A few months back, I was asked to deliver the keynote at a school assembly for the leavers who had completed their primary school education and were now off to secondary school.
The request was that I inspire the children with talk of their future career, but it struck me that there was a bigger consideration at hand for these children on the cusp of the rest of their lives – who and how they were in the world and not just what they did.
Imagine if I had known at 10 years old the power that we have to shape our lives purely through how we perceive each day and each moment, I thought.
So with thoughts of what I’d like to have told my ten year old self in mind, here’s what I said;
“Today I’m on business number three and about to start a very exciting phase of my life as an author. I have an MBE from the queen for services to entrepreneurship and diversity, a lovely family and a lovely life. There is a huge distance between where I am today and where I started. I grew up in a council estate, when I was fifteen I got into trouble and my school education ended. When I was seventeen I became a mother. I had just 4 GCSEs.
It’s important that you know all of that because the reality is that regardless of where you start out, where you arrive is almost entirely down to you.
You have the power to design your lives, from the career you embark on to where you live in the world and how you live in the world. Most importantly you have the power to decide what kind of person you are going to be and what your legacy is going to be. What will you be remembered for?
So I want to share some advice which I hope will help you to think differently about your own super power and how to harness it to create your biggest, happiest most fulfilling lives which contributes to the world.
- Make conscious choices. Every choice you make from the attitude you show up to class with, to the way you spend your down time, every choice takes you one step either toward or one step away from your goals and the life you want to create for yourself.
- You often can’t always choose what happens, but you can choose how you perceive what happens. Life is not always easy. Many of you will already have had tough, painful incidents in your life which you have had to cope with. But you have coped and are stronger as a result. Stuff is going to happen which tests you, but while we can’t always decide what happens we can decide how we respond to it. The hardest periods in my life have been incredible in teaching me resilience, strength, and learning in all sorts of ways. There’s an old saying which says ” pressure makes diamonds” remember that when your coursework gets tough, your family life is difficult or during any other challenge life throws at you.
- Don’t be idle. Form productive habits. Use your time wisely, start now. If you want to blog, then blog, want to YouTube? YouTube. Love design? Then start designing. Want to run a business, start it now. Doing the things which excite you isn’t something you need permission or a certain set of circumstances for. Many of you have gifts just waiting to be expressed so start, and if you don’t know how to, seek out people who can help you to begin. The internet is a great tool to utilise to learn about the journeys of other successful individuals who are doing what interests you.
- Your life is limitless. Other people’s limitations belong to them, don’t make them yours. The world is divided into people who complain about stuff, and people who seek out ways to change the things they are discontent with. When I realised that there were no greeting cards featuring people of colour it bothered me. But after I’d got over my disbelief that in a multicultural city we couldn’t buy multicultural cards, I didn’t launch into a Facebook rant about how bad the lack of diversity in the greeting card market was, I started the card line I wanted to see in the shops. I saw it as my responsibility. Equally when I became a teen mum other people presumed that was going to be all I would amount to. That a life of living on benefits without achievement would be my destiny. I had other plans. Having a baby and no money was not going to be a barrier I made it my catalyst, my reason to succeed.
- Understand and appreciate money. How to make it, how to invest it, how to create financial freedom for yourselves. If like me your parents are not business people or professionals there are a set of rules around how to make money work for you, which you probably will not have been taught. Decide to get this knowledge for yourself. Buy a copy of ‘Rich dad, poor dad for teens’ or download it and listen to the audio. Don’t end up being a slave to money, working around the clock from pay cheque to pay cheque. Money is a tool for creating freedom, but first we need to teach ourselves how to make it work for us!
- Take responsibility. Your character has everything to do with how successful and how happy you become in life. Taking responsibility is key. When you make a mistake own it, apologise and move on. It’s such a simple thing but we live in a world where people, companies and even governments struggle with this simple principle. Taking responsibility is a character trait which will help you to build trust in your relationships in every area of your life.
- Be kind and do for others, you’ll learn so much about life and about yourself from volunteering and being of service. It will serve you in ways you won’t begin to understand until later in life. I’ve had incredible experiences in my life flying on private jets to beautiful places with the entrepreneurs I represent, interviewing superstars as a journalist and going to the Palace and Downing Street for meetings, but while all that was great, my most joyful moments have been when I have been doing for others.
- Make a plan and work backwards. You don’t need to have a clear career or life plan now, I would be astounded if you did already, but start to pay attention to the things places or people that leave you inspired. A great way to do this is by making a vision board and keeping it somewhere you’ll see it every day.
- Finally, be kind to yourself, if you take on even one or two of these habits then you will be doing fantastically. You won’t get it right all of the time. You’ll be unkind sometimes, you’ll waste time being idle, you will doubt yourself and like I have in numerous occasions, you will make bad choices, it’s ok. When you fall off the ‘horse,’ dust yourself down and get back on, because we are all eternally a work in progress and perfectly imperfect.”
Love Jessica x