My heart sank when an online contact asked me if I would like to help out a teenage student who wanted to make a name for himself as a journalist.
Of all the myriad creatures God has placed on this earth, I had been singled out to try to help a teenager!
How was I supposed to talk to one of that surly, self-absorbed brood who choose to communicate in occasional grunts, shrugs of the shoulders and, if you are very lucky indeed, words of one syllable.
If they are not sleeping or listening to loud rap music on their iPods, they are either getting drunk, stealing cars, starting fights or scoring drugs.
However I put my prejudices aside and agreed to help…and the rest of this blog post explains why I am so glad I did.
The teenager in question was a 16-year-old English lad called Darren Dunn who had noticed that Robert Shoesmith – the guy who had camped for ten nights outside a London Apple store – had been chatting to me on Twitter.
Darren checked out my profile, discovered that I had worked most of my life as a journalist, and asked Robert to put him in touch with me.
When Robert – who has featured twice on this blog – told me Darren would be contacting me, that was the point when my heart sank. As a general rule teenagers don’t listen to a word I say, so why should this one be any different?
Then I received the following email:
I’m a 16-year-old teenager with a dream. I want to work for TechnoBuffalo as a journalist.
I have spoken to Robert Shoesmith about this and he recommends giving you a call if that’s ok ?
He then sent a follow-up email with a link to an article he had just written and links to two online videos he had created. In the email exchange which followed all my prejudices about teenagers (or at least about this particular teenager) evaporated.
We chatted regularly on Skype and as he explained his passion for journalism, I had no doubt that this guy was going to succeed in his chosen career.
Darren was articulate, personable, witty, dedicated, utterly passionate about making a name for himself as a consumer technology journalist, informed, polite and confident.
In our conversations he told me about how he needed to make sacrifices to achieve his goals, how he would have to work hard to stand out from everyone else who wanted to make their name in this competitive niche and how he planned to use personal branding to get his name known.
Here was a 16-year-old youth explaining to me the very concepts that many people who want to make a living online seem to have so much trouble understanding.
I wanted to put him inside the TELive chatroom, have everyone stop talking, and listen to him speak for half an hour.
Actually maybe that is not such a bad idea after all?
As we spoke in-depth about journalism – a subject we are both passionate about – I began to learn new things from Darren in each call. Each and every one of us has the capacity to mentor and be mentored and regardless of your niche it will all start with passion.
Here, in his own words, is this inspirational teenager’s story:
“Hello, my name is Darren.
“I spend my entire teenage days producing articles and technology-related videos in order to try to break my way into a career in journalism.
“I’m 100 per cent focused on technology and for as long as I can remember I have loved technology.
“Since I was 10, I have watched the tremendous consumer technology journalist Jon Rettinger make videos. I was instantly hooked and from then on I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
“I knew if I was to have a job online it would change my life for the better but many people who say they would love to work from home, unfortunately aren’t willing to go to the lengths I am in order to make it happen.
“So what is my goal? I have laid out a plan that I feel is realistic. I want to be working for Jon at TechnoBuffalo by the time I am 30.
“I am only 16 and unfortunately teenagers are being described by journalists as out of control and with the high numbers of teenage pregnancies and teenage alcohol abuse they are telling the truth but they don’t talk about people like me.
“I live in my home office working hard for a future.
“I don’t see the point in getting drunk and smoking in order to have fun, I would prefer to film a video review or rant about how much I love Microsoft on a Friday night so I guess I am not a ‘typical teen.’
“I spend all day writing articles and thinking of unique video ideas as well as reviewing multiple smartphones at once. I hardly sleep because I love what I’m doing so much it’s hard to turn off the Mac.
“I love journalism and writing my reviews but I get bullied for this.
“At school I was called a geek, a nerd and I was even called gay on the odd occasion. I was welcomed to school with abuse and shouts that I will never be successful and other hurtful remarks.
The bullies won’t win.
“Too many people are willing to sail through life and hope to get lucky! Sorry, but I can’t rely on luck.
“I know that the only way I’m going to succeed is by putting a lot of hard work and effort into my articles and video productions.
“I also have to make several sacrifices now in order to have a successful life later.
“I often get called boring for staying in front of a computer the entire day, but I know that’s what I have to do in order to live my dream and break into the world of journalism.
“As for the school bullies with their hurtful comments, well I am determined to prove them all wrong.”
I have no doubt that Darren will make it in his chosen career. No doubt at all.
This guy does not hang around.
For example on Sunday night he called me up and asked if I thought it would be helpful if he set up his own website for personal branding purposes.
I said “yes” and less than three hours later he showed me this:
Darren actually wrote far more about his dream than I could publish on this blog. You can