_2
By Task Force Member Emma of Iowa

(Editor's Note:  These are reflections written after a day when the task force got to experience many of the wonderful, unique things about the Gulf  Much of their time was spent in the New Orleans area on this day, and Gulf Port / Biloxi the other two days.)
 

Our day started with a LONG bus ride!  During the ride we rode on the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain.  It was really scary because the bridge went on and on for miles over nothing but water!  It was a funny feeling!

When our ride was done we ate brunch at Court of the Two Sisters in New Orleans!  It was really good food, and they had a jazz trio playing that was fun to listen to.  I tried crawfish for the very first time (I don't think I'll try it again for awhile!), and I also tried grits (I'll pass on those next time too!).  But the omelets were super, and so were the desserts!

After brunch we went on a ferry ride across the Mississippi River.  It was really cool! Even cars could drive right onto the ferry so they could cross the river! That was a strange sight!

After the ride we went to the Swamp Fest at the Audubon Zoo.  It was neat seeing al those animals!  It's hard to believe that alligators can be so dangerous because they looked really lazy and didn't even move a muscle!

Next we went to Cafe du Monde (that's where the picture of the task force above was taken), and ate bengiets.  They tasted like funnel cakes at our State Fair, only better!  I ate three! We then had about an hour to walk around in the French Quarter and do things. It was really fun.  My mom and I had a street artist draw our caricature!  We look kinda funny in it...he gave us real big heads and big teeth!

Then we went to the "old" Brock Elementary in Slidell that had been destroyed by Katrina.  We interviewed the principal, Rose Smith.  The school was all boarded up, but they're working on the inside and hope to be in by next school year.

We then saw the current school the Brock students are in.  They all have double-wide trailers for their classrooms.  It was neat seeing all the things they've been through and knowing that they have never given up hope.  Their trailer classrooms were actually very, very nice and big.  It was a nice feeling to know the kids can have good classrooms until they get back in their real school.

At the end of the day we ate at the Southside Cafe.  It was really good food...I had fried oysters!  I like oysters anyway, and these were yummy!

After that we went back to our stadium and went to bed.  It was a good, busy, and tasty day!

“We are honored to be hosting these children here in the gulf. They have proven to be a driving force in bringing awareness to our gulf rebuilding efforts, and we hope that their reports from the gulf will inspire many more children around the country to continue to help rebuild the thousands of homes that were destroyed by the 2005 hurricanes.” ~Kent Adcock, Director of Business Development & Community Relations for Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Carabiners:  A Kid’s Idea and a RandomKid “Micro Loan” are Catalyst to Gulf TripRkcarabiners
by Talia Leman, RandomKid CEO  and Task Force Member 

It all started with our carabiners. You know, those cool clips you can stick on your backpack, key chain, and just about anywhere else (They make GREAT GIFTS—HINT HINT!!   Click here to buy some!). Click here to read backstory on carabiners.

Kent Adcock with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of Habitat for Humanity received a carabiner at Habitat for Humanity’s “1000th Home Celebration.”  He thought they were pretty cool, and called us up to see if we’d partner with them to sell carabiners with their logo and our logo on them at a big event with professional golfers in November.   Next thing you know, he invited the task force to come!  But we still had a big hurdle:  How to pay for everyone to get there.  That’s where Target Corporation comes in.  Hooray for Target! They helped the entire task force come together in the gulf.  The Task Force has worked  together for over a year, and finally met in person for the first time.   We stayed in the Salvation Army’s VolunteerVillage in Biloxi, MS.  The Salvation Army ROCKS!  We met a really great kid named Conner there.  He and his family moved to Biloxi to help the Salvation Army after the 2005 hurricanes, and they’ve been serving volunteers in the MS Gulf Coast now for a year and a half.  I am happy to say that Conner is the newest member to our task force!

In Closing

by Anne Ginther, President of RandomKid

There are many more stories to tell.  "RandomKid National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf" members met kids who had to swim through their house to get to safety, parents who lost everything.  Can you imagine having survived such a disaster and then living in temporary housing for over two years, knowing that there may be thousands ahead of you on the building list? 

GOAL:  Break ground on a  RandomKid / Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi in 2008 = $25,000 needed!

