GUEST POST: A Call to Invest Wisely

Note: This post was writting by Noel Meador, Executive Director for Stronger Families in the greater Seattle area ( 


“Before you criticize the younger generation,
remember who raised them.”
-Unknown Author


We live in a culture that sees more screen time than family dinner times, that talks more through text and Facebook than eye to eye, and that praises performance and “beauty” over the heart and soul of a person. We have some big problems on our hands.

But take heart: tonight you will have the opportunity to change the world.

You can invest in the stock market, have the best house and car, and know great success, but when you die, it will all die with you. All that hard work and dedication, good stewardship, understanding of investment will be gone.

Sure, you can pass on your monetary inheritance but, if it is to a generation that hasn’t been taught responsibility, it will be squandered.

If it is to a generation that hasn’t been taught the value of family and investment in others–a heritage will fade.

If it is to a generation that is self-focused and distracted–your generosity and kindness will end.

So, how can we ensure our heritage will live on?


If we want to invest in something that will live beyond our time and have the ability to change the world, let’s sit down at our table tonight and look at the faces of our children. Take time to talk, listen and teach.

They are it! They are the change we hope to see in the world! The future of this country and our families. I hope and pray I’m investing wisely.

Noel Meador is the Executive Director for Stronger Families in Bothell, Washington and the author and creator of the Oxygen for Your Relationships seminar. Noel has a passion to see families and relationships revitalized and srengthened. He resides in Woodinville, Washington with his wife Karissa and their two sons.

Develop Long Term Friendships

Do you have a trusted confidante with whom you can share your innermost feelings and who has your best interests at heart? Someone who will both encourage you and hold you accountable when your spiritual life, relationships, or actions get off track? Someone you can turn to when life throws you a curveball? A person of your gender with whom you can connect on a regular basis?
If your answers are “No,” this should become a life priority for you.  Here’s why: Friendship—the enduring, here-til-the-end-for-you, holding-you-accountable kind—is good for you!

If you need proof, simply check the clinical studies.  People with long-time friends live longer. They experience less stress. They are more likely to survive cancer. They even contract fewer colds! Seriously!
Just last year, Virginia Tech researchers took a group of students from the University of Virginia to the base of a steep hill, fitted them with a weighted backpack, and asked them to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others stood alone.
Interestingly, the students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the hill’s steepness—and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared to them!
This principle holds true across the board. Trusted friends make our life journey smoother (especially when life hands us a lemon!) and our experiences all the richer.
Granted, it takes time and effort to build a trusted friendship of that caliber. It’s easy today to be lulled by the superficial “friendship” that Facebook, social media, and online gaming offer. But, remember that true friendship takes time: getting to know each other, identifying and building on shared values, accumulating a library of shared memories, weathering conflict and crisis, and more. It’s all worth the investment, and the best part is, it’s never too late.  (I agree with Professor Glenn Sparks, Communications Professor and author of a recent friendship study who put it well: “Making friends is like managing a bank account. You must make investments, and it is never too early to start.”)
Who among your closest friends of the same gender do you consider to be your most trusted confidante? How have you invested in that relationship throughout your life, as well as cultivating and developing new ones?

Share us with a friend or post a comment below; we’d love to hear from you!

Diversify Your Life

“Crazy busy!”
These days, that’s the most popular answer when I ask someone, “How have you been?” We’re either rushing ourselves or our kids from here to there, getting stuck in a fast-paced rut, and all too often not finding the time to do the things we really want to do! Something tells me it wasn’t always this way.
Are you someone who focuses your life in just a few areas? Do you find yourself complaining about being stuck in a “rut,” or are your interests varied and your experiences diverse? Do you pace yourself, or run full steam ahead?
One way to gauge this—and have a more measured approach to life—is to take a “personal diversity survey.” Think of the following important areas of your life:

  1. Relationships—family and friends
  2. Marriage and parenting
  3. Career or school
  4. Spiritual life
  5. Entertainment
  6. Learning
  7. Physical activity
  8. Travel and leisure
  9. Arts and nature
  10. Hobbies
  11. Community service/volunteerism
  12. Down time

Consider how you’re allocating your time to these areas. Is it spread out or concentrated in only a few areas? Variety will diversify who you are and enrich your life. But, it means taking control of our “busyness.”
Here’s a suggestion: This week, talk to your family about how each person might diversify his or her life. Ask them to contribute some of their ideas for how to pursue new interests and activities. Then take one idea from your discussion and DO IT!
How varied are your interests and how balanced is your life? Reflect on the above list and identify potential areas in which you are “under-spending” in your life. Is it time to spread things around a little? Share your comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

