Get Walking: Why Your Life Can’t Wait

Adam’s Note: I originally wrote this in 2008. Still fits, so I’m going to share it with you!

When I was young I thought education was an A + B = C journey. As an adult I have found there is more than one way to learn what I need to know in order to make a difference. Powerful experiences as a youth activist led me to want to earn a bachelor’s degree in community development. That should have changed when I was thrown out of college at the age of 19.

Fortunately, it did not.

Going to college wasn’t an easy thing for me in the first place. As a child my family moved constantly, and when we eventually settled down I found myself growing up as a low-income white kid in an African American neighborhood. After becoming the only one of my siblings to graduate from high school on time, I knew I had to go to college. Nobody taught me about financial aid, and after a semester I was not allowed back because I didn’t know how to pay the bill.

Luckily, I had enough gravitas not to let that stop me from continuing on my education – only now I had to get paid for learning. A nonprofit in my neighborhood hired me to run after school activities and a late-night basketball program. Then there were jobs at a nature center, a drug treatment center, as a living skills instructor for high-risk youth, and as a challenge course facilitator. I served two terms in AmeriCorps with Kurdish and Iraqi refugee children in the Midwest and as a challenge course director for high-risk youth in the Pacific Northwest. The federal government hired me to promote service-learning in northern New Mexico, and when I was hired as the youth ambassador for Washington State’s education agency I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree, eight years after I had started it. I went on to start a national nonprofit organization, and today I am a successful consultant and freelance writer focused on youth engagement for schools, nonprofits and government agencies across the country.

What I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger is that there is no linear path in learning: you don’t just start here and go there. Instead of doing what television shows told me to do, I had to figure out what matters to me, and when I did that I discovered why there is an book about education called, We Make the Road by Walking. That title best describes my education: I only learn what I need to know by actually doing what I want to do.

If you want to learn about changing the world, that is what I want you to do: Go volunteer or get a job, and by doing it you will discover what you need to learn next. We make the road by walking – so please, get walking! The world can’t wait any longer.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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