Bradley Wiggins is one the most famous British cyclist of all time. But once upon a time he was a child growing up in a very unsafe community in North West London, a community made famous when the local Head teacher was stabbed to death at school, a community where young peoples aspirations “a postman or a milkman or work in a betting shop.”
How do you go from such a tough start in life to fulfilling your amazing potential? Bradley Wiggins is clear – “it takes just one person”. One role model…. one person who believes in you….one person who gives you some confidence….one person who encourages you. Sometimes we call this ‘one person’ a mentor, sometimes an elder and often a role model.
Not only is the “one person” vital for a young persons life, but their brains are actually wired up to be shaped by these mentors and role models. Young people are ready and waiting for mentors. I can pinpoint exactly the four different people who spoke to me when I was about 19 years old and they gave me something that I couldn’t give myself at that time and it launched me on to a great adventure. One of them inspired me about leadership (I didn’t even know what leadership was before then) , one of them said they saw leadership potential in me (it had never occurred to me that I had leadership potential), one of them encouraged me about my attitude to the work I was doing (no older man had encouraged me before about who I was), and one person gave me the most amazing opportunity (I was invited to grow my leadership in an international youth centre in Europe for two summers).
The power of one person.
I’m sure each one of them never knew how powerful they were to me as a mentor, role model and elder.
What is it that the one person can do for a young person?
They can call us out of our small lives – our horizons for ourselves are often so narrow
They can call us out of our safe lives – from a scarily young age we shift from being risk takers to risk avoiders. Fear begins to win over courage.
They can inspire us – to inspire means to breathe life into someone rather than us breathing in stale old air
They can challenge us to weed the garden of our character – our characters are being formed each day through our choices and habits. We need someone who will call us out on the unhelpful weeds that we are growing.
They can model for us – through the life that they are living they can show us what is possible
They can go ahead of us – they can share with us the ways that they have discovered through life’s challenges
They can walk with us – while people can’t walk our journey for us, they can walk along side of us through the good and the tough
They can stretch and challenge us to keep outgrowing our old skins – when we are thinking ‘that’s it’, they can keep on whispering into our ear ‘there’s more’
They can call us to the dance – what if there is more to life than what we see in front of us, something more, greater, beyond – a bigger dance?
When Emerging Leaders trains our trainers we make it very clear that it isn’t their job to just educate people about leadership, but to inspire them. To call to them. To be the one person.
As we enter another exciting year of training youth, in vulnerable communities, in more countries, these questions are the very questions that we want to be asking……and it only takes one person to ask them.
– New Year greetings from CEO Trevor Waldock