At the turn of the Millennium, Dr. Rick Stevenson ventured forth on a personal mission to try and solve the mysteries of childhood by interviewing kids for 5000 days (the time from Kindergarten to grade 12). What began as a documentary project has evolved into an educational initiative dedicated to helping kids discover that they can be the author of their own lives and as an outcome, raise their emotional intelligence (EQ) .
6 continents, 6,000 one-on-one interviews and over 300,000 video clips later, this deep-inquiry process (the StoryQ Method) has been scaled thanks to our video journaling technology. We are seeking to help every kid, regardless of background, find themselves - before they lose themselves.
Words from OUR FOUNDER
Beyond love, shelter, food and security, perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is a sense of emotional awareness. Even as adults we recognize and yet can still struggle with the puzzling psychological, familial and instinctive forces that influence our choices and ultimately the course of our lives.
We are all acutely aware of the increasing rates of mental health problems in our younger generation and the fact that a half of all adult mental health problems begin before the age of 14. We are also aware that for schools to provide an opportunity for every child to verbalize, explore and process their values, feelings, fears & dreams is not possible due to limited time and support resources.
Yet, individual focus is more important than ever before. Personal reflection being at an all-time low and the addictive draw of social media = solitary moments to process are vanishing. the positive impact for children if they could respond to self-analytical questions at the least self-analytical time of their lives…. They could process all that was happening to them in a much healthier way.
The StoryQ technology was first used in schools in 2013 to encourage kids to explore their feelings, values, fears and dreams using the power of storytelling and video journaling. As participants explore who they are and what they are experiencing in a safe, no-judgment space, the transformative wisdom of Socrates' "Know Thyself" is realized in real time.
We believe that kids have within themselves the keys to unlocking their own future in the face of myriad external pressures and expectations. We believe that kids are their own best authors of their lives, and that learning to tell their own stories as they run the gauntlet of adolescence is a vital means of helping kids find themselves before they lose themselves.
Dr. Rick Stevenson
“We own nothing more valuable than our own story”
Listen to or read some of what we’ve learned from nearly 6000 in-depth personal interviews with kids and teens from around the world.
Read Transcript ↓
I may be slow but it finally hit me. It began last year when I marked my 5000th interview with kids and teens in the 5000 Days Project. It came again last month when I was interviewing a 13-year-old, fatherless, aboriginal boy in Australia. He assured me that he was going to be the one to rewrite his family’s difficult history for the better. It came yet again as I witnessed one of our Cambodian girls struggle courageously to be who she is in a country that is not quite ready to accept her. And it came through Luciano, a Chilean boy, who after losing his right leg, right arm and right eye now refers to his left side as his “lucky side.”
What hit me was this: We own nothing more valuable than our own story. Think about it. What else is there? It is all we really have.
Given the sheer number of these interviews, I was asked recently to give a series of TED-like talks on what we’re doing. I have concluded that when we learn to tell the most difficult story we’ll ever tell—our own—the benefits are endless.
First, it forces us to look deeply at our own lives and determine if we are going to be the main character in our own story or a secondary character in someone else’s. It’s a choice. Every moment of every day through every action and every word, we author the real time narrative of our lives—whether we recognize and own it or not. Socrates said “know thyself”. The better we understand our own personal story, the more empowered we are to be the authors of our own lives.
Second, learning to tell our own story necessitates perspective—a 5000 foot view of the mountain road we travel called life. From the road, we see the beauty of the mountain, the danger of the cliff and the curve up ahead—and that’s it. What we think lies around that curve is consciously or unconsciously determined by what has laid around previous curves. Learning to tell our own story requires a bird’s-eye view—making sense of our past influences as well as helping us define where we want and need to go. After all, how are we going to get to where we want to go in our story unless we know where that is?
Finally, learning to tell our own story is the key to a better world. In our interviews, when we get to the question of “what are your three wishes”, the grand majority of kids ask for “world peace”—that is, up until about age 12. After that, the wish starts to sound a bit naive to them. Having studied world peace for my doctorate, I know how elusive a political, economic or social solution can be.
But an ancient Chinese philosopher refused to let any of us off the hook. To paraphrase, he said, “there will never be peace between nations until there is peace within nations, there will never be peace within nations until there is peace between neighbors, there will never be peace between neighbors until there is peace within families and there will never be peace within families until there is peace within our own hearts.” In other words, if we each take care of making the content of our own stories the best it can be, we can change our world from the bottom up. In this way each of our stories is epic and essential.
Each of us owns nothing more valuable than our own story… isn’t it time we learn how to tell it?
-Dr. Rick Stevenson, 2019