Today, October 11, 2013, thousands of students, teachers, schools, activists and organizations across the globe are joining together to celebrate the International Day of the Girl, an official United Nations resolution established in 2011. And I think the perfect girl to focus on today is Malala Yousafzai.
Malala is 16 years old. She's a girl from Pakistan who has always loved to read, write, and learn. Malala is an education and women's rights advocate, and she has been for much of quite a while. However, the world wasn't exposed to Malala until last October, when she was shot by Taliban terrorists attempting to silence her and in turn, creating a viral story of hope. Their goal was to end her campaign for girls' education in Pakistan. They did not succeed. If anything, they have made Malala's voice stronger and clearer, and she has inspired millions across the globe with her story of passion, courage and dedication to education.
In honour of the International Day of the Girl, here are 10 lessons we can all learn from Malala. These may not be new concepts, but each serves as a reminder.
1. Never hesitate to raise your voice.
This message rings out loud and clear from the 16 year old humanitarian. If you don't raise your voice, it is unlikely that anyone will hear you. And I bet you have something (or many things) to say. Share your thoughts, ideas and passions with the world.
2. Dare to dream, and let your dreams drive your actions.
Never think for a moment that any dream is too large, or too unrealistic. My friend Adam Braun says "the single most powerful element of youth is our inability to know what's impossible." I couldn't agree more. Here's my challenge to youth: don't lose that admirable quality as you transition into adulthood.
3. Don't hate or seek revenge.
Malala was shot on her way home from school. The Taliban gunmen attempted to kill her, and revenge is the last thing on Malala's mind. Since I was a little kid, my mom has always said that hating is just a waste of energy. It doesn't benefit anyone and it's a waste of time.
4. Never give up.
For the love of all that's good in this world, please never give up. If you care about something, or someone, no matter what happens, refuse to quit! Never give up, and seek motivation to fuel your drive. If anyone can do it, you can. Surround yourself with people and messaging that keep you going, and encourage you to never give up or lose hope.
5. Be compassionate.
If hating is the worst way to exert your energy, love is the best way to use your energy. The more you give, the more you get. Be compassionate. Tell those you love that you love them.
6. Be humble.
July 12 was declared Malala Day by the United Nations. This past summer, Malala spoke at the UN headquarters and opened with this: "Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them."
7. Always be thankful.
Don't take anything for granted. Your life. Your family. Your home. Your pencil. There's a lot to be thankful for. Try your best not to complain about the things you may not have, and instead be thankful for all that you have, and all that you are.
8. Strive to help others.
I have a secret for you. The more good deeds you do, the better you will feel yourself. So in fact, helping others may turn into quite a selfish activity if you do it right. Before you know it, you will be stuck in a cycle of helping others, and feeling good, and helping others more, and feeling even better... Don't believe me? Try it. I dare you.
9. Replace weakness with strength, and fear with courage.
This may appear to be one of those things that is easier said than done, but sometimes it's just a matter of perspective. Don't let negativity shut you down. Strive to be the strongest, best, most positive person you can be. The things you can accomplish are mind boggling!
10. Never doubt your ability to impact the world.
We live in a world of over 7-billion individuals. Each person is different. Each person on earth has something unique to offer the world. What's your gift? What wonderful things do you have to offer? Don't ever doubt for a second the power you have to make a difference.