What I Miss About Speaking to Thousands of High School Students

From 2007-2015, I spoke to over 2500 high school scholars from around the country.

For some this may sound like a nightmare, but I loved every second.

The students would come to Washington, DC for the National Youth Leadership Forum on National Security. It’s a weeklong event for high-achieving students interested in foreign policy, intelligence and defense.

While I was technically speaking as an employee of the world largest aerospace company, my speeches tended to cover a wide range of topics. After spending my obligatory 5 minutes on defense contractors, I quickly got into what I think would have been interesting had I been 17 years old and sitting in the student audience.

It turned out to be an easy exercise. Because I had been one of those students when I was a senior in high school.

So, I talked about leaning into our strengths, adopting a growth mindset, and the power of habit.

I talked about how time and energy are finite commodities; and are precious beyond measure.

I talked about the importance of internships, and why we should travel, and how everything counts.

I talked about how good information comes in many forms, about how networking is of vital important and why we should write shit down instead of trying to remember everything.

And lastly, I talked about how it’s ultimately up to us to decide how our life unfolds.

Because good work largely results in good fortune. But only if we take action. After all, nothing ventured nothing gained.

I’d close by saying “We live in extraordinary times. So live extraordinary lives. And finally, I challenge you to make a difference with your life. It will be the greatest adventure you could ever have.”

I miss speaking to those kids.

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