Winning the Educational Trifecta

or, How One Program Can Improve Student Performance, Narrow the Achievement Gap, AND Foster Healthier School Cultures

Sue White is a business teacher equipping at-risk students to overcome the odds and reach their full potential.
Brad Johnston is a high school principal who returned to the classroom to promote high academic achievement and a healthier school culture.
Jennifer Blake is an eighth grade English teacher who is instilling powerful life principles to prepare students for academic and social success in high school.
What do these three educators have in common?
They all want to establish a legacy of high academic performance, strong personal leadership, and healthy social environments in their schools.
Sue, Brad, and Jennifer also represent the larger picture. Based on our many conversations with school leaders, there’s an emerging consensus of the top three educational priorities:
1) improving student performance (including graduation rates and
     career/college readiness),
2) narrowing the achievement gap, and
3) growing a healthier school culture and learning environment.
Clearly, these “Big Three” are worthy objectives, and they’re somewhat related. The challenge is achieving all three without regressing on the others. That’s not an easy proposition.
At LifeSmart Publishing, we believe a comprehensive solution is possible—one that uniquely addresses all three goals for an Educational Trifecta. That solution is to develop a strong Personal Leadership Foundation in every student. Here’s how it works…
To reach their full potential, your students must have a healthy perspective on life, leadership, and success—one that’s holistic and based on the universal values that guide honorable, productive people. Students who don’t have a vision for this (from both home and school) will lack the sturdy foundation necessary for a successful life. That’s like building a house on san—and it’s becoming all too common. At LifeSmart, we believe it’s a societal imperative to do better.
The Personal Leadership Foundation diagram (click here to view) illustrates the six key components to effective student leadership development for a lifetime:

 As shown, a holistic Personal Leadership Foundation encompasses:

  • Life Perspective—understanding how to live strategically with purpose and impact 
  • Character—knowing how to exemplify, in all situations, the qualities, attitudes, and behaviors of honorable people 
  • Relationships—understanding the secrets to building and maintaining healthy relationships and communicating well with others
  • Productivity—making the most out of life through effective decision-making and personal discipline 
  • Health—understanding and embodying healthy living
  • Overcoming Adversity—knowing how to persevere through, and learn from, the challenges we face in life

Each student is unique, but they all possess leadership potential. Some need hope and an understanding of their worth. Some need vision and practical direction. Some need help overcoming the adversity they’re facing. Some need help making real friends and standing up for their values. Some need motivation and discipline.
… and, some simply need to know someone else believes in them.
At LifeSmart, we believe in each one of your students. We know you do, too. That’s why we would be honored to partner with you to equip your students with the  powerful principles embodied in a Personal Leadership Foundation—principles that permeate the What I Wish I Knew at 18 Leadership/Life Skills program.
We hope you’ll view the link to the free downloadable PDF copy of our Personal Leadership Foundation resource you can use to evaluate and plan your program. As always, let us know how we can serve your school mission.
The LifeSmart Team       

Matt’s Story

When I wrote What I Wish I Knew at 18, I thought it would especially speak into the lives of young people who desperately need a roadmap to healthy, honorable living. Kids who aren’t receiving it from home for the reasons we all know. Kids who deserve the best modeling but who are in circumstances beyond their control. Kids who need an advocate to give them the best chance at an amazing life.
A few months ago, I met with Matt, an incredible man who epitomizes a life of significance. He devotes his life to serving others—mainly teens and young adults in a very “tough” community—and had a story he wanted to share with me.
Two months earlier, at a youth gathering, 16-year old John asked Matt to meet in private. Desperate, John begged for advice. “I have no father in my life and my mom is a severe alcoholic. I’m trying to learn to parent myself and have nowhere else to turn.”
Needless to say, Matt was overwhelmed by the depth of John’s situation, by his loss of hope and lack of direction. Matt promised John they’d walk through this difficult period together and…there was a book he wanted to share.
For the next two months, Matt and John met regularly, going through What I Wish I Knew at 18 one chapter at a time. In Matt’s eyes, it was “mentoring with a purpose.” Each week he saw changes in John and their relationship deepened. Matt could already see the impact of their weekly discussions.
After finishing the last chapter, John thanked Matt profusely for investing in him. Fighting back tears, his concluding words said it all, “Now I know what it must be like to have a loving dad in your life.”
Do you know a young person who could use some hope, encouragement, and direction? Someone you’d be willing to invest in with the help of a third party voice of life wisdom written just for them? YOU might be just the gift they’re looking for.

