Engagement is Key.

 

When we think about feeling connected to something, someone, this doesn’t happen by chance. It is both a compilation of past experiences and values as well as connecting the dots to what we want or need more of.

How can we help the young people in our lives feel more of this, so they are less likely to wander away feeling lost and disconnected?

It’s funny many of us think that the reason we fall in love with an idea or path is because we happened upon it and to some degree that’s true, but there is also a tremendous amount of research that shows the reason something resonates with us is based on our past exposure to ideas and experiences that help us interpret the next item or interaction we have differently.
So, you guessed it once again my first suggestion that we can easily do to help our young people thrive, is exposure to a diversity of ideas.
This can come in the form of articles from varied sources like Fast Company or TED talks or quirky sites like Gizmodo. When we see what else is possible it fuels our new ideas, sometimes literally, and sometimes in paths we’re drawn to.
If you think back to the first time your child saw dinosaurs or red race cars it’s no different. They felt a connection and that inevitably led them to choosing another connected item. When they go into their teens that exposure drops substantially and no, all of those cat videos on youtube are not opening doors. It needs to be purposeful.

You may need to build in incentives, like my house where Xbox hinges on getting exposure in first, or maybe you link it to dinner conversations, its not always easy but be creative and make it part of their daily routine.

The next big driver is telling stories about your past, and no we’re not talking about how hard it was for you, but the animated version of a story which shows how different it was.
A recent presentation I gave made me realize how few stories I had told my children about adventures I had before they came along. The ability to share both the highs and lows reframes failures and successes and gives them solid reference points to work from for themselves when things get tough or to know how important celebrating our successes can be in order to look forward to the future.

Ask yourself what was the best part of a past experience you felt most attached to? Now ask your child the same question, and you’ll begin to help them create a clear path and attachment to the future.

Creating Leaders

 

I’m currently working on a speech to deliver to a group of young people about what leadership is.  It’s funny because when you start to take it apart it’s not really as simple as everyone makes it out to be.

As adults we have been exposed to role models along the way and told, that’s a great leader.  Sometimes we know the story of the amazing accomplishments that followed them, but very seldom do people take apart the components that make a great leader and how we can teach our children to develop more of those components as they make their way through life.  Often it has all of us believing that leadership is only for those chosen few instead of the truth that everyone has the ability to lead whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, quiet or loud.  Above a picture of 14 year old Rachel Parent the head of Kids Right To Know about GMOs.  Here are three things to keep in mind when helping our children become leaders, of which the world definitely needs more.

 

1.  Leadership is made up of two words, Leader / Ship, this is no mistake.

Leaders take risks and often feel uncomfortable. The more quickly we make it ok for children to feel fear or discomfort, the more likely they are to take on leadership roles and stretch out.

The number one difference between being a leader or not is the ability to act or “ship” your plans, ideas or actions. Teaching our children to jump by putting their ideas or actions in play allows them to learn from both the highs and lows of their experience.

 

2.  Leaders value people.

The difference between being in charge and leading is the ability to connect with, recognize strengths in and empower other people to do their best.  There are plenty of people in history that were “in charge”, that doesn’t mean they were great leaders.  Teaching children the difference in how it feels to collaborate with others in order to share, combine and highlight other people’s talents is critical.

 

3.  Resilience matters.

Leaders are more resilient, they persevere, and bounce back. They don’t see walls as obstacles, they see them as things to go around.  We need to set expectations for our children that failure is a natural process of learning and moving forward. That failing offers all sorts of opportunities to find new ways to do things and that successful people don’t blame others or make excuses when things go wrong, but take the time to talk through it with others in order to find new solutions, evolve and grow.

There are so many ways to help our children become great leaders, including allowing them to create connections and stories about things that matter to them, we’ll explore more as we continue on.

Part of the inspiration for this blog is based in my current reading of Mandela’s Way. I doubt that a humble man from rural beginnings ever set out to rock the world the way he did. Greatness comes from everywhere; our job is to help cultivate it.

