Bill Drayton

Start Following Your Dreams, Stop Worrying About What You’re “Supposed To Do”

In elementary school I could not imagine why I was being tortured by Latin or math, and my perception of soccer was chiefly that of being a crashee.

But I loved starting things, especially newspapers. Once I had saved enough to buy a mimeograph machine, which was an improvement over my prior mass reproduction method of typing hard on as many carbon copy sheets as possible, I was unstoppable.

Publishing and managing what would become a 32- and then 50-page newspaper with a circulation beyond my school was also irresistible. I had to go out and get advertisements, I had to find writers, and I had to organize peers. Publishing a newspaper was what I wanted to do, but it meant that I was not always where I was supposed to be.

Many years later when my mother died, I found correspondence between her and the principal of my school. My mother was more than a little worried. (Why is my fifth grader neither in school nor at home?) However, the principal patiently and ultimately successfully argued that everyone should trust me. In fact, he advised: "Don't even show him that you're anxious."

Bless him!

Once a young person has had a dream fulfilled, built a team, or changed his world, he has the power to express love and respect in action—the heart of what brings health, longevity, and happiness.

He will be a changemaker for life—a real contributor in a world where value increasingly comes from changemaking and not, as it has for millennia, from efficiency in repetition. It is no accident that more than 80 percent of the 3,000 Ashoka Fellows (leading entrepreneurs who have innovative solutions to social problems) started something in their teens, usually early teens. Today, more than half have changed national policy within five years of launching their solution.

Here at Ashoka, we believe that the education reform discussion has largely missed the boat. It is focused chiefly on access to schools driven by an outdated set of objectives, mastering a body of knowledge and a set of rules. That makes sense in a static world, but not in one defined by accelerating change.

Now we must ensure that this generation of young people are changemakers before they turn 21. This means that they will have to master the core changemaking skills—empathy, teamwork, new leadership, and changemaking.

The only way they can do this is by practicing and practicing, by, in fact, being changemakers. (See Ashoka's Start Empathy and Youth Venture initiatives.)

How many other principals today know that they are on this very different playing field?

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on Bill Drayton's LinkedIn Influencer page. For more from Bill, please follow him on LinkedIn.

Photo: Drew Leavy/Getty Images

As the founder and CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, Bill Drayton has pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship, growing a global association of nearly 3,000 leading social entrepreneurs who work together to create an 'Everyone a Changemaker' world. Connect with Ashoka on Twitter @Ashoka.

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