A Common Problem
Before I deliver a workshop at a school I'm given a brief by a member of the teaching staff about the message they would like me to get across to their students.
More often than not teachers talk about wanting to change their students' work ethic. They say students expect to be spoon feed information and have everything done for them. The problem is always centred around a passive approach to school and education in general.
What they need more of is the proactive go getters and ambitious all rounders.
One Idea Is A Powerful Idea
I wanted to pin down one idea that effectively tackled this problem.
In my experience so far as a public speaker, I've found that it is much easier to communicate one clear message rather than a bunch you've hodge-podged together. One message that hits home is far more effective than many that miss the mark by a fraction.
I wanted to give students an idea that was black and white, easy to understand and identify with, something that was already part of the lingo and widely understood.
The Thought Behind It
So... lack of effort, general lethargy and an unwillingness to go above and beyond expectations was the problem. However, we all know that you can't just have a pop at a young person and expect them to nod, take the feedback on board and then execute the new behaviour. It just doesn't work like that.
Young people often like to take the short term view, the path of least resistance and instant gratification and to give no real thought to the morrow. I know, I still do it.
Trying hard wasn't cool when I was at school. Kudos always went to the person who, on the face of things, didn't appear to try all that hard but succeeded all the same. It is this inauthenticity about the nature of achievement that I believe to be the key issue. Trying hard and failing was utterly embarrassing, trying hard and succeeding was only slightly more acceptable, appearing not to try and achieving was, and still is, the sweet spot that everyone would like to convey they are hitting oh so effortlessly.
You could argue some of this still exists as people develop through their twenties and perhaps for some, never really goes away.
The thing is, the achievement equation has to (like all equations) balance on both sides...Effort + Doing The Right Things = Achievement
I had to come up with something that encouraged young people to be authentic about their effort, the nature of their actions and the results they produced.
Reclaim What They Took From You (anyone who follows DJ Khaled on Snapchat will know what I'm talking about...)
The keeno, the keen bean, the person who throws themselves into anything. This person is willing to accept whatever outcome - win, lose or draw. They are always unashamedly striving for the win. Not in a selfish way but because they know it's the right thing to do by them.
At school this word was used to take the shine off other people's achievements and successes.
"You came top of the class. Nice work, but to be fair, I only revised an hour before the test. You were up all night. Keeno".
And I'm not only talking about academia. It's everything, sports, drama, music, debating you name it. If you are seen to put in effort other people are more than happy to take the gloss of things by branding you a keeno.
So I decided to take back the word keen and wrestle it away from those who would rather everyone play to their own mediocre level. My workshops involve dismantling the thought process behind a person who would use the word keen to legitimate their lack of effort and the mediocre results it produces. Trust me, I know what they're thinking, I was one of them!
On the flip side here's five reasons why the keenoes will be the winneres of tomorrow (as spoken to students):
The World Favours The Keen
The world we live in today favours the keen. It's less about who you are or what you have at the start and more about who you become and what you learn in the future. Freedom of information and connection online means that there fewer barriers to knowledge accumulation and linking up with the right people. Keenos will thrive in this environment, the people who wait for things to happen and think they are owed something will be left behind.
It's Becoming More and More About What You Know
The context within which the corporate decision maker operates is changing from one based on opinion and subjectivity to one based on evidence and rationality. In other words, the career ladder is becoming less and less about who you know and more and more about what you know. I'm 22 and I've yet to see anyone be waived through in a similar way to how I hear it was in 'the good ol' days'. Again, I'm no expert on the job market but it seems to me that if you're not good enough, 'hit the bricks pal' (many thanks to Alec Baldwin for that one). Meritocracy has been winning the battle over nepotism for many years now and nepotism is down to it's last few battalions. All of this favours the keen bean.
It's Acceptable To Try Hard And Fail
Keenoes learn the value of unashamedly trying their best and failing. In the early stages of their development they will do what everyone else does. When things don't go their way they will shift the responsibility away from themselves in order to try to disguise their concerted effort. They'll say things like..
"Well, I didn't really try that hard" or "I never really wanted it"...the truth is you did try hard and you did want it, you just didn't get it.
Admitting you tried your best and still failed is hugely empowering and disarms anyone who would try to use it against you. If you're looking for an example check out this interview with UFC champion Connor McGregor after a defeat. If anyone can find any bad press about Connor McGregor please send it to me, I haven't been able to find any.
Keenoes learn to take defeat squarely on the chin, they lose with grace and dust themselves off to go again.
Make Some Plays - Be On Offence
Speaking in terms of American Football, keenoes are always playing on offence. They are distributing the pigskin, running routes as wide receivers and always looking for the TD. Meanwhile, everyone else is in the the defensive line, too concerned with what is directly in front of them.
Keenoes play the long game, they know that it's a game of four quarters, a few risks and failures in the first quarter are always recoverable, they learn from their mistakes and successes and position themselves to make the big plays in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters. Everyone else isunable to see the bigger picture.
It's only after the game when the defensive team sit down together to watch the replays that they see the opportunities they missed out on, but by then it's too late.
People Like It When The Right Person Wins
People like it when the right person wins. Young people often want the cool kid, the popular person or whoever everybody else wants to win to come out on top. This changes. As you grow older, you want to see that things add up and make sense. You want to see the right person be rewarded. You want to see that effort and achievement are rewarded. You want to see the achievement equation balance on both sides.
It's something I'm still learning, but it's becoming clear to me that those who rely on the fortunate bounce of the ball, or the particular way in which the cookie crumbles are going to be waiting some time for their ship to come in.
Those who get their head down, crack on and unapologetically try hard whilst also trying to improve the way they work get what they deserve. Of course, it's just small wins I have observed so far but a win is a win.
The Keenoes will be the winners of tomorrow in every sense of the word - literal and emotional.
I'm using the word keen to get students up for putting in a top performance this year in their exams. Fortunately it's got a nice ring to it when put in the same sentence/hashtag as the current year #Keenin2016.
The 'keeno crutch' has to be taken from beneath those who use it to legitimate their lack of effort and subsequent poor results.
I'm teasing it away one school at a time.