Starting the New Year with a Pop Up.

 

If you think I’m excited about what this year brings with it for the young people in our lives, you’re absolutely right.  The opportunity to show them what the possibilities look like through diversity of input, amazing stories, and how to build paths they’re not only engaged with, but that feel effortless and utilize all the talents they have.  I want to start  by telling you a story which reminds us of the true power they have. How a small group of 8 students decided to connect what matters to them, to a one day pop up event, and create results that were out of this world.

 

During December I had an idea based on many of the pop up stores that are now the rage in advertising.  I also was familiar with a youtube story called The Generous Store, what I wanted to know was how far a group of young people could go in just over 4 hours with both creating an idea and executing it, to give back to the community and celebrate what they accomplished.

On December 23rd, 8 young people ages 11-14 took on the task of both creating an idea to give back to the community, but also all of the products, services, and promotion needed for them to execute it.  The parameters were simple, find a way to give back with only some paper, marker supplies, $10, their personal devices and their strengths and ideas.

 

What happened next was beyond amazing.

After starting the day by seeing two Youtube videos of large scale popup executions, worth many thousands of dollars, they began discussing and working out their own solution.

They were given 45 min. for ideation, 1 1/2hours for production and then 1 1/2hrs execution.  We ended with an hour celebration lunch.

The group decided on a pay it forward platform, that no money would be collected but that hot chocolate, gift tags, marshmallow snow men and holiday pay it forward tags would be created along side of signage promoting the event.

Some began by going online to look up simple gift tag ideas, others got right down to work on signage or creating snowmen. They determined their strengths, worked in that area, and eventually moved to help others when time lines became tight.

Through all of this I acted as a guide, sounding board, time keeper and safety director, the rest was up to them.

We walked to a busy vegetable market where they set up and began distributing their products and explaining the concept of pay it forward.  Many people were amazed, some were confused, “what do you mean you don’t want any money”, but mostly people were inspired.  Many people let the students know what a fabulous thing they were doing.  The sheer brilliant energy and exchanges between people were enough to light up the whole city.  For myself it was proof once again that given a structure and some minor guidance young people are capable of much more than we often give them credit for.

When we had finally cleaned up and got back to celebrate eating lunch, I asked them what the best part of the day was, hands down when one grandmother took the time to hug all of them and explain how wonderful she thought they were.  We talked about what they would do again and what they wouldn’t and all of them agreed that it had been a great day.  All of this is in just under 5 hours.

Do I think this is going to be a great year for helping young people of different ages connect the dots to what they’re really capable of, you bet I do, and the great part is we can all do small things to encourage big thinking in the actions they create every day.

O Creative Exchange, Women’s Collaborative

 

Creative Exchange Group

Are you tired of working on your own to solve career, business and project problems?  O Creative Exchange is a monthly collaborative group focused on taking your ideas, getting you “unstuck”, and creating clarity through energetic exchanges. It’s like a bit of  mastermind meets cirque de soleil.

This is where women from various backgrounds come together to share and move their ideas, projects, careers and businesses forward to bigger outcomes, while building fabulous relationships along the way. The sessions are facilitated by Lynn Oucharek, with over 18 years of creative skills, strategic planning and facilitation experience.

Bring your sense of humor, and willingness to interact with the group.

Come out and join us, your first session is free.

What:  Facilitated creative ideas exchange

When:  Tuesday nights starting January 7th

Where: 16169-13th Ave. South Surrey

Time: 7pm – 9pm

Other: Cost: $25.00

Please contact Lynn for a brief conversation to ensure the ultimate group fit and registration.

Ph:604-862-9054    lynn@ovisionconsulting.com

Starting New Traditions

 

Three years ago during a trip down memory lane in the holiday season, my husband .sons  and I began to develop new holiday traditions based on fond memories from our youth.  We were searching to add more to our holiday experience and create connection.

