Teeing Off Networking with Pro Kids


“If I wanna be a lawyer, what do I do? First, I ask a lawyer how to do it.”

“That’s real smart. Real smart!”

I had to agree with this confident, bright young man—who just happened to be 10 years old. This caught Lance Growth, co-founder of The Collective Access, off-guard, too. Lance had just begun welcoming the amazing kids that are part of The First Tee of San Diego: Pro Kids golf and education program dedicated to underserved youth. All of us so-called “adults”—a term I will use loosely because of our more matured clothing and age—gasped, laughed, and smiled at the simplicity of the concept. It was so obvious and yet so hidden. We couldn’t agree more with how smart and simple this sounded, but it took the kids to remind us again of how ideas flow organically through joy and networking.

This exchange made it comically and seriously clear just how simple the process truly is for getting to where we want to be. Whether it be emerging partners in a law firm, a commercial real estate killer, an aspiring writer, a party planner with the perfect vision, a doctor in residence who still believes that we can save and change the world (we can!), an assassin of the deal making variety, an ex-NFL football player making good in his city, or aspiring 13-year-old golf pros, we all lean on those who forged the path before us. We brought a networking event to Pro Kids for the kids, and in one exchange, age disappeared and the kids and adults were one, laughter ringing out, stunned smiles. We had been illuminated by the youthful joy and unfiltered awe: It’s true (more often that we believe), we do need the childish joy and wonder to find our path, to remind us why we chose this path, and to continue inviting as many people to join us as we can. The path is wide, many forks emerge, and yet Pro Kids, The Collective Access, and the children continue to insist that the paths must be brought together so that we may continue to change the world!

Stressing the importance of strong handshakes, confident eye-contact, as well as thoughtful introductions and greetings (put the phone away!), Collective Access members David Kreza and Habib Abbas demonstrate the dos and do nots of building relationships through networking. Engaging and humorous, David and Habib exude the infectious joy, playfulness, and professionality that ensnared the children’s attention spans. The kids were more eager to participate than many adults I have seen in networking workshops. We could take some cues of fearlessness and awe that the children glow with in our own lives. The kids and adults broke into a mock networking exercise, and again I was stunned. I ended up taking notes on how to start conversations and keep it going from the little professionals. The more I think about it, the more I realize that we don’t help the kids so much as they remind us to be big kids in silly suits with them.

Having dispensed with the “official” business, it was time to have some fun swinging some clubs, compete in some obstacle courses, and eat some ice cream under the shadow of a hilariously and absurdly wonderful 30-foot blowup bulldog thanks to Dan Fulkerson. After all, we work hard to play hard, right?!

The Collective Access is exactly as the name sounds. We are a collective in the truest sense, a diverse and energetic group of individuals who have joined to promote a message and a movement bigger than any one or two individuals. And more than simply being a message, we want to be the open-access for change, positivity, and dreams. The bridge between the generations before us and the hand of help to the generations after, The Collective Access continues to inspire and uplift the children, and realizing that the kids do the same for us.

Growing up, I remember feeling trapped and lost. I thought my life was destined for digging foundation trenches and bussing tables for wealthy tourists. My dream of being a professional athlete was crushed when I was 15 and wasn’t very good at any sport. Luckily, I had a mentor in a literature teacher that insisted my passions for writing, thinking, and interest in people around could be jettisoned for a productive and fulfilling career in literature and volunteer work. I asked her how to do this; she walked me through applying for colleges, and once there, I found new mentors and loving guides who gave me a light to forge my own path. The age of miracles is still here, and they dwell in the generations of kids coming behind us. Every member of The Collective Access has related similar stories. Our energetic mentors and members seek only one goal: “To create a movement that engages the generation before us to help build the generation behind us.” AND WE’RE ONLY GETTING STARTED! Join us and make a difference in a kid’s life like what was done for each and everyone one of us!