Indonesian Reflections: An Unforgettable Two-Week Adventure

I have just returned home after experiencing the two most amazing weeks of my life. It will take some time to fully comprehend what just happened. In the meantime, I am filled with joy and gratitude toward the people of Indonesia.
On this, my first trip to Southeast Asia, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Would my message of developing young leaders resonate with children and adults? Would I make it without saying something culturally stupid? Would I like the food? Would we have a productive trip that would build strong momentum for our What I Wish I Knew at 18 book and course? All of these thoughts ran through my mind as I departed from Seattle on July 29.
Before I left, I told my co-publisher, Laura Prinsloo of Kesaint Blanc Publishing, that I was there to serve them. That meant I wanted a full schedule of meetings with as many influential leaders as possible. She took me up on my offer…and then some! I was booked from early morning to late evening with speaking engagements throughout the Jakarta and Bali areas—worship services, schools, radio broadcasts, book launchings, conventions (World Harvest and Call2Business), business/parenting seminars, you name it. I would be speaking to young people and adults…and to people of all faiths. We would speak, have Q&A, and sign books and take lots of pictures.
Armed with 12 different Powerpoint presentations, I came prepared for any circumstance…and everything went without a hitch! And, each time, I was greeted so warmly by the people of Indonesia.
I have too many memories to list here, but a few really stand out. One was my first presentation…to a Muslim school in Jakarta. The room was filled with some 100 students and educators. My talk was called “Developing the Great Leaders of Tomorrow.” My reception and message from this audience were overwhelming. (In fact, we received three invitations to speak at other schools that week!) I loved interacting with the students (mostly high schoolers) afterwards for book signings and pictures. But, it was my conversation with an elderly lady that was the most memorable of all.
She told me that Indonesian children are often raised by absentee fathers and implored me to tell the adults in each of my upcoming meetings that the fathers must get more involved in raising their children. It was a very powerful and moving conversation and I promised her I would. And, I did.
I met with four Muslim schools and each time my message was overwhelmingly received. The questions I received from these children were so heartfelt and deep. Questions like:

  • Mr. Dennis, I am not strong in academics. Can I still become a great leader?
  • Mr. Dennis, can you help me learn to enjoy the process of life?
  • Mr. Dennis, can you tell me how to convince my father that I want to live my own dream?

After each talk, the children came up to me and said that I inspired them. But, as far as I’m concerned, they were the ones who did the inspiring! It is an indescribable blessing to be placed in a role where I can share wisdom and hope to young people around the world. I am grateful to God and for the people of Indonesia who gave me the chance.
In less than two weeks, we made amazing connections with leaders of influence in each of our target audiences. We are off to a great start and discussions are already underway regarding my next visit (and maybe even a TV show!). It’s truly difficult to capture in words how our work is being received and the Divine appointments we received each day.
So, Indonesia, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your warmth and affection.  I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon!


Thanks, VATFACS!

LifeSmart Team at VATFACS Conf in VirginiaArlyn Lawrence writing here (Editor and Director of Curriculum Development at LifeSmart). On the heels of the trip Jeanne and Lauren Trittin and I made to Virginia to speak at the Virginia Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Science Professional Development Institute, we just want to say — THANKS!
It was a delight to spend time with an amazing group of committed and enthusiastic educators July 29-Aug. 1 at the beautiful Boars Head Inn in Charlottesville, with a keynote dinner address and a professional development workshop on creative ways to teach leadership and life skills. 
For our part, we thoroughly enjoyed all our interactions with FCS teachers and administrators from all over the state of Virginia. We enjoyed the laughter and fun as well as the time on task  (BOTH are important!). I think the workshop was my favorite. Thanks, teachers, for being up for such great participation, jumping into group discussions and role playing as we explored fun, relevant ways to teach important life wisdom and skills to high school students.We hope you went away encouraged, refreshed, and re-inspired for the upcoming school year and your vital role in building the next generation of leaders.
We also enjoyed visiting with you all throughout the retreat, not just in formal meeting times but around the resort grounds, in the restaurant and halls, at our exhibit booth: hearing your stories and challenges, getting to know you and your mission a little better, and having the opportunity to share our What I Wish I Knew at 18 leadership/life skills program with you.
All of us at LifeSmart Publishing are grateful for the educators we meet in the course of our work: for your tireless investment in students and the significant impact you are having on their future. Your stories consistently confirm that many of today’s students lack the necessary life skills and personal leadership qualities to reach their full potential. These comments are regularly echoed by employers and community leaders. Certainly, we all have a stake in turning things around—and we’re here to help.
So, thanks again for allowing us to partner with you; the pleasure is all ours. Here’s to a great school year, and to empowering the next generation together!
We’d love to hear from you; please keep in touch! Leave your comments, questions, and suggestions below.  Thanks!