I have to say that in general we are lucky to have deep cultural roots which ensures the season is wrapped in many things other than gift giving, everything from extended family pierogi making sessions to forest outings to create wreaths, but there was a feeling of wanting more and the financial realities of the time had us looking for experiences which wouldn’t require extra funds to find that “something” bigger.

The question was, where to start?  Sure we could go to the websites on what to do around town, and that is definitely a place to begin, but our best finds turned out to be within the stories that we were telling, from looking back.

My philosophy always is that the power within the stories we tell is bigger than we often know, but this was a first even for me.

As Bob, my husband, told us about how much he loved his grandmother’s shortbread cherry balls, we decided that it was time to learn how to make them as a group. After some experimentation, this now has us keeping the tradition on the first Sunday of December together, filled with much laughter and mess, yes including my 14 year old son.

As we discussed the greatest light displays we’d seen over the years my sons decided to put together their own version of a local light tour based on online research.  We regularly venture out on their homemade tour to discuss these bright spots, and what creative brilliance was involved in order to pull it all together.

Finally a chat about our craziest sledding feats led us to create the opportunity to go early sledding before the ski season is in full swing, finding spots on the north shore hills where we can try out the first snow, hot chocolate and post the best cold crashes, all at the same time.

As it turns out those old stories, held new traditions.

The memories we have often hold keys to new creative opportunities for us to stretch out.  It’s  where imagination and your physical / emotional skills combine to produce a new start.  In this process you build amazing connections, experiences, and the chance to enrich your new holiday memories.

What if you don’t find the inspiration from  your own holiday past?  Try Googling the best family holiday stories of others to see where you might want to start, or act like a traveler in your own town and pick two things that are happening which you’ve always wondered about, but never found the time to investigate.

Is there one new experience for yourself and your family you can begin?  It can be as small as finding a new game to add to Christmas dinner or as big as getting out of the house to build the perfect snowman, you created at eight. Let me know what you started

 

 

If you’re like me and have seen the recent program Blackfish, chronicling the capture and captivity of Orcas, you probably were both horrified and saddened by what as a society we carried out in both breaking the spirit and creating angry behaviors, which inevitably led to tragedy both human and animal.

The strange thing is, as I started to hear the story it was as though all the pieces began to fit together around why our children, particularly in secondary education, are not the excited, curious, life long learners that our economy so desperately needs them to be.

While in elementary school, there is still a degree of freedom to wander, both physically and mentally, which as we know is important to both skills and idea development, once they enter secondary school, the system has them for the most part sitting in controlled environments with little real stimulation or collaboration.

Effectively we’ve taken large spirited, brilliant children and confined them for the most part in small spaces ( mental or physical),  until they start to fight back.  This can come in the form of everything from boredom, to checking out, to anger.  At the end of this phase we then send them out into the world and ask them to be curious learners, great communicators and strong leaders.

I’m not saying there aren’t any opportunities to work on these skills within our system but not enough opportunities when we look at the changes in our economy and future landscape.

The top differentiators for our children to thrive as we move forward into these exciting times are the ability to bounce back (resiliency) and be better creative/critical thinkers, so they can develop bigger solutions and actions.

As parents here are three things you can do to help develop these two areas.

 

1. My number one pick for all of us is to ensure there is a diversity of information coming in to our lives.  It’s extremely hard to come up with new and better ideas/solutions, if there isn’t anything in the hopper.  Look for sites like FastCompany, Gizmodo, Design Taxi to bring a variety of information and perspectives into their lives.

2.  Tell Stories about both your experience and those of other friends, mentors or people you admire.  The ability to learn from other people’s experience is huge, whether we’re talking about new adventures, big failures or great collaborations, it gives a starting point to pull from when they’re building their own ideas and life directions.

3.  Building resilience means building competence. Helping children recognize and focus on their strengths along side of empowering them to weigh components and make decisions.  These aspects send a message to children that we have confidence in their ability to handle things, no matter what the outcome.

