He’s shared his advice on personal development and building confidence for several TED Talks that have gone viral. Yet before taking centre stage, motivational speaker Carl Konadu spent most of his youth on the sidelines, cheering on his teammates during his days in semi-professional football.
The south-east London-born entrepreneur learned early on how to apply the benefits of sport to his own life; principally, strong leadership skills and the importance of working together as part of a team.
“A lot of people can play football, but not everyone can communicate the importance of teamwork and cheering other people on,” says 26-year-old Konadu.
He links this to his Ghanaian culture. “Ghanaians are quite loud, joyful and are people-orientated,” he says. “That had a big impact on me growing up.”
Konadu grew up in Peckham, an area notorious for high levels of gun crime. In one of his dynamic TED conference talks, he describes how he lost his best friend to violence, but refused to become another statistic.
GETTING OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN
That’s the message he teaches young people in schools, sports clubs and local councils through his mentoring company 2-3 Degrees, which he founded in 2016.
“I’m not here just to tell you some airy fairy motivational stuff that I heard on YouTube. I’m here to keep it real with you,” he tells millennials tempted by social media’s illusions of instant gratification. “That thing you want to do, you can do it, but it comes at a price.”
Konadu knows all too well the consequences of short-changing himself. He had a rude awakening after he failed his A-levels“miserably”, while other classmates went on to their universities of his choice. “Today really shows who put in the hard work,” one friend said at the time.
That one comment was enough to shake Konadu out of his smugness: “Luck wasn’t enough. I realised that you’re going to have to work to make these things happen.”
WINNING WHERE IT MATTERS
The ex-footballer, who bounced back from failure and went on to receive First Class honours in international relations and politics at Coventry University, is used to “winning the game first in my mind before winning the physical battle.”
He wants to win where it matters: in inner London communities, where the odds are stacked up against locals like they were for him. But things are starting to shift. Konadu describes a recent workshop he gave on overcoming hurdles, where a despondent teenager in a hooded jumper broke down in tears and confessed that he and his family were homeless. Through the workshop he was able to complete his A-levels.
“It’s not to say that we were the reason for his breakthrough,” insists Konadu, “but to even play a part in such a development is the type of powerful experience we can have when we start investing in young people.”