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Teens Can Make It Happen

Nine Steps for Success



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About The Book

Prepare yourself for a lifetime of emotional and intellectual success and physical well-being with this essential and practical guide—perfect for teens, parents, grandparents, and educators alike.

The teenage years are filled with growth, promise, trials, and tribulations. During this time, one may be faced with life-changing decisions and challenges. And often these dilemmas are not easily answered. In Teens Can Make It Happen: Nine Steps to Success, prominent businessman and author Stedman Graham guides readers to a better understanding of themselves, their strengths, and their desires, while helping them to devise and achieve plans for realizing their visions. In an entertaining and interactive style, Graham bridges the gap between education and the real world, and provides teenagers with the means to boost self-esteem, avoid peer pressure, and handle the daily stresses that come with being a young adult. As founder of Athletes Against Drugs, an organization created to combat drug abuse and promote youth leadership, Graham knows how to talk to teenagers. Teens Can Make It Happen is filled with relevant and practical wisdom for today’s young adults. Its hands-on approach and personal style make this engaging handbook a must-have for teens as well as for parents, grandparents, and anyone else who influences young people.


Chapter One: The Success Process

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence.

Ret. U.S. Gen. Colin Powell

Let's begin with a tale of two teenagers.

Heather, seventeen, seems to be always in control, always confident. She has dreams and she pursues them. When she was in seventh grade, an acquaintance of her family became junior class president. Heather thought that was great, and she resolved to become a class president herself some day, which she did as a senior. Now she's considering which college to attend. She wants to be a physical therapist to help people.

Nick, sixteen, has always been interested in computers and has a great eye for design. He also has an entrepreneurial spirit -- that is, he's always liked thinking of ways that he could put his talents to use and make money. In the past year he has spent his free time designing Web pages for various organizations and companies -- at first, small organizations and companies within his town, and then larger corporations in other cities. In fact, he just agreed to design a Web site for a major retailer in the Midwest and will make $10,000 doing so. He wants to own his own multimedia business one day.

Heather and Nick are doing different things and have different career paths in front of them, but they have one important thing in common: They are following their dreams. They have visions for their lives, and they are not afraid to pursue those visions. Are you like Heather -- confident, pursuing goals, going toward a bright future? Are you like Nick -- using your strengths and abilities in ways that not only benefit you today but that can open up even greater possibilities for tomorrow?

Don't feel bad if you don't have a clear idea about what you want to do after you've graduated, or if you're not making $10,000 in your spare time. Many teenagers don't have a clear idea about what they want to do with their lives, and very few make that kind of money. In fact, the money that Nick is making through his entrepreneurial ideas is not the point. That's a result -- and a very nice one -- of his having a clear vision and not being afraid to follow it. That's the point -- not only of Nick's story, but of this book. I want to help you create a vision for your life and a plan to make that vision happen.

I told you one thing that Heather and Nick have in common: their ability to pursue their dreams. Now I'll tell you one more thing they have in common. They don't worry about what others think about them or their plans. They're not spending time trying to impress others or wondering what other people think they should do. To spend time this way clouds your vision; you get too many conflicting thoughts, and ideas that don't match. If you can relate to that, you're not alone. In fact, for a long time I was right there with you.

Like many people, I wasted a great deal of my life worrying about what others thought of me. I still struggle with that, even though I now realize that it doesn't matter what others may think of me; what matters most is how I feel about myself, and that I believe in the possibilities for my life. When you have a sense of your own identity and a vision of where you want to go in your life, you can go after your dreams for a fulfilling life. And that's what this book is all about.

In this chapter we'll begin to explore what it means to live a successful life. We'll help you understand:


  • What it means to develop a vision and act on that vision;

  • How you can use a tool called "Success Circles" to help you focus on a fulfilling life; and

  • How to begin taking the nine steps toward living that successful life.

The average person generally develops only about two percent of his or her potential. That leaves plenty of room for bettering yourself! In order to do so, though, you need vision. You can't go anywhere if you can't see where you're going.

Developing a Vision

Vision, simply stated, is seeing your purpose in life. It's tied in to knowing who you are and what you can envision yourself doing with your talents and desires. We all have talents and we all have desires. What we need to learn is how to use those talents and desires in living fulfilling lives. Opportunities are there for all of us, but we have to seize the right ones for us based on our own visions for our lives.

Creating a vision and making that vision happen take what I call an "active optimism": You have to believe in yourself and in your future, and then you have to actively pursue your plans. Most teenagers have great optimism for the future. The 1999-2000 State of Our Nation's Youth report by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans gave voice to teens across our nation on a variety of issues. Based on that report, about seven out of ten teens believe two things about opportunities:

1. The harder they work, the more opportunities will be available to them.

2. They will have many opportunities available to them after they graduate from high school.

Hopefully you're one of those seven in ten who see many opportunities before you. It's hard to develop a vision for bettering your life if you don't believe you have many opportunities for doing so.

