Be Teachable. And Stay That Way.

Throughout my teens I was often reminded that I would never reach my dreams unless I continued improving in every aspect of my being. There was no room to regress into know-it-all mode or into some sort of arrogance that I already had everything it took to succeed.  The truth was that as a teenager I wasn’t even close—even though I was tall and could jump high. I still had a lot to learn before I could become the professional basketball player I wanted to be. And I definitely had a lot to learn to become the husband and father I wanted to be. Even today, after 23 years of marriage and with two kids of my own, I am still learning how to be a better husband and dad. And that’s the key.

Remaining teachable means that you never really “arrive” in any important aspect of your life. While you can certainly reach a point where you are highly skilled and highly confident in your ability to produce great results, the moment you think you have everything you need is the moment you begin to falter.

Life is so unpredictable because we can never control every force around us. Our environment is constantly changing. Just when you think you have a grip on your future, something shifts. Maybe a parent gets sick, or maybe you sustain a severe injury and can no longer play your sport. Or maybe you didn’t receive the scholarship for which you worked so hard, and you’re going to have to find a job to pay for college.

Or like a businessman named Erik Wahl (1), maybe a recession forces you to rethink your dream in another career.  Erik co-owned a successful business for nearly ten years, only to have it crumble after the 2000 recession. With a wife and three kids under the age of four, and very little money in the bank, he didn’t have the luxury of spending six months relaxing on the beach and hoping the next step came to him.

On a whim he went to an art supply store and picked up some paints, a few brushes and a couple of canvases.  At the very least, he thought that painting would give him an outlet that would help reduce his stress. He’d always had an interest in art but he had no training whatsoever. In fact, the last time he had tried to paint something, his elementary teacher insisted that art was not his thing. But something inside him was still fascinated with painting.

Over the next few days, Erik’s little stress-reducer started to become something much bigger. He found himself spending more and more time painting and studying new techniques and the history of the medium. He was soon hooked on art, and he poured all his energies into becoming a great artist.

Do you know what he’s doing today, 12 years later?  He’s not running a business. He’s a highly sought-after graffiti artist who can paint a perfect likeness of a well known face in about three minutes, upside down, before a live audience.

Do you know who his audiences are? Businesses, like the one he used to own, that are looking for ways to become more creative. If you were to ask Erik today if he wishes he had his old career back, he’d laugh. He knows that the unexpected path he followed ultimately led him to his dream job. But he would have never discovered it had he not remained teachable and continued to learn.

Britain’s great Prime Minister Winston Churchill explained it best when he said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” If you want to reach your dreams and sustain them for the rest of your life, the only thing you should know for sure is that you will never know everything you need to know. There will always be more opportunity for growth, sometimes where you least expect it, sometimes where you’ve been looking all along.

Be teachable. And stay that way.

 

(1) Erik Wahl, Unthink. Crown Business, 2013.

Bouncing Back From Adversity

One of my biggest challenges growing up was learning to own the life I’d been given. That may sound like a no-brainer to those of you that have heard my story. After all, I had no choice in all the experiences of those early years. But the truth is that everybody experiences things they didn’t choose.

Many people spend the rest of their lives protesting and rebelling against the injustices of their past. They fill their minds with a long list of excuses for not chasing their dreams.

Others choose to own their lives and rise above their circumstances regardless of what happened.

One of the keys to bouncing back from adversity is accepting responsibility for your future, in thick and thin. That doesn’t mean you remain where you are. And it doesn’t mean you downplay negative circumstances or act like you enjoyed every moment you’ve been alive. What it does mean is that you reach a point where you admit, “Nobody but me can make something of my life.” It’s ultimately an admission that you have no excuses for not giving your all to be successful.

I know because I’ve been there. There were so many days that I had every excuse to strive for nothing but survival. I could make a compelling argument that life was out to get me. Yet, instead of finding excuses for not succeeding I realized that I had to find a way around them and do whatever it took to be successful.

