Two weeks ago, I shared my story using the hashtag #thislittlegirlisme. I was surprised and pleased by the positive response and how it struck a chord with the PC community. Thank you for the affirmation and encouragement.
Since I shared my story, I have spent a lot of time pondering what really resonated with you and thinking about the kind of advice we share with our Year 12 graduates as we send them off into an uncertain world. I have some ideas which I would like to share.
- People are getting tired of the gloss, especially in leaders. They are sick of the synthetic sheen we spread across our lives that covers up the grain that makes us who we are. Because, by necessity, we have needed to live such virtual lives, there is a deep longing to see leaders unvarnished as they are – not in a way that is discrediting but in a way that allows other humans to connect, to say 'that’s my story too, that’s the human story'. My challenge, and our challenge as a community, is to be as real as we can be in a way that connects us to each other and our children.
- In their hearts, people know that 'the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire'. Hard things are the making of you. We take great joy in seeing people walk steadily towards a danger, look it in the eyes, and overcome it. That is the eternal attraction of televised sport and the Hollywood blockbuster. I believe we need to walk more bravely towards difficulty, not for its own sake, but to embrace the process to grow into our potential and offer the world our best self. We need to remind each other how to do this. I consider myself fortunate that, at the right moment in my childhood, I faced great challenges that enabled me to reach more of the potential I had. Starved of difficulty, I don't think I'd have grown such a strong backbone. Not a youth any longer, I know, but I challenge myself to see difficulty as the catalyst of growth. Just as overpraising children in the self-esteem movement didn't make them feel more confident, over insulating our children from difficulty does not make them feel safe. We have to encourage each other to face difficulties.
- People want to have a new relationship with themselves. The digital world is replete with well-meaning advice on how to be better – get up at 5.00 am, stretch, meditate, chug a green smoothie, visualise your perfect day, be grateful and stay off the carbs. But it misses the mark. It’s the cherry on the cake, not the flour in the mix. People need a relationship with themselves that is more wholesome. They need to know they are loved and already enough, before they decorate the cake. We need to start developing a more positive relationship with ourselves that is appreciative of our own story and our efforts. A strong message for our young people!
- Cultivating hope starts with our own self-talk. When we see people triumph against the odds, we feel hopeful that we can follow in their footsteps. When I was growing up, one of the things that fuelled my effort was the hope that things could be better. I didn't live in a world where I feared the future or progress could only occur if I stepped on others. I believed that, with the right disposition to the difficulty, I could make things better for myself, my family and the world. Then, as an educator, I came to believe in the power of education as the software of the mind that could be updated to solve the challenges we face.
We sketch up the hopeful world in our heads through the story we tell ourselves every day, then we make that world a reality through the stories we tell others. I still believe in telling hopeful stories and I look forward to growing storytelling at PC into the future.