If you are a faithful Tweak Your Slides reader, you know that one of my favorite people is Pamela Slim, guru, author, and TED speaker. Slim advises those who want to “escape cubicle nation”and those who wish to connect the disparate threads of experience to help create a cohesive and impacting body of work, and helps them find a way to take success and their future into their own hand. Upon first studying works like Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work, it seems that Slim’s focus is on experienced workers, those who have been in the workforce for years and are looking for a way to put their experience to different use or who want to pursue their “side hustles.” But, today’s TED Talk shows us that Pam’s mission to change her clients’, readers’, and the world’s vision of success extends to the group she sees as the most important in helping us recover economically–our youth. In her TEDxPhoenix talk, Slim shares several stories of young people who show strength, perseverance, and bravery in the face of a tumultuous world. These young people presented through the framework of Slim’s powerful storytelling can remind teachers and leaders of what our true role is in educating others: we are guides, encouragers, mentors who help others unlock hidden potential that can and will change the world.
Pain is Power
Among these remarkable folks is Amanda Wang, a graphic designer who brings awareness to bipolar disorder by sharing her journey to train for the Golden Gloves with audiences; Amanda uses her pain, her “weaknesses” to empower herself and empower others. In a world with constantly shifting ideas, ideologies, power structures, work modes, etc. the ability to harness pain into power is remarkably important.
A Free Mind Creates Economic Freedom
Another impacting story Slim shares is the story of Willie Jackson, who left a traditional corporate career to help others jumpstart their creative endeavors through building WordPress sites. For Willie, the traditional work mode and traditional definition of success were not enough to make him happy. His willingness to use his talents to help others freed him.
We need to stop telling our young people to spend 40 years creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides that have no meaning.
Beauty is a Universal Constant
Slim then shares the story of Avery, a young Navajo man, who traverses two worlds–the world of his native culture and the world surrounding it in Phoenix, Arizona. Avery uses art to communicate his perspective and the perspectives of other natives in a unique way. He gives voice to experiences most of us would otherwise know nothing about, and empowers others to share their experiences. For Slim, Avery is representative of the potential future of contemporary native people. He will grow to be a leader and guide to future generations, including her children.
As teachers and leaders, it’s up to us to keep this idea as an important focus. Yes, generations have different concerns, different values, different interests, but I think we fall into the “what’s wrong with young people today?” way of thinking far too often and far too quickly. If we see potential in every one of our students, they will live up to that potential. I will be leaving my current position and subject matter with corporate education to return to a learning-centered college in the Fall (the same one I left almost six years ago). I brought with me the principles of learner-centered education, and I learned more than I can say about teaching, leadership, and design as a course director of Professional Communication and Presentation. I will return to Valencia College with these new skills, always keeping in mind that my role is to guide, inspire, and motivate the young people who will continue changing our world for the better.