The Gifts of Unconditional Love and Belief

Parents! Teachers! Mentors! If you have young people in your life—young people you believe in—this is crucial information for you!

Have you ever had someone believe in you more than you believed in yourself?  How did that make you feel?  It probably made you feel like you could take on the world, or tackle whatever situation you faced at the time. That’s the power of unbridled belief from others.

The famous artist Pablo Picasso claimed, “My mother always told me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general; if you become a monk, you’ll end up as the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” Many other successful people also point to their parents’ belief in them as the driving force behind their success. They believe that if their parents hadn’t been confident in them from the get-go, they wouldn’t be in the same place today.

I am precisely one of those people, and I will be forever grateful for my parents’ unconditional love and belief in me (even if I may not have always deserved it!). It helped more times than I can count.

Do your children (or other young people in your life) know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them unconditionally and believe in them unequivocally? Do they know that you see them as talented, worthy, and brimming with potential? Make certain they do. It is a tremendous asset for teens to be surrounded by adults who believe in them—who can affirm their uniqueness and value. That belief is an inner voice, encouraging them to dream big and persevere through life’s challenges.

Your child, mentee, or student will make his or her share of mistakes along the way (I know I sure did!).  But having the benefit of unconditional acceptance and belief from you will soften those blows and provide a safety net they can always count on.

Not so sure how to let them know you’re their biggest fan? Here are some ideas:

-Be upfront. Whether it’s at a meal, during a tutoring session, or after a class, be willing to open up. Tell them that you believe in them (and why) and that you’re bullish about their future. Call out some of their greatest assets and character traits.

-Write them a letter or note. Stick a note in their lunchbox, or if you’re a teacher, consider putting a sticky note on one of their assignments. Knowing you went to the effort to do that will speak volumes to them!

-Be generous with your time. What says “I believe in you” more than carving out time in your busy schedule?

-Speak from experience. Share your own downfalls, your mistakes, and your past life experiences. A little perspective from a “pro” can boost their confidence and build trust!

We can be the cheering squad that calls out the strengths and affirms the dreams and potential of the young people in our lives. It’ll let them know that if they were a stock, you’d be a buyer! And, the best part of all? Your belief will breed their belief.

Who could benefit from your gift of affirmation and belief today?

Building a Rock-Solid Foundation for Our Teens: One Community’s Response

How do we set our teens on a pathway to their destiny—to help them fulfill their dreams and purpose?

It’s a fundamental question for their future—and our future—and the answer is multi-faceted. But, for now, I’d like to focus on one of the most vitally important prerequisites—a healthy and solid support system.

Research experts such as Dr. Chap Clark conclude that every adolescent needs at least five loving, trusted adults in his/her life to develop the emotional health, stability, and self confidence to succeed in adulthood. While other factors such as education, skills, and opportunities also matter, relationships with adult role models are key.

The reasons are many. Adults who have strong relationships with teens can offer love, friendship, support, affirmation, life wisdom, advice, and essential network connections. They’re tremendous assets to our children and invaluable third party voices for parents. Speaking personally, it’s been a major parenting priority for us, and our children have benefitted immeasurably from their relationships with many adult friends.

It’s great to see that some visionaries and communities are taking a proactive stance to connect our youth to caring, adult mentors. One such community is nearby University Place, Washington where community leaders of Project 5:1 recently brought speakers and resources to area parents, educators, mentors, service organizations, and the faith community at a weekend conference. Illustrating the broad-based support for this initiative, the conference was sponsored by numerous businesses; service, parent, mentor, and school organizations; non-profits; and churches. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Local media supported the event as well, an indication of the compelling need for supporting our youth. As shown in the following news segment at King 5 TV in Seattle, I was honored to serve as a workshop leader on my topic, “Relationship Building Strategies to Help Teens Soar.” http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/2014/11/15/project-51-event-helps-parents-connect-with-teens/19110123/

In my talk, I shared four relationship keys with teens: 1) valuing their uniqueness, 2) affirming their worth, value, and potential, 3) communicating to build relationship capital, and 4) recruiting positive third party voices (the 5:1 concept being a perfect example). It was encouraging to see how many people are committed to building strong relationships with teens!

If you would like more information about the event, the movement, or my talk, please contact me via www.dennistrittin.com or check out www.projectfiveone.com.

In this season of gift giving, it’s hard to think of a more meaningful gift than an investment in the lives our children.

Coaching 101: Critics Vs. Encouragers

How many coaches have you had in your lifetime?  5? 10? 20? However many, each was responsible for developing you in some subject or skill area. They helped grow your strengths and correct your weaknesses. When delivered in the right setting and in the right manner, their constructive criticism was a good thing, wasn’t it? It helped you be better, perform better, and know better.

There can be a dark side to criticism, though. It can be sharp, abrasive, and downright mean-spirited. This kind of advice comes off sounding like a slap in the face instead of an arm around the shoulders, and can deeply hurt people. People do it because they think it gets fast results, but they couldn’t be more misguided.

I’ve known people who are natural critics of everything in life, including themselves. It’s as though they thrive on negativity and find pleasure in correcting others or pointing out their weaknesses. They have a distorted view of reality and are often angry, bitter, insecure, mean-spirited, jealous, or all of the above. These types usually operate on the assumption that correcting flaws is the way to maximize results. They withhold praise. “Coaches” like this can be tough to handle.

