That was the message to over 1000 secondary students from Victorian schools, gathered for a day of leadership inspiration at the National Young Leaders Day on November 10 in Melbourne.

The high-energy event opened with a display of Instagram posts and hashtags drawn from the student audience who were encouraged to post handles such as #NYLD and #GETSTARTED on social media. On trend music blared through the auditorium much to the delight of the participants. 

Featured speakers included 2011 Young Australian of the Year Jessica Watson, media personality Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson and Paralympian Jessica Gallagher who shared their personal stories of successes and reflected on the challenges and failures they had overcome. 

If Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickson wanted his audience to go away with one message, it was to never fear failure. He retold stories of individuals who experienced tremendous successes and failures, including Michael Jordan who couldn't make the school basketball team, Albert Einstein who didn't talk before the age of four and JK Rowling who was broke and depressed before writing the Harry Potter series. He recognised his experiences of success through Australian Idol but said “one thing I am glad I did to be where I am now, is to not worry about failure. You've got to fail, that is where you learn”.

Jessica Watson reflected on Jesse Martin's story which inspired her to be the youngest ever person to sail solo around the world. 
The flagship event now in its seventeenth year, tours Australia in major capital cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. It is a leadership event that has seen over 300,000 students attend to date, and is supported by former and current Prime Ministers including Tony Abbott who has said 'since 1997, the National Young Leaders Day has played an important role fostering the leadership values of young Australians.'

Phillip, a student at Carrum Downs Secondary College attended the event in Year 7 and approached his principal to attend again two years later. He said "I aspire to be a School Captain and I enjoy events like this to hear from motivating people".

Director of the Halogen Foundation Mike Martin is a regularl speaker at the events, and a good one at that. He echoed what the featured speakers said. He encouraged budding leaders to retain the curiosity of a student and reminded the audience that there are many definitions of leadership and that it is an ongoing, evolving process. He said “good leaders use their leadership to turn nothing into something”. 

The speaker sessions were injected with a live performance from the Royce Twins, high impact video clips and popular movie segments that effortlessly drew on the parallels of leadership through different means yet sent the same message.

Students and teachers from both regional and metropolitan schools regularly attend, often in consecutive years. 

Assistant principal of Colac Secondary College, John Ingram said “We select four Year 10 students each year based on their leadership potential – the students are pumped from the start for just being nominated to attend".

Throughout the day students had the opportunity to contribute to the 10,000 ideas, video concept. Numerous students prepared and delivered a piece to camera related to their vision which then formed part of the video clip that was screened at the end of the day (it can be viewed at the below link).

Over 23,000 secondary and primary students participate in The National Young Leaders Days each year and travel great distances to listen to leaders from politics, the arts, music, media, sports, business, science and community.