We all have reasons – some of them very legitimate reasons – to stop pursuing our dreams. I must have had a couple thousand before I reached middle school. You might too. But you can’t let your reasons for quitting dictate what you do. Instead of spending time wallowing in your past, you have to spend your time finding a way to a brighter future.

In the end, excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure. It’s OK to acknowledge they are there, but to be successful and achieve your dreams you have to learn to not pick them up. People who succeed do what they say they’re going to do. People who fail make excuses for falling short.

Excuses are a sign of weakness, and they pave the road to failure. Excellence is a sign of strength, and it paves the road to success.

Drop the excuses and embrace excellence at every turn.

 

How To Get More Out Of Your Life

How To Get More Out Of Your LifeMost people want to get more of their lives. They talk about reaching their dreams, but often times simply don’t know how to make them happen.

I’ve had the opportunity to be around many successful people, and have watched first hand how they moved from having a dream to actually achieving their dreams. I’m a big believer that anyone can learn what they need to do differently to achieve your dreams.

Here are six of my observations and the things you will want to begin doing immediately, if you aren’t already.

1. They know what they want.

This one is obvious, but if you don’t have a clear goal, dream or desire in mind, how will you know when you’ve gotten where you wanted to be? Successful people have clear goals and a clear vision for how to get there.

Achievers often have really big goals, but they’re also realistic and have a solid plan for how to get where they want to go. They dream big but also have big plans.

2. They focus on their goals.

Once they know what they want, they are tenacious and focused on continual progress toward their goals. They don’t run over people or deliberately hurt people to get what they want, but they do stay focused on the end goal in all their interactions and daily tasks. Achievers have clear minds and clear goals and are consistent in making progress toward those goals.

 3. They don’t procrastinate.

Some of the things we have to do to meet our goals or achieve our dreams are not very fun, but successful people are able to focus on what needs to get done and do it even when it’s unpleasant. They have a plan and they can follow it for as long as it takes without giving up.

4. They create their own opportunities.

Successful people know that nothing good comes without hard work. They understand that things aren’t going to be handed to them without hard work on their part, and they are willing to put in that work to get what they want.

5. They are passionate.

It’s very helpful when reaching for a big goal to not just get excited by it, but to truly be passionate about it. Achievers often talk about how much fun they are having, or say that they would do what they do even if they weren’t getting paid (and in the beginning, they probably weren’t). That’s the kind of passion you need to achieve your biggest goals.

6. They never quit.

Achievers are tenacious, sticking to their plans and goals as long as they need to in order to get where they want to be. If they didn’t stick with it, they wouldn’t achieve anything and neither will you.

 

The Importance of Discipline

UnknownI realize that some parents don’t want to discipline. But they need to step up and realize that their child needs rules and boundaries and consequences to correct and strengthen their character. It’s not because the child needs justice for doing something wrong, but because they need patterns molded into their life that will determine how they will engage with people in the future. It can literally determine if they’ll be successful in life or not.

The focus of teen discipline should be aimed at critical character values like honesty, obedience, and respect. Honesty is a character issue that will help them in their relationships in the future. Obedience will help them gain direction and insight into life. Respect is the bedrock of all friendships and interpersonal relationships. You correct their lapses in these areas so that they will have the type of relationships that they really want…and to keep them from destroying or impeding relationships with their foolishness.

Remember this…discipline isn’t about you and it isn’t about getting back at your kid for messing up your day. It’s about helping them. Your child will continue in their selfish, immature behavior patterns until the pain they receive is greater than the pleasure they receive from it. They’ll continue in those negative things until someone holds them accountable. We are the ones, as parents, who must do that. It cannot be left to anyone else. We are the ones who need to say to our children, “You cannot do this.” We need to set the boundaries and establish the consequences. We need to make it clear that we’ll walk along side our teen in life, but we’ll move to stand in front of them when they start down the wrong path. Why? Because we know that if they go that direction, it will lead to their unhappiness.

Here are some things to remember about discipline.

