Several months ago, something really strange happened…
I was invited by a twelve year old to speak at an event in Tennessee. Yes, you read that right...a TWELVE YEAR OLD.
His name is Jaren and he’s a phenomenal young adult with big dreams, and aspirations of becoming a pediatric surgeon.
He began to tell me about how he became Student Council President of his 7th grade class. He said that in previous years the Student Council wasn’t responsible for much---but he couldn’t settle for that.
He decided to lead his Student Council to not only create change for his school, but change for his entire community. So he found our website, tracked me down, and asked Team Impact to come to his school and inspire his classmates with the same message he’d heard several years prior.
I thought I was traveling to Tennessee to inspire Jaren, but instead, I was the one that walked away inspired.
Here are 5 valuable lessons I learned from that young world changer:
1) Understand the problems in your community
Jaren and his friends sat down and asked themselves a big question, “Where do we need to make a difference?” Not where can we make a difference, but where do we need to make a difference.
This reminded me of Scott Billue, the founder of Matthew’s Hope, a ministry that’s making a massive impact for the homeless population in Central Florida.
You see, before Scott started Matthew’s Hope, he would find homeless people in the community and bring them jackets and shirts. During one of his clothing drop-offs, he casually asked if this was the type of thing the person needed.
To Scott’s surprise, this was the homeless man’s response: “No, man. We don’t need shirts and jackets. We need socks and underwear.”
Just because you’re doing a good thing doesn’t mean that you’re solving a problem. (Click to Tweet)
Jaren asked his friends not what they could do, but instead, asked what they should do. That’s when they realized that bullying was a major issue and decided to take the necessary action to eliminate it at their school.
2) Have a clear vision
After they decided to tackle bullying, they decided not to just have an event, but an anti-bullying campaign. They aimed not just to get their class involved, but to get the whole school involved.
When you have a vision of what you want to change, it’s important to get the right people on board with that vision.
That week, every day, they had different dress up days:
- "Buddy Up Against Bullying", where everyone dressed like twins
- "Take a Stand Against Bullying", where the entire school wore their school colors
The end of the week culminated by having Team Impact do a school assembly...followed by a massive flash mob with both teachers and students to show unity against bullying!
Jaren had a clear vision to address an obvious problem. Then he took the action necessary to take it from “vision” to “reality”.
3) Don't take "no" for an answer
Several months ago, when Jaren first emailed me, I completely missed the fact that I was communicating with a 7th grader. But I knew the costs for this trip were going to be high because of travel and other expenses.
I sent Jaren a dollar figure, he reviewed his budget (yes...this 12 year old managed a budget!), and he quickly realized that money was going to be an issue. He was persistent with me and when his efforts fell short, he brought in the help of his teacher to look for new ways that would eventually lead to his end goal...having Team Impact speak at his school.
Jaren’s persistence is ultimately what allowed us to speak at his school. His original plan wasn’t the one that worked, but he never gave up. And as a result, he reached his goal!
4) Your past doesn't determine your future
A 7th grader’s resume is pretty limited, even if he was the most accomplished 7th grader on the planet - it’s just tough to do a whole lot of world changing in your first twelve years.
But Jaren didn’t let his lack of experience hold him back…
Often times, we think we’re unqualified because we don’t have enough experience. But how are you supposed to get that experience unless you just dive in and do it? Just because you haven’t done something before doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Think about Mark Zuckerberg. There had never been a Facebook before, but that didn’t stop him from creating it-- and changing the world as we know it.
For Jaren, though he had never organized anything this large before, he knew what he wanted to do, he knew the problems that his community had, and he knew that he was committed to making it happen.
5) Think BIG
Jaren didn’t seek out a local coach or athlete to speak at his event-- though they could have done a great job. He instead reached out to an organization that has an international reach...an organization based in Dallas, several states away from Jaren’s school.
Jaren wasn’t going to tolerate doing anything small. He wanted to go big, and that’s exactly what he did...literally and figuratively (because let’s be real, I’m a triple-cheeseburger away from 315 pounds!).
Jaren can’t get into a PG-13 movie without his parents, but he sure knows how to change the world. (Click to Tweet)
Jaren is a living, breathing example of Paul’s encouragement to the young world changer Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because of your age, but instead, be an example to all…”.
Is there a young person you know that’s making the world more awesome? If so, tell us about them in the comments!
This post was written by Team Impact's Lead Evangelist, Stephen Mackey. When Mackey isn't speaking in schools and churches around the world, he's hanging out with his wife and two kiddos in Dallas, TX.