Rick Little’s Quest

Listen to this true story from the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul”:

At 5 A.M Rick Little fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed into a tree. He spent the next six months in traction with a broken back. Rick found himself with a lot of time to think deeply about his life – something for which the thirteen years of his education had not prepared him. Only two weeks after he was dismissed from the hospital, he returned home one afternoon to find his mother lying semiconscious on the floor from an overdose of sleeping pills. Rick confronted once again the inadequacy of his formal education in preparing him to deal with the social and emotional issues of life.

During the following months Rick began to formulate an idea – the development of a course that would equip students with high self-esteem, and conflict management skills. He ran across a study in which 1,000 30-year-olds had been asked if they felt their high school education had equipped them with the skills they needed for the real world. Over 80% responded, “Absolutely not.” They were also asked what skills they now wish they had been taught. The top answers were relationship skills: How to get along better with the people you live with; how to find and keep a job; how to handle a conflict; how to be a good parent and how to understand your child.

Inspired by his vision Rick dropped out of college and set across the country to interview high school students. From the interviews, and he interviewed 2,000 students, the same list of skills came up as the ones complied by the 30-year-olds. Asking about their problems, loneliness and not liking themselves topped the list of problems.

Rick slept in his car for 2 months, living on a total of $60, committed to his dream. He made a list of the nation’s top educators and leaders in counseling and psychology, and he visited everyone on his list. While they were impressed with his approach they offered little help. “You’re too young. Go back to college.”

By the time he turned 20 he had sold his car and borrowed some money from friends. Advised by his friends he spent months writing grant proposals to many foundations. Each one came back rejected. After the 155th grant proposal had been turned down, all of Rick’s support began to crumble and even his parents were begging him to go back to college. Activated by desperation and conviction he managed to secure a lunch date with Dr. Russ Mawby, President of the Kellogg Foundation. On their way for lunch he was acting clumsy and he crushed an ice cream cone he was eating and chocolate ice cream was running between his fingers. Mawby burst into laughter and Rick was miserable and embarrassed. 

Two weeks later Mawby phoned. “You asked for $55,000. We’re sorry, but the trustees voted against it.” Rick felt tears pressing behind his eyes.

“However,” said Mawby, “the trustees did vote unanimously to give you $130,000.”

Since that time Rick Little has raised over $100 million to fund his dream. The Quest Skills Programs are currently taught in all 50 states. 3 million kids per year are being taught important life skills because one 19-year-old refuses to take “no” for an answer.
In 1989, because the incredible success of Quest, Rick Little was granted $65 million, the second largest grant ever given in U.S. history, to identify and expand successful youth programs all over the world.

(From ”Chicken Soup for the Soul”, by Jack Canfield & Mark Hansen, Copyright c 1993.)

I checked it over the internet and it is a true story. But beyond the importance of the “power of commitment” and the refusal to take “no” as an answer, it puts a serious spot light on how our basic education lacks granting tools in relationship issues. Take for example the significant issue of parenting that the students raised in the survey. I guess we bring lots of love, feelings and intuition into parenthood, but do we spend years of education on parenthood like we seriously learn a profession to promote our career?

Michal Levine said once “The fact that you have a piano doesn’t make you a pianist. Same goes when you have a child… it doesn’t necessarily make you a parent…”

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rick Little

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