Blog & Vlog

Keynote Address to Wagga High Year 10

First of all, it is a great honour to be able to address year 10, students, teachers and staff here at Wagga High School, after the teaching body here at the school developed this 2 week program – so well done to the teachers and staff who have made this possible, it is a terrific initiative that should really be adopted across the board as an example of what is possible.  Give the teachers and staff a round of applause for this two week program. I should also mention the efforts of Compact for organising speakers for the Q&A session and leadership day and whose “purpose statement” perfectly sums up their involvement in this program:

“Connecting people, education, community and the workplace to promote successful futures” – I love that statement.

Congratulations to you all for participating in this two week journey of discovery and learning about community involvement.  Well done and give yourselves a quick round of applause, you deserve it.

So thank you for this opportunity to present.

And what is it that I have been asked to present on?

It’s a theme in line with your journey over the past two weeks – giving back to the community.

Why is that?  Why would it be necessary to make a keynote address about the subject of giving back to the community?

It’s simple.  The 80/20 rule applies.

On Monday I had the great pleasure of entering into a discussion with some of your peers here in the school.  There were about 20 of us in the room and we talked for well over an hour about different things such as leadership, and the role of leadership in the community.  We talked about the definition of success and the perceived definitions of success that surround us.  But the most interesting part was when we spoke of the 80/20 rule.  The concept that 20% of society provides the income for 80% of the world.  The concept that 20% of society volunteers within their community.  The concept that 20% of the people in a room where a speech, presentation or indeed a keynote address will exit the room and implement something they have learned from it – and 80% will do nothing.

The 80/20 rule has been around since it was first articulated in 1906 when an Italian farmer named Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.  And the 80/20 rule frightens me.

It frightens me because it means 80% of the population is complacent, lazy or uninterested in giving back to the community.

It means that the burden of providing for the community, falls on the same shoulders of 20% of the population.

And why is that?

What are our challenges in the community?

What are the three biggest misconceptions that we should be questioning as a community?

How is it possible to turn this horrendous ratio around or at least improve on it for our future generations?

I have had the great privilege to be involved in some terrific community projects over the years.  Some have assisted those with a disability.  Some have benefited those who are homeless.  Some have contributed to those who have been affected by a mental illness.  And each of those have had impacts on certain people within our community who are constantly faced with their own challenges and are constantly surviving in a world that is different to the world you and I know.  And I am saddened to say that yes, the same people turn up to all of these different events to raise funds for others in need, or to give a hand to those in need, or to volunteer for those in need.

There are three big misconceptions in our community.

Misconception number 1 – you have to be in business to contribute back to your community.

From all of the events I’ve been to and all of the dollars that have been raised, there is a reliance on medium to big business to do all the work because they are the ones who earn big money.  They are the ones with time on their hands.  The misconception is that if you are in business you have an obligation, a responsibility to give back to the community because the community has given so much to you.  The misconception is that by providing benefits to the community you as a business may receive benefits back.

Everyone has the ability to give back to the community and it should not be for something in return.  It should not be because it’s an obligation.

It should be because it’s more than just doing something right – it’s doing the right thing.

We can all contribute something.

How much is up to us.

Misconception number 2 – it’s the job of governments and organisations to take care of society.

People elect governments and as far as I’m concerned we elect them to govern not just to provide.  We should provide.  We should provide for others, we should provide vision for our own community.  We should provide for ourselves.  We cannot rely on governments and other organisations to provide for those in need – alone.  We have the collective power to provide for others right here in this room.

Misconception number 3 – we only need to support causes that directly affect us or our loved ones.  I think we all know of causes close to our hearts because of something that has affected us, but we need not wait for that cause to start helping.

Ronald Regan once said “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”

When I was first involved in setting up the local initiative known as Ignite Mentor, I wasn’t alone.  We started with a concept – how can we provide mentors for young people in our community who may not have access to positive role models in their lives, whether it be because they have no positive figures in their current lives, or the only ones they do have are considered an authority figure – not a friend to share things with.

