This year the 7th and 8th grade girls of KIPP Charlotte participated in my Athena’s Path curriculum as part of their Girls Leadership Program sponsored by the Junior League of Charlotte.
The following is an excerpt from my keynote speech at their kick-off ceremony. I hope you will find the themes worth sharing with your children.
Finding Your Why
I recently learned an important lesson and I want to share it with you today. This is it: How you do something is not nearly as important as WHY you do something.
If you are very good at something, you might think the most important thing you can do is practice what it is that makes you so impressive. Let’s say you are a soccer star. Maybe you spend hours every day running to improve your time, or kicking to improve your aim, or stretching to improve your flexibility, or juggling to improve your balance. With all that training for precision and skill, you could easily be fooled into believing that how you play soccer is the most important ingredient in your success.
After all, what could guarantee success more than developing your HOW factor so that your skills outshone those around you? There is one thing. It is your WHY. More important than how you do what you do so well, whether it be soccer, or math, or teaching, or preaching, or child care, or physics, or baking, or banking… more important than HOW you do that thing you do so well, is WHY you do it at all.
If you are a soccer star, your speed may help you outrun the competition. Your aim may help you score the winning goal. Your flexibility may help you stretch yourself further than the girl next to you. And your balance may keep you on your feet instead of your back. But your WHY is what gets you out of bed at 5 am for morning practice when you are exhausted and cold. Your WHY is what pushes you through the practice in pouring rain. Your WHY is what you hear instead of the careless criticism of a coach, or the thoughtless insult of a friend, or the creeping of your own self-doubt. In those moments when you are most fragile, you don’t think about how you do what you do, you think about WHY.
As you begin the Athena’s Path leadership program, I hope you pay a lot of attention to your WHY. Remember, your why isn’t what you’re good at. It’s the feeling you get when you connect with your passion and your heart feels as if it might implode with pure joy. That is your WHY. It is what keeps you from giving up, and that is what makes you a leader. There is a simple quote I love that fits here:
The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places. ~Author Unknown
In my career developing Athena’s Path, there were many times I wanted to park it. There were days, sometimes weeks, I would stay in neutral threatening myself that I would turn off the ignition. But every time I came close, it wasn’t how I write curriculum that brought me back. It was this feeling I have right now looking at all of you. You are my WHY.
My hope, as you begin the Athena’s Path program this year, is that you find your WHY. You will find it in each other and in yourselves. Share you fears, and your worries, and your dreams. When you are willing to be completely honest you will arrive at a place where what matters most is not how well you do something, but why you bother to do it at all.
Michelle Icard is our resident middle school expert. You can visit her on her website www.MichelleintheMiddle.com and on Facebook.