Following current events can feel super overwhelming. Headlines splashed with violence and fear, climate change, political injustice, gender inequality… the world can look like a messy place.
At Rustic, we’re constantly inspired by the students who travel with us, and from what we’ve seen, Generation Z is full of potential change makers. We’re here to support students who want to make a positive impact. Here are our top 5 suggestions to get you started.
1) Forget about the grade for a minute
Our school system teaches us that a letter grade is often the be-all and end-all to demonstrate success. Getting an A can feel validating, especially when you put in the hard work to earn it, but often the first step to becoming a change maker is learning to move beyond the letter grade. Try switching your perspective—focus on how and why you did, or did not, get an A. What strategies worked? What didn’t? When do you feel most creative?
We all learn differently, and it’s important to understand how YOU learn best. Focusing on the process instead of the outcome is a skill that will help you develop as a change maker.
2 ) Find your crew
Our society tends to idealize the Steve Jobs,Albert Einsteins, and Malala Yousafzais of the world who single-handedly worked to change history. But let’s face it, we’re not all innovators or outspoken social activists.
The good news? You don’t have to be. There are plenty of intelligent and capable people doing great work right now. Join forces with them! Look for collaborators doing work that you’re passionate about. Find partners who drive you to be the best version of yourself, who teach you new things, who inspire you, who call you out when you lose drive. As the great thinker, Aristotle, once said, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” So put those brains together and start thinking up ways you can, collectively, better our world—and have fun with it.
3) Focus on the big picture
This work isn’t glamorous. OK, well, Angelina Jolie makes humanitarian aid look glamorous, but she’s not most people. Don’t lose sight of your goal—who benefits? The result may not be reached in your lifetime, but that’s no reason to stop. When working on projects that you’re super passionate about, it’s easy to get lost in thinking about each and every tiny detail. You can become so hyper-focused that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Hello frustration!
When we get off track, projects can fall apart, losing their original intention. Something all change makers have in common is that they think big. They’re also continuously making sure their work aligns with the original goal. And they use their values to guide them.
4) Never Say No
OK, OK, there are a lot of things you should decline for your own safety, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Being a changemaker isn’t always easy and it comes with a lot of challenges and risks, but stepping out of your comfort zone will present you with incredible opportunities. Maybe it’s the chance to work with someone who inspires you or to travel somewhere new. These challenges may scare you but never say no out of fear of failure.
As the saying goes, you’ll have more regrets about what you didn’t do than what you did. Take the risk!
5) Don’t be afraid of failure
While a flawless report card can be great, we already discussed that being a change maker isn’t about the grade (hello #1!). Creating change takes risk, tenacity, persistence, and the acceptance of failure. We promise you that no innovator, activist, or creative-thinker got everything right on the first try. Instead, each time they failed or hit a roadblock, they started over after learning a new lesson. Resiliency is a much better aspiration than perfection.
The more you persevere through challenges and setbacks, the more you can learn about yourself and your goals. Aim high and don’t be afraid to fail. It will all lead to something in the end.
What’s the point?
Don’t let becoming a change maker feel overwhelming. It’s a process; it’s a journey. There are countless ways you can put these tips into practice on a daily basis. We need your generation to join the movement. And we’ve created a series of programs that will help you do just —they’re designed for future change makers.
We want students to take some time away from the classroom, put aside concerns about getting an A, focus on the big picture, meet like-minded peers, and dive headfirst into complex challenges without worrying about failure.
Rachel joined Rustic in 2013 and led programs for three summers in Costa Rica, Peru, and Ghana. She’s also led programs in Fiji and Tanzania. A graduate of the University of Vermont with degrees in sociology and Spanish, Rachel focuses her love for travel, writing, and her unquenchable curiosity of our natural world as Rustic’s Brand Engagement Manager. Based in Tahoe, CA, Rachel is a talented ceramicist and lover of the outdoors.