Our Best Success Pointer, Ever? You Be the Judge.

When I wrote What I Wish I Knew at 18, I had no idea which specific pointer might resonate most with readers. After all, each of my 109 life success pointers had its own reason, place, and value. I’m often asked which is the most important one of all. I have tremendous difficulty answering this question, and I wrote the book!

To my surprise, though, one pointer seems to be resonating most of all, especially with those who are using our student guides with kids. Any guesses? It’s the one called, “Love and friendship take time… and timing.” Surprisingly, it’s having a powerful impact on adults, too!

What’s all the excitement about? In this particular lesson, we encourage young people to be patient in cultivating new friendships. We describe a relationship pyramid with four progressive stages of depth and help kids understand the parameters and privileges that go with each level. The stages, in order, are:

  1. Acquaintance
  2. Prospect (a potential friend, progressing from an acquaintance)
  3. Friend (a “graduate” from the Prospect pool)
  4. VIP (very important person in our life—a select list!)

Those who take a healthy approach to relationship building are selective in determining who stays or moves among these stages. We help readers understand that time, trust, and shared beliefs/values/interests are the defining qualities that determine whether a relationship will graduate, regress, or stay at the same level. For example, you shouldn’t expect—or permit—the same level of intimacy and trust with an “acquaintance” as you would with a “VIP” (e.g., very close friends/family members).  Looking back, my biggest relationship messes were when I made some incorrect “stage assignments.”

Clearly, this isn’t rocket science. However, there seems to be something extra special about this pointer because we receive far more comments on it than any other. Why? In this age of Facebook “friendships” and other social media relationships (Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), intimacy (or false intimacy) can form too quickly and sometimes almost dangerously. The goal with this advice is to frame relationships in a more natural, realistic way, and offer a more mature perspective.

Many young people today are rushing into relationships and behaviors before they’ve been properly qualified (thanks, in no part, to our cultural messages). In their quest to make new friends or fit in, some compromise their values by engaging in behaviors with the two lowest levels that should be reserved for friends or VIPs. It’s happening more frequently among middle schoolers and is especially common on college campuses when students get lonesome and strive to make new friends quickly. In the end, many relationships fall precipitously down the pyramid, often with severe consequences, when regrettable decisions ensue…

It’s not only kids who need this advice, it seems. At a recent educator conference, a parent who had been going through What I Wish I Knew at 18 with her teenage daughter thanked us for this particular lesson.  “That pointer,” she proclaimed, “changed MY life!”

Have YOU been reading What I Wish I Knew at 18 with a young person or going through the Student Guide with teens in your life?  Which pointer has impacted your teen(s) the most?  Which one has impacted YOU the most? We’d love to add to list of “People’s Picks” for Best Success Pointers!

6 Easy Ways to Show You Care

I hope this post finds you refreshed and uplifted after a Father’s Day well-spent with your family. Father’s day is such a special time to focus on the dads in our lives and show them our appreciation and love. This day always reminds me of the value of relationships—of mine with my parents and with my kids. I’m reminded of the strategic impact that fathers have in the roles of their children, even years after they’ve left the house!

As I reflect on the value of the relationships in my life, I’m reminded of our culture’s vulnerability to two conflicting priorities: relationships and things. While our society has progressed in many respects over the past 50 years, it’s clear that we’ve regressed in terms of relational health and depth. Sadly, with the distractions of technology and busyness, it seems to be getting worse.

Have you taken the time to think about what you really value in life lately? What are you communicating about your priorities to the ones you love—whether intentionally or unintentionally? You can use the following list as either a self-check or a to-do list. Either way, we hope it gives you some inspiration and ideas for communicating your love to others (dads, friends, children, and beyond):

  1. Be fully in the moment. When you’re with someone, be completely engaged (not on your phone, scrolling through Instagram, playing Candy Crush, Snapchatting, etc.).
  2. In a tug of war between relationships and tasks, give the edge to relationships. Our tasks may seem urgent, but relationships should take priority. This is especially true when our children need our attention. Compromise your inconvenience for the times they need your counsel.
  3. Keep family and close friends at the top of your priority list in terms of time and energy. Don’t just give them the leftovers! They deserve your best self.
  4. Express appreciation regularly. Be grateful for the people in your life and share your feelings with them. (I doubt that my kids could have known that my all-time favorite Father’s Day gift from them would be a license plate frame with the engraved words, “Dad’s are cool!”)
  5. Praise them in front of other people. Say something nice about then when they are in earshot. You will help build their self-worth and indirectly communicate how much you value them (parents, this is a great pointer for you!).
  6. Forgive offenses quickly and (really) let them go. After all, you’d want your loved ones to do the same for you, right? On a related note, pick your battles carefully and when arguments do arise, keep your cool and be an agreeable disagreer.

