During the leadership camps which we conduct for teenagers, we often ask campers which they think is more important: being book smart or street smart. In other words, is it more important to have high academic qualifications or savvy industry experience? After much debate and discussion, the verdict is usually 50/50, as the youths decide that both are of equal importance in contributing towards the success of a leader. The question is: Are they given sufficient exposure in both areas?
We once had an intelligent camper who got nervous when required to speak in front of a group of people. She performed well academically but found it challenging to stand up in front of a crowd. One day, she decided to step out of her comfort zone and volunteered to share her experiences during a large gathering.
She told me that it was such an unthinkable thing for her to do but because she was pushed to do it during the camp, she realised that she had it in her to accomplish such a feat. It was the experience that she had already accumulated, that gave her the courage and confidence to know that she could deliver.
This and many other stories led me to believe that while we are providing sufficient avenues for our youths to excel academically, we still lack the ability to provide them with the structures and opportunities to grow in their leadership and practical skills. We tend to assume that they will pick up these lessons and skills along the way and hopefully get better as time goes by. It does not always turn out this way. However, it is never too late to take the initiative and make a change.
Here are some suggestions to initiate personal development!
1. Assume a leadership role
It could be as simple as leading a mini project or even taking the lead in a group discussion. The key is to be open to new challenges and to not be confined to a specific role.
2. Join a society
Joining a society such as the Toastmasters Club can improve public speaking skills and boost self-confidence. Societies also offer an environment which encourages learning and self-improvement amongst like-minded people.
Volunteering for charitable causes and projects is also a good way to develop new skills. These experiences bring about opportunities to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures thus broadening the spectrum of human interaction and, in turn assist in the development of inter-personal skills.
4. Attend a camp
Camps are great places to discover more about personal strengths and talents. They are also a safe environment to take risks and to make mistakes.
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