Tomorrow, we’re faced with the daunting task of speaking to a roomfull of youngsters who are, in all likelihood, far more successful than we are, let alone than we were at their age. The Top Twenty Under Twenty, with a somewhat self-explanatory name, consists of teenagers (and possibly some pre-teens) from around the country who have excelled in one form or another. Some are entrepreneurs who have started and managed several businesses; some run non-profit organizations; others are exceptional performers or athletes. They were chosen by the organization Youth in Motion and the Courage to Soar conference, where we will be speaking on its final day, is taking place at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
The task brings to mind a few of the Kickstart contributors. While most of the features in the book only blossomed (in a career-sense) during or after their twenties, there were a select few who, like the Top Twenty Under Twenty gang, became extremely committed to their dreams early on. This applies to the athletes, like Olympic gold medal wrestler Daniel Igali, or CFL star Normie Kwong. To become a great athlete, one needs to begin early. Training becomes as important as schoolwork and all other activities expected of teens.
But a few of those in the arts also started to pursue their livelihoods at a young age. I’m thinking of Karen Kain, the world famous ballerina, who graduated from the National Ballet School and dove right into professional dance at the tender age of eighteen. She became a celebrity, danced with Nureyev and toured the globe while in her early twenties. Listening to her speak, we felt a considerable distance from our own experience of dead-end jobs, frustrated ambition and generally restless behaviour.
But with Kain, we learned, the stakes were so high, that when she was twenty-eight, she encountered some serious problems, both professionally and emotionally, that forced her to retire (temporarily) from the world of ballet. I guess it’s true: no one gets a smooth ride.