I also came across people who told me it couldn’t be done anyway.  What’s the point?  You can’t change everything.  You can’t change everyone.  The problem is too big.

What a horrible way to look at the world.

All big achievements come from small steps.  Remember that Regan quote – you can’t help everyone – that’s not the point – you can help someone though.  And that someone can help someone else and so on.

With Ignite and through a relationship with Mary O’Neill, Laurinda Motion, Jeremy Hutchings and Anglicare Riverina who already had some mentoring programs in place, and the Department of Education and Communities who also had some programs in place, four of us – just four people, came together and created a brand that recognised and fostered all of the existing programs into the one bright name, Ignite Mentor.

Since it began in late 2011, Ignite Mentor has created over a hundred pairings between young people looking for someone to talk to, and members from the local community with backgrounds in business, sport, media, and health – people in the public of all ages, backgrounds, heritage and upbringings.  We had created and continue to create with the backing and support of Anglicare a vehicle for those who want to volunteer to be matched with those who are asking for volunteers.

I’m extremely proud of Ignite and its achievements.  I’m proud of all the people involved in its operation and running, including our major Naming Sponsor Brunslea Park Estate who have been extremely supportive of the Ignite brand and work.

I’m proud of our Ambassador and good mate to Ignite and Wagga, Tim “Rosso” Ross who has helped raise awareness of our cause, as well as money and created experiences for some of our young people.

I’m proud of the local role models who have put their hand up to contribute either time or money and sometimes both – but most of all I’m proud of the young people who have gone on to greater things because of their newfound path.

They have gone on to become employees of local businesses, they’ve gone on to become volunteers themselves, they’ve gone on to become positive role models amongst their peers and they’ve gone on to become contributors to our community.  They are quite possibly our future leaders.

But the success of anything, as we talked about in our smaller group the other day, is not about the number of people who have contributed one way or another.  It’s not about an end result of funds raised or hours contributed.  They’re numbers.  They’re benchmarks for others to determine are either successful or not in their eyes.

Success has to be internal.  Success has to be determined from your own benchmark and that is the journey.  Success is not a destination it is the journey itself.

The pursuit of happiness is not as important or even realistic as the pursuit of the full range of emotions we will all inevitably face.  Success should be defined as your acceptance and appreciation of your present.  Success should be the aim of balance with your mind, your body, your relationships, your wealth and your contribution to society.

So I put it to you year 10.  Where do you fit in this picture?  Are you feeling you are in the 20% that does something?  Are you in the 80% who may feel they do something but in the scheme of things it’s almost nothing?

Someone mentioned the other day that a focus and desire we often have in our school years is to be the best at something.  Be the best runner, swimmer, academic – I want to challenge you on something else before we head into presentations, don’t aim to be the best at anything – there’s no point

– focus instead on being better.

You can only be the best out of a selection of people for a certain amount of time and then what?

You can aim to be better at everything and always improve.

Be a better son or daughter.

Be a better partner, student, teacher, athlete, academic, artist,

– be a better version of whatever you want to be but most of all, stop wondering WHAT it is you will one day be, and start focusing on WHO you want to be.  On WHO you already are.

After contributing so much over the past two weeks, you can now decide if you want to continue to be the person who is in that 20%.

My takeaways for you today come from my observations and experiences over the years.  These are my top 5 tips for a balanced and emotionally rich life;

  1. Never compare yourself to others – you are special no matter what your strengths or weaknesses
  2. People who have gone onto achieve something for their community, their work or their family should be admired not cut down for their achievements
  3. Surround yourself with positive people as much as possible, and don’t beat yourself up about losing touch with people who aren’t a positive influence
  4. Don’t expect anything in return for anything you do, be satisfied that it was the right thing to do
  5. Don’t be the best…just be better

I’ll finish with my three favourite quotes in the world:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Henry Stanley Haskins

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

“You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give” – Winton Churchill


Thank you.