Recognize What True Love Is

It’s unfortunate the English language has only one word for love. We can say we love our friends, family, and spouse—and we can also say we “love” chocolate, our dog, and our favorite TV show!
It’s also unfortunate that the media and other cultural drivers constantly send distorted messages to young people about what love is. Sadly, too many believe those messages and end up making terrible life decisions and bearing deep emotional scars as a result.
I believe it’s our responsibility as parents and educators to do what we can to instill a healthy understanding of what true “love” really looks like. My definition would include:

  • enduring emotional regard for another
  • steadfast loyalty
  • strong affection arising out of kinship or personal ties
  • admiration, benevolence, or common interests
  • unselfish loyalty and genuine concern for the good of another
  • putting another’s interests ahead of your own

Many times people will say they’re in love when, really, they are in “lust.” Some definitions to describe “lust” might include:


  • passionate or overwhelming physical desire
  • craving another
  • intense, impatient, or unbridled sexual desire or appetite
  • pursuit of fulfilling one’s own satisfaction/needs/wants

For young people, knowing what true love really is can be confusing—and intimidating. Sometimes they think when they feel attraction that it is love.  But at this point it might more accurately be called infatuation or, if it’s especially intense, lust. Love involves much more than a physical attraction—although that’s certainly part of it.
Especially for people who may be experiencing attraction, infatuation, and “love” for the first time, it can be hard to tell the difference.  Remind them, real love takes time and timing and a healthy relationship will go through a  natural progression of growth stages.
Encourage the young adults in your life—whether your own kids, students you teach, or teens you mentor—to stand firm and not be fooled. Regardless of what they see on TV or hear on the radio, love isn’t just a bundle of intense feelings, emotion, and attraction. It’s all of the deeper elements mentioned above. They need to learn to know the difference.  Their most important love relationship depends on it!
How have you encouraged the young people in your life to think about their most important love relationship, either now or in the future? Can they see the importance of making sure it’s built on the right foundation?  Share your comments on our website; we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Indonesia, Here We Come!

When I wrote What I Wish I Knew at 18, I was hopeful that its message had global appeal. But, like any author, you put your work out there for all the world to see, having no clue whether this would ever become a reality—especially for an upstart self publisher!
Imagine my surprise, then, when a global educational consultant specializing in Asia, Gaylord Anderson, urgently invited me in January to his home. (A friend had given him a copy of our works and, after his review, he had a BIG idea to share.) After describing his background of training teachers around the world and his love of, and expertise in, Indonesia, he boldly stated that our leadership program is exactly what the country has been looking for. And, he wanted to help make it happen!
For the next few months, Gaylord strategically handed out his limited quantities of books and guides to Indonesian leaders in the business, education, faith, and media communities. In each case, their feedback was overwhelming. They asked if he could convince the author to offer this work in their country. 
Encouraged by their comments, Gaylord “happened” to see an area publisher’s sign on a walk from his hotel and he stopped in to meet the president. “You must read this work and see for yourself whether this should be published in Indonesia,” he stressed. A week later, their answer was “yes,” and they wanted to be the ones to do it.
Ten days later, I received a proposal to co-publish our work from the president of Kesaint Blanc Publishing, Laura Prinsloo, who was effusive about the opportunity for these resources to impact her country. It was clearly meant to be. In a few months, a wonderful partnership has grown between LifeSmart Publishing and Kesaint Blanc Publishing. It couldn’t have gone any better…despite tight deadlines and creating English and Bahasa language versions of our resources before August!
Tonight I leave for the adventure of my lifetime—my first trip to Indonesia to officially launch our work at major conferences and workshops throughout the country! I’ll be meeting with major dignitaries in the education, business, media, and faith communities, spreading this universal message of honorable leadership to a country that’s hungry for it. I’ll also meet with parents and young people at my various talks, seeing firsthand the warmth of a people I’ve heard so much about.
What a blessing it’s been to see this completely unexpected opportunity unfold and to make such great new friends across the globe. Sure, I’m a little nervous, but I know I’m in great hands…both from above and at the airport in Indonesia who will be there to welcome me.
Hello Indonesia! See you in a bit!

