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10 Things We Can All Learn From TIME’s 2014 Most Influential Teens

10 Things We Can All Learn From TIME’s 2014 Most Influential Teens

Each year since 1999, TIME magazine has ranked the world’s most influential people. The list has included heavyweights like Oprah (10 times), Barack Obama (nine times), Nelson Mandela (three times) and the Dalai Lama (three times).

It’s not necessarily political power, wealth or a talk show that make someone influential though. It’s widely acknowledged that “the key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority,” and influence is achievable at any age. Teens often have that fearless courage (or sometimes, worldly naivety) that, combined with easy access to millions via social media, gives them the ability to be incredibly influential too. It might not be as obviously profound as the US President or His Holiness, but there’s often a real and valuable message there, untarnished by jaded decades and mid-life crises.

Here’s what we can all learn – whether we’re 17 or 70 – from TIME’s most influential teens in 2014.

1. Sasha Obama, 13, and Malia Obama, 16: Be true to your own passions

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    Last year, the youngest Obama daughter, Sasha, was photographed wearing a $19 unicorn sweater from ASOS at a university basketball game – it sold out online almost instantaneously. Malia has reportedly dabbled in filmmaking in Hollywood too. These girls are a great reminder to forge your own path and be true to your own passions and style, regardless of what others might expect of you.

    2. Flynn McGarry, 15: Start with what you have, where you are

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      Flynn has proven that culinary genius is not just born in the Michelin restaurants of Paris and New York, and you don’t have to work a lifetime to achieve your own restaurant success. At 12, Flynn started a monthly supper club, Eureka, in the Californian bedroom of his family home. It’s now a pop up restaurant serving eight to 10 courses of “progressive American cuisine” for up to 50 guests. He’s now working with the world’s top chefs in LA and NYC and has appeared on the Today Show and the cover of The New York Times.

      The most common excuse for not pursuing our dreams is that we’re waiting for the ideal tools or circumstances to align. Flynn is a great reminder to ditch the excuses and start with what you have, where you are.

      3. Erik Finman, 15: Stay curious – be an eager learner

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        This teen founded Botangle.com, an online community that connects eager learners with experts and educators for a per minute and/or per hour rate (Botangle takes a 15% cut of the fee). Subjects covered include everything from aviation, architecture and crowd funding, to dance, Mongolian and violin.

        Erik – an eager student and grateful for his own diverse educational opportunities – wanted to make stimulating education easily accessible to everyone, so Botangle uses alternative learning tools such as video tutoring and virtual whiteboards. But that’s not the really impressive part. Erik funded the start up project by investing $1,000 his Grandma gave him at Easter in Bitcoin and turning it into $100,000. Here’s proof that being an eager learner and student of life will always bring a “return on investment” in one way or another.

        4. Salma Kakar, 17: Push the walls of the world you find yourself in

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          Salma is both a patriotic, teenage girl from Afghanistan and the lead rider on the co-ed Afghan National Cycling Team. She says that she is using her bike as a “vehicle for social change” – to show the world how far Afghan women have come from the overly conservative and oppressive traditions of her parent’s generation.

          Whilst many Afghan women cannot get an education, employment or even a driver’s licence, Salma insists that views are changing. And despite the verbal abuse and harassment for being “un-Islamic,” she also receives messages of support from many Afghans, men included. She has a more progressive and supportive family than most – her mother is a pediatrician, her father an engineer and her elder sister a publisher of Afghanistan’s first feminist magazine, Riudad – but she has refused to accept the traditional boundaries of the world she was born into.

          5. Malala Yousafzai, 17: A single defeat is not a final defeat

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            Malala has always been an advocate for girls’ education – at 11 years old, she was speaking out at events and blogging for the BBC on the topic. It earned her both death threats from the Taliban and an International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011.

            On 9 October, 2012, Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen while riding the bus to school. Most would be forgiven for taking a step back from the spotlight and feeling defeated – but not Malala. She has since started the Malala Fund to continue to promote girls’ education, assist Syrian refugee children and raise awareness of the kidnapped Nigerian girls. She has gone on to receive an honorary doctorate in civil law from the University of King’s College in Canada, spoken at the United Nations and is now the youngest ever recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize (October 2014). Her influence is undeniable and her message – “We will speak, no matter how hard it is to do so” – is a reminder that a single defeat is not a final defeat.