Are you—or do you know—a mentor who can step into the gap with a young adult?

Are you—or do you know—a parent trying to prepare a teen for a successful life?

Are you—or do you know—an educator endeavoring to develop college and career ready students prepared to achieve their full potential?

We’re here to help. Preparing young people for a thriving adulthood is the mission of LifeSmart Publishing. Click here to order your copy of What I Wish I Knew at 18:Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and the accompanying student manual. And share this with a friend. Together was CAN empower the next generation.


12 Tips for Getting the Most from a Mentor

I was fortunate to be mentored by two pioneers in the investment consulting industry, Madelyn Smith and Duncan Smith. They were simply amazing, not only as investment pros, but more so as people. I was in awe of them because of their incredible wisdom about work and life. Despite their many responsibilities and heavy workloads, they always took time to mentor me. I took advantage of every learning opportunity with them. I believe this was key to my career success, and I’m forever grateful to them.
Interestingly, my peers didn’t pursue these same mentoring opportunities like I did. I never understood why because mentoring is the best way to accelerate one’s learning. I suspect they thought they’d be an imposition. However, for most leaders who care about the next generation, nothing could be further from the truth.
By consulting with veterans, you’ll make a better career decision, learn the job more quickly, and discover the secrets to getting promoted. With the right mentor, you’ll also gain practical wisdom about life and the key decisions you’ll be making. They’ll teach you from their own personal experience what worked and what didn’t. For many mentors, it gives their past adversity and challenges new meaning by helping others in similar situations.
Here are 12 tips for finding—and getting the most—from a mentor:

  1. Identify the areas in your life or career you’d like to improve in the most.
  2. Look for people who are doing well what you want to be doing. Without being obnoxious, look for ways to observe them in action and get to know them, if they are open to it.
  3. Ask them to honestly share their assessment of your strengths and areas for improvement. Have a mindset of being open to receiving constructive feedback.
  4. Ask them for suggestions on ways to build on your strengths and correct your weaknesses.
  5. Ask them to identify the most important life lessons they’ve learned.
  6. Find out what qualities they admire most in other people.
  7. Discuss your career plan with them and seek their advice on how to position yourself for the next step.
  8. Seek to learn, not promote yourself. Don’t be a user.
  9. Be prepared. If a mentor consents to meet with you or allow you to shadow him or her, read up on the subject matter ahead of time. Find out what your mentor reads (books, authors, papers, websites, blogs, etc.) and read them, too.
  10. Follow up on (i.e., apply) your mentor’s suggestions and directions.
  11. Show appreciation and recognition for your mentor’s influence in your life.
  12. Be a value-added “ment-ee.” Return favors and time/energy investment in appropriate ways. What can YOU do for him or her?

Don’t hesitate to take full advantage of the wisdom that surrounds you. It’s a free gift just for the asking!
We invite you to peruse the other articles and blog posts here on our website. You’ll find a variety of topics to starting gleaning for nuggets of life wisdom—things you wish you’d known when you were 18! Share them with a young adult in your life.

