Student view: NYLD//15 Palmerston North

By Gracie Bush

April 7 2015

I was lucky enough to be invited to volunteer at National Young Leaders Day in Palmerston North on March 16 2015. My journey started out at Auckland Airport, with a group of people I had never met before, ready to hop on a plane and start my adventure. I was welcomed with open arms and immediately felt accepted as part of the team. One of the first things I noticed about every single person involved in bringing this event to life was the passion, enthusiasm and drive they all had to make it all happen. I knew instantly that I was going to enjoy what was to come.

As soon as we arrived at the venue the next day, there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Hundreds of students started pouring in around nine o’clock – anticipation for what was to come was everywhere. As soon as the lights went down and the intro video came on, I was captivated. Throughout the day, there were three speakers that really stood out for me.

Cam Calkoen

Cam was introduced as the first speaker and as soon as he walked on stage, everyone in the audience was ready to listen. Cam’s talk was jam-packed with incredible advice such as “It’s not always the strongest, fittest people that achieve in life … it’s those that believe they can achieve” and “We’ve got to see people not for their individual characteristics but as individuals who have character”.

The main piece of advice that I took from his talk was that our differences can help us succeed. Cam talked about how difference in this world is a good thing, and that “People who count in this world look for those who are different”. This really spoke to me and is something I will remember for a long time to come.

Brook Turner

Another speaker who had some amazing advice was Brook Turner, the CEO of Zeal – a leading New Zealand youth organisation. Brook spoke about how you can’t let your dreams fade with the realities of life “Don’t exchange risk and adventure for safety and security, don’t exchange your plan A for a plan B.” He urged everyone to “Keep believing in big things” and to “Get perspective on something and move on and move up.”The way he told us to achieve our dreams was by using the Oliver Twist principle — don’t be afraid to ask for more.

Brook also talked about failure. He told us that “Failure cannot be a character trait — you fail at something, you are not a failure” and “The only way you really fail is to quit.” He also offered eye opening advice on how to get an idea of what you want to do after school — with three questions to ask yourself. The first question was “What could you spend the whole night talking about without getting bored?”, the second being “what makes you so angry you can’t speak?” and the third “what is the people, place or industry that makes you emotional?”

I know that these questions really helped me think about what it is I really want to do, and that I can succeed in whatever path I choose in life, as long as I keep getting back on my feet.

Michael Hedges

The third speaker who really stood out to me was two time Oscar winner Michael Hedges. Michael told us that nothing is impossible, and that we shouldn’t settle for second best. He said to dream huge dreams, and don’t be a spectator in life. Michael explained to the audience that people like Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron got so far in life was because they “dreamed the big dream.” They were hands on and tested the limits. What also helped them achieve was the fact that they were “driven, passionate and really, really crazy.”

Michael had three key points that you must have if you want to achieve in life and be happy doing it. These points were:

  • You must be enthusiastic – enjoy what you are doing, if you don’t enjoy it don’t do it
  • You must be energised – be fit for life, have physical and mental stamina
  • You must be equipped – remain calm and research to achieve

Needless to say, at the end of the day I was filled to the brim with advice to help me succeed on my own amazing journey. I learnt so much and I was so privileged to be surrounded by so many incredibly insightful and inspiring people.

The smiles on everyone’s faces as they were leaving was all the evidence I needed to know that everyone else felt the same way.


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Gracie Bush

Gracie Bush is an NYLD volunteer and student blogger. Gracie is a year 12 student at Baradene College and is passionate about sport and dance. She hopes to one day become a choreographer.


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