Yesterday, I introduced this topic by suggesting that we frequently “count chickens before they are hatched” when it comes to youth. Many students are automatically considered slackers or misfits, when, in reality, some may be ahead of their time. They’re loaded with potential but were perceived as slow or simply strange and irrelevant. But they weren’t at all. Johann Sebastian Bach was. Einstein almost was, as was Walt Disney. Others, are simply late bloomers. Their inward potential is latent and we must not draw conclusions too early.
When this is the case, we must be careful how we offer guidance to these kids. They are vulnerable—and may give up on their potential in an effort to simply fit in. What we must do is mold that young person’s perception. We must help them identify their perceived weakness and help them turn it around as a strength. Recently, I heard an African American woman talk about how a faculty member pulled her aside for talking too much. She had done this six times in the same day. But instead of the teacher screaming at her, she said: “You talk a lot. You have the gift of gab. You’ll make a great speaker or writer someday.” Those words stuck to this young girl. Instead of following in her brothers and sister’s footsteps, she followed her teacher’s words. Today, she reminded us those words had come true. She now spoke full time and had authored three books. Her words now paid the bills.
Another young man consistently got called into the principal’s office for misbehavior. Once in the office, he would spin the story to make himself look innocent. The principal issued the proper discipline, but pulled him aside and noted, “You have an uncanny way of spinning stories to highlight a certain side. You would make a great attorney one day.” Today, that young man is practicing law in Virginia. His principal found a perceived weakness and helped him see it as a strength. They weren’t late bloomers at all. They just were practicing their strength in a destructive manner. Someone needed to help them perceive themselves correctly.
There’s an old phrase that says, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” This means we shouldn’t assume we have something in hand until we actually do. I believe this phrase can be interpreted both ways. We cannot assume we know how a student will turn out (bad or good) by their display early on. Early bloomers may fizzle later and late bloomers may be the ones who will surprise us all and transform the world.
Is there a student under your nose right now that drives you crazy? Could it be they will one day be a leader? Could their eccentricity really be a leading edge in the future? Can their weakness really be a strength turned inside out? What could happen if they saw themselves differently?
May I challenge you to see them differently first. Then, spend time with them, in casual, informal conversation. Tell them what you see. Find out what fuels their passion. Help them see themselves as a leader and see if this doesn’t positively impact their self-esteem. You might just have the next Bach, or Beethoven, or Jordan or Einstein on your hands.