Commit to Your Financial Literacy

“I don’t know about you, but where I went to school,
Money Management 101 wasn’t offered.
Instead we learned about the War of 1812,
which of course is something I use every single day.”
~T. Harv Eker from Secrets of the Millionaire Mind

In all of my years I’ve never taken an Art History course. I have nothing against the subject, per se; I’ve simply focused my learning in other areas. I know I couldn’t possibly appreciate the majesty of the Mona Lisa as deeply as an art history expert. That said, I can honestly say it hasn’t adversely impacted my life.
I wouldn’t advise having the same attitude toward money and finance, though. The fact is, money plays a huge role in all of our lives whether we like it or not. We have to make it, save it, spend it, monitor it, count it, and manage it. We have to save for our homes, our retirement and our education. If we’re wise managers of our money, good things can result. If we’re not, it can be the source of financial ruin, untold stress, and disaster in our relationships. That’s why EVERY school ought to consider a course in personal finance as a graduation requirement!!!
So, what does it mean to be financially literate? Among other things, it means that you understand:

  • How to manage your budget (monthly income and expenses)
  • How to live within your means and not overspend on “things”
  • How you’re spending your money and whether it’s consistent with your priorities and goals
  • How to allocate your income to spending, investing, and giving
  • The benefits and pitfalls of using credit and how to use it wisely
  • How much money you’ll need in retirement to sustain your lifestyle and what financial plan will help you get there (hint: your Social Security income will not be sufficient!)
  • How much investment risk you’re comfortable taking and ways to manage it over a lifetime
  • The basic workings of our economy, as well as the stock, bond, and real estate markets
  • How to intelligently make major purchases like your home and autos, as well buy the insurance you need.
  • Safe banking practices and how to avoid identity theft
  • How to develop and maintain a good credit rating

Thankfully, you don’t need to learn all of these at once (but you might want to grade yourself on them). The good news is there are classes you can take, as well as many books and websites covering these subjects. Also, there are financial news channels, newspapers, and periodicals that specialize in consumer finance. Take the time to explore what’s out there, and commit to becoming financially literate. There’s simply too much downside risk if you don’t.              
How would you rate yourself in terms of financial literacy? Which of the above areas are you knowledgeable about and in which ones are you lacking? How do you plan to become financially savvy?  We’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and questions. And share this article with the young people in YOUR life!


Choose Your Friends Wisely

Part of the ascent to adulthood is the transition from having your parents “pick” (or have a say in) who your friends are to making those choices yourself. How wisely you make those decisions can have significant implications for your life.

While many of the people you meet out in the world will be good people and potential friend-material, you need to know that we ALL encounter people who can be nothing short of destructive. These people can be negative and/or critical. They may engage in harmful activities or act in a bizarre manner. They might be people who simply bring others “down” when in their presence.
The best advice (for teens AND adults) is to be discerning. Learn to spot and avoid negative people in favor of uplifting friends who share your values. This is particularly true when you’re young and don’t always have the wisdom and confidence to be the stronger person in a relationship where one person is troubled.  Many young adults have gotten sucked into bad situations because they were trying to be a good friend to someone who wasn’t worthy of it.
It’s important to recognize the signs of troubled individuals with whom a close friendship would be unwise. Here are some clues:

  • They are involved with pornography, crime, or alcohol/drug abuse.
  • They ridicule your positive values and interests.
  • They are critical, negative, and disrespectful—seeing the worst in people.
  • They put  pressure on you to enter their world despite your refusals. They use the “everyone does it” argument.
  • They exhibit anti-social tendencies

If you find yourself in a relationship with someone like this, take steps to distance yourself. Don’t feel like you need to “work it out” and make a destructive relationship better. It may feel difficult, intolerant, or even unloving to end a bad friendship, but continuing in a destructive relationship is ultimately a much worse proposition.
It’s helpful to have a mental list of good qualities to look for in friendships, a standard against which to hold potential new “prospects.” Sometimes a trial and process is involved before you settle on a circle of friends—and that’s not a bad thing.
Have you ever met anyone whose behavior made you feel uncomfortable? Did you trust your instincts and keep your distance? What happened when you didn’t? Identify the qualities you’ll look for in “good friends,” as well as the qualities that characterize “not my type.” Share your thoughts and comments with our online community; we’d love to hear from you!