Interview: Robin Cox talks about CHOICES: Encouraging Youth to Achieve Greatness
Robin Cox was a school principal in southern Africa, sports coach to national under-nineteen level, and developer of youth mentoring programs in New Zealand and Australia. Robin has written books about teacher-mentors, youth mentoring, peer mentoring, and encouraging youth to full their potential. He has trained over a thousand volunteer adult mentors; run education and spirit-of-mentoring workshops in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and Jamaica; and personally mentored over a thousand adolescents and many adults. A cancer survivor, Robin is married with two adult children, two delightful grandchildren, and lives in New Zealand.
Robin talks to NZ Booklovers.
Why did you write CHOICES: Encouraging Youth to Achieve Greatness?
Well, I had spent over forty years working alongside teenagers and felt that I had some important information to share as an encouragement to others who move alongside youth and guide them to reach their potential. This book took five years to write. Of all the books I have written, this is one of the most important, as it is a personal account of how I worked through my childhood cancer experience with the help of some wonderful people, and how those experiences helped me encourage hundreds of young people to chase their dreams. I believe that we are all able to express and apply the spirit of mentoring in our lives. I have a genuine burden to see our youth learn how to overcome adversity, bounce back and chase their dreams.
What is unique or special about this book?
Its simplicity! Over the years I have researched, read hundreds of books, attended conferences, taught, mentored and coached many teenagers. As I developed positive and meaningful relationships with them, I created my own framework within which I operated. So, this proven framework aimed at encouraging youth to reach their potential is unpacked in the book. Never forget, I am just a simple guy with a passion to see youth chase their dreams. What makes the book that little bit extra special, is that I also included some of the most recent adolescent brain research to show how this framework is supported by this research, as well as much of the evidence-based research that has guided my thinking and actions. Now you have a proven practical framework—indeed, I could argue, here is fresh evidence to encourage that mentoring, coaching, or teaching journey. I believe this book holds an even more important place in a post-pandemic world when young people will require more significant adults who can speak into the potential they cannot see and help them develop strategies to deal with anxiety and many of the challenges the post-pandemic global community will face.
Who is your intended audience?
So many adults feel inadequate when it comes to guiding our youth, yet most of them have the ability to do this. I provide a user-friendly, proven framework to encourage them. Teachers, volunteer adult mentors, youth workers, grandparents, those homeschooling their children—indeed, all parents—and coaches, to name just a few, will benefit from reading this book and adapting some of the many tips and strategies suggested.
This is an interesting title. Is it realistic to suggest that youth can achieve greatness?
Well, in reality there are two aspects to this title. CHOICES—I have learnt from personal experiences and from so much communication I have had with youth (and others) that when we understand that we choose our attitude to life and all the challenges we face, we have incredible power to determine our future pathway. If I achieve greatness, it simply means that I have lived the best possible life I can live. And, is that not a wonderful goal to set for one’s life? The beauty of such a goal is that it never ends, as I continue to strive to reach my potential. I challenge the reader to go deeper in their thinking to gain a more authentic understanding of what it means to achieve greatness. It is quite different in many ways from what our global community seems to suggest.
If you were asked to highlight just three key points to take away after reading this book, what would these be?
That’s an incredibly difficult question to answer. I am going to assume that the reader will quickly appreciate that they must be an ‘authentic’ role model if they want to develop a meaningful relationship with a young person. So, if I take that as a ‘given’, here are three of the most important tips and strategies in answer to your question:
Empathy—we need to do our best to walk non-judgmentally in the shoes of the young person we are mentoring, and do our best to ‘try’ and understand where they are at in their lives and what they are experiencing.
Listen—listen carefully to ‘everything’ your mentee is saying. Listen to what is not being said (if that makes sense) and then ask non-threatening open-ended questions to unpack more information.
Never underestimate the power of a sound goal setting and achieving plan. It can be transformational.
Oh, and one more thing to always remember: Never quit on a mentee.
Any last thoughts?
Yes, probably just a gentle reminder to the reader—and I stress this throughout the book—not to be hard on themselves. It takes time to develop meaningful relationships with others, especially with youth, many of whom struggle to trust adults for a variety of reasons. Yet, from my experiences, most, if not all young people welcome a non-judgmental cheerleader shouting on the sidelines for them. So be kind to yourself, don’t have unrealistic expectations, keep a great sense of humor and enjoy every moment you spend alongside a young person. Youth are special people with so many gifts and talents to share within the global community. I share many ideas about all this in the book. I hope that many will make that positive choice to encourage youth to achieve greatness!