‘The Ends’ can be defined in this instance as “The area in which you live”. For me the Ends I grew up in was Tottenham, North London. Typically associated with riots both in 1985 and 2011, Gangs, Drugs, Fraud, Robbery, 1 in 3 children living below the poverty (Some stats can be found here). Above and beyond this, similar to many in my community; family hardships, single parent households, friends either deported, deep in crime or even killed are all seen as much the norm for a young person growing up in a deprived community.
It would be too simple to draw correlations between a lack of educational attainment or employment with the stats listed above. However this article focuses on the the fringe benefits of growing up in such a fierce environment. There are 3 key benefits I would like to hone in on, which have been shared below.
Inherently through experiencing the hardships whereby your whole life appears to be engineered towards your failure; From getting into fights, to hustling to make money to help stay above the poverty line, to losing loved ones. You develop an ability to outlast pain and understand that the pain will subside over time, whether it takes an hour, a day, a week or a month. This deep routed ability to push on, in the face of adversity and fight against tremendous odds has been captured greatly by Regina Hartley’s recent TED talk. Although you learn many harsh lessons of life from a young age, you do develop resilience and a desire to succeed no matter what life throws at you!
Often recruiters have approached me to discuss diversity and naturally gone down rabbit holes related to race, creed, beliefs, sexuality or gender. Starting by asking questions like, “How do we hire more people like you?” or “Why is there such a lack of BME talent in VC’s and startups?”
The truth is, unless you think outside the constraints of academia and qualifications you will never recognise the traits of talent who poses a diversity of thought. People defined not by the “What” e.g. 5 A-C’s at G.C.S.E’s but the story their life exhibits, which defines them as more than their CV. The story of how they have overcome strife, shown great levels of determination, displayed awesome work ethic and shown to have added value in projects or at work. Within this story, key traits can be identified, typically categorised as Dan Pink states through motivations, a sense of autonomy and purpose. Young people growing up, typically marginalised as NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) have a strong sense of motivation to succeed at whatever they put their mind to, they know they can add value through doing things differently and they are bought into bold company missions and values that align to their purpose. Inclusion rather than exclusion is key to getting the best of of them!
The shortlist shared above are lessons from the basics of economics which applies to businesses, entrepreneurs and drug dealers…….Yes drug dealers! Clearly they got the right mind, just the wrong grind. The risk and reward model is the true differentiation between a business, entrepreneur and a drug dealer. A trader within a business risks company capital, with the potential of huge six figure bonuses as a reward. Where as your average drug dealer risks his life either with imprisonment or death with the potential upside of a becoming a thousand’iare (if lucky!). However the entrepreneurial skill set possessed by such an individual is a transferable skill which can be leveraged and prove very valuable in so many career from business development and sales to starting your own business!
These are just a few of many lessons learned by myself and many of my friends from growing up in deprived communities, going on to work in credible careers. I am passionate about enabling growth in this “hard to reach demographic” and distilling the transferable skills to help them switch their hustles (find their Ah Ha moments!) into legitimate careers or entrepreneurial ventures. What started off as just mentoring young people in deprived communities is fast becoming a side project (to be revealed soon). If your interested in getting involved or learning more, get in touch!
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