This past week I attended the Southwest Regional Leadership Forum hosted by the Sarkey’s Foundation in Norman, OK. I honestly didn’t expect to come back completely re-energized and inspired to take on the world… but I did. One thing I’ve learned recently from the book Made to Stick by the Dan Heath and Chip Heath is that there is elegance in brevity and simplicity. So rather than give you my entire 2-day rambling brain dump, I am going to share some links and insights with you concerning the key speakers. I need to save some other stuff for other posts!
Key Note Speakers
The Search Institute and Sparks - Peter Benson (President of the Search Institute). Peter spoke to us and reminded us that if you are breathing you have a responsibility in the lives of our youth. Peter spoke about the 40 Developmental Assets for youth in Grades 6-12 – basically, tools that every kid should have. Examples include family support, community values, creative activities, reading, school engagement, etc. There’s also one that has been created for children ages 0-5 which I’ve seen around here at CAP. Peter was very eloquent in discussing how as a society, it seems we focus on the negative attributes and problems of our youth. When you read the newspaper, it’s 9 times out of 10 something bad or our tendency to avoid eye contact with kids walking down the street. Peter emphasized that the simple act of talking to a kid beyond “how’s your day” can be life changing. Peter issues a call to ask our youth 7 essential questions that start with what’s your spark? We as adults, mentors, teachers, aunts, uncles, and parents can really learn so much by asking this and nurturing it in our youth and…ourselves. This is the stuff of communities!
Kevin Carroll - Human Catalyst- is one incredible individual that has dedicated his life to advancing sports and play as vehicles for social change. As one of three young boys abandoned at the age of 6 by their mother and sent 200 miles on greyhound bus to his grandparents to live in 1964, Kevin saw his share of adversity but didn’t let it get him down. From that early age, he quickly learned that the red rubber ball would be his salvation to leading the life he wanted. After playing every sport in high school imaginable, he went on to join the air force as a linguistic translator where he learned 5 languages.
After that he worked as assistant coach with the NBA and later worked for Nike for 7 years, where he served as a human catalyst. When Nike first brought him on board, they had no idea what to do with him. They recruited him because they were impressed with what he did as a coach at the NBA and his personality to mobilize people towards innovation and inspiration. During his first six weeks at Nike, he had no job title. His job was to meet with every department and figure out what they were doing. After six weeks, he met with the people that hired him and showed them all the projects and initiatives he had started. This became his job, essentially working as a human catalyst for Nike.
One of the cool projects that he did while traveling around the world was exchanging brand new Nike balls for the innovative homemade balls in areas that he was in. It literally brought tears to my eyes as he showed us pictures of the all the different balls that had been conjured up in all the different countries. A ball in Brazil was made of doll hair and sewn over with cloth. A ball in Senegal was made of trash bags and wound about with strips of tire. Can you imagine the effort it took someone to strip threads off a tire to make a ball?? Another ball in Africa had been made fashioned out banana leaves that had been out to dry. Kevin commented on the true smarts, innovation, and drive to create in the face of adversity. It is truly remarkable.
Also, check out the Homeless World Cup and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Need I say more?
What’s your red rubber ball or your spark? are you able to incorporate work and play? One thing that Kevin really emphasized with the group was the importance of play within work which does not translate as goofing off. It’s the capacity to receive inspiration and go back to being the 8 year old recreating the refrigerator box. Remember when you ran across a giant box? It was not just a box- it was a ship, a fort, a house, it was something. It’s easy to get burned out on coming up with new ideas or keeping our heads above water. Sometimes, many of us just need our glasses filled with some outside inspiration to get the wheels churning again. Actually, Kevin has a pretty good reading list on his website that we could all benefit from.
At the end of the day, there are many ways to change the world and our community, whether through sport, education, mentoring, fab labs, you name it. Please feel free to share what inspires you or any amazing ideas you have or come across. What can you do today? What energizes you and how can you put it to work in our community? Tag, you’re it.