How one young New Zealander is changing thousands of lives

How one young New Zealander is changing thousands of lives
Case Studies E Wen's Desk

From the Desk of E Wen
Teen Reporter for Global Entrepreneurship

Last week I spoke to the April McLennan, the founder and Chairperson of Limitless.

The Limitless Conference equips young New Zealanders with the self-awareness and confidence to pursue and excel in work they are passionate about.

After attending the 2016  Limitless Conference, I was exposed to this incredible organisation which aims to assist young people in discovering their passions and purpose.

April talks at Limitless

In my final year of high school I was trying to make decisions on my career and further study.

I knew there were a lot of high school students like me – unsure and overwhelmed by the prospect of making a decision.

I also knew ex-students that had started further study or had started working and they were still unsure about the path they had chosen.

This was in stark contrast to the people I had met who were doing work they found super meaningful. Their work really connected to their strengths and values.

They were more confident in their direction in life because they had worked out what was meaningful to them.

So I thought, why not help young people find what is meaningful to them and build Limitless – a motivational conference and now workshops – with practical steps to help young people journey towards meaningful, value–aligned work.

What are some of the most memorable highlights of your journey so far?

One is the people I’ve met. In three years I’ve worked with artists, content creators, philanthropists, teachers, scientists, and writers.

So many incredible people who have brought their intelligence, their energy, and their input to see Limitless come to life.

Another highlight is seeing a high school dream become so real.

I love the feeling I get when a draft workshop that has only been discussed in meeting rooms and mapped out on whiteboards, happens in real life.

I loved it when our website went live and I loved it on Day One of the Limitless Conference when I first saw students pouring through the doors, ready to take part, and have loved that moment ever since.

I also love the craziness of the Conference when I’m so busy. It’s absolutely one of my favourite times.

Students completing their worksheets at Limitless

What have been the lowlights of running Limitless?

I like to call lowlights ‘areas of personal growth’! The challenge of running Limitless has sparked a lot of personal growth for me.

There have been times I’ve been so painfully aware of my areas for growth – I now have an acute awareness of my weaknesses.

Alongside this, an experience of anxiety is something I have dealt with for quite some time, so getting support for anxiety has been so helpful for me.

I think it’s so important to get counsel or support for these kinds of experiences of mental unhealth.

It’s also so healthy to have mentors to help you overcome obstacles, be kind to yourself, and cultivate healthy rhythms in life and work.

In 2016, you attended the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in California, as one of only three New Zealand delegates. What was your biggest takeaway from the summit?

Attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit was an amazing opportunity.

I mean, hearing Barack Obama speak was pretty incredible!

I came home realising that many of the challenges I face in life are experienced by people all over the world.

When discussing my life and business aspirations with some delegates, I was struck by the privilege of growing up in NZ.

Many people I met shared with me the challenges they faced in their beloved home country such as violence and corruption in unstable regions.

I heard how much they loved their home country but also their sadness about the everyday challenges they faced just surviving on top of the challenges of running their own business.

One of the underlying values of Limitless is passion. What are some of your personal passions?

One kinda left-field passion is my passion for biomimicry – which is a field of study where you study how things work in nature (ecosystems, animals, plants), and apply that intelligent design to human-designed products and systems.

For example, air conditioning has been designed based on the principles of the incredibly efficient ventilation system that termite mounds have!

This biomimetic design was applied in Zimbabwe for a large office and retail complex.

My passion for environmental sustainability and thriving, biodiverse ecosystems has also increased recently.

And obviously I’m super passionate about seeing people empowered.

One of my strengths that I found via the Gallup Strengths Finder method (link below) is connectedness – and I see how this plays a part in me loving the work I do with Limitless a whole lot.

I’m also passionate about the importance of curiosity and constant learning because these are massive catalysts to discovery and invention.

For example, Steve Jobs did an amazing speech where he said the left-field topic of calligraphy that he took in high school led to his input into the thousands of fonts we use today.

Students working in teams at Limitless

What advice would you give to other young people interested in social entrepreneurship?

1. Research the issue you’d like to create a solution for – find out what solutions are out there already and what the gaps may be.

2. Google ‘Lean Canvas’. This is a framework that is really helpful in mind-mapping what the problem and solutions.

3. Identify people in your industry who are a bit further down the track than you, who may have an established social enterprise, and ask them for practical tips.

4. Keep old and new ideas. You never know when you’ll find the winning combination.

5. Have a sense of belief that you can continue to improve and create amazing things.

6. Get people in your corner who encourage you and champion you when you hit obstacles and tackle test prototypes.