  1. Rules without relationship cause rebellion. If one thinks that discipline is nothing more than a list of rules posted on the refrigerator that line out how everyone is supposed to act, they are greatly mistaken. It is important that time be spent with your child building a relationship, or the discipline will have no effect.
  2. Look to their interest, not your own. Don’t hand out a consequence just because your teen made you mad. Hand it out because, if they continue in the inappropriate behavior, the result will be something that is harmful to them, and will take them somewhere they really don’t want to go.
  3. Discipline means confrontation, even if you don’t like it. Confrontation is never easy, and is never really that enjoyable. To avoid confrontation is only postponing the inevitable to a time when things will be worse.
  4. Don’t be afraid of seeing your child go through the pain of consequences. Parents are, at times, too quick to rescue a child from their discomfort, thus keeping them from learning from their mistakes or choices. Your rescuing just might allow them to continue in their plight. There are many words for this: denial, enabling, equipping. Rescuing is usually done with the wrong motive, and invariably the wrong results.
  5. You can’t be consistent with everything, so pick your battles wisely. If I were determined to correct every issue that a child presents, I would spend all my time correcting, and very little time building any relationship at all. Your child is not going to be perfect this side of heaven, and there’s plenty of time to correct things along the way, so focus on ten things versus one hundred, and be consistent with just those ten. Remember, even God had just ten commandments.
  6. Discipline is training. Discipline is helping your child to get where they want to be and to keep them from a place they don’t want to end up. Practice discipline in your own parenting even as you discipline your child, and you’ll get them there.
  7. Teach What You Know to Be True. In your discipline, stick with what you know to be true and you know to be right. Think back to the basic principles your parents or grandparents taught you, and pass those forward. They are tried and true. Focus on rules and boundaries that build character. They’ll create a foundation for your child to base every decision they make in their life.

Periodically review the rules in your family. If you determine that some are simply unnecessary or too confining, don’t just stop enforcing it. Make it clear to your teen that you have both thought it through and the rule no longer applies, or they will think you are being inconsistent. And be sure to accentuate the positive — when your teen gets it right, congratulate and reward them.

The Effect of Legalizing Marijuana on Our Teens

UnknownOver the last several months I have had so many teachers, parents and students ask my thoughts on the affects marijuana will have on teens now that it is becoming legal.   Here are my thoughts.  Eight states have recently legalized recreational marijuana use for adults over age 21. Some might see this as a progressive step forward, but in truth, it’s a major setback for teenagers and the future of our Country.

The effects of both legal and illegal marijuana use are impacting youth in America in a major way. Substance abuse experts already see a correlation between the legalization of marijuana in these states and increased use among teens.  Studies have shown that even before these laws were in effect, teens were abusing this drug at a high rate: two-thirds of first-time marijuana users are under the age of 18, and one in six teens who tries marijuana becomes addicted to it.

Our culture glamorizes drug use in movies, in music and on television. Teens are bombarded with these messages, and the devastating consequences of marijuana use are almost never portrayed. Now, several other states are considering following this trend in legalizing marijuana.

While some might say that legalizing marijuana gets it out of the hands of unscrupulous dealers, and therefore protect teens, we should all know better. Creating a culture more tolerant of drug use makes drug use more “acceptable” in the minds of teens. In fact, Colorado is among the states with the highest teen marijuana abuse and usage is increasing while the perception of risk is falling.

We need to help our teens understand that marijuana use isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t safe. Not only are there risks to their health and brain development, but driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana can be just as a dangerous as a driving drunk.

Besides, why would we want to send a message to a generation ripe with potential that getting hooked on a chemical is an okay thing? We are talking about the future leaders of our nation. All of the “Just say no!” messages fly out the window when we make laws that say, “Well, this particular drug is okay.”

Marijuana takes away motivation and passion for life and for work. When is the last time you heard of any great inventions coming out of Amsterdam, where pot has been legal for a generation?

Do we want an addicted generation? Or do we want a generation that values a sober mind and responsible behavior? The teenagers of our nation are yearning for more from life. They crave a meaningful life. Instead of pushing a message that tells them “life is hard, so ease it with a drug,” let us instead inspire them to take on the challenges of life with ingenuity, creativity and dedication.