It is often said that the young are our future leaders. This is a true statement, but it does not fully cover the reality of the situation.
I recently had the honor of being chosen to be a judge in the finals of the national Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) competitions, to choose the university team that will represent Zimbabwe in the SIFE World Cup competition in Los Angeles, California this year. The keynote speaker, Grace Muradzikwa, remarked that young people are not only the leaders of the future, but of today as well, and the young men and women representing their schools in this competition certainly validated her comment. They demonstrated beyond anyone’s doubt that they are able to identify need within their communities, and develop practical ways to address those needs.
One of the privileges of aging is giving advice to those who are younger, and I would like to take advantage of that privilege to offer a bit of advice to young people everywhere, based upon my observation of the outstanding participants in this year’s SIFE competition.
Get Involved and Stay Involved
Leaders don’t stand on the sidelines and complain about problems, they jump into the middle of the arena and look for solutions. More importantly, they involve others in finding those solutions and motivate them to participate. Leadership, true leadership, is not a short term effort; it is a marathon, and victory goes to the leader who continues to run no matter the obstacles or challenges.
Make Honesty and Integrity Your Watchword
One of the judging criteria of the SIFE competition is business ethics, the understanding that long-term success and prosperity of a market economy, businesses, and individuals are dependent on ethical business practices. Your word should be sacred; once given it should be an iron-clad guarantee that people can depend on.
Protect the Environment
I am extremely disappointed in the terrible performance of my own and previous generations in protecting and conserving our natural resources. In the pursuit of profit, we have plundered the earth and left ugly, naked scars all over the planet as a testament to our greed and short sightedness. Interstellar travel might be a reality at some future time, but for now, we have only one earth, and if we destroy it, we have no place to go. It will be you, the youth of today, who will have to undo all the wrong we’ve done and leave an earth for your grandchildren and their grandchildren.
Never Stop Learning
When you receive that diploma, don’t let that be the end of your education. Commit yourself to making every day a learning experience. Technology of the twenty-first century literally moves at the speed of light; we have gone from vacuum tubes to integrated circuits to the iPad just in my lifetime. Just 40 years ago, the personal computer was the stuff of science fiction movies, and today, I work with a voice command capable laptop computer with a built in mini-camera that allows me to use it as a video phone. If you stop learning when you leave school, you condemn yourself to obsolescence.
There are some cynics who say that ‘youth is wasted on the young.’ This is only true if during youth, we don’t take advantage of the opportunities to make a difference.