Karl Lokko: The Reluctant STRIVER

Karl Lokko is a poet, social activist, and lover of humanity. A former gang leader who has turned his life around, he is also an ambassador for Big Change. Karl got involved in the STRIVE Challenge in 2014, and is back this year leading the Core Team all the way from the Matterhorn to Mount Etna this year. The Strive team sat down with him to find out how he is feeling about taking on the challenge this year.

You were the reluctant Striver in 2014, why are you taking on the challenge again this year?

The truth is I’m still reluctant. I’m very much still afraid. But, for me life is about being courageous. It’s never the absence of fear which equates to success. It’s about pulling on our courage to help us overcome the fear. For me, STRIVE this year is another reference point of what can be done if we push ourselves out of our comfort zones, and what can be done if we work together. The primary reason I am taking part again, is still very much the vision. The vision of Big Change.  I’m excited about bringing together a group of extraordinary people, who all want to see a big change for young people across the UK. Striving towards the collective destiny where tomorrow is better than today for us all, that is really why I am here again.


How do you think STRIVE helps you to develop a growth mindset?

The STRIVE Challenge itself helps you to develop a growth mindset, because of all the participants and the Big Change community itself! They are a likeminded tribe – everyone that gets involved is someone who has stepped out of their comfort zone and pushed against the grain! There are a lot of entrepreneurs and influences as part of the team, amazing people who have had to say yes, when life said no and they definitely help to foster a Growth Mindset.

Also, during any sort of endurance challenge you push your body beyond its maximum capacity, rebelling against it in healthy well. For me, when you are able to keep going this brings home a great revelation, that it is never really over. You always have more in the tank! That is a physical example, but it can be superimposed into anything, in terms of everyday life ventures. There is always something left in the tank!


What are you scared about for this year’s challenge? Why do you think it is important to face the fear and do it anyway?

Every element fears me. Every element of the challenge intimidates me to some degree. But it is all about overcoming that fear. I have learnt that fear is relative, it depends solely on the person’s perception of the situation. Throughout the course of my life, there have been things that I have been terrified of and then I have realised- oh wow, there isn’t really a terror there. Fear is all about perception, it changes and you can change it

Karl Cycling

You wrote a poem about STRIVING, were you talked about the power of ‘Let’s Do It’ why do you find it easier to STRIVE together than on your own?

In terms of the power if ‘let’s do it’, I got that revelation very early in life. As a gang member, I learnt first hand that your capability is magnified or in a sense exaggerated, when you have companions or comrades: where you lack, someone else will be able to cover that fault; where you are uncertain, or may not have the know-how, someone else may have that information. Collaboratively, you have more of a chance of reaching your goal. At STRIVE we us an African Proverb: ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, do it together’ . It may sound a little bit corny, but it is the absolute truth. No man is an island. Personally, I know from experience from Striver 2014, that I would not have been able to make it without my teammates. It was my team mates that gave me the extra push when I was feeling down, even if it was only a smile. Teamwork is the dreamwork!

Watch the full poem here:

If you had to give a young person a piece of advice on how to THRIVE in life, not just exams what would it be?

I would say first, that exams are not life! It is very much a part of life, and you have to acknowledge that as I have had to, but life in it’s entirety is about  you – it’s your life, it’s your journey and it’s your story.

As a young person, you have real autonomy. The power of free will means that even if something doesn’t go your way, you didn’t get the grades you needed or wanted, you can still make the choice to say, ‘I’m going to retake those exams’  or I am going to leave them where they are and press on with my own goal.

I would also try to get them see that the definition of thriving is relative. It means different things to different people, because everyone is different – there is not one definition of success. We may have a lot of similarities, but ultimately my definition of thriving and what I want out of life, is allowed to be different to my neighbor. To accept that, and not be intimidated by other people’s achievements, instead to be at peace with what you bring to the table. That is the true definition of thriving to me – ‘doing you’ how you are comfortable doing it, and not being discouraged when that doesn’t match expectations.


Why do you think it is important to STRIVE for Big Change?

I think it is very important to STRIVE for Big Change because ultimately, change does not happen on it’s own.  Change is a product. It is a reaction, it comes from an act. It has its roots in intention, conviction.

One of our beliefs at Big Change is that the extraordinary happens when we work together. And when we bring together people from all walks of life, who are all passionate about creating a better world for young people, we make the extraordinary possible.

Having worked with Big Change for a number of years now, I have seen this happen. I have visited projects and met students who are proof that change is possible. But we have to work hard towards to achieve it – that’s why we are striving for Big Change, raising money to support more projects like these in the UK.

For me personally, change in my life from my underworld happening to mainstream living, that change took continuous steps and resilience. It is not easy, and it takes dedication.  It’s not about perfection. STRIVING is about trying. Unless we try, there will be no Big Change.

You can support Karl Lokko as he Strives for Big Change, by donating at his Virgin Money Giving Page here.