The ‘I can’t do it’ Generation

Now then. I know I’m not really old enough to start moaning about today’s generation of young people, but an argument and culture shift needs to happen before society grinds to a halt because one too many youngsters cry “I can’t do it!”.

Everyone has an element in life where they groan/shout/cry this phrase; for me it’s maths – scraped a C at GCSE level and swiftly dropped it quicker than I could shout “I don’t give a s*** about finding x!”. I know I’m not alone in my dislike for the mathematical arts.

Working as a Climbing Instructor I am confronted daily with this particular whine and it genuinely irritates me. A young person of any age may start climbing the easiest of routes in the centre, get a meter off the floor, look at me and proclaim that they simply cannot do it, and they now want to come down.
The first thing I respond with is “Nope”, followed by “Keep going”.
The look on the majority of young people’s faces are priceless; it’s the “What do you mean no?!” look, we all know that look.

I say no every single time a young person, or adult, tells me that they want to come down the first time not because I’m a mean instructor, but because I genuinely know that they can keep going. I will talk to them, demonstrate the exact climbing technique whilst on the floor that the climber needs to utilise in order to reach that next hold and just generally encourage them to get on with it. It’s always a source of entertainment when I, or a colleague is demonstrating techniques on the floor to a climber, better dance moves have yet to be seen in the likes of Popworld!

The holding power of a young person is incredible: Again, all this demonstrating and encouraging and they will hold the same static position for upwards of 10 minutes. I keep saying that they can better use all that energy they’re wasting by just getting on with it, and still they remain glued to the wall. A few moves are made with zero progress: a hand is moved up, a foot is moved down, a hold is tickled but not held, legs are straightened, legs are bent, they move left or right and back again.

Most climbers will at least try what I have asked of them, and most of those who do indeed get further even if it is just by a single hold, once they have done this single move some continue up the wall, others come down with a little smile of achievement. But others simply will not try and here is where my gripe lies.

I can demo, discuss, demand and encourage until I’m blue in the face but that small, but growing, percentage of climbers will not even try to venture higher. The never ending argument is “But how do you know you can’t do it if you haven’t tried?”, “I just can’t, let me down!”. What causes it? Fear? Laziness? A sense of entitlement? How they’re raised?

I know they’re easy targets but I think a combination of parenting style and the education system have the most to do with it. It could just be a Surrey thing. A young person can’t do something, the parent comforts them, or the teacher hasn’t the power or patience to challenge them and that’s that. When they’re suddenly confronted with an adult that says “No” it doesn’t quite compute and the concept of genuinely trying is rather foreign.

The best motivator is pitting the young person against a friend, or better yet themselves. Saying “You got further last time, go on!” is more powerful than comparing them to their friends, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. If they ignite the desire to one-up themselves then it results in a strong sense of achievement and they receive greater kudos when back on the ground “That was fantastic, look how high you got. You reached clip 6 this time, your last go you got to clip 3!”
The smile they beam is signal enough that they’re happy with their achievement, they tried. That’s all I needed them to do.

Getting a stubborn young person to try is a difficult, often tedious and repetitive task. Once they actually understand that I won’t crumble to their demands some excellent progress can be made. But until then it’s an uphill slog of dancing around on the floor, encouraging and saying “No”.

Instructing: A Stumbling Block on the Road

Allow me, if you will, to set the scene: Upon returning to the UK from a full, draining ski season in Vaujany over in the French Alps nestled next to Alpe d’Huez I proceed to spend the following 6 weeks sleeping on a sofa at my parent’s house. All of my belongings stuffed into the loft and whatever nook and cranny was available in between the usual hodgepodge of family stuff, and also my sister’s, her partner’s and their bouncing baby daughter’s worldly possessions. In a word – cramped.

These six long weeks saw me job hunting to within an inch of my sanity: Instructing, Outdoor Retail, Travel Agent, hell – even a school cleaning job. I applied to them all, country wide too, being based in what feels like the retirement capital of Europe – Worthing, W. Sussex – made those rare interviews all the more difficult to get to. That hardest bit of that phase was just the sheer lack of responses I received from just about everyone whom I pelted with a CV; barely a we have received your application, let alone a sorry you have not been successful. That sort of silence is crippling for a job hunter!

But anyway. An olive branch was extended to me in the form of the Pinnacle Climbing Centre in the heartland of Northamptonshire and in June I became a full time climbing instructor! I’d relocated in record time to Northampton, a cushy 15 minute cycle commute making everything sweeter, and started settling in. The management even gave me the added responsibility of being an unofficial social media co-ordinator of sorts, keeping the Facebook and Twitter pages up to date and filled with content.

Now we bring ourselves to the first week of September: I’m called in for a meeting with the Centre and Duty Managers to iron out a few niggles such as being more of a team player (I wasn’t making enough cups of tea for my colleagues) and discuss the social media performance which wasn’t going as well as the Managing Director wanted. In short my probation period was extended a month and was given 2 weeks to buck up my ideas and see a marked improvement. A bit of a short time frame but alright, this is new territory for me.

I have a good fortnight full of good instructing sessions, plenty of social media stuff and I even offered several cuppas around. I took some pre-planned holiday for an adventure up to Scotland to bag our first Munros which was for the most part very successful – don’t think I’ve eaten that well in a long time! So arrives the Monday, six days into the trip, we’ve just driven from Glen Brittle campsite up on the Isle of Skye back to our adopted base of the Glen Nevis campsite in Fort William. As we got booked in for the night I checked my emails – 1 unread message from my HR Manager simply titled Letter Attached – I read the letter and lo and behold I’ve been dismissed from the company and given a week’s notice in accordance with my contract.

The reason: “…the main priority of social media postings has not improved, and the necessary reporting has not taken place, amongst other things”.
I’d been dismissed for an extra responsibility given to me by management, not for the actual duty for which I was employed. Surely just taking the responsibility away from me would have done the trick instead of cutting me loose entirely?

Just imagine that for a moment. Being sacked by email whilst on holiday. It’s like being dumped by a partner by text, a bit mean and not really the done thing.

I followed up the email when signal allowed and asked about my final weekend of work when I returned from Scotland, surely I’d have work to do being on a 40hr/week contract? Alas, no. I’d already been worked out of the rota and not given any hours to see me to the end of the notice period. The only reason to actually go into the centre was to collect my belongings and return my uniform. A sour experience let me assure you, even with the Duty Manager keeping it friendly and supportive when I dropped by.

So here I am, job hunting countrywide again with the timer ticking on my accommodation. I refuse to go back to that sofa! One benefit of being that little bit further up the country is that I can literally roll onto the M1 and be just about anywhere in England/Wales within 5 hours, especially missing out that god forsaken M25!
Plenty of CVs have been fired off near and far lately with some already promising leads, ideally something comes up that pays me more than minimum wage and considers the qualifications I’ve toiled long and hard to achieve.

Feel free to share your thoughts and advice on this little stumble of mine. If there are any suitable vacancies out there let me know!

At least Scotland was good!

At least Scotland was good!