As CEO of a nonprofit organization— a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire and motivate young people in underdeveloped countries to pursuit advance degrees—my immediate goal is to cast a resonant message that overcomes the fears, myths, and emotional “loads” that trigger self-sabotaging thoughts in those I seek to serve.
I have spent countless nights awake—ruminating on ideas and scenarios; reading and listening; and contemplating on ways to help those in the developing world advance their educations (which will, in turn, advance their home countries). Slowly I have come to realize that it is not an astronaut or a decorated professor at a top university who can inspire a child to become a scientist or engineer. The degrees and awards are not enough.
People identify with people that are like themselves! The key is to find professionals that have climbed up from the “pit of life” and want to share their story.
What I keep seeing over and over is that, in under developed countries, most PhD’s have parents or relatives with PhD’s. For many it is a default route. Many were even born in the developed countries where their parents were enrolled in graduate school. Even though those parents eventually went back to their home countries, these children are nationals of the PhD awarding countries—and returning there to work or to study is natural to them. Legacy can be promoting and demoting.
The larger group of students—most being the first out of their families in obtaining a college degree—have no guide or path laid out for them to advanced degrees. Everything is new, and most “stumble to cross the finish line” because of the mistakes they make along the way. They do not see themselves as being similar to the hyper achievers they read about in newspapers or see on TV! For them it is harder!
Would it help them to know that the hyper achievers have parents with degrees—that early exposure, opportunities, and money prepared them to succeed? Poor kids do little with such knowledge! What they need to see is “their own reflection” in the eyes of somebody that once struggled like them. So much the better if the role model comes from the same “barrio”, slum, or “precario”. How far the role model went in life is not so essential, because what really matters is the effective size. At this level, any contrast is great!
Shame is the feeling that keeps us from sharing who we really are. It is counter intuitive for most of us that being authentic is our biggest asset. Authenticity is the door that, once opened, allows us to be trusted. And when we gain trust, we have “gained it all”. This is what you sell in a job interview, and it is what you need in order to sell your product or service to your prospective customer.
Could you do me a favor? Please watch the series of TED Talks by Brené Brown and learn about how authenticity can take you to the next level in every aspect of your life. Do me a favor, write your bio—as little as two pages would be fine—and let me feature it on ingear.org. Of course, we are interested in knowing about your accolades, but—most importantly—we want to know about your struggles. We want to know who you were, not just who you are. We want to know where you come from, not just where you are.
Helping to advance the education of students in under developed countries can potentially steer history to avoid the next famine, the next civil war, or the next military intervention by a foreign “super-power”. Not so long ago, Central and South America were the theaters of the cold war. Today the conflict is in the Middle East. Regardless of the exact location, however, poverty and violence are forcing thousands to flee their countries daily from most southern countries to the north. Are we at the doorsteps of a new era of conflict in Africa and Latin America?