5 Ways to Avoid Media Bias and Form Your Own Opinions

ID-100305285When it comes to the media and all of the different sources of information (TV, newspapers, internet articles, blogs, social media, radio, and more), we need to be watchful for author bias and how it can influence our beliefs and perceptions. And, now that election season is already underway (sigh), it’s never more apparent.

Consider the following (hypothetical) news release: “The government reported third quarter economic growth at 5.4 percent. This compares with 6.0 percent for the second quarter and a long-term average of 3.0 percent.”

Now, pretend you’re a journalist charged with reporting “the news.” If it were me, I would say something like, “Third quarter growth remained strong by historical standards, although it decelerated modestly from unusually high second quarter levels.” This is an accurate portrayal of the facts.

Now, what do you think happens when the journalist and his or her news outlet don’t care for the sitting president and his political party? In today’s biased news media, you’re more likely to see something like the following: “Third quarter economic growth fell a disappointing 0.6 percent from the previous quarter, causing some to believe a slowdown is at hand.”

See the difference?

Most people have no clue about how much distortion, bias, embellishment, and outright falsehoods exist within the media and among supposed “authority figures.” You see it in infomercials (this or that miracle diet or hair loss cure), political campaigns (“I will reduce spending”), investment experts (“Now is the time to invest in ___”), news stories that are editorials in disguise, and even in college classrooms when professors convey their opinions as fact and ridicule students who happen to disagree).

Don’t let anyone pull the wool over YOUR eyes. Learn to be a discerning skeptic of everything you read and hear …

There was a time when the news media and America’s universities were more balanced in reporting news and views, but those days are long gone. You can detect it in how they convey the “facts,” as well as in what they choose to report (news contrary to their opinion is often ignored altogether or appears in fine print on page 17 where no one will read it). Increasingly, we see media outlets with a strong political slant completely color the news through their own lens (often by selecting guests who share their views)—rather than reserving their opinions for the editorial page.

How do you deal with a world where objectivity is actually subjectivity? Here are a couple of suggestions for remaining well informed and not being easily misled:

  • Try to get all sides of an issue. Be wary of people who are unable or unwilling to convey the opposing view or who won’t acknowledge what is fact and what is opinion. Be especially suspicious of people who resort to name calling rather than simply agreeing to disagree on the position.
  • When it comes to political campaigns, recognize that candidates will tell you what they think you want to hear (and hope you’ll forget by the next election!)
  • When it comes to news outlets, 1) watch different channels with different political tendencies (e.g. , Fox News versus CNN) and 2) look at the election endorsements of your news outlets to gauge their political tendencies
  • Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Read the footnotes and caveats in infomercials, advertisements, or promotions

The bottom line is whenever there’s an agenda or an incentive, you can expect a positive or negative spin and selective sampling and reporting of the “facts.“ It’s an increasingly biased world out there so be on the lookout! You want to make sure that your opinions and beliefs are based on facts, so be sure to always get the full story, no matter what the issue!


Do you believe most of what you read and hear from news outlets? Have you noticed how closed minded some are to differing points of view? How do you think this influences our culture, and young people in particular? Please share your comments with us; we’d love to hear your experiences and point of view!

PC: Freedigitalphotos.net, imagerymajestic

4 Tips to Help you Land That Job!

One of the greatest unknowns for college students is predicting what the job market will be like when they graduate. After all, it’s four years down the road and lots can change in the meantime. The answer will be based on the state of the economy and the supply and demand picture for their career choice. Unfortunately, these factors are simply outside of our control.

Even if a young person’s path doesn’t include college, they’ll still be facing this kind of uncertainty. If the unemployment rate is low, chances are they’ll have little difficulty landing a good job. If it’s high, who knows how long it could take? Plus, they’ll have to work that much harder just to get their foot in the door.

So, how can all of us help? What are ways parents, educators, mentors and friends can help young people find the jobs they’re looking for—and progress once they find them?

Young adults need to be savvier and more competitive than ever to find, land, and advance in the jobs of today’s work place. Here are some suggestions  you can share to help position them for a thriving career:

  1. Use your existing networks. No matter how talented we are, we all need people who will go to bat for us, both personally and professionally. Their invaluable assistance can take the form of introductions and connections, references and advocacy, decision-making in our favor, an information source, or general help. They help us gain access to strategically important people. It’s like having our very own sales force!

