Google's Young Minds

This year ten Young Minds -- ranging in age from 18- to 23-years-old, from across the United States and Canada -- accompanied the speakers and delegates of Google's Zeitgeist Americas 2011 conference. On September 25th, Google invited leading professionals in politics, business, media, science, art, and sports to come together for three days to present their experiences and ideas in front of delegates in order to challenge us to better our world. As one of the ten Young Minds, I felt honored and privileged to sit among and learn from such an inspiring and powerful group of people.

The Young Minds competition began at Google's Zeitgeist EMEA conference this past May and was replicated for Google's Americas conference this September. In August, young people from North America and parts of Central and South America, were invited to upload a one-minute video to YouTube, an elevator pitch, on how they are working to change the world. A distinguished panel of judges narrowed down the contestants to ten winners: Ayna Agarwal, Travis Allen, Varun Arora, Eric Bernadis, Lindsay Brown, Daniel Kent, Jackie Rotman, Alice Thomas, Disty Winata, and myself.

Ranging from designing a depth-detecting belt for the vision impaired to starting a program to teach inner city kids healthy living and self-confidence through dance, the programs started by this year's Young Minds are creative social innovations that are making a huge impact.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the conference for the Young Minds was the opportunity to connect and converse with professionals that have been in their position just years before and today are pursuing successful ventures. The lessons that permeated the conference are invaluable and useful for anyone to consider:

Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ, spoke of our responsibility to share the love we were born with in the United States under a "crazy conspiracy of love".

"If your passion can match your work, you will be that much more successful," said Trevor Edwards, Nike's VP Global Brand and Category Management.

Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group, encourages us to live a life where we think in possibilities: "Life's much richer, much more fun if you say "yes" rather than say "no".

"We all come from different backgrounds but we all have a collective humanity," said Celine Cousteau, Executive Director and Founder of CauseCentric Productions, reminding us to focus on our similarities rather than our differences.

Adam Braun, Founder of Pencils of Promise, challenged our idea of non-profit work, urging us to run our non-profits like a for-profit business, coining the term "for-purpose".

At the end of the conference, after listening to stories and experiences of inspiration and wisdom, the delegates and speakers were given a challenge by Google for next year--to make a commitment to take one act to improve the future. While I'm unsure of the form mine will take, I'm excited to see what kind of change can stem from a weekend of possibility.

To learn more about the Young Minds and to watch their winnng entries please visit http://www.zeitgeistyoungminds.com.