            6. Rachel Fox, 18: Look past the stereotypes

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              Don’t be fooled by the stereotypes of Hollywood’s teen actresses. She’s starred in TV shows like Desperate Housewives and Private Practice, but Rachel Fox is also an avid day trader – and a successful one at that! Now she’s started a blog, Fox on Stocks, to demystify finance and investments for teens. She also tracks the influence of pop culture on stock trading – everything from Gagnam Style to Justin Bieber – and lists the top 20 companies teens love to buy from on a “MyGenLoves Index,” which includes Netflix and Urban Outfitters.

              7. Rico Rodriguez, 16: Let your personality shine (quirks and all)

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                So, Mum wasn’t lying when she said personality always wins! Better known as Manny in Modern Family, Rico Rodriguez is one of the youngest and richest teen actors of the moment. And it’s not because he’s a typical Hollywood heartthrob. Rodriguez is a young comedic genius and has a lot to say as well – in 2012, he published a book called Reel Life Lessons…So Far. His character in Modern Family is brimming with personality and is a testament to embracing your own uniqueness – he has influenced the masses with his character’s confident vulnerability and dramatic flair. If Modern Family continues into Season Eight, he’ll be earning around $115,000 per episode too. As Beatrix Potter said, “I hold that a strongly marked personality can influence descendants for generations.”

                8. Lorde, 17: True beauty is in the imperfections

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                  Two Grammy Awards, a platinum album, an MTV Video Music Award and selected to curate the Hunger Games soundtrack – this girl has well and truly earned the spotlight. But rather than twerking her way to the top, Lorde has let her natural talent shine and has used her influence to do something else for the sisterhood – promote body love, in all its flawed glory. Earlier this year, she posted two photos on Twitter – one Photoshopped and one au naturel – to remind her fans (or 1.3 million Twitter followers) that “flaws are OK.” Well done Lorde – let’s keep it real #nofilter.

                  9. Joshua Wong, 18: Speak up – every voice counts

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                    Most 18-year-olds are barely able to legally vote in their own countries and would rather spend the Saturday morning in bed than at the polls, but Joshua Wong is leading a pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong (via a student activist group called Scholarism) to scrap mandatory “patriotic education” and demand that the people be able to elect their leader. He’s led demonstrations, sit-ins and petitions around the country and managed to convince the Chief Executive to meet with him to discuss his requests – undeniably the influence that TIME picked up on. Wong is a reminder to us all that our voice and vote counts – don’t take it for granted.

                    10. Jazz Jennings, 14: See the rainbow in the world – it’s not all black and white

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                      Since the age of two, Jazz has identified as a girl despite the body she was given. She’s now an advocate for transgender teens and has written a book and reflective memoir, I am Jazz, to help kids understand what it means to be transgender: “I have a girl brain but a boy body … I was born this way.” She made The Advocate‘s 40 Under 40 in 2012 and was the youngest person ever featured on the Out 100 in 2013. This girl has a magnetic sparkle and an unwavering commitment to live her truth that makes her a powerful and beautiful inspiration to many – so much so, that Bill Clinton and JLaw insisted on meeting her! She’s earned a well-deserving spot on TIME’s most influential teens list for sure.

                      According to TIME, “Teens today might have a mixed reputation, but there’s no denying their influence.” The rise of social media has undoubtedly played a big role in that, but these teens have achieved more than most and have a message worth spreading. The rest of the world can just sit back, and have greatness thrust upon them.

                      Featured photo credit: Wikimedia via upload.wikimedia.org

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                      Last Updated on March 23, 2021

                      Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

                      Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

                      One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

                      The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

                      You need more than time management. You need energy management

                      1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

                      How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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                      I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

                      I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

                      2. Determine your “peak hours”

                      Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

                      Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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                      My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

                      In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

                      Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

                      3. Block those high-energy hours

                      Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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                      Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

                      If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

                      That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

                      There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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                      Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

                      Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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