Be valued because of who you are - not just what you do
Mark Beaumont is a record-breaking long-distance British cyclist, adventurer, broadcaster, documentary maker and author.
In this guest blog, Mark talks about the importance of young people having hopes and aspirations, as well as the skills and opportunities to realise them.
"I have two daughters, Harriet and Willa, aged 6 and 3. Like all children, they have ‘crazy’ ideas every single day. When you are a parent, you quickly realise that your children’s ideas are not just theirs, they are yours, to nurture… or not.
If a young person has ideas squashed, they will likely forget they ever had them. As time goes on, this quiet confidence and imagination, as well as the ‘agency’ to make informed choices and push themselves to feel fulfilled, will lessen. Becoming a self-motivated and ambitious adult doesn’t happen when you wake up aged 18 – it’s the sum total of your experiences as a young person. For so many people, these formative experiences and ideas happened in the great outdoors.
When I was eleven years old, I had the ‘crazy’ idea to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats to Land’s End because I had read about it in the newspaper. If my mother had squashed that idea, I guarantee I would have long ago forgotten that I had ever had it. There were no meaningful, life-long memories from having the idea in itself – those came when I got on my bicycle and cycled across Scotland. Then a few years later with the life experience to know how I pedalled the 1000 miles from end-to-end.
Two decades of learning the skills, the mindset and physical ability, I pedalled around the planet in less than 80 days, smashing the previous record by nearly 40%. I can easily reverse engineer my life to sound sure-footed, professional and perhaps inevitable. However, as you live life, you can’t see what experiences will become, life is filled with insecurities and setbacks – as you grow up, you can only see the next horizon and as the years go on, those horizons grow.
Young people (in fact all ages) contact me every single week with ambitions to push themselves – they wish to climb Mount Everest, pull sledges across the poles, row oceans and cycle the world – and many more want to start businesses, build social-enterprises – to be independent-minded and take on their dreams. I am a huge fan of shooting for the stars - but I am also a big believer in learning your trade. To achieve greatness in life, you need to learn how to build skills and more fundamentally, you need to learn about yourself.
You can work for the world’s largest corporation or plough your own furrow – there are few wrong paths in life, as long as it is a path you have genuinely chosen. Choice and the ability to act on ideas is the missing link in many young people’s education. What is the point in learning to remember, being clever by the book, if you don’t know what it feels like to step out from the crowd, to lead where others can’t, to smile in the face of challenge and to create memories that last a lifetime?
Be valued because of who you are, not just what you do – this is something I’d love all young people to aspire to. To not just pander for peer acceptance but to have the quiet confidence to put themselves in the driving seat of their own lives with the skills to create real happiness and impact – for themselves and the community they grow up to live in.
This is what the Outward Bound Trust have done for nearly 80 years – given young people the life skills to be bold, take risks, be challenged.
I have enjoyed getting to know the Outward Bound team in Scotland over the past few years and seeing their fantastic legacy of work - in particular getting to meet and hear from so many of the young people who have been on OB courses, learning life skills and finding confidence in themselves."
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