The Art of Letting Young People Own Their Own Journey

StudentPulse Team
February 14, 2023

What would you say if your children came up to you and said ‘I want to pursue comedy as my career’ or ‘I want to be a pro-gamer’? For many parents and educators, this would be the stuff of nightmares. After all, making this choice is going against the grain and might mean financial instability or worse, failure.

In this episode of the StudentPulse podcast, we speak to 19 year-old Gustav Garde, a student at Roskilde Handelsskolen in Denmark, on his decision to pursue the road less taken, how it has changed him for the better and what educators and parents can do to support young people to own their own journeys.

Gustav’s Story

As Gustav tells it, when he was younger, academics was not quite his thing. His grades were nothing to write home about and he didn’t have strong relationships with his teachers and peers. Instead in his free time, he played and streamed games, such as Fortnite, and dreamt of growing his channel.

The more effort and time Gustav poured into gaming, the better he got. His popularity and subscribers increased until one day, his father took him aside and said ‘Why don’t you take a year off high school and pursue gaming full-time?’. His father had been watching him and knew that splitting his focus and energy between school and gaming meant that he would never achieve his full potential at either. After all, to excel in professional gaming requires dedication, time and effort just like any other discipline and it was clear that here was where Gustav’s interest lay and where he had demonstrated the willingness to put in the work.

And so Gustav went all-in on professional gaming. His days consisted of the repetitive routine of waking up early, training individually, training with his teammates and then playing in tournaments. His dedication was rewarded when he was recruited to sign with a famous esports organisation in Denmark and selected to partner with Twitch, the premier live streaming platform for gamers.

For a while, life was challenging but good. Then the scales tipped and life started to be more challenging, rather than good. Gustav realised over time that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t perform at the level he aspired to, to be the best of the best in the esports world. In the face of this fact, his psychological health deteriorated and when it went on for a sustained period, his father decided to intervene again. This time, he gently suggested that perhaps it was time for Gustav to take a step back and rejoin high school again.

Back in school, Gustav began to notice that he could actually apply the mindset and lessons from his time in professional gaming to do better in school. These were transferable skills and he wasted no time in setting a new goal for himself.  He wanted to earn admission into the notoriously difficult Bachelor of International Business program and he started thinking of getting good grades the same way he used to think of levelling up in games. Some of the methods Gustav tried was to search out his weak areas and focus on training them and he also looked for ways to speed up his progress, such as by cultivating good relationships with his teachers. Surprisingly, his experience in a different field gave him a completely different outlook, mindset and discipline that he could now harness to excel in academics.

Lessons from his journey from academics to gaming and back again

From his experience embarking on this journey of professional gaming and then back into academics, Gustav gained the confidence that he could do almost anything he put his mind to. He shared that his success came through consistency and the willingness to train over and over again. Gustav also believed that when he pursued his interest and grew his channel, even as an amateur, he was able to build new skills such as entrepreneurship, by understanding his audience and successfully monetizing the streaming experience.

While Gustav’s story is an encouragement that interests should be nurtured no matter how unusual it may be, he also cautioned that young people embarking on their own journey should periodically reflect and ask themselves (1) ‘Am I enjoying it?’ and (2) ‘Are my skills more useful somewhere else?’ to figure out if they should keep going or perhaps take a different path. After all, journeys are not always meant to be linear and lessons and skills can often be applied in more ways than one.  

What is the role of educators and parents in supporting students to own their individual journeys?

To nurture a motivated, engaged youth, they must be allowed to take ownership of their own paths and that means being encouraged to develop their interests and make their own decisions.

Gustav suggests that a few things educators can consider to support students to growth and develop is by:

  • Giving personalised feedback to students, beyond just an overall grade, so they understand where their areas of strength and weaknesses are and how they might improve; and
  • Integrating extra opportunities to nurture talent and giving challenges to students that meets them where they are

At StudentPulse, we too do believe in nurturing young people by understanding their needs and connecting them to accessible solutions at an individual level. StudentPulse combines micro surveys with real-time data analytics to help educational institutions connect with students in order to help them thrive on their unique journeys.

To learn more, feel free to reach out to our team here or click here to listen to the full version of our podcast with Gustav!