Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Edwin Link: Between Hope and Fear

Edwin Link: Between Hope and Fear
By Ben Gross

After a short vacation for the winter holidays, Grady Talks returned to the halls of Atlanta’s Grady High School with a presentation by Edwin Link, Director of Program Management at the Young Audiences Woodruff Arts Center.  Link began by sharing what seemed, at first, like a somewhat out of place message: young people don’t always listen to what adults have to say! 

To illustrate the point, Link told the class that when he was a kid, he really wanted to be a fireman.  If the adult Edwin had traveled back in time and told his younger self that he wouldn’t be a fireman, Link said he never would have believed it.  Still, Link is not a fireman and he loves his job.  Thus, Link promised not to get bogged down by specifics that may or may not resonate with the students.  Instead, he shared a general rule of thumb – almost a philosophy – that he has developed over the course of his life: the need to maintain balance on the “Hope/fear continuum.”

All of us feel fear, and all of us are hopeful of certain outcomes, Link stated.  He continued: when we make decisions, our hope and fear play a role.  The secret to good decision-making is to always ask yourself before making an important decision: “Where am I on the hope/ fear continuum?”  According to Link, decisions made out of fear amount to inaction and missed opportunities, whereas decisions made strictly out of hope are often impractical.  Balance on the hope fear continuum, Link explained, ensures that we can follow our dreams but also have practical and realizable goals.         

Link also shared a story from his adolescence with the students.  In his first year of high school, Link was a D student and the faculty had all but given up on him.  In his sophomore year he was placed in a remedial English class.  After a few weeks of school, a student threw a chair at the teacher (which luckily did not hit her, but did destroy the blackboard).  That was Link’s “Aha” moment.  “I’m not in school to be in classrooms with dented blackboards and crying teachers,” he thought to himself.  But when Link went to the guidance counselor to ask to leave the remedial class, the counselor said: “You’re Edwin Link, D student.”  Link had been labeled.  People expected him to play his part.  They expected him to get Ds. It’s hard to overcome expectations, Link continued, especially when they’re negative; but it’s never too late.

Labels are not permanent, no matter what anyone says.  He told the students: your life is always yours, and you’re free to take it in whatever direction you please.  Link eventually did convince the guidance counselor to remove him from the remedial class, and, despite the labels, he improved his grades and became an accomplished student.     

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