The employment recruitment process has changed night and day since I was younger. Nowadays, it’s all about online applications that seem to disappear into the proverbial black hole—it’s SO impersonal and frustrating. Somehow, some way, our application needs to stand out. No doubt about it, the best way is to have an insider advocating on our behalf. It adds a measure of dependability and reassurance to the hiring manager, and that’s huge. It may not land us the job, but it helps get us into the game.

  1. Broaden your base of employment prospects.Spread your net wide.  Talk to others in your field. Read trade journals and industry bulletins, blogs, and newsletters. What’s going on in your industry of choice and where are the jobs? There are likely companies for which you could work that you haven’t even considered. My editor’s son is a land use planner who works for a county government. He recently discovered that a large aircraft manufacturer in our state regularly hires land use planners. He was surprised; he’d never even considered the thought of working for a company like that. Now that he knows, it’s an avenue he plans to pursue in his next steps.
  2.  Be flexible with respect to location. This point is short but important. Many times you’ll have to go to the job; it won’t come to you. The more flexible you can be about this, the more marketable you are.
  3. Develop your competitive edge. Our world is much more competitive than ever before. Our economy has become service-oriented and knowledge-based, which has changed everything. Now, you have to demonstrate something special (i.e, skills, experiences, and achievements) in order to land the job and advance in your career. Together, these make up your competitive edge. Consider what would stand out about you to future employers during your eventual job search. Go the extra mile to become better qualified through experiences and continuing education. If you’re lacking a skill or a professional qualification, attack it with full force! Demonstrate an attitude of continuous improvement and a commitment to excellence. Show results and impact. Create great personal stories that will inspire employers.  If you don’t, remember that someone else will—and they’ll wind up with your job or promotion!

This is only part of the picture! Join us next week for part two of this blog: How to Market Yourself and Move Ahead in Your Career Field.

How have you found and moved ahead in your job(s)? Do you think things are easier, harder, or the same for young adults in today’s job market?  How can we help encourage students in finding and landing the right jobs? We’d love to hear your thoughts?

Raising Purposeful Children

ID-10089296Somewhere in the midst of final exams, prom, Friday night sporting events and texting with friends, American teenagers are setting a course for their future. They’ve been asked a thousand times, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now, as they approach adulthood, it’s almost show time. For some, the path is clear, while for many (most!) others, it’s a colossal question mark. No wonder recent surveys are showing that teens are more stressed than adults!

The good news is that parents can play an extremely beneficial role at this pivotal time in their teens’ lives. Through effective coaching and affirmation, we can help our teens navigate these years of uncertainty with confidence and purpose. We can help them answer the fundamental questions of who am I, what do I have to offer and what are my opportunities. Here’s how…
Every child is unique and filled with treasure (assets) to offer the world. Unfortunately, most people – adults sometimes included – don’t have a complete and accurate understanding of their value and all of their assets. Some assets are obvious, but in other cases, the treasure lies buried beneath the surface waiting to be revealed. This is a huge issue during adolescence when teens are often planning their future through a blurry windshield.

Parents: as your teen’s biggest fan, this is where you come in. You can help mine your child’s treasure by inventorying his or her assets. Sit down one-on-one with your teen and talk through his or her strengths. By doing so, you’ll improve your teen’s self-awareness and self-confidence, as well as provide a clearer vision for the future.

One way to facilitate this conversation is by having your teen develop his or her Personal Balance Sheet.  This tool helps identify and inventory an individual’s assets through self-assessments, feedback from others, and surveys. The one I developed is available here. This balance sheet offers powerful insights for helping plan your teen’s future – plus, it’s fun to complete!

Cultivating a Purposeful Mindset
Adolescence is also a time to begin considering how we’ll offer ourselves – and our talents – to positively impact the world. Life purposes are generally cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers). Some of the most powerful are a blend of both. Importantly, purposes are not always tied to our careers. After all, some of our most significant work comes through community service and family management!

  1. What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people groups, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?
  2. What problems would I most like to solve?
  3. What inspires me the most?
  4. What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?
  5. Whose life would I most like to emulate and why?
  6. What are my special gifts and talents?
  7. Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?
  8. What experience has had the greatest influence on me?

These questions provide great fodder for personal reflection and family discussions. They’re worth answering throughout our adult lives, too.

