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Empowering the Next Generation

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It all began when I turned 2 years old. My mom always said that the first two years of my life were like the
quiet before the storm, and once I was able to walk and talk, all hell broke loose! I was not your typical
child by any stretch. I came into this world with a mission to question everything and shake up old ways
of living and acting. I was what the self-help books referred to at the time as the "spirited child." The
challenge was that everyone wanted me to be something different; they wanted me to be normal. As a
result I always felt isolated, alone and misunderstood.

When I got to grade school I was bullied and picked on in the playground for being different. It got
worse each year and reached its peak in the eighth grade when everyone turned against me. I remember having
to get my mom to drive me to school right at the bell in the morning because I could not handle the
shame of being by myself in the playground.

When I got into high school my self-esteem was at an all-time low. I was self-conscious about how I
looked, how I felt, and what I said. So I tried to sneak under the radar and fit in with everyone else. By
the time I got into the twelfth grade I was tired of never being accepted. Fortunately, I saw a light at the end of
the tunnel -- university. If I got into university I could move away and leave all the drama behind. I was
told that in order to get into university, to be successful and to have a good life I needed to get good
grades. So I worked harder than I ever had before and luckily I was able to get the grades I needed.

Off to university I went leaving behind all the pain and suffering I had felt for the last 18 years -- or so
I thought. My first year of university was amazing! For the first time in my life I got to be whoever I
wanted to be -- without any prior labels or judgment. I was more focused on having fun then I was on
my studies and at the end of the school year my grades showed for it. I actually felt guilty for not doing
better.

Going into second year I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to succeed. I had to prove that
I was smart and a valuable member of our society. I worked harder than anyone I knew, but I couldn't
get the grades I was shooting for. I got so stressed out and nervous before every exam or presentation
that I made myself sick to my stomach. With every circumstance I faced, I put my life on the line. With
every below average grade I received my sense of worthiness and value plummeted. The harder I
pushed, the sicker I got, and the worse I felt about myself. I had dug myself a very deep hole and had no
idea how to get out of it. I was desperate for help and as life shall have it, it showed up in a very unlikely
source -- my Dad.

Growing up, my Dad and I did not get along. He was a "my way or the highway" type of dad, and that
did not mesh well with my spirited ways. However, by the time he turned 50 he had accomplished a
lot of his goals, and recognized that something was missing. He started an intense journey of personal
discovery and transformation and within a year he had become a completely different person. He
decided to become a life coach so he could help other people discover their passion and purpose before
they reached his age. And it was witnessing the inspired action that he made in his life that inspired
me to put aside our personal differences, become his first student, and start to transform my own life.

I have been on my own journey of self-discovery and positive transformation for over seven years now,
Presently, I am 26 years old and, after being empowered to turn my life around, I am on a mission to
inspire and empower youth all over the world to live happier, healthier and more positive lives. I set
out to provide them with the strategies, tools and practices that helped me change my life, so that they
don't have to experience the pain and suffering that I did.

I believe that empowerment is the key to becoming the master of your own destiny. If we, as a society,
are going to come together and empower our next generation and generations to come, we all need
to be living the most empowered version of ourselves first. The days of do as I say, not as I do are over.
Youth emulate our actions much more than our words. We need to set a precedent for our youth, walk
the talk, and BE the change that we want to see in them and in our society. My dad always said to me
growing up "Michael, relationships are a two way street. If you want to have a relationship with me you
have got to meet me half way." But I never saw him actually come half way -- so neither did I. Finally,
after 19 years he took action in his own life -- and it inspired me to do the same.

Michael Jackson said it best: "I'm starting with the man in the mirror, and I am asking him to change his
ways." By living the empowered YOU, we create a blueprint for empowering youth. As we empower our
youth to live happier, healthier and more heart-centered lives, we create the foundation for positive and
sustainable change in our families, communities and societies for generations to come.

To learn more about Michael and the Youth Wellness Network,
visit www.youthwellnessnetwork.ca

Join him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter: @youthwellnet

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