5 Lessons you should learn from teens - Your Peak State

5 Lessons you should learn from teens

Olenka Cullinan
Written By: Olenka Cullinan posted July 25, 2015

I’ve been working with teens for most of my life.  When people ask me, “What do you do for a living,” I excitedly respond, “I work with teens!” Often, they start gushing and sighing and patting me on the back, like,  “Oh honey, bless your heart! How do you do that?” “Do what?!” I am thinking. “These are teens not wild tigers!” And yes, I have to deal with lots of eye rolling, emotions, and snarky comments – and that’s just the parents… All jokes aside, here is what I know: If you can work with teens, business world is just sunshine and unicorns! 

Teens have taught me to be a better businesswoman, a better mother, and a human. No doubt about it! I have travelled the world and worked with teens from 21 countries, and all of them share some incredible innate qualities that we loose or hide in the process of becoming an adult. They have so much raw talent and are possibly much better in sharing their true feelings with the world. I would go as far as saying that a lot of teenagers live more authentic lives, since they are not tainted by fears, failure, overwhelming responsibilities and mind stories. These are some of the lessons they’ve taught me over the last 17 years. 

1.    Don’t Overthink Everything!

This is my favorite lesson, since it is possibly in the top 5 reasons that gets teenagers into trouble worldwide.  I have heard my own and countless nameless parents scream, “Don’t you just stop and think?” about a million times. No, I certainly do not promote the absence of thinking. Yet, most of us think of things that we do not want. In turn, your thoughts set up the scenarios that you draw to your life and the energy you create. Hence, by thinking of all the negative things and dwelling on the possible miserable outcomes, you aren’t going to create what you want to have in life! Teens, on the other hand, are masters of acting on their initial instincts. Learn from them: trust your initial urge and act!

2.    Make New Friends!

Nothing is better than watching freshmen on first day of classes in any high school! Some of them are quieter than others, some are boisterous, and some just carry on with that built in “I-don’t-care-about-you” confidence. Yet all of them, within a week, have talked to most of the class and know all of the high school gossip! Astonishing, especially since they only really communicate at lunch. As adults, we cling to the familiar. We live in the same house, go to the same job, and for the most part, communicate with the same group of friends and/or colleagues. Bad mistake! New human connections propel everything in life: intellect, personal relationships, careers and businesses. When I ask a teen how many new people they meet and make a point to communicate with a month, the answer is 7-10. If I ask this question of an adult, many of them say less then 1. No one remembers materials and wants more time in the office in their last days.  Life is about people! 

two girls holding hands

3.    Apologize!

Adults teach this to their teens, but out of pride, don’t always (almost never) practice this. Amusing, isn’t it? Teens are often accused that their apologies aren’t “sincere”. Well, whether or not they mean it, saying “sorry” comes a lot easier to them than to most adults whom I know. It is quite possibly the ego, the pride, and the unmet expectations that hold us from asking for forgiveness. One of my favorite sayings is “Apologizing is not always about being right, it’s about being able to move on!” Truly, apology is much more about you and your feelings than whoever is on the other side.

4.    Hug Everyone!

I can just sense many of you rolling your eyes right about now. Hey now, it is not even my opinion; it is pure science.  Hugs are proven to stimulate oxytocin, the hormone that helps your body reduce worry, anxiety and stress! And if you still don’t believe me, take a look around a group of teens who hug each other when they meet – most of them are smiling at that time. Sadly, somewhere during our “grow-up-to-be-cool” path, we lose the natural comfort of touch and the ability to give out hugs “just because”.  I asked one of my teens, “Why do you hug everyone at school, but would not hug your parents?” The answer was, “Look at them! They are not even into it!” I say, grounds for improvement!

5.    Express Yourself!

“Straight outta Compton,” N.W.A. said it best!  Most adults have no idea what this phrase even means. Some of my teens pointed out that if you go to most high schools, you can pretty quickly figure teens’ profiles. Are they a jock, a queen bee, a nerd, an independent? They have a particular sense of individuality and showcase their likes and dislikes in a fairly obvious way. One can argue with the labels above, but the truth is there – teens are much better at stating who they are. Adults conform. We do it for jobs, for loved ones, for friends, and just from the loss of our authentic selves in the race for the lifestyle. Yet, it’s only the light of your soul, your true self that can bring you happiness. 

And ironically, if you watch the video to the N.W.A., “Express Yourself” song, it starts with an image of a man, carrying  “Free Hugs” sign and giving hugs to strangers on the street! So how about practicing a few lessons from the teens: find your authentic self, apologize to move on, act more on your instincts, and give hugs to new friends! 



Olenka Cullinan, 

Olenka Cullinan is a CEO and Founder of Rising Tycoons.  Teen expert, inspirational speaker and teen success coach, Olenka has developed a “Backbone of Success”™ method that helps teen leaders become successful in school, life and the world.  Olenka’s work with teenagers from 21 countries, combined with humour and personal experience made her realize how often adults set up the end result without teaching teens the ‘how to process’. Her wealth of experience in leadership development has led Olenka to the partnership with SAGE Global and her recent appearance at TEDx Youth. When Olenka isn’t travelling the world, you can find her reading, writing or coaching slam poetry, or hiking at sunrise. 

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