When embarking on a journey, do not consult those who have never left home
Jallaludin Rumi, mystic poet
Last week, I was invited to sit in on a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Youth Employment at the House of Commons. I have been to the Houses of Parliament a few times, and always feel in awe of the surroundings.
This time, I came away with a combination of inspiration and depression at what I heard in the meeting and the conversations I had afterwards. Inspired by some of the young people I heard from and depressed by what I heard they were sometimes up against.
There were several young champions present who spoke about their experience of finding their way in to work and business – young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 who were young leaders, some already running their businesses and others with good careers.
Each of them, in their own way, said that they’d had times when they had been successful despite some of the advice they received from their careers advisors and teachers. They shared that when they had spoken of their ambitions and dreams with those charged with supporting them, they were often told to be “realistic.”
I don’t want to rant about bad careers advisors or teachers – I want to rave about being tender with our own and each other’s hearts and dreams.
Our dreams can be tender, easily crushed. We can each discouraged so easily, and luckily when some of us are discouraged, it galvanises us into wanting to prove people wrong. We serve ourselves well when we realise we are the custodian of our own dreams and others probably don’t know hat is best for us.
Some people should be respected, but not listened to. Their advice isn’t good for us. They have good intentions, and sometimes that caring is expressed through trying to stop, limit or thwart people’s dreams so they don’t get hurt. It’s a great intention to want to save each other from being hurt, but discouragement can squash our spirit too. It takes true skill and generosity to encourage others to go further than we may have gone ourselves. When others feel called into territory we aren’t familiar with, our fears may get triggered.
Our relationship with the idea of “Being realistic”
Of course, it is possible to be deluded and live in a fantasy world, and we can all be wrong – but how do we know what is actually realistic? How do we know what is possible for us? Who can truly know? For most of us, “being realistic” means limiting and shrinking our sense of possibility, rather than realistic about the power, potential, possibilities and capabilities that we each carry innately within us
But now I am a little older, I have a different relationship with the word realistic.
When I look at what I have done and achieved since I left my corporate career in 1989 – I have written 14 books, one a best-seller, given hundreds of talks in 17 countries, worked with many household name companies, been a part of 2,000 media features and coached and mentored many leaders in their field – that would seem totally unrealistic to the “me” in my corporate career thirty years ago. I am sure if I told people I wanted to achieve those things, they would have told me I was being deluded and unrealistic, and I would have totally agreed with them. But the reality is that I didn’t even know I was capable of achieving what I have. And I have had many challenges – it hasn’t been easy a lot of the time.
The truth is, we have no idea what is realistic for us, and neither does anyone else. That is part of the exciting and daring adventure that each of us can undertake – to become curious about who we are and what we are capable of.
Be curious, you may well astonish yourself
Today, I choose to live my life doing my best to believe that we are capable of so much more than we realise.
I am grateful for those young adults I met last week, who inspired me to keep an eye mind, and to be tender with each other’s dreams.
There is a true humility when we can accept that we have no idea of what we are capable of, but are genuinely curious to keep exploring and finding out