Have Children When You’re Married AND Ready

Over the past year, I’ve had many unforgettable opportunities to speak with school counselors/faculty and students about work and life. It’s been a joy to hear the dreams of our young people and the life-changing impact of their teachers and mentors.
It’s also been gut wrenching to hear educators relay what’s happening in the home lives of far too many students who are living without the stability and support of married and loving parents. It’s arguably one of the major social justice issues of our lifetime.
Children are the most vulnerable members of our society. They enter this world with no control over their genes or the parents who brought them into being. They live the consequences of their parents’ (and others) decisions and actions every day.
Over the past 20 years, a body of research has developed on how patterns of family structure, in particular, affect children. Most researchers now agree that children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents who have mature, stable relationships. The poverty, dropout, and yes, crime statistics are irrefutable.
So, if this is true, wouldn’t we want our most vulnerable creatures to be born into this world with loving, married parents who intentionally created them into existence? Where they can grow up in a secure environment with the unique perspectives of loving, married parents who are mature enough and financially capable of raising a child? In short, shouldn’t they be given the best chances to succeed in life?
I grew up in a time when this view and message to young people were the cultural norm and most people acted accordingly. However, with many culture drivers sending conflicting messages, the numbers of children being born to unmarried and young parents continues to rise. This trend is wreaking havoc on the academic success, values, and emotional maturity of our younger generation. Ask any experienced school counselor and they’ll tell you that the lack of a mature and stable support structure at home is the most common issue they wrestle with daily when working with students. We owe it to future generations to reverse this course.
I want to challenge us, the adult generation, to consistently communicate this message to young people:

Hold off starting a family until you’re married and ready to have children, not only for the sake of yourselves and your future dreams, but especially for the sake of your future children. You deserve the best chances to fulfill your dreams and be a great parent, and your children deserve the best chances to grow up in an emotionally and financially secure and stable environment. If nothing else, do it for them—after all, it’s their life you are creating!

What are your thoughts and opinions? Do you agree we can make a better life for upcoming generations if we commit ourselves as a society to the message of being mature, thoughtful, and intentional about when and how we bring children into this world? Young adults: For the sake of yourself and your future children, are you prepared to wait until you’re married and ready to have children?

Notice How Others React to You

Have you ever noticed that some people who seem to have it all (e.g., good looks, smarts, sense of humor) often “flunk the test” in social and business settings?
At one time or another, each of us loses an audience. Whether from excessive detail, uninteresting subject matter, overlong monologues, or an unappealing style, we sometimes miss the mark. It’s never fun for either party, but the good news is we can limit the damage. 
Great communicators carefully analyze nonverbal cues.  They study their audience’s facial and body language to see the impression they’re making. Where needed, they make midcourse corrections along the way. 
Conversely, we’ve all been around people who have no idea how poorly they’re coming across—especially in social situations. It can take the forms of poor hygiene, irritating habits, boring conversation, or trying too hard to impress.  Usually, we don’t have the heart to tell them, hoping they’ll eventually get the hint from our cues.
When you’re with others—socially or professionally—be attentive to how they react to you. Their feedback, often unspoken, is extremely valuable and will allow you to adapt if it’s unflattering. Study their eyes and facial expressions, as well as their body language. If they appear bored, quickly get to the point, raise your enthusiasm meter, or involve them more in the conversation.
Your ability to successfully communicate is a vitally important skill to master. By being sensitive to your audience, you’ll improve your odds immensely.
Have you learned to monitor others’ reactions to you? How do you respond?
Post your comments here on our website or visit us on my Facebook fan page; we’d love to hear from you! And, as always, please share us with your followers,friends, colleagues, or young adults in your life. We’ve all got room to grow!

Honoring FCCLA Leaders and Students!



