He is the Founder of a national program building spaces for empathy and youth-led changemaking across the country. He is currenlty on a Changeamker tour, taking him to dozens of states and more than 50 schools. He is just 19 years-old. His extraordinary impact today started with him fighting his own limitations in high-school, where he transformed a challenge into fuel for making change.
Below we are re-posting powerful insights that Amit has been sharing on LinkedIn while on the road for his National Changemaker Tour for 'My Name | My Story'.
You can transform a challenge into fuel for being your best...
I was lost, confused, and frankly - purposeless.
I gave a speech for 1200 7th/8th graders today. When I was their age, I had a speech impediment.
I grew up not being able to say my Cs, Xs, Gs, Zs. etc. I was a shy, quiet, and reserved young person. Not comfortable in my own skin and sure as hell not comfortable in my own voice. I didn't think I had a problem until people started telling me - my friends, my teachers, even some of my extended family.
"Amit, why do you talk that way?" "Hahahaha did you just say 'tat'?" "You need to get fixed."
None of them meant harm, but it started to get to my head. It was cute in elementary school, but now I started to become insecure. I was lost, confused, and frankly - purposeless.
Then, my parents made me try out for Mock Trial & Debate (Lol, I know, makes no sense right?). I made the team. And my coaches changed my life. They challenged me, trained me, and most of all - believed in me.
They never saw my disability as a weakness, but as fuel to become the best. I thank them everyday.
My biggest weakness became my greatest passion.
So here I am - 19 years old speaking to a group of hilarious, loud, bright-eyed middle schoolers. And maybe someone like middle school Me is in the crowd. And maybe, just maybe - they need to hear this.
Go back to the drawing-board and figure it out!
Drop your ego. Listen to the people you serve.
The 1st time we tested our curriculum was at my old high school. We spent six months building it. We got 70% NEGATIVE feedback. I was crushed. We spent late nights and so much mental energy putting together what we thought was a masterpiece. I thought my alma mater would receive it well no matter how amateur we were. I was painfully wrong and humiliated.
I had 2 options:
1. Drop the program, stick to just being a mediocre website/blog, and move on. It was early enough to give up.
2. Go back to the drawing board. Figure it out.
We chose the latter. I realized we weren't designing well. I thought having an educator exclusively writing our curriculum would be the best move. I didn't think about who we were serving - students. So, I called 30 students. We incentivized them with free food and had them beta test all of our activities. We gave them space to rip our ideas apart. We were all ears. We did this over and over again for 6 months. Nervous, our team went back to market. We booked 12 our first fall. This fall we booked 50. After 10,000+ kids, we now have 86% positive feedback.
Sometimes plan A doesn't work out, neither does Plan B - Go back to the drawing board. Drop your ego. Listen to the people you serve. Re-design. Keep on keeping on.
Get a few folks to believe in you...
I sent an email to 150 Founders & CEOs. I was 16. I didn't know what I was doing.
I sent an email to 150 Founders & CEOs that I wanted to be like when I grew up. I was 16. I didn't know what I was doing. I had a (vague) idea, but no action plan. I didn't have much money, connections, or resources. I needed help. And so, like any bright-eyed young person would do, I figured it out.
I did research on all the influencers in my sector and compiled a giant list on Word. And I created a template with the subject line: "Seeking Mentorship And Guidance." I sent 150. I got 10 responses. Out of the 10, 3 decided to meet with me. The first, a Duke Professor, said: "Amit, you need to SCALE."
The second, an insurance company owner, said: "Create Intellectual Property to distribute and own." The third, a young principal, was most critical: "You need to prioritize depth in your work as much as the breath." I didn't know what half these words meant, let alone how to implement them. But those meetings changed the trajectory of my organization. From there, we took our program to 75 schools reaching 10,000 student.
All I needed was a few folks to believe in me. If you're a young entrepreneur, send those 150 emails.
Be willing to listen and learn. If you're a seasoned veteran, respond to those crazy, optimistic kids - your advice could go a long way.
NOTE: Amit is the Co-Founder of the Ashoka Youth Advisory Council, along with Katie Eder, and Daniella Cohen. Click on #AshokaYCouncil to find out more!