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Things we learn from young people

Posted in Leadership, Management, Personal Effectiveness, Uncategorized, Values

Despite the attractive laid-back hippy, flower power and surfing cultures which were around when I was young, our fairly conservative coastal-rural upbringing meant we thought more or less everything there was to learn would come through our parents. As one ‘matured’ one was tempted to think the youth of today had it easier and was not as committed or hard working as we were and so on. Then there was all the grumbling about ‘Gen X’, ‘Y’ and more recently, ‘Z’ and how each group supposedly expected different kinds of special treatment. Fortunately this talk seems to have died down.

Nearing the final day of a gruelling 1300km charity cycle ride for the two young men, James Larkan and Steve Richards - in two rides in two years they raised A$80 000 for Youth Focus, a charity dedicated to helping young people struggling with depression and potential suicide in Western Australia

I found this thinking changing for me as my own three children grew into young adulthood and as I took on managing partner roles in law firms and witnessed the talented, hard-working, articulate, confident young kids coming through our interview processes. More and more I found myself thinking the opposite was true – we had as much if not more to learn and admire from ‘them’ as they ever did from ‘us’. In fact, since then, I have never stopped learning from observing them.

30km headwinds on the penultimate day, after 7 days in the saddle, proved tough-going!

A recent example, very close to home, brought this firmly back to me. My son James, busy with final year university in Perth, West Australia and a full-day part-time job running a warehouse, joined his best mate Steve Richards in tackling a 1300 km cycle ride from Exmouth to Perth over 8 days to raise funds for the Youth Focus charity which counsels and support kids struggling with depression and potential suicide. This backed up on their 600km mountain bike ride along the famous Munda Biddi mountain bike trail the year before from the south western corner of West Australia to Perth, also over about 8 days. They raised $80000 doing these two rides. Tragically Steve lost his brother Mark to suicide 3 years ago and the rides were dedicated to Mark.  A nice touch was that James’ two sisters, Kerry and Jess, also quietly weighed in and supported the boys, organising a very successful raffle and contributing and arranging some fantastic prizes for it.

Steve’s Mum, Anne, former Australian squash representative, who with her amazing Mum, Pat, and partner Dave, remarkable people all, spent every minute of every day with the boys, said it best when the boys arrived in Perth:

I’m not going to say too much today, most of you have read the couple of updates I sent so I think you can visualise a little of the picture of this amazing journey. There have been so many stories within stories during this trip, just too many to talk about today and nearly all these stories are touching or emotional in some way.

The boys passed through some amazing countryside - the Pinnacles desert-scapes near Cervantes

It is a huge relief for me to have Steve and James here safely today!

I think I need to keep it simple. This all began because Mark died. He was living in incredible pain and took his own life, exactly three years ago today at about 7.30 tonight. It is a day to celebrate but to me, to Steve, our family and everyone who knew Mark it is terribly sad, we lost someone special.

Steve, who loves his brother dearly, had a need to do something in the way he knows best (something physical, challenging and painful) to honour Mark’s life and memory. He chatted to his best mate James who “despite his size and hairy eyebrows” is the most caring, loving and thoughtful man. James and Steve together have achieved Steve’s goal and have truly honoured Mark and kept him alive for us. But along with that they have done so much more. They have through their massive efforts raised a lot of money, close to $80 000 in two “Rides for Mark.” This money will go to Youth Focus and will give some kids and their families the support they need to deal with their huge mental health challenges. They may even save a life. 

This epic ride which started on May 5th and finished today on the 11th didn’t just happen in a week, this years ride was decided on in November last year and Steve and James hold down full time jobs and study. They have trained before and after work with long rides on weekends and still found time to see their girfriends, have a beer with their mates and catch up with family. Who says the young people of today are not organised, efficient and productive. They are to be admired as wonderful role models.

These two brave, humble men have ridden over 1250 kilometers, spent over 70 hours on the road, over 60 hours on the actual bikes over 7 days. They have eaten 3 cows, 4kgs of calamari, 11 loaves of bread, 5kgs of chocolate, 18 bags of jubes and snake sweets, drunk around 80 litres of water and 50 litres of Gatorade and not a drop of alcohol.

They have used 2 full tubs of numb-bum cream, stopped going behind bushes to wee, stopped worrying whether they looked good in photos, learnt how to sleep on a rock and not notice a massive road-train whizz by two meters away.

They have oozed determination and teamwork, incredible strength of body and character and have demonstrated the wonderful quality of knowing how to give when the reward is just in the giving itself.

Lets applaud our two special men Steven and James”

All  the best, Sean, Partner, Edge International