By helping our children discover their uniqueness and value and by training them to be purposeful, we give them a gift of a lifetime. And, when we see them live it out, there’s nothing more fulfilling in the world.

Have you started talking with your teen about his/her life purpose and life goals? What tools have you used to help them discover their passions?


Image courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net, photo by: Imagerymajestic

Five Ways You Can Set Your Teen up for Success in College

ID-10068687We’ve shared these statistics before, but they’re never any less shocking. The United States is ranked 9th among 28 industrialized countries for college enrollment, but DEAD LAST for college completion. This means that thousands of aspiring students will begin college each year, but a large percentage will never finish.

If you’re a parent of a soon-to-be graduating teen, this is a message you don’t want to miss. As parents, we need to set our children up for success by equipping and encouraging them to reach their goals.

For a host of reasons, today’s young adult faces an even greater transition than in generations past. The fact that so many students don’t finish college reveals their lack of preparation for adulthood and all the responsibility that comes with it.

In many cases, it’s because they get off to a rocky start. The first three months after leaving home are vitally important, often setting the tone for the rest of a person’s college or career experience. We’ve all heard the tragic stories of college careers that ended prematurely.

Here are some ways you can help position your teen for a strong start after they leave home:

  • Prepare them for the social adjustment. The loss of a teen’s convenient support structure (parents at home, familiar teachers and friends) can be hard to take, especially for those who are reserved by nature. Often, this leads to intense loneliness and getting into the wrong crowd for the sake of making new “friends” quickly.

            Talk about this in advance, so they won’t be surprised by loneliness and feelings of isolation. Help them plan some strategies, like making it a point to meet everyone on their dorm floor, joining clubs/organizations of interest, working out at the rec center, studying in the library where they can meet people, etc. All of these strategies help make a big place feel smaller. The goal should be to patiently seek out people who share their interests and values. It will take time, but they will make new friends.

  • Help them develop strong disciplines. Time management, distractions, new responsibilities (laundry!), variable class schedules, and the like are all new facts of life. Plus, in today’s technology-laden world, the temptation to be playing video games (or surfing Pinterest) instead of doing homework can be huge—not to mention the new social opportunities.

Help them develop a list of priorities and to become master schedulers and time managers. What’s important to them? Grades? Fitness? New friends? Spiritual life? Encourage them to look at their priority list daily. Their time is a precious asset with limited capacity!

  • Prepare them for the academic pressure. Competition is stiffer, grades are fewer, professors are less inclined to offer extra credit, and college is pricey! Many times it takes students a full year to adjust to these new stressors. I was a poster child for that!

Encourage them to buy and use an academic planner (or app on their phone) that puts all of their exam and assignment due dates in ONE PLACE. This way your student can keep track of deadlines and not feel rushed. Also, What I Wish I Knew at 18 contains some effective strategies for mastering the academic transition into college.

  • Set them up for financial success. I was amazed by how many credit card mailers our household received when our kids were high school seniors! Is it any wonder we hear so many young adults run into problems with credit cards and overspending?

It is a MUST for parents and students to be on the same page with respect to money. If you are funding their college education, be sure they understand their financial responsibilities. Whether they are in college or out in the workforce or military, you can help them set up a list of expenses and create at least a rudimentary budget.

  • Establish a communication strategy. Be sure to develop mutually agreed upon expectations for communicating after they leave. Regularly scheduled weekly calls during the first year are reasonable. (We regularly hear of text/phone calls with parents as much as 5-10 times a day—NOT reasonable!) They can always call in the interim, but resist the temptation to initiate frequent calls or texts to check in. As hard as it may be, that would run counter to your role as an empowering coach.


Bottom Line: Advance preparation for these key adjustments will make all the difference in the world. Put the above five tips into practice and you’ll help position your teen for a successful transition into their new life chapter.

If you have a young adult in college what ways did you help prepare them for the transition? How did they do? Do you wish you did anything differently or have any advice to share?

Photo attribution: freedigitalphotos.net, photo by: imagerymajestic

3 Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Budget

When it comes to “budgeting,” many people find it right up there with dieting and root canals in terms of the pleasure factor. However, tracking your spending and disciplining yourself to live within your means and save for the future is definitely worth the effort, however unappealing it may be. If budgeting is not a natural bent for you, don’t give up on the idea altogether. You just need a willing attitude and some good resources to help you stay disciplined and on track with your finances. There are actually lots of creative ways to make budgeting work for you. It’s necessary for all of us.