The children on the Task Force were so moved by what they saw, that they have decided to set a goal to raise enough money to break ground on a MS Gulf Coast Habitat for Humanity house in Biloxi in 2008.  These kids have already raised a lot of money with their entrepreunrial ideas.  They need to raise $25,000 more to be able to break ground on a house.  Please help these kids make their goal, and help a family into their home.

Please click here to donate online using any major credit card, or make out a check to

"RandomKid - Rebuild the Gulf",

and send it to: 

RandomKid

P.O. Box 2064

McKinney, TX 75070.

In the coming months we'll share more of stories, photos and video from the Task Force trip.  We'll also introduce you to the new things they are doing to help our fellow Americans in the gulf.

We thought we'd close with some favorite quotes from Task Force member Shelby:

*Be the CHANGE you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

*A big shot is a little shot that kept shooting.-Unknown

*You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however. -Richard Bach

Thank you for not only helping the gulf, but helping KIDS realize their power to help others.

Sincerely,

The RandomKid National Task Force to Rebuild the Gulf:

Ellison, Tiron, Shelby, Tonisha, Sarah, Talia, Lanna, Emma, Tonisha, and Conner

Anne Ginther, RandomKid President

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Comment: I written about RandomKid previously here .   You are going to hear more from me about RandomKid. I've just joined their board. I believe in their mission. I endorse their - our - mission because it is about the Kids and their ideas, and their leadership and their impact.   

Your financial support will help kids make difference.  I hope you'll consider making a donation.  You are not only investing in the future, but making a difference today.


Leadership by kids with kids

Sunday night at church, we had a psychologist come and talk about kids and stress. It was an interesting discussion. Much of the stress that our friends kids experience is due to the social and educational environment that they are in. Our kids' stress is different because we homeschool.  But that isn't really my point.

What interests me is not differing educational approaches, but how some kids develop leadership earlier in their lives. Watch this video of 12 year Severn Cullis-Suzuki  speaking at a UN environment conference in Rio in 1992.

It is a remarkable performance.  Well written, expertly delivered, and best of all never wavering from the reality that she is a kid talking to adults. It wasn't an adult written speech delivered by a kid. It was a kid speaking honestly and passionately to adults.

Last night as I drove home from a client meeting two hours away, I listened to the XM Artist Confidential show featuring Mandy Moore. Mandy is a singer and actor who first emerged in the public eye as a 15 year old pop star. Now, she's 23 and a very grounded, happy, self-effacing young woman. As I listened to her sing songs from her new album, Wild Hope, I kept thinking, why did she turn out so mature and Brittany Spears such a disaster?

I wrote a while back about the group RandomKid. Here's a group of kids who are quite similar to the young woman who spoke to the UN in such a powerful way.   These remarkable kids who are raising money to build Habitat houses along the Mississippi Gulf Coast range in age from 10 to 15 years.

The question that I have is whether these kids are naturally gifted leaders, or have they been given an opportunity that other kids have not.  During the Mandy Moore segment she was asked about how she came through her childhood without losing control. She spoke about her parents not being the typical stage parents. She said that their only concern was for her welfare. I interpret that to mean they didn't promote her, but mentored her through the stages of development so that she could be a whole person.

This is not an easy thing for many parents to do. They are caught in trying to overcome the inadequacies of their own raising.  As a result the child becomes a tool for the parents narcissistic search for meaning and affirmation.

Are these kids exceptional because they are the exception?  That I can't say. But I do know that without an meaningful, respectful adult relationship, the development of many kids is delayed until they have their own kids.

So, what should adults who have a relationship with a kid between 8 and 12 years do?  Listen to them. What they will tell you is important to them.  You may think it is silly, childish and infantile. It may be to you, but not to them. If you hope to lead your child you have to take them from where they are to where they need to be. If you don't approach it this way, you burden them with expectations that are unrealistic and unfair. You drive a wedge between you and them. And they live with it the rest of their lives.

What I've learned is that adults have a lot to offer kids. But we have to meet them half way. We have to be willing to be taught and mentored by them.  Their wisdom is not our wisdom. It doesn't have to be.  All it needs to be is their wisdom expressed as their love for something or someone. Affirm it. Find ways to share it with them, and thank them for the difference they are making in your life.

HT: Garr @ Presentation Zen