Imagine a massive hotel venue filled with nearly 7,000 conference attendees … 5,000 of which are teenagers!  Sound like a recipe for chaos?  Most definitely not! Red jackets, friendly smiles, courteous attitudes, and a sprit of enthusiasm were the name of the game this week at the national Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America conference in Orlando, Florida.
It was an honor and privilege for our LifeSmart team to meet the hundreds of teachers and students across this nation who visited our workshop and booth at the FCCLA convention. All of us at LifeSmart were filled with hope as we witnessed a new generation of leaders in the making, shaped by the principles imparted by such a dedicated group of FCS teachers. (FCS teachers reading this: You ought to be extremely proud!)
At a time when many schools are regrettably cutting back on life skills programs, it appears that FCS teachers are carrying the torch to develop these leadership attributes that our society desperately needs. Over and over, FCS teachers, your stories reinforced our view that our nation faces a life skills crisis that’s compromising student potential. It is a delight to partner with organizations like FCCLA and program leaders like you to counter this trend and holistically prepare students for a lifetime of leadership and success.
Let’s keep in touch! We would love to hear your thoughts about the conference, our workshop/resources, and key “hot button” issues or topics that are of special interest to you.
So, with that in mind…what did you think?

Job Interview Strategy: Be Likeable!

In this challenging economy, everyone needs to be in top form to land the dream job. With a new crop of graduates seeking employment, there’s a whole lot of interviewing going on! That means setting yourself apart and also avoiding the deal breakers.

You may not realize this, but the first 30 seconds of a job interview will make or break your chances! No, I’m not joking. They may not get you the offer, but they will certainly kill your chances if you don’t make a strong first impression. The reason is that your interviews are brief and it’s simply too difficult to overcome a rocky start.

Employer surveys routinely identify “likeability” as one of the most important selection factors among similarly qualified candidates. In most job searches, there are any number of eligible applicants, but employers will not hire someone unless they think they would enjoy working with them. Think of it as a “next door neighbor” test. Can they see you as their next door neighbor? You’d better hope so!


When it comes to likeability, just be friendly, positive, enthusiastic, humble, relaxed, and yourself. Be professional in your appearance and in your grammar. Finally, avoid arrogance and negativity at all costs.


Your odds of landing the job just improved…a lot! Oh, and one more thing—if you’re a nervous wreck before the interview, cough! It’s much more therapeutic than a deep breath. Seriously!


Here are some other strategies you can use to put your best foot forward and land the job:

1. Do some research ahead of time on the company, what it does, any current news items about it, its reputation, its products, etc.

2. Practice an interview with a friend or family member to help you be thoroughly prepared. Use a list of common interview questions (insert link) and best answers.

3. Arrive early for your interview.

4. TURN OFF your cell phone!

5. Greet your interviewer with good eye contact, a warm smile, and a firm, confident hand shake.

6. Have some thoughtful questions of your own to ask during the interview (and it shouldn’t be about how much time off you can get!). Demonstrate that you care about the company, not just yourself.

7. At the end of the interview, thank your interviewer and follow up later with a personal thank you note.     

Have you practiced your interviewing skills? What kind of impression do you think you make on others who don’t know you well and are evaluating as a possible new hire? How would they rate you on the likeability scale? Leave your comments here; we’d love to hear from you!


To Independence!

Fireworks, barbeques, apple pie, family reunions, and another year to celebrate our nation’s independence! I love summer, although for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, we’re impatiently awaiting its arrival. No sign of global warming here!
So, on yet another cool and rainy day, I’ve been reflecting on the word, “Independence,” but this time in an entirely different context…
As I meet with schools and business leaders across the nation, I’m hearing some alarming comments and stories:

  • A 24-year old man brought his mother to his final interview for a major sales position; she wanted to make sure her son landed the job (he didn’t!)
  • Companies are now training their managers to deal with parent threats when their son/daughter didn’t receive a “deserved” pay increase or promotion
  • Colleges administrators are enduring parent pressure when students earn less than an “A” in their courses
  • Young people are becoming increasingly risk averse for fear of failure
  • Counselors report marked increases in student apathy, disrespect, and an entitlement mentality
  • Record numbers of adults are living with their parents

How did it come to this?
Could these be the unintended consequences of parents who are overmanaging/overprotecting their children? And, of schools that are cutting back on leadership and life skills programs in favor of other priorities? Are we missing the big picture by not holistically preparing our children for independent life?
Whether as parents or educators, we’re called to develop today’s young people into the honorable and productive leaders of tomorrow. It’s a mission of the highest order and it requires high expectations, accountability, and shifting our parenting approach from “control” to “influence.”
How do we promote independence in our young people? The answer is to TRAIN, EMPOWER, and RELEASE them.
It takes all three to set them free!
Happy 4th of July! We’d love to hear your solutions.