Hank Wasiak on “Teens, Our Next Greatest Generation”

hank-bookFeb. 21, 2009 Great book cover, eh? Kinda drives the point home to “Change The Way You See Everything” doesn’t it? The book’s not quite out yet, but I embrace the  premise.

I know it’s more than airy fairy “half is glass empty or half full” platitudes or ‘accentuate the positive’ Pollyanna-isms because, well…that’s not exactly my style, n’est ce pas? I tend to cut both ways with this laser-edged tongue, and have been known to accentuate the negative with equal fervor to prove a point when necessary. That said:

I’ve noticed that something profound takes hold when I’m surrounded by projects like the Shout Out Social in Australia, the global Age of Conversation, the tween virtual world of Elf Island, youth using mobile to mobilize, or Teens Turning Green…it IS about ‘asset based thinking,’ and it DOES matter how I view the world on any given day…

So with that in mind, I asked for reprint permission from the book’s author Hank Wasiak, to share this title piece he wrote for BlogCritics Magazine, “Teens, Our Next Greatest Generation.” Here goes…

Teens, Our Next Greatest Generation by Hank Wasiak

There are over 20 million teens in the United States. Globally, the United Nations estimated that in 2003 the number of young people aged between 10 and 19 reached 1.2 billion, or nearly a fifth of the total world population. That’s a lot of teen power and potential.

Over the past 18 months, my partner, Dr. Kathy Cramer, and I have been working with educators, psychologists, advocates, and teens to develop our next book, Change The Way You See Everything – TEEN Edition. Our goal was to create something that will be a powerful tool and an innovative resource to help youth discover and appreciate their many assets and believe in themselves.

In the process, Kathy and I have been forever changed. Teens inspired and educated us as much, if not more, than we influenced them. Now we see teens in a new light, as much more than our future; they are a very powerful part of our present. Real, ready, willing, and able to think, feel, and act big.

the-good-teen The Good Teen

The conventional wisdom of developmental psychology generally views teens through the lens of risk factors and preventing and remedying the very real threats and dangers that teens face. While this approach is important, it’s only part of the picture.

In groundbreaking research, Dr. Richard Lerner, of Tufts University, found that with the right guidance teenage years can be healthy, positive, and productive. This positive vision is eloquently brought to life in Dr. Lerner’s book, The Good Teen Rescuing Adolescence from the Myths of the Storm and Stress Years. We wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Lerner that teens can realize and make the most of the promise and potential that is uniquely theirs, by seeing themselves through the lens of upside factors and assets that are both inside and around them.

Teen-Age is the new Change-Age

Conventional wisdom also has us believe that being a leader, making a difference, and creating change requires the wisdom of years, the passage of time, and life stage experiences. Not necessarily.

Today’s teens and youth are ready, right now, to be positive change agents and unleash their potential to step into important roles of leadership and step out into their world as never before. Kathy and I are passionate advocates for their power, promise, and potential to change their world and ours.

It Does Take A Village

We have also come away with a renewed and profound respect for the ever-growing network of individuals, organizations, educators, and teachers who are doing their best to encourage, help, and support teens in so many ways, big and small, like O Ambassadors.

oThere is no doubt that Oprah Winfrey has had a huge impact on millions of people worldwide. She’s donated her time, money, and passion to help those in need.

Underneath Oprah’s high profile activity is a particularly striking and powerful affinity for and connection to the youth of the world. This comes to life brilliantly in Oprah’s O Ambassadors program. In 2006, Oprah’s Angel Network partnered with Craig Kielburger’s Free The Children initiative to create Oprah’s O Ambassadors.

This is a very special school-based program that enables and motivates teens to find their Mighty Cause and be active global citizens by helping their less fortunate peers around the world. In addition to the good works it generates, this program builds self-confidence and self esteem in each and every teen as they step into their Ambassador roles.

Oprah’s Ambassadors focus on four key issues: Poverty, education, health, and sustainable development.

An important part of the initiative is an outreach program to teachers and educators to start O Ambassadors Clubs at their schools, either as a part of their classroom programming or as a school-based extracurricular opportunity for students. What happens in these clubs is asset-based thinking at its best.

Ambassadors select their Mighty Cause, develop action plans with measurable goals, and then they take specific action that positively affects both the Ambassadors and the recipients. It’s all about empowering teens to help their peers. In ABT terms, this is “trading places to get places.”

It also is important to remind ourselves that accomplishing big things can take many forms and be viewed from different vantage points. Oprah provides a great perspective: “The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance- and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.”

The Passion Of One Can Become The Power Of Many

Now is the time for young adults to recognize their potential and step into their role as healthy, productive individuals yearning and ready to make a difference in this world. This is especially true in today’s world of connectivity and engagement enabled by the Internet and digital technology. Who knows more about harnessing that power than teens!

All of us should encourage teens to believe in something big and put those skills and resources to use to start something big. Margaret Mead, the renowned anthropologist, said something that is particularly relevant today: “Never underestimate that a small band of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world – it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Kathy and I are passionate believers and advocates that teens can be that small band of citizens.

The above article reprinted with permissions from BlogCritic Magazine.

“Hank Wasiak is a communications industry leader and co-founder of the creative hot shop, The Concept Farm. Hank is a best selling author, teacher, motivational speaker and three time Emmy award winning television host. Hank and Dr. Kathy Cramer created a best selling business – self help book series based on Asset-Based Thinking published by Running Press. Their newest book, “Change The Way You See Everything – For TEENS” will hit the shelves April 1st.”

Visual Credits: The Good Teen and Change The Way You See Everything – TEEN Edition from Amazon (links above) Oprah photo from her Live Your Best Life Book



  1. Jo-Lynne Worley says

    I love hearing and reading about teens being the next change-age. This new Change the Way You See Everythig– Teen edition will be such a positive force which is exaxtly what we need in these times. Hopefully Hank and you Amy will connect with Oprah’s ambassadors. It’s what our world needs at this time when everyone is so stressed and stretched economically. I love your blog Amy.

  2. Very kind of you, Jo-Lynne…I could sure use some ‘ambassadors’ that’s for certain. (heck, I’d settle for some ardent interns! 😉 Yes, ‘stressed and stretched’ applies to more than the economy for yours truly. But then, ahem…that’s not ‘asset based thinking.’ (Shame on me) Glad you like the blog and don’t find my wry humor too over the top. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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