There is another philosophy that operates from a completely different paradigm. It embodies inspiration, encouragement, and constructive feedback. Here, others are challenged to build on their strengths and correct their weaknesses through positive instruction and effort. Communication includes both positives and negatives, but the style embraces praise and encouragement over harsh criticism.

Let’s self-reflect for a moment.

  1. Which style works better for you when you’re on the receiving end of criticism?
  2. Which style do you employ when you’re on the delivering end of criticism?

I’m pretty confident we will all respond to the first question with “the second style.”  But, our answers are going to vary on the second. Are we humble and self-aware enough to be honest if the truthful answer is, “the first style?”

There’s a wise proverb that says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of impact in other people’s life? Not only that, wouldn’t it be more effective?

Throughout your life you’ll face countless situations where you give feedback to others. You may be a teacher or coach yourself (or become one, one day), or perhaps you manage an office or a team of employees. You might be asked for guidance from a friend who is going through a difficult time or a tough decision. Which coaching philosophy will you adopt? Remember, how you say it matters (http://dennistrittin.com/view_blog.aspx?blog_id=127) —a lot.

In order to bring out the best in others, the encouragement approach is far more effective. Not only is the feedback more balanced and accurate, but people put forth a more inspired effort to reach new heights when they work with someone who cares. Simply stated, people try harder to please someone they like and admire.

So, whenever you have the opportunity, be an encourager, not a critic—and always look for the best in people.

Consider the favorite teachers, coaches, and mentors in your life. What coaching style did they use? Which one comes more naturally to you? Do you actively seek opportunities to praise and encourage others?

Celebrate Your Victories and Learn from Your Defeats

 


This week I had the distinct privilege of visiting an alternative high school that serves the neediest and most challenged of students. My conversation with the principal—a man who has given his life to reach and impact disadvantaged youth and help turn their lives around—left me inspired and encouraged. His stories of the ups and downs of working with that student population reminded me of the introduction to “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” when the narrator would dramatically announce, “…the thrill of VICTORY and the agony of DEFEAT.” Seeing a homeless student from a background of gangs and violence graduate from high school—victory! Seeing another go back to the streets—defeat.


No matter where our life path takes us, each of us experiences both victories and defeats. Whether it’s sports, contests, career, dating, or school, you win some and you lose some. Most of us don’t have too much difficulty with the winning part.


But does the fact that we don’t always win mean we’ve lost? Perhaps, narrowly defined, the answer may be “Yes,” but in most cases the answer is emphatically “No.” Many of our “losses” prepare us for our victories later on—that is, if we choose to learn from our defeats.
           

Vince Lombardi of Green Bay Packer fame used to say that winning “is the only thing.” Famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, on the other hand, used to simply ask his players to play their best, and that was good enough for him.


I’m probably more in John Wooden’s camp (despite growing up 20 miles from Green Bay!). Winning may be an important goal, but I don’t believe we’re losers if we don’t finish in first place. The key is to learn from a defeat and use it as input for the next practice and for future strategy.
 

Turning a defeat into a victory can be positively transformational. One  example that comes to my mind is a  program I heard of recently in which teen moms reach out to younger girls and share their stories. With unique authenticity and perspective, they can encourage their younger peers to make wise and strategic life choices.  It’s already making a big difference.


Humbly celebrate your victories and see how you can gain from your defeats. It will position you to do better the next time, and it certainly will take some of the sting out of your losses!

 
How have you handled your victories and losses? Do you view a short-term loss as a learning experience to help achieve greater heights in the future? Are you satisfied with the outcome if you did your best?

Unforgettable Conversations

The year 2012 will easily go down as the most amazing of my life. It seems every day is a new adventure of unplanned connections, unexpected emails from appreciative readers, visits with new ambassadors, first-time experiences, and unforgettable conversations with very special people. Life is great at 58!
 
In my new role as author, educator, and speaker, I find myself in new territories and circumstances that touch the lives of young people. It can involve a talk to schools or parent groups, meeting with youth mentors, attending educational conferences, or doing a book launch halfway around the world in Indonesia. I love being “in the trenches,” experiencing firsthand the hopes, dreams, and struggles of today’s youth. These kids have left an indelible mark on me, especially those who have been dealt a weak hand.
 
I think of the students I met while volunteering at an area private and public school. This particular program helps students build stronger bridges with each other and identify some of the personal obstacles getting in their way. It’s a profoundly moving all-day retreat that allows kids to get real and deep with each other. You might think that the students of an elite college prep school have it all…but you would be mistaken. While sharing deeply from the heart, these kids either struggle from a lack of love and value shown to them at home or they face unbearable performance pressure from their parents and can never measure up. As their tears flowed, I kept wondering why their parents, who intentionally brought them into this world, had allowed it to come to this. 
 
My visit to the public school had a somewhat different cast, but the lack of a loving, healthy support structure for these kids was even more intense. Fatherlessness was a huge issue and you could instantly see the walls these kids have built. Initially “chilly” remarks of, “I don’t care what anyone thinks of me” were later replaced with tears of pain. They don’t feel valued. They don’t feel listened to. And, they don’t feel understood. So, is it