Be a Trendsetter

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Students from John Gray High School give the thumbs up to the young leadership forum Choose to be a Positive Trendsetter.
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Minister of Youth, the Hon. Mark Scotland delivered the following message at the Youth Services Unit and National Youth Commission's young leadership forum Choose to be a Positive Trendsetter:

“If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.”

As you are about to embark on today’s workshop, I want you to seriously consider this simple yet powerful phrase, as coined by the Alice in Wonderland author, Lewis Caroll.

You - teenagers and young adults alike - face increased pressures, and the only way you can secure your future, is by having a clear vision of what it is you want to achieve. You are growing up in a world that sadly faces multiple interconnected crises – climate change, chronic unemployment, overpopulation and dwindling resources. It is unfortunately a fact that the adverse effects of these issues will fall disproportionately on you – the next generation. As such, chancing it on just ‘any road’ will simply not cut it.

Fortunately, there is a flip side to this gloomy outlook. Growing up in the 21st century, you are enjoying the fruits of fantastic technological advances and your will have access to extraordinary new careers. You are also coming of age at a time when people are open to new ideas and society embraces the young and innovative like never before.

In the face of all these possibilities, the challenges of being young today are balanced with the myriad opportunities. But here is the caveat: Together with having a vision of your future, you must also ensure that you have a roadmap for a successful path.

But even if you know where you want to go and how to get there, there is a third component of success – staying on course. As any good seafaring captain will tell you: It doesn’t matter if you have set course for a great destination if you find yourself at sea without a rudder and a compass. Translated to your personal lives, your rudder and compass are your ethics and values. These are the things that will not only help you reach your goals, but will make sure that you reach it in an honourable way. In other words: Having principles is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do; While your moral beliefs and values keep you on course, reminding you of who you are – giving you direction is the best and worst of times.

Alas, these are not easily defined. Good morals and ethics are not written down in some exhaustive list somewhere. On the contrary, they are intensely personal and needs constant nurturing and strengthening. Fortunately today’s workshop will equip you with the skills to recognise your values - to define your own set of ethical rules you want to live by.

This workshop is also designed to engage and challenge you - teaching you to set goals, to chase those ideals and to lead others to success as you become a positive trendsetter.

You might wonder what leadership has to do with success in life. The short answer is that leadership skills such as goal-setting, problem-solving and sound decision-making are key ingredients of reaching one’s goals. But there is more. Even if you do not aspire to be a politician or chief executive officer one day, being a social and community leader is equally important. A society with leaders is a winning one for leading is not about having the power to tell others what to do, it is about serving others. It is about bringing about positive change and leaving the world a better place.

Personally, I never aspired to become the Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture. My primary motivation was to serve my community, to contribute to a better future for our country and to steer people and resources in the right direction. Being Minister is not the prize, serving is. And even as I carry the title of Minister, I can assure you that I am surrounded with many leaders in my ministry who all serve to their own capability and strengths.

We are all called to lead, whether by title or in our personal capacities. For leadership is what is needed for success in today’s world: Leadership competencies will enable you to solve community problems and foster civic pride; Leaders know how to channel their energy and creativity into securing peace and sustainability for their own generation and for the future, and finally, although in the minority, leaders get to set the trends.

The latter is an interesting and powerful phenomena identified by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York State. Calling it the minority rule, they found that once 10 percent of a population holds an unshakable belief, the idea will spread like a wildfire. Today, we are looking to you to be that 10 percent.

I firmly believe in your ability to affect positive change wherever you go. For starters, you have a greater understanding of the problems facing other youth. You also have fresh perspectives on how to address these problems and finally, you have the ability to re-energize us ‘older’ people.

Before I leave you to change the world, I must thank the Youth Services Unit and the National Youth Commission for helping my Ministry make good on our promises to our youth. Today’s training specifically fulfills one of the goals set in the 2011 National Youth Policy namely empowering young people as legitimate and active partners in decision-making processes.

 Today’s leadership training was developed to maximize the potential and productivity of our youth and to help them develop key skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem solving and human relations. On top of it, they will also build confidence. In all, this is an invaluable investment in our future and I thank all for putting this together.

However, no matter how much we adults commit, we can only achieve success if the young people of the Cayman Islands rise to the challenge, do their part and meet us halfway. And so I conclude today with an open challenge to our young people: Show us older folk how you can, want, and will take control of your future.

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