Student of culture.

I’m usually quite comfortable staying in my world. It’s a place I know and understand. I know the people. I know what is acceptable. I even know what is adventurous.  

I’ve discovered that my worldview is limiting and keeps me from experiencing life as fully as I would like. I was recently challenged to become a student of culture in order to be a leader of culture.  That sounded complex and intriguing.   What would that actually mean?  What would I need to do differently?  As I began to think about it, the very idea of being a student of culture meant being with people I don’t usually spend time with and going to places I don’t normally go to.  It meant engaging with other cultures and demographics.  This takes a deliberate effort.

This past summer, I spent two weeks with 19 students ranging from 16 – 19 years of age on an international trip.  I spend most of my time with adults so to spend two weeks with a musical theatre group was incredibly eye-opening for me. While on the trip, I engaged in things they like to do. It’s different than what I normally do. I learned a lot about how they engage in both community and culture.   I discovered several key areas that young adult culture embraces. They engage in what is relevant and personal.  These are some of the issues they care about:

  • Controversy:  racism, sexuality, spirituality, integrity, ethics, religion, tolerance, and politics.
  • Significance:  wealth, poverty, humanitarian, success, position, power, compassion, empathy, self expression, dynamic uniqueness, cutting edge.
  • Relationships: family ,  love, sex, family, friends, casual relationships, likability, acceptance, tolerance.
  • Purpose: make an impact, execute social change, spirituality, satisfaction, destiny.

As I stepped out of my world, I became a student and in being a student, I learned things that help me lead.   I learned that I need to be real.  I need to earn trust. I need to be tolerant. I need to care.  When I do all those things, relationships happen and I’m invited to lead. It’s humbling and incredibly rewarding.

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