Immerse Yourself in the Beauty of Creation

I‘ve been blessed to live in areas surrounded by nature. During my younger days in Wisconsin, I would shoot mice by the creek during winter, pick wild strawberries in late spring, collect bird eggs for our collection during the summer, and pick wild hickory nuts and hazelnuts in the fall. We built new tree houses every summer, and “dined” over our bonfires along the creek.  For a kid, it was simply the best.
It didn’t hurt that I grew up in a time when parents could allow their children to spend a day in the woods with complete peace of mind. Safety was never an issue in that innocent time and place. Neither were there Xbox, Nintendo64, or other video gadgets, for that matter. And kids’ lives weren’t so tightly crammed and scheduled as they are these days.
Child advocacy expert Richard Louv, author of the book Last Child in the Woods, has coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the lack of nature in the lives of kids today. This phenomenon is often associated with many of today’s troubling childhood trends, including obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
I wish everyone—young and old—could have those same opportunities I did as a child. Nature has a way of bringing things into perspective, whether during easy or rough patches. It calms and fills our spirits, and strengthens our bodies.
Whether it’s walking in the forest, strolling along the beach, photographing wildlife, admiring a glorious sunset, gazing at the Milky Way, watching clouds drift across the sky, or beholding brilliant autumn leaves, I encourage you to take the time to participate with nature as often as you can, and take the children and young adults in your life with you. There’s really no substitute for it!

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See the Glass as Half Full

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

Colin Powell

Who might be considered among the most popular and inspiring politicians in our last century? Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan immediately come to mind. They each faced extraordinary challenges but offered Americans a spirit of hope in times of great fear.
            We saw this positive attitude in the leadership of Lee Iacocca, who successfully resurrected the Chrysler Corporation from the economic disaster in the 1980s. We also witnessed it in Paul Azinger who led the USA golfers to a smashing victory over Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup after years of humiliating defeats.
            Most successful people have inspiring “can do” attitudes. They embrace challenges rather than complain and achieve more in the process.  AND, they not only accomplish great things themselves, but they also bring out the best in others.
Bringing out the best in people means looking for positive qualities and calling them out. Sometimes when you observe a negative quality, that can be a real challenge!  But it’s always possible if you begin by focusing on the positive (i.e., see the glass as “half full”), help others to do the same, and coach them in an uplifting and constructive manner rather than critically and harshly.
If you’re one who has a tendency to “see the glass half empty,” consider how an attitude change can improve your life and relationships. It’s not hard; it just requires a mindset adjustment and a few simple principles:
1. Cultivate a can-do attitude.
2. Focus on the positive (“see the glass as half full”).
3. Embrace challenges and use them to your advantage. Remember that the best character growth comes from successfully handling adversity.
4. Focus on (and bring out) the best in the people around you; inspire them to have a can-do attitude as well!

What examples have you seen of someone who has a can-do attitude and brings out the best in the people around them?
Share your ideas and experiences with our online community; we’d love to hear from you!

Marriage: Look before You Leap (into a Long-Term Relationship)!

This pointer appears in my book under the subtitle of “Don’t expect your spouse to change his/her ways.” I include it in response (and warning) to the many young people I encounter who stick with a troubled relationship WAY too long.
Not every dating relationship is meant to last. By nature, dating is a “trial and error” process, and you’ll soon realize that most aren’t a perfect fit for you.  When that happens, don’t force it or settle for less. And don’t delude yourself into thinking, “When we get married, things will change.” 

            It’s NOT likely to happen.

            When two people start getting serious, something bothersome inevitably surfaces. It might involve something major or something minor like irritating habits or disappointing attributes. The tendency, when blinded by love, is to either suppress these concerns or assume that the person will change after marriage. WRONG on both counts!

            One of the surest paths to marital disappointment is assuming you’ll have that kind of influence on your spouse. Yes, it may happen in the minor areas, but more often than not you’ll be powerless to change the other person. As the saying goes, “Old habits die hard.”

            I‘ve known many people who compromised on their spousal choice due to the naïve assumption that their partner would change after marriage. After learning their lesson the hard way, they became filled with regret and disappointment. The end result was chronic misery and one complaint after another—NOT fun!

            If you’re getting serious and troubling issues surface, be sure to address them in a kind way and see where the conversation goes. Is the other person flexible and open to adapting? If not, you need to ask whether you can live with these “flaws”—and be willing to walk away if they’re insurmountable.

            My advice: Abide by the wise old proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

Excellence Is about Planning, Preparation, and Performance

Now here’s a thought for all the students in your life who are back in high school and college after the holidays. Hopefully the New Year has provided new impetus for a fresh start and a renewed outlook on the school year—maybe even on life!
Here’s the thought: You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get GOOD GRADES!

There are METHODS students can learn for doing well in school. To discover them, it’s important to understand the secrets to academic achievement: 



  1. PLAN.  The first success ingredient is good planning. This involves making a study calendar a few days out. You can find a reproducible homework and study planner on our website.
  2. PREPARE.  This means staying committed to your study schedule, becoming a skilled time manager, and finding a study environment that works best for you. You can use the reproducible daily schedule on our website to help with this.
  3. PERFORMANCE. Deliver what your audience (i.e., teacher or professor) is looking for and enter your exams with supreme confidence that you’re prepared to excel. Be rested, alert, and ready to go.

If your students can fully appreciate the need for planning, preparing, and performing, they’ll be well on your way to achieving repeatable academic success. In this increasingly competitive world, academic performance is critical!
How have YOU helped the students in your life become organized and disciplined studiers? Share your ideas with our online community of parents, educators, and youth organizations; we’d love to hear from you!

Live Life without Regrets

Looking back on your life so far, do you have any regrets? Are there things you did and wish you hadn’t—or things you didn’t do and wish you had? Any relationships that are strained? Opportunities missed?  Bridges burned?
Although these are some of life’s most important questions, too many people wait until the end to ask them—and by then, it’s too late.  We’ll all have regrets from time to time. However, you can minimize big ones (or avoid them altogether) if you periodically ask yourself the regret question (and then actually do something about it!).  New Year’s is a great time to start!
When it comes to considering our regrets, there is wisdom to be gained from older citizens who are in a naturally more reflective stage of life.  If you ask them about their life regrets, you’ll likely hear the following:

  1. I didn’t spend enough time with my loved ones
  2. I didn’t tell my family and friends that I loved them often enough
  3. I was too stubborn or proud to admit my mistakes and apologize
  4. I chose bitterness over reconciliation
  5. I allowed my life to be consumed by work
  6. I was too hesitant to take risks and try new things
  7. I wasted too much time
  8. I didn’t appreciate the little things in life
  9. I valued things over relationships
  10. I worried too much

Do any of these apply to you? Be honest! Although regrets run the gamut, did you notice that most involve relationships and priorities? This is why it’s so important that your life is balanced and your priorities are right.
This discipline is a great one for all ages.  Consider sharing it with the young people in your life. It will help you—and them—make needed midcourse corrections and “relationship repairs” along the way.
Be forewarned, though: it’s not easy, and it takes a strong dose of courage, humility, and determination. Wouldn’t it be great, though, to get to the end of the New Year—and even to the end of life—and be able to say, “NO (or few) REGRETS!”

What have YOU done to minimize regrets in your life–and to help young people minimize theirs? Share your ideas with our online community of parents, grandparents, educators, and youth mentors!