 

 

Helping Children Get “Unstuck”

 

If you have a child that’s been stuck, then you know the absolute heartbreak of watching them struggle against themselves.  Here are a couple of introductory questions that can help to clear the cobwebs and begin to have them see some new light.  Instead of taking the challenge on head first, why not begin with a slight detour and gathering of positive experiences to reframe things.

1.  Take a trip down memory lane.  Ask them what their favourite trip/holiday was and why?  For many of us, just momentarily being back in that situation again allows us to take a breath and let the walls fall.  Our ability to relax and see new solutions more quickly is often the outcome.

2.  Ask them about one of their strengths/hobbies/interests.  We often can feel like we just don’t have the resources we need in order to begin working through tough challenges.  Recognizing that we come with inherent skills and values is the first step in authentically realizing that the answers don’t have to come from the outside, but more often from the inside.

3.  See if  you or they have an example of when they saw/experienced a challenge similar in size/depth to what they’re living now.  What was the story around it and how did it get solved? Discussing examples can help to find an edge that is easy to understand ,grab onto and begin to determine a new path.

There is no right way in moving ourselves forward, but finding a small step can lessen the weight and help to develop an answer which makes sense, and that’s a great place to start from.

 

 

Finding Your Superpowers

 

I want you to think back, way back, to that amazing teacher, family member or boy scout leader who you still remember today as the person who had a significant impact on who you are, and possibly even a direction you’ve taken.

I talk alot about superpowers. When we look at the journey our children will take, we hope that they’ll find that inspiring person who helps them make the connection between what they love, who they are and where they’re headed, but sometimes that person doesn’t cross their paths.  What can we do to help them see the superpowers they have and make the connection between their passions, loves, hobbies and sometimes yet unfound interests, which might impact their life path?

There are more than a few ways to start making these connections between our strengths and opening doors to ideas we might never have considered, but for today we’re going to concentrate on the importance of helping our children look closely at mentors, heroes, and those they admire.  It’s all about looking deeper at those we feel connected to, and determining what they have which we would like to cultivate more of.  Sometimes it’s not a person but perhaps an organization which captivates us.

Start with a simple question, discussion about who you/they think is really great or has done great things in the world?  Why?  What parts would you/they like to have more of? Are there things that haven’t gone well for them, how did they deal with it?  How would you deal with it?

This simple exercise is a great starting point for beginning to clarify values and attributes which a person might see as important to themselves and the conversation can be an eye opener for both you and them.

 

The next question is: If I wanted to grow one of the elements or skills which that person had, how/ where would I go to do that?  Do I need to join a group, gain experience, take a class, start something I’ve always wanted to try?

The ability to see something of yourself in others is often a much easier way to get a start than looking out in the sometimes black vastness and trying to pick a point.

Personally I have plenty of mentors and heroes, everyone from Nelson Mandela, to my mom & dad, and of course Mighty Mouse who I’m awfully fond of.  How can you beat a super powered mouse who can move people and buildings, while keeping his sense of humor, the perfect package if you ask me.

All of this proving that you never know where you’re going to find inspiration and connection, but it all counts when working through our  journey, no matter what your age.

The Quest to Help Our Youth

 

 

Four years ago I set out on a quest, yes like the knights of old, to find out why my children and yours weren’t getting what they needed from our current education system. I went to conferences, sat in district meetings and dug into regional and international articles and talks.  While I started with some strong hunches between the need for more critical /creative thinking, and then adding resilience and leadership skills along the way, I had the opportunity to gain more insights and stories from parents, students, young people, career counselors, and educators, who were all feeling the same sense of overwhelm and uncertainty. I want to be clear that this is not about bashing the system, it’s broken and we need to fix it, that’s a fact.  But even with pockets of innovation, it is moving too slow, our young people can’t afford to wait for that in the current economic flux.

