This is about the event I had posted a few days back where I was invited as a speaker by my friend Shrinkhla Sahai. She is currently leading her own organization – Swayam Foundation, where along with her team, she is working on arts, mental health and sustainability. Under this particular project ‘Think a Leap’, they have partnered with Deepalaya’s Vocational Training Centre in Gole Kuan, Delhi to capacitate young adults in certain competences. The project is being led by Mohammad Kaleem, with support from Saransh Sugandh.
So, on a Sunday morning I left my home hoping that I would be able to help these kids create some impact and hoping to get inspired. It was a little trouble finding the place but eventually with help, I was able to reach the place. Funny thing initially was I was wearing a suit thinking about the cold and that people take you more seriously if I am wearing a suit, It turned out that was just my apprehension- their candor and openness helped me ease out of my formal skin quite easily.
When I had interacted with Shrinkhla a few days before the event, she had told me
“With Kids it’s different”, and I felt the same being there in the room with them
. I just knew in my heart that I had to do what I have always done with my audiences. Since I had already facilitated using Personal Maps and Improv Cards from Management 3.0 many times, I was confident. I will come back to why I mention this.
The crowd consisted of people from 10th – 12th class and looked active. I believe the work done prior to me had made the kids open in a way that they felt safe even with a new facilitator. For me for any session I have taken in my life, safety is important, because when people feel safe, they start to open up and share authentically which is needed to get them motivated. As Saransh said, they spent a good amount of time making the kids feel vulnerable, tell their problems in a way where they might not entirely solve the problem, but are at least able to keep it in front of them and perceive it from a different angle.
I started the talk with my life story, and how I was an average kid at school, whereas the person standing there Shrinkhla wore a blue coat ( indicating 3+ scholar badge) and how I finished my studies as an engineer, gradually making it to the industry, further focusing on how I changed roles, what challenges I had, and how my quest to learn new things drove my life.
Money is a big motivator for all of us but even more so for those who families have had little access to it. Naturally for these young adults it is a big motivator, but I also kept the other aspect of how intrinsic motivation is important in life and how it really makes us drive. I showed them the Dan Pink video where they show 2 case studies and basically draw the point that money often works the other way around. I wasn’t certain about sharing this video with teenagers for whom earning money in the next part of their life is absolute necessity; but it also sent a message that do what you love so that your motivations create the best out of you.
It was time for some activities. I had planned to do two activities of management 3.0, one was personal maps, the other was Improv Cards. I started distributing colored A4 sheets, crayons, colors. The kids work with personal maps was sheer fun! Not only were they creative, but willing to express themselves truly on paper. Seeing their enthusiasm, we had to extend the time meant for the activity. It made me think that ultimately we are all kids at heart. Whenever I ask people to put themselves on paper, we feel so happy and excited, much like these teenagers.
Now when you think of a personal map, all I’ve seen is people saying someone loves driving, dance, singing, but some of their personal maps gave me goosebumps. Again, the work done with kids prior to me made them feel so safe that their personal maps brought about some very private things like their social life, their relationship with their parents, their agony and anger. Their personal maps were not just what they liked, but their feelings, their dreams, their aspirations, their goals, the ugly things in life, the good things in life. Some of them writing the maps were looking so serious, for a second, I really thought this was something so different.
Following this, I made them then sit in pairs as the original activity and talk to each other. Seeing some of the kids map, it made me feel we as adults are so scared being vulnerable even with our closest friends. It was amazing to see them so open with each other. It was tough, but they did it. I made them go through two-three rounds and I saw some good conversations happen. As always when I do this activity, I tell people to dig in more than what is their on the paper, and again some very interesting things came out in the end discussion.
While seeing these maps and reading over the content post the event, I felt that these kids had a big heart to get what they feel on a paper and then share. It takes a lot to do this. Hats off to them.
The second activity was the Improv, distributed six improv cards to each kid. All of them were wondering what the heck was this? They were thoroughly amused looking at the strange images. The idea was for them to use the images and tell things about their life looking at what has happened.
I emphasized on the fact that sometimes in life, we need to seriously reflect on what all we are doing, what is done and where are we headed. The emotions and facts that surface during self-reflection is a powerful thing. I’ve sat with people talking about this and seen them sometimes ending in tears, but always emerging with a clearer sense of where they may want to go from there. So, we started the activity with instruction to use a minimum of three out of six cards and narrate a story from their lives. In parallel we created a word cloud from what came as stories (you can see in the images).
With something as simple as this, the topics which emerged like gender, society, aspirations, dreams, parents were quite powerful, and I felt the session went way beyond what I had initially thought of. While some reflections were tough for me as a person to digest, others were good to hear. We don’t realize in life that when we keep the problem or state the problem, we are in a way seeing the problem in absolute starkness. We see it from a different perspective, and again this is necessary. The word cloud was simply illuminating compared to some of the other sessions I’ve done before.
We ended up the session with kids coming up to me and discussing some career related queries, and how to progress in life. I felt the crowd was awesome. They were expressive, they had the energy, and above all they were very “vocal”. I give a big shout to Shrinkhla, Saransh and Kaleem for making these kids so confident in their vulnerability. They are doing an amazing job; my heart goes out to them in a big way.
When I left the session, I felt that I experienced something which I thought was not possible. I go in sessions and I’m usually like bring it on, I’ve seen everything, and yet some sessions give me goosebumps. This was right on the top. I felt awesome that I motivated the kids and I felt very blessed to be given the opportunity to do so.
Life will keep giving us things, you work hard you land up at places you dream. I’m not an Elon Musk, but I tell everyone this: “Happiness is the identity of a person, so be happy and let that happiness spread around”. At the end of the day, it’s those moments of happiness with your friends, family and people around you that matters. Live each day to be happier, and while I might not be the best at this, I aspire for this too.
And while we learn, while we grow in life, we should always remember to give it back to the society we live in. And when I see people like Shrinkhla, Saransh and Kaleem, I feel they are doing this so awesome work, big KUDOS to them for the same!!