I haven't been able to stop thinking about the notes Patrick Turner, age 16, left for his parents, friends and teachers before he took his life last week. On the outside, Patrick seemed like a regular kid. Active in sports, worked hard in school, lived in an affluent community. On the inside there was a different story going on. One that is playing out more frequently these days. One that has made me take pause at my "why" to focus on my "it."
When I started coaching, the popular marketing tactic was to talk about your "why" - your reason for "why" you do what you do. I started coaching because I wanted to make an impact on other people's lives. To help them find their own "why," to have my own business, to have a better schedule for my family, etc. As I was reading Patrick Turner's notes, I realized it shouldn't be about "why" it should be about "it."
I recently created a presentation for Tween and Teens - it focuses on five key foundations we all need to help create our life path. I started it with women, and based on feedback I got from some of my clients, they wanted to share the content with their own teenagers. One of them said to me "for as much as your content is helping me, I think my son needs to hear it too." I was humbled and excited that she wanted to share it with him. "Please do!" I excitedly told her. That led me to making a few updates to the course I originally created and now I have a version for our children.
In the presentation I focus on things like why it's important to have big dreams and how to work for them. I talk about diversity, inclusion and the importance of focusing on your "it" - what are you good at? What do you love to do? You see, not all of us are built to be top academic achievers (Lord knows I wasn't). Not all of us are gifted athletes or musicians or artists. Not all of us have a way with words. But we all have something. We all have an "it." The key now, especially with our children is to encourage that. Encourage "it." Support "it." And to let them know that "It" is an evolving thing. Your "It" can change, the same way your "why" can.
I worry all the time about my boys. Are we being too demanding of them? Are we putting too much stress on them to be "well rounded?" It's a constant internal struggle for me.
We recently started touring high schools in NYC - talk about pressure. You want to know what my husband said to my son as we toured a top school? He said "Wyatt, I want you to know something. I went to high school, your mother went to high school. We both went to college. We both tried a few different jobs before we decided on what we wanted to do. We got married, had a couple of kids, built a life we both wanted together. I'd say we've been pretty successful. I'm saying all of this because the most important things in life are not based on a grade you get or a school you go to. As long as you're happy, that's what matters. That's what we want - for you and your brother to be happy. And whatever that is, we will support it."
He's a smart cookie that husband of mine. I've been telling my kids the same three things everyday since they were born - be happy, make good choices and I love you. You guys, we have to be better for our children. The amount of pressure we are collectively putting on them is too much. What happened to letting kids be kids? Letting them play outside in an unorganized fashion? To allowing them down time that's not scheduled? Why are WE being competitive for them?
I'm going to a high school in Massachusetts in March to talk to 400 kids about finding their "it" and I can't wait to tell them how amazing they all are. I can't wait to talk about having big dreams and working for them the right way. About supporting their passions and empowering their friends. About learning the power of mindset and communication and that not one of them is less than the other. We are all equal. We should all celebrate that.
My heart is broken for Patrick Turner's family and community. I pray that this tragedy can be turned into something more, but what that is, I don't fully know. We need more dialogue and less shame. We need more support and less criticism. We need more optimism and hope and love.
I found my "it" after a few tries, and now I'm sharing it in ways I never thought possible. I'm privileged to be able to do what I do. Share motivation and optimism with the world. To help others find their "it." The world needs your stories, we need your "it." If you're struggling and don't feel like you have someone to turn to - find me. Find a friend. Call someone. Talk to a stranger. But please, don't give up.
Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255