I feel the most pressure when I am standing in front of 9th to 12th grade students. I feel insecure and uncertain. I feel like I am back in High School!

As a speaker, it is exciting to customize the message of the trail to meet the needs of colleges and corporate groups, sports teams and summer camps, as well as events for professional and personal development. So why is it so challenging to craft and deliver a message to teenagers?

Photo Credit: Iva Hilton

First of all, teenagers are usually distracted. And how can you blame then? It’s hard to pay attention to a talk when you have a math test next period that is worth 20% of your final grade or a basketball game that afternoon with college coaches in the crowd. It’s hard to look ahead and focus when you your friend is talking about where people are sitting, who they are sitting next to, and what they are – or are not – wearing. And it’s hard to be present, when you can’t get your parents’ argument from the night before out of your head.

Even if I win over an auditorium of adolescents and they hang on every word, they still don’t respond the way that I would like. I’ve discovered that after a joke, teenagers don’t laugh, instead, they turn to their friends and smile, maybe giggle if I’m lucky. Finally, at the end, when they want to clap they wait for someone else to do it first.

\The most handsome high school boy EVER!

High school is a REALLY hard audience but, here’s the thing, it’s also my favorite. You see, teenagers are old enough to comprehend the message and young enough to make changes that will impact the majority of their lives. So what do you say when it matters that much?

Here's what I try to relay:

1. You Have Untapped Potential Inside – We can all do more that what we think is possible. Some people are forced to do extraordinary things because of life’s circumstances and the rest of us can chose to challenge and push ourselves beyond what is comfortable. Failure is not a bad thing. If you always succeed then you haven’t found your limits.

2. There is Untold Potential Outside – There are always more paths than we think! The world around us is so much more inspiring and infinite than we often realize. Spending time in the wilderness can help people unlock their inner potential. In turn, we must recognize our responsibility to protect the well-being of our natural resources.

3. Your Self-Worth Should NEVER be Defined by a Number – In a setting where a student’s GPA, SAT Score, class rank, and sports stats determine which options are available after senior year, numbers must not be used to define a student’s worth. The ultimate ambition of every student – and adult - should not be a desire to be the BEST, but rather a drive to find his or her BEST.

So to all you lovely 13-18 year olds out there, whether you love High School or hate it, please remember that it does not last forever. Take it one step at a time and try to enjoy the journey. After all, you are just at the beginning of an amazing adventure!