Strategy #4: Connect with the Right People
Presidents of companies do not succeed in leading the change required to realize the vision without an investment in aligning a lot of people and putting support in place for the effort. Without that web of supporting people, no significant change goes very far.
This is also true for all teenagers on their journey to becoming a young woman or young man. The journey is too long, there are too many surprises and setbacks and there is so much unknown to deal with that trying to go without connections and support is a losing battle. In the myths heroes never went alone and neither should you.
Waiting for the Resources to Come to You is a Mistake
You have potential resources that can support you in your journey. The key, as the author of your life, is to use these resources. But, that means taking the initiative to go after the resources. Waiting for others to somehow be the author for you doesn’t work. That was childhood, which is what needs to be left behind. Being the author means reaching out to connect with individuals, groups, teams, clubs and organizations to see what the opportunities might be. Those efforts won’t all work, but many will and, if you throw a wide net, the results can be surprising.
The Good News
The good news is that there are a surprising number of people who will be willing to support you – if you ask – and sometimes help them support you. You do have to build your support network as they don’t usually form on their own. Most people are ready to support teenagers – but they often aren’t confident about how to do it or sure that teenagers want the support. Adults don’t like rejection either, so being asked to help is key. So ask.
For You, on a Heroic Journey, this is Particularly Important
It takes courage to engage people in supporting you and then relying on them – but heroes don’t go alone. They never do in the myths and stories and they don’t in real life either. None of us will be very successful if we try to go alone on our journeys.
Unfortunately, for teenagers this is particularly challenging because you are in the process of learning how to develop relationships that are deeper and more mature than those of childhood. It’s also a risk because people might say “no” and that would feel like a rejection.
If You’re an Introvert or Just Shy
Some people are “extraverts”, people who get their energy from engaging with others and who solve problems that way also. Some people are “introverts”, people who get their energy from focusing inward. They also find solutions and accomplish things with others, but they usually go inward first.
Introverts, however, are not anti-social and they do fine establishing connections. They may have to work harder at it and it might not feel as natural, but, if you’re an introvert, you can still be very successful at building a support network.
If you’re shy, you can also be very successful at establishing support networks. You may, however, have to make special efforts to overcome some of your shyness and deal with what might feel risky.
Who Can I Connect With?
There are a surprising number of potential supporters out there. The key is engaging a bunch of people in small ways and not relying on just a few. That way no one will feel too much pressure and you will have lots of support from different perspectives. Plus, sometimes people leave your support network.
People in your support network can support you in achieving the goals in your plan as well as developing specific capabilities that you are pursuing.
AND you can support others in your network. It’s not all one way.
For example, you can call on:
- Family members
- Extended family
- Guidance Counselors
- Assistant Principals
- People in community organizations
- People in faith communities
- Colleagues/co-workers of parents
- Team members
You might know these people through individual relationships or through groups, organizations or communities of which you are a part.
Coach People About How to Support You
Help Them Help You
You are asking people to support you not because you are weak or inadequate or “needy.” You are putting together a network to help you achieve goals so that you can realize your vision. You matter and are of significance, so you are worth supporting.
Many times, people simply won’t know that you want their support or what kind of support they can provide. They want to help, but don’t really know how. So, help them help you.
This can be as simple as saying, “I am pursuing these goals and, if you are willing, I would like you to support me by __________________ (fill in the blank).”
That may seem awkward, but in the majority of cases you will probably be very surprised at how willing people are to support you – they will like doing it. For most adults, teenagers are a mystery and they aren’t sure how to be supportive. If you tell them how to support you, you will actually be doing them a favor.
Go Forth Together
You can also “contract” with peers to go forth together – challenging and supporting each other on the journey. “Let’s go forth together and challenge and support each other. I invite you to challenge me to __________. And you can support me by __________. How can I challenge and support you?”
Ask yourself how you can support others, particularly your peers. A good question is, “What role am I playing in other people’s journey?”