I had the distinct pleasure last week of working with a group of sixth form students on a youth enterprise day at a college in Birmingham. To be honest, I was really unsure what to expect from the day but the reality was totally inspiring and revitalising. To create the context these were sixteen to eighteen years old students spending the day looking to acquire a greater level of employability skills and it was a delight to see the way they threw themselves into the tasks of the day with real conviction and enthusiasm.
These young people have yet to develop any real business skills, knowledge or experience. Their understanding of strategies, models and all we learn as we craft our business skill is almost non-existent. What they did have though in bucket loads was enthusiasm and this manifested itself in genuine creative flair.
It set me to thinking about how easy it is to lose this enthusiasm as we become older and wiser. I remember as a young man in sales being told by an older, wiser and more respected salesperson that I suffered from an overdose of enthusiasm; it was a comment that crippled me at the time. Enthusiasm was a major part of who I was and to this day it still is. I tried reigning myself in and controlling my raging enthusiasm, only to see my sales figures plummet through the floor and me with no option but to leave the company for a new role. Fortunately in the new role enthusiasm and creativity were not only encouraged but celebrated and my career received a new lease of life.
This was well over 20 years ago but it is something I have always remembered. Indeed it was something that came quite strongly to my mind whilst watching the way the various groups we were mentoring worked through the difficulties of their tasks.
Now I am not saying that enthusiasm on its own is a more powerful force than knowledge and experience, but what I am saying, and what I saw demonstrated last week, is that knowledge and experience coupled with that vibrant brand of youthful enthusiasm is a most potent force.
There is no question that as we lose the innocence of youth and take on the experience of being so grown-up we can also lose the magic of that youthful enthusiasm. Our responsibility and need to be more serious coupled with the pressures of living in a fast paced competitive world all but suffocates our childlike enthusiasm. And I suppose what I am saying is, I know we cannot live our lives with the freedom and carefree spirit of a Peter Pan. We have to grow up but is it possible as we do that we can keep a little corner of ourselves young, free and uninhibited to culture that special breed of creativity and enthusiasm the young enjoy?
So let’s set a challenge, every once in a while let free the child within and throw a good dose of childlike enthusiasm into our difficult and trying world and see what happens.
You never know…