  1. The basic report you should complete (on a monthly or quarterly basis) is a cash flow statement. This report tallies your income and expenses in several key categories. It’s the surest way to see whether you’re living within your means  and where your spending may be excessive. After subtracting all of your expenses from your income, you’ll see whether your net cash flow for that period is positive or negative. Remember, the goal is positive, positive, positive!

These days, there are any number of online tools that can help you analyze your cash flow  (e.g., www.quicken.com and www.mint.com). In the past, analyzing cash flow was a lot more work—you had to save your receipts and organize them manually. But now, thanks to debit cards and online banking, it’s much easier. You simply link your bank account to your budgeting app or website and it will track your spending for you! You can even opt for the service to send you alerts if you are over budget in a particular category.

  1. Set your budget. For young adults just starting out, tracking their spending will help determine how much they can afford for rent/housing and a car (significant expenses each month) and give them a general idea of a budget for each category. How much should average living expenses represent? The following are typical expenditure categories and some suggested percentages for each:
  • Housing/rent (includes utilities)     30-35%
  • Household/personal items                     20
  • Autos/transportation                              10
  • Charitable giving                                  5-10
  • Savings and investments                         10+ (not an expenditure per se)
  • Entertainment and leisure                        7
  • Debt/loans                                                  5
  • Insurance                                                    5
  • Miscellaneous                                             3
  1. Finally, it helps to develop up-to-date cash flow statements when you’re considering buying a home or car. People especially get into trouble when they pay too much for a car or rent an apartment that’s out of their financial reach. As a result, there is little leftover for investing in the future, surprising that someone special with an unforgettable evening, or giving to charitable causes.

When you know where your money’s going, you are more likely to make wiser financial choices and develop good savings habits that can help you build wealth for your future.


Do you track and analyze your spending?  How do you do it?  Have you trained and modeled this to the young adults in your life and, if so, how? We’d love to hear your insight and experiences!

An Unforgettable Gift for Your Teen That Doesn’t Cost a Dime

One of life’s pleasures is giving our children a truly meaningful and unexpected gift. But, let’s be honest—with the convenience of gift cards, it’s so much easier to stick with their wish list. I know it’s my surefire way of guaranteeing they’ll like my choice! Well, today, I’m going to share a gift idea they would never conceive of, but which will go down as one of their most valuable ever. And it won’t cost you a thing.

I call it a “blessing packet.”

Imagine your teen receiving an unexpected, gift-wrapped package. It’s light in weight and makes a shuffling sound when shaken. When unwrapped, the first thing they’ll see is a small envelope containing instructions. They’re told to open the larger envelope when they have uninterrupted quality time to digest its contents.  At that seminal moment, they’ll discover a priceless collection of smaller envelopes inside.

Within each envelope is a personal letter honoring him or her with words of affirmation, encouragement, and confidence in their future. Loving perspectives of their uniqueness and value and what they’ve meant to each author. Special verses or inspirational messages. Pictures and mementos of precious times together. Expressions of how much they are loved and believed in.

It’s simple, yet profound! (Some schools even arrange retreats where each student receives this gift, generally coordinated with the parents.) Here’s all you need to do…

First, consider the people who have occupied a special place in the life of your teen…usually family members, friends, teachers, coaches, and mentors. Then, ask them to craft a personal, inspirational letter in a privately sealed envelope you’ll collect and deliver to the unsuspecting receiver. That’s it!
Not only is this a wonderful gift to receive, but it’s also a special occasion for the givers. It offers them a unique opportunity to say what’s on their heart to a special person in their life. Having written a few of them for my teens and their friends, I can attest that this can be quite an experience!

A keepsake gift like this will strengthen your teen’s self worth, identity, and sense of significance and calling. It’ll remind them of their passions, talents, and special qualities as seen by their many fans around them. It’ll offer encouragement to persevere through life’s challenges.

As the school year comes to a close and graduation/college draw near, a blessing packet might be the perfect gift to give to your teen!

Have you ever given anything like a blessing packet? How did your teen respond? What other gifts have you given your teen that are not material items, but sentimental gifts that will last forever? Do you have other suggestions for ways to bless your teen?