Live Within Your Means (& Generate POSITIVE Cash Flow!) – Pt. 2

In last week’s blog we discussed how to live within your means and generate positive cash flow by conservatively estimating your INCOME. But that’s only half of the equation. You must also carefully manage and control what you spend.

When it comes to the EXPENSE side of the equation, your goal is to spend less than you earn on a regular basis. This is how you generate positive cash flow and have money available to invest. However, for many people, this is the most difficult part of managing their finances, for several reasons:


  1. They don’t keep track of it and develop a budget. Those small items can add up!
  2. They fail to consider seasonal expenditures (e.g., gifts, vacations, and property taxes).
  3. They have no idea how expensive children and pets are!
  4. They don’t appreciate how much more expensive it is to own a home than rent an apartment.
  5. They forget about finance charges on credit card balances.
  6. They live a more lavish lifestyle than they can afford:
    1. They’re lured into spending on impulse items.
    2. They purchase big-ticket items such as homes and cars that are far too expensive for their budget.
    3. They assume that if they purchase it on credit, they’ll figure out a way to pay for it later.
    4. They place too much value on possessions and expensive brands in order to impress others.
    5. They’re too impatient—wanting it now rather than saving up for it.

It’s essential to discipline yourself to spend less than you make (thereby generating positive cash flow) and regularly measure your progress. Remember that if your cash flow is negative, your options are to: 1) increase your income (not always possible!) and/or 2) reduce or postpone your expenses.
One of the best ways to generate positive cash flow is to set up an automatic savings plan where a set percentage of your income is placed in an investment program each month. It will force you to save and help you resist the temptation to overspend.
Do you monitor your spending versus your income to ensure you’re living within your means? This is true whether you’re a college student on a modest income or an executive earning seven figures. Share your comments and questions: we’d love to hear your experiences and ideas!

Live Within Your Means (& Generate POSITIVE Cash Flow!) – Pt. 1

Money will never make you completely happy—but mismanaging it can be a life wrecker!
Money problems are among the top reasons for divorce, alcoholism, and suicide in our country. For these, and many other reasons, it’s critical to become a wise manager of your financial resources. You should consider this one of your greatest priorities and our nation’s educators should too.
Having a positive (and growing net worth) is essential for all of us, and the good news is it’s not rocket science. Simply put, it requires two things: 1) living within your means by spending less than you make and 2) building long-term wealth through a regular savings and investment program. This will set you up for success in both the short- and long-term.
In order to generate positive cash flow, you must spend less than you make. That means conservatively estimating your income and ensuring you have a “cushion” left over after all of your spending. Trouble sets in when you either overestimate your income or underestimate your spending.
Here’s where many run into trouble on the INCOME side:

  1. They forget that their take-home pay is roughly 60% of their gross salary (after taking into account deductions like federal and state income taxes and Social Security)
  2. They assume that a spike in their income is the new “normal” level of earnings and ratchet up their spending accordingly.
  3. They assume their strong investment returns in the recent past will persist.

It’s important to recognize whether your career provides a steady or volatile income. Generally speaking, the more your income is tied to sales (e.g., real estate agents) or project work (e.g., writers, architects, actors) the more it will fluctuate over time. This income pattern presents unique challenges in your financial planning because you can’t forecast the next few years based on the recent past.
Consequently, people often overestimate their future income when they just had a great year. Then, they increase their spending just when their income falls back to normal. Not good!
Don’t fall into this trap. Plan your income conservatively—it’s far better to be positively surprised than disappointed!
What are some ways you’ve learned to live within your means and generate a positive cash flow? Have you developed creative and effective ways of showing these principles to your own children or students? Share ideas and questions by commenting below; we’d love to hear from you!