“All of us are needed for a moral revolution. It doesn’t matter where you live, the size of your bank account, or what you do for a living. The world needs you to flex, to stretch to uncomfortable levels, to build your moral imagination, to listen more deeply, to reckon with your sense of identity, and to open yourself up to understand the layered inconsistencies and differing perspectives of others. It requires each of us to partner better, to tell stories that matter and embrace the beautiful struggle.”
– Jacqueline Novogratz
I definitely know that I am at my happiest when I’m working with a team of people to make the world just a little better in some way. I love new ideas and I love a project that challenges that status quo. I love inspiring others to think about the change we can make together.
Last year – 2020 – commemorates 25 years since the start of my journey in leadership and community change making. Back in 1995, I was 12 years old, I was given a beautiful gift. I was chosen to attend the first International Children’s Conference (ICC) on the Environment run by the United Nations. 800 kids from 90 different countries were chosen to attend and experience 3 days of speakers, workshop and kinship.
There is no doubt in my mind that this conference was an immense catalyst in my life and one that I feel very fortunate to have. At 12 years old, my attention was diverted away, absorbed by my own teenage life and focused on others, my local community and world.
At this conference, I connected with the three other Perth delegates and we came back to Perth and formed our own group. Supported by our parents and a supportive teacher, we decided to run our own kids conference! This was probably one of the first examples of the ‘youth-led’ movement. It took us 13 months and in 1996, we ran the first Kids Helping Kids conference with 150 kids from around Western Australia and our ICC friends from Malaysia. In 1999, the group became incorporated as Millennium Kids and still runs today.
Since 1995, I have been a keen volunteer, a change maker and voice for the issues that matter. I look back with huge gratitude for the experiences I had, the people I met and most importantly, the mindset that was formed. It was a mindset that change can happen, we can achieve great things in our community when we come together and we have more power and influence than we think!
So in this post, I want to share 7 lessons I’ve learnt about creating change!
1. Lead now
“Leader is not a title that the world gives to you—it’s an offering that you give to the world.”
– Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion
You can lead right where you are – with your knowledge, experience, ideas and passion!
Don’t wait to be asked, don’t wait until you’re old enough or experienced enough. Get in there, join the team, shadow the leader, meet new people, share your ideas – start learning on the job! We all have the capacity to lead change – to make the world a little bit better than how we found it.
You have to be willing to be brave and give ideas a go, put yourself out there, make mistakes, learn and realise you have some value to give to the world.
2. Don’t doubt the crazy ideas!
“The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”
– Peter Diamandis, author and founder, Singularity University
It’s often the crazy ideas that can make the biggest difference!
Kids running their own conferences, young people being board directors on aged care organisations, everyday people joining together to become philanthropists…all of these crazy ideas became successful projects. Many people scoffed at these ideas and took a lot of convincing of their worth. Hang in there, it gets a little easier!
Give yourself time for thinking and talking about crazy ideas too. We can all too often get caught up in the busyness of life. Give yourself time to really think about what the world most needs now.
3. Diversify your network
“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.”
– Jesse Jackson, Politician and Civil Rights Activist
Get out and make as wide networks as you can. A broad network is an advantage when it comes to creating change. You can’t do it all by yourself! When I was 21 years old, I ran as an independent candidate for the Federal Senate of Australia. I loved the experience because it truly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I committed to going to a wide range of events with people I had never met before. Not only did it help during my campaign, but through the rest of my career and community work. The friendships I made, the organisations I came across, the people I connected with have held me in great stead.
When you’re building a team, it’s integral to know your strengths and find people who strengthen the group through different mindsets, skillsets and networks. They will challenge you and that’s a good thing! It can be an easy trap to bring together people who mirror your own strengths, instead, push yourself to bring together different people.
In these increasingly polarised times that we are living in, it can be all too easy to be revolted by people who hold different opinions and close down the conversations completely. Try to keep the avenue open.
4. Failure is part of the process
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
– Ken Robinson
Plant many seeds as not all will grow. Failure is not a reflection of you, it’s just part of the process. For every project idea that’s been successful, there have been three ideas that have failed. Don’t be disheartened by this. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this? The learnings might come years afterwards too.
See the obstacles not as a sign to stop but a sign to keep going! Embrace them. Rise to the challenge of them. Obstacles will only make you stronger so keep in there!
5. Cultivate your skills in learning, listening and leadership
If you want to make a positive impact on the world, here are three key skills – learning, listening and leadership. Since the very beginning of my journey, I’ve been honing these skills. I still get it wrong and there is still much opportunity for improvement!
Learning – you are also learning! Learning about the complex problems we are facing in society, how we can make a positive impact, how we can work together more effectively. Being a learner.
Listening – the greatest leaders I have observed are all incredible listeners. They listen for what is said, they listen for what is not said. They don’t just listen, they connect and see the world through the eyes of the speaker. Often, when we have ideas and knowledge, we can be too quick to talk all the time. A great leader sees the opportunity to ask questions and listen. They listen with great humility.
Leadership – be ready to learn more about yourself, your team, your community and society and uncover the assumptions and biases that may hold you back. This self awareness helps you to start building mastery in leadership. You will need it when you need to bring together a diverse group with a common vision, when you need to have a courageous conversation with a team member and when you get knocked down by failures.
6. Surround yourself with the people, places and beauty that inspires you
When I feel inspired, I feel like I can do anything. So I think deeply about what inspires me the most. I wonder about the times that inspire fresh thinking, innovative ideas and connections.
For me, it’s about people, places and creativity. I surround myself with inspiring people. I meet with them. I read their books. I listen to their videos and podcasts. I attend events that push my knowledge and networks and am inspired by the incredible people I get to meet. I’m also inspired by our beautiful natural environment, the blue oceans, the tall trees and the animals who inhabit these spaces. Art, creativity, music and movement also inspire me. I love different art forms and the creativity and dedication it takes to create.
What gives you energy? Take your inspiration seriously.
7. Focus on what you’ve achieved, not what’s still to be done
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This is an important one! When change is the goal, you can be so future focused that you don’t acknowledge your achievements along the way. And let’s face it, we often have big hopes and dreams! Don’t get disheartened that there is still so much to do, celebrate what you have achieved along the way – highlight it, the small wins, make them visible to all the team. Change, at the best of times, is slow but that doesn’t mean that you don’t celebrate the wins along the way. Sometimes change happens in a giant leap, most of the time it will be incremental. Stick with your goals and purpose for the long term and don’t forget to take the time to acknowledge what you have achieved.
Together we can effect real change, by joining together, sharing our talents and envisioning a better future. Often I reflect on my 12 year old self, who had their eyes opened by the possibilities of this. No matter what we face as a world or society, I try to remember this. Now I have children of my own who see the issues they would like to positively impact and I know it’s my turn to encourage them to see their role as a changemaker in society.
Here’s to another 25 years of changemaking impact.