I ran across so many stories of young, smart people who were lost in direction or then had dropped out of their first year at college or university and were either “waiting” or in one case had left to become miners in northern B.C.,  because they didn’t believe that they had anything to offer.  It was this point when I knew I had to do something, and for those of you who know my background and love of  both brand, communications and creative development, it is a natural extension of what I’ve already spent most of my life rallying for.

As parents  we see the brilliance in our own, how could we (the system) be missing the mark with so many, allowing those individual strengths to get lost in the shuffle?

If you were like me you noticed that there were plenty of parenting magazines with help for 0-12 years, but somewhere after this, when our children had to start connecting the dots between what they have and creating possible life paths, all of the advice magically disappeared.  Ridiculous.

I spent a large part of my 15 year corporate career coaching young creative people on how to develop bigger ideas and then how to build work skills and create collaborations that would unfold in cirque de soleil like outcomes.  What I know for sure is that every single young person comes with a full set of talents to do the great things that they were meant to do, but most have trouble connecting the dots between what they have and the path the want to create, actually that’s a big one for most of us as adults.  So what can we do? How can we begin to think differently about helping the young people we know?  For myself there are 3 areas of focus that I’ve seen which can make the difference to start with:

 

1. Exposure to models, mentors and diverse ideas.  The ability to reignite curiosity and recognize their passions, loves, interests and what they value most.  I learned long ago that the greater the exposure, like all outstanding creative minds, the easier it is to forge solutions and recognize paths you want to be on.  It’s pretty hard to do this in a vacume.

2. Getting rid of overwhelm and trading it for presence, even if only for an hour a day.  If your mind is constantly full, it’s hard to create new solutions, get “unstuck” and find answers, there are a number of articles now on the high level of overwhelm our youth and all of us are facing.  Unplugging is critical to create room and tap into other skills like our ability to be “makers”, using both our hands and our heads to manipulate ideas.  More data is supporting this and there is a reason why astronauts need to prove they can rebuild an engine before they leave earth, it’s no accident.

3. Connections and Communication; We all crave it, finding a“tribe” to belong to and then finding a unique way to express our ideas and tell our story.  Although we have more social connectedness than ever it’s proving to leave us feeling less connected than ever and that’s effecting our ability to collaborate and work with others in supportive team environments, a key skill set in high demand now.

So here I am beginning what feels a little like the walk across Niagra Falls on a tight rope,  exciting but unnerving.  What I’m sure of is that no one has all  the answers and definitely not in the area of education and life paths, particularly as our economic environment continues to shift.  I also know that unless we start to create connections to what we do have, and embrace the move away from traditional jobs and thinking,  we definitely won’t be giving our children the opportunities they deserve, and I for one am not about to let that happen.

Here we go step by step.

How not to build superfans, Weekly Round Up

Image by Emilio Labrador
This was a short week, I have a couple of interesting articles and an example below of what not to be, whether you run your own business, a division or your local parent association.
Take care and have a great weekend.
Lynn
An article on Navy Seal precision, and how it can teach us about putting values and traditions into place to thrive
The 5 worst pieces of advice for small business owners

So here it is the opposite of Zappos or Amazon.  When we set out to create value every day, it’s in the details, how we respond and ultimately what feeling we leave people with.  For me a simple exchange with an air mattress company called Intex, which by the way I wouldn’t recommend their product, lost air the 2nd time we used it, but more importantly a reminder of how not to build superfans particularly when you ask to speak with a human supervisor and they send the same automated reply 2 times.

We always tell our children to “try your best” and then for us, to see if there is a way to bridge the gap or make things “right” from there, the rest has a way of working out..  Happily we all know how to do the “right” thing so people want to say great things about us, and in that we build the life long connections that really matter.
By the way if you haven’t had a chance lately to chat with your children, nephews or nieces about what great customer service is and why it matters, here is the conversation starter for you.

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Congratulations you have just broken the number one rule in creating superfans. Send out a blanket response and hope they don’t do any damage. I’m about to tweet about you, just another sad example of why companies ultimately fail. You may want to see Zappos for how to build true customers for life. Sincerly, Lynn Roe
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