 

Do the people you love know how much you care about them? What creative ideas, license plate frames or otherwise, would you be willing to share?

The 3 Best Time-Tested Dating Tips

The 3 Best Time-Tested Dating Tips

Whether you’re a parent of a teen, a teacher, a mentor, or a teen yourself, it’s never a bad time for a refresher course when it comes to dating advice. With today’s media inundating us with unrealistic (and often unhealthy!) expectations of young relationships, it’s important to get a reality check that will stand the test of time.

Here’s some three time-tested relationship tips:

1. While infatuation can occur in a moment (what we usually see in TV and movies), it takes a long time to really get to know someone and truly gauge if he or she is “the one.” That means lots of conversations, experiences, and observation to gauge your compatibility and build trust.  The Hollywood “three days and we’re engaged” routine doesn’t really work in the long term. It takes time for real love to grow! Don’t be afraid to give your relationship that time. If you or that special someone are sensing pressure to rush things, get to the heart of the matter through open conversation and reflection.

2. Real love also takes proper timing. During the adolescent years, people are going through a time of immense self-discovery. This is a crucial phase of life, where you are learning what you’re passionate about, what path you want to take in life, and what truly makes you happy. The “timing” of a committed love relationship isn’t always ideal during this tumultuous and very changeable season of life—for both parties. It may not mean that the relationship is a “not ever” one; it may just be a “not now” one.

3. This one may sound radical but it’s another time-tested piece of wisdom that can serve you well: There may be times in your life where it really doesn’t make sense for you to date at all—and that’s okay. Too often young adults get trapped into the notion that they always need to have a love interest.  No so!  Don’t let your self-worth and significance be tied to whether or not you have a date on Friday night. Don’t hesitate to step off the dating treadmill if you need to or want to … you don’t always have to be actively dating or have a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. You are enough, and you are awesome, just by yourself. Don’t forget that.

Finally, when you do date, always remember the 3Ds…be Deliberate, Discriminating, and Discerning. This will help keep your feet on the ground when your emotions can be up in the clouds.

 

What are your own personal rules or guidelines when it comes to dating (whether it’s for yourself or your kids)? Do you have any other words of wisdom you would like to share? What did you learn from dating in your teen/young adult years? How did it shape you?

A Call to Love

“All you need is love.” The famous mantra from the almost five-decade old Beatles song can still  be found carved into trees, on artwork hung around homes, printed onto T-shirts, on bumper stickers, and much more. The song itself is inspiring; asking us to look within our hearts to see how we can help change the world. However, as omnipresent as this phrase is, how big of a role does it actually have in defining us, shaping us, and influencing our actions?  If we took a moment to sit down and think about what defines our lives, would it be the love we demonstrate toward others?

Unfortunately, many people find their worth and success in power, money, status, or material things. What if—instead of by our winning percentage, job titles, or personal wealth—we were measured in terms of units of love, kindness, generosity, compassion, and encouragement offered to others? One thing’s for certain. The world would be a far better place. And, amazingly, it wouldn’t cost us anything.

People I admire most demonstrate an incredible capacity to love. It’s weaved into their very being, and you can recognize it in an instant. They put other people first. They have a heart to serve and make a difference, using what gifts they have to benefit others. People with an incredible capacity to love are joyful and bring joy to their friends, family, co-workers.

In addition to their inherent kindness, they have a special way of showing others that they’re worthy of being loved—especially when they’re not feeling very deserving. What an extraordinary gift affirmation is to give others! Helping others discover their own worth is a remarkable bestowal that one can only do with love.

Here’s a timeless truth: It’s impossible to live a life of significance without demonstrating strong character and a large capacity to love. People may achieve great success in their careers and finances, but if they lack strong intrinsic values and goodwill toward others, their legacies and reputations will have a hollow ring.

Fortunately, it isn’t rocket science. It simply requires a deliberate mindset (and “heartset”). It requires a commitment to use every opportunity to show you care. I encourage you to wake up every morning and seek every opportunity to love others that day. If you allow love to be the measure of your personal success, you will be astounded at the positive impact you make on others, and the joy you will experience in return.

If your life were measured by units of “love given,” how do you think you would rate? Who and how could you love a little more? What changes could you make to improve your score and how would you live your life differently?