We can't all be professional athletes or movie stars, of course. And we can't all get the lead in the school play, be class president, be the star on the basketball team, or be in the National Honor Society. But we all have the ability to lead dynamic lives by pursuing our own unique goals and dreams. The poorest, the weakest, or the least popular of us has the power within to pursue a fulfilling life. We must believe that it is possible to achieve our dreams and then commit to achieving those dreams. Without that belief, every dream will turn to dust.

Do you believe that you can take control of your own life? Are you pursuing goals? Are you trying to better yourself, to learn, to grow, to make good choices?

Heather is confident about who she is, about her value, and she focuses on her goals. She is actively controlling her own life, driven by her goals and principles. People like Heather understand that what happens to them is not nearly as important as how they choose to respond to it. People like Nick see how they can use their talents and are not afraid to take risks. They see the positive side of taking risks and see potential in a variety of opportunities.

It's not easy to change your life. You need to build strong and supportive relationships as you follow the Success Process. Take control and focus on pursuing a good life, but don't isolate yourself in the process. Isolating yourself is not healthy spiritually, mentally, or physically, and it certainly is not the way to achieve your dreams. Nobody makes it alone. You need friends -- friends who believe in you.

As you follow the steps in this book, build solid relationships and lean on them when you need to. Don't be afraid to ask for help or encouragement along the way. And look to provide that helping hand or word of encouragement to others, too.

Success Circles

You can't do much about what others may say or think about you. You can only focus on those things that are within your control. The things that matter most to you and that you have the power to influence are inside what I call your "Success Circles."

Anyone could come up with a dozen or more such circles, but let's consider these basic three: Career, Personal Development, and Relationships.

  • By "Career" we mean the things you can do now to help yourself to the type of career you envision for yourself.

  • "Personal Development" refers to how you want to develop as a person. Your development will affect not only you, but the community around you, as you see opportunities to give back to your community.

  • Finally, "Relationships" are critical at every stage of our lives; no person is successful in isolation.

  • Through these three areas you can begin to create an enjoyable life for yourself and generate success both now and for your future.

On a sheet of paper, draw three Success Circles, one for each category listed. Within each one, try to list at least five things you can do to better your life. For instance, your Circles might begin to shape up like this:


  • Be more consistent with homework.

  • Hook up with a study partner.

  • Get a summer job in the type of business that interests me (e.g., be an aide in a hospital if you're interested in a medical field).

  • Take more advanced courses in my area of career interest.

  • Take a variety of courses to expand my career opportunities.

  • Talk with and learn from people who are working in my area of career interest.

Personal Development

  • Work through my Success Club to better know myself, my needs, and my desires.

  • Define what success and achievement mean for me.

  • Start jogging or working out regularly.

  • Volunteer at summer camp.

  • Take part in a walk-a-thon.


  • Get along better with my parents.

  • Be more open in talking about things that are really bothering me.

  • Be supportive and encouraging to my close friends.

  • Get to know someone in my field of interest who can begin to "show me the ropes" (e.g., if you want to be a coach, choose a coach you want to model yourself after and strike up a relationship so you can begin to learn from that coach).

  • Help my grandparents with house and yard work.

If things aren't going well for you in one of these areas, chances are it has a negative impact on the other areas. That's why it is so important to have a balanced life, paying attention to your schoolwork; your job if you have one; your personal development and the community around you; and your relationships with family, friends, and adults who are in positions to help you.

Also, please note that often your circles will overlap. For example:

  • Through an advanced class you're taking in your field of interest, a teacher might introduce you to someone in that field who could act as a mentor or guide.

  • You might develop a key relationship while volunteering at a summer camp.

  • Through an important relationship your eyes might be opened to an exciting career opportunity.

This overlapping strengthens your life in these key areas and gives you a more solid base from which to pursue a successful life.

The circles are simply a way of helping you focus on the most important areas of your life when you undertake the Success Process. That focus helps you to grow and enrich your life.

Now I'm going to tell you a secret about this process for pursuing success: It's not complicated. The Success Process has been around for thousands of years. People from all walks of life have followed it and lived it. It doesn't depend on your bloodlines. It's not an exclusive club that only the rich can buy into. You don't have to be a genius or a budding Pulitzer Prize winner to learn the process. You can learn and follow the process right now, in your current situation. No strings attached, no entry fee required. Step up to the plate. Success is awaiting you, if you want it. Do you want it?

Steps to a Better Life

Take a look around you. The Success Process is being lived out by people ranging from athletes to civil rights and civic leaders, to business giants, to teachers and parents, to students.

When most people think of successful students, they think of the high achievers in the classroom, on the playing fields and courts, and in music and the arts. Indeed, these are all important areas of growth and learning and success. But how about teenagers in the world of business, teenagers as entrepreneurs? Teens are finding success here, too. In fact, the Bureau of Labor lists more than 87,000 self-employed sixteen-to nineteen-year-olds. Like Nick, many teens are finding they don't have to wait to become an adult before they taste success in business. Here are just a few of their success stories:

  • A seventeen-year-old basketball player is in his fifth year of running a two-week basketball camp for kids. The camp started with fifteen kids participating; it now has 70. The camp has brought in more than $2,500 in each of the last two summers for the player.

  • An eighteen-year-old who began mowing lawns in sixth grade now has his own landscaping service, complete with trucks, equipment, and employees. His company provides lawn services for ninety-one houses per week.

  • A fourteen-year-old runs his own desktop publishing business, creating letterheads and business cards for clients.

  • Two 1999 high school graduates build Web sites for various clients, charging $50 to $60 per hour for Web site development and earning from $1,500 to $7,000 per client. They are using part of the money toward their college education and investing the rest.

The list could go on and on. Perhaps reading these success stories will spark you to add your own to the list. "The key is to dream," says one of the teenage entrepreneurs, "to think what's possible and then have the passion to do it."

Begin with the dream. Then pursue it with passion. If you can dream, and if you can pursue things with passion, you are well on your way. From your dream you will begin to shape your vision, and from your vision you will make a plan to pursue that vision, to make that dream come true. But you need the passion to follow through.

And don't be afraid to dream. Some people scoff at dreaming, maybe because they're afraid to risk it themselves. They'd rather stay in the hole they're in than pursue a way out. Successful people don't think that way.

I mentioned earlier that you don't have to be rich or smart or have royalty in your bloodlines to be successful. Another great thing about this Success Process is that you can begin it anywhere, anytime. Remember Heather and Nick? They seem well on their way to success; they have their routes planned and their bags packed, so to speak.

Your route may not be as well planned as Heather's or Nick's, but you have just as much opportunity for success as they do. You may be in a tough situation and may not immediately see a clear path to a bright future, but you still have options and choices to make that can help you be successful in life. You still have opportunities ahead of you.

So what are the nine steps to success that I've referred to? Here is a brief summary of my Nine-Step Plan for Success. Each step is a chapter.

Step 1: Check Your ID

Before you can decide what you want for your life, you must first understand who you are, what the influences are in your life, why you act and think the way you do. Some describe this as searching for self-awareness. I call it checking your ID. Before you take off on any serious journey these days, you must first make sure that you have valid identification with you. The same holds true for your journey on the Success Process.

Step 2: Create Your Vision

To seek a better life, you have to decide what you want for your life. What are your dreams and aspirations? What characteristics, talents, and skills do you bring to the table? I'll help you explore these areas and then set ambitious but realistic goals.

Step 3: Develop Your Travel Plan

Once you have established your goals, you need a plan to pursue your vision. In this step, I will help you develop that plan. I will also show you how to chart the best path by using your values as your markers.

Step 4: Master the Rules of the Road

Every day you will encounter distractions that might stop you or slow you down in your journey. In this step, I will teach you how to keep on keeping on. I will provide keys to self-motivation so that you will have the strength not to be easily distracted or defeated.

Step 5: Step into the Outer Limits

There are always risks when you pursue a dream. To grow, you have to leave your comfort zone and enter unknown territory. But without taking those risks and facing your fears, you'll never get to where you want to be. You may fail sometimes, but you will never succeed if you are not willing to risk failure. And even if you do fail, you can learn from the experience and try again. To do that, you will need courage, and you will also need to have faith in your ability to achieve your goals.

Step 6: Pilot the Seasons of Change

Many people never go after their dreams for a better life because they are afraid of change, afraid they will lose something that has been important to them. But think about this: It is impossible to move ahead while staying where you are. You have to be willing to accept that some changes will be necessary. Many people keep doing the same thing over and over again in their lives, hoping that something better will come along. But if you keep doing what you have always done, you will get the same results. If you are not getting what you want out of life, you have to change your approach to it. Ride out the tough times and be patient for the changes you want to become real. Give yourself time to accept changes and adjust to them.

Step 7: Build Your Dream Team

Supportive relationships that help you work toward your goals are critical to your success. To build those relationships, you need to learn to trust others. And to earn their trust, you in turn must be trustworthy.

Step 8: Win by a Decision

Making decisions wisely is one of your greatest challenges. This involves assessing your personal strengths, needs, and resources; checking them against your beliefs and values; and making decisions based on that assessment. You need a strong heart and a wise mind to do that.

Step 9: Commit to Your Vision

In this step, I will review all of the previous material with you and then teach you how to make a true commitment to achieving your vision for a successful life. You can set all the goals and make all the plans in the world, but unless you truly commit yourself to going after them, you'll never achieve them. You have to pursue your vision with energy and make that pursuit a priority in your life.

Those are the nine steps to success. They're not a mystery, and they're not a miracle cure. They're tools for you to use to build value in your life.

Now let's take the first step: checking your ID.

Copyright © 2000 by Stedman Graham/FONT>

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Stedman Graham is chairman and CEO of S. Graham and Associates, a management and marketing consulting firm based in Chicago. He is the author of ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. Graham lectures and conducts seminars for businesses and organizations around the country. He is a former adjunct professor at Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and is currently a visiting professor at several other universities. Active in philanthropy and community work, he is on the international board of Junior Achievement, is founder of Athletes Against Drugs, and is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (September 5, 2000)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780684870823

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