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Basketball hoop

A few weeks ago, I coached some high school students through the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship program. As part of this program, each student comes up with an idea for creating their own business. They work throughout the semester to create a business plan for their idea, and present it to their peers and local corporate executives.

I remember coaching one girl named Kaya:

“Hello Kaya! ┬áSo, what ideas are you thinking about for your business proposal?”
“I don’t have any ideas,” she replied quietly. Her eyes wandered, then looked down at the desk in front of her.
“Maybe we can come up with some ideas together,” I offered. “What kinds of things do you like to do?”
She thought for a while. “Well, I like basketball,” she said.
“Ok, that’s good … What is it that you like about basketball?”
Kaya lifted her eyes. “I like playing it … I play on the varsity team in school. I’m pretty good at it and I would like to play in college, then go on to play in the WNBA. I also really like coaching my younger brothers, showing them how to move the ball down the court and shoot baskets …”

Kaya went on to describe how she would like to set up an organization that teaches younger kids how to play basketball, how she already owned sports equipment she could use for this organization, and how her uncle was a basketball coach at a nearby university who could help her execute her idea. I asked her a few more questions to help her flesh out some more details. By the time the bell rang at the end of class, Kaya’s eyes were lit up with excitement, and she was well on her way to creating her business plan.

I was fascinated by this turn of events. At the start of our conversation, Kaya said that she didn’t have any ideas. Ten minutes later, however, she shared a well thought-out business plan that involved the sport she loved. How was this possible?

Like Kaya, many of us struggle with what we want to do with our careers and our lives. We get stuck doing things that we have to do (or believe we have to do), but that don’t bring us fulfillment. We may take our strengths for granted — if they come so easily to us, we think, how valuable could they possibly be? We can lose track of our passions that bring us enjoyment and happiness. After a while, we may start thinking that we “don’t have any ideas,” and fail to remember or recognize what we want to do with our lives.

The good news, however, is that we actually do have ideas. They may be pushed to the back of our minds, packed behind walls of perceived impracticality and fear of the unknown — but they are still there. I think back to when I was about Kaya’s age, when I got excited about my musical performances, loved teaching people how to use the computers at the library, and wanted to be a guidance counselor when I grew up. I’ve done many other things since high school, but those core passions still live within me (with one small change: my interest in guidance counseling has morphed into a fascination with career counseling and coaching.) Over the next few months, I’m going to be making some changes that will help me move my passions to the forefront. I look forward to sharing my adventures through my blog.

We may say we don’t have ideas for how to fulfill our passions and use our strengths. But I believe that our ideas are there, waiting for us to rediscover and nurture them. Sometimes we just need a little coaching and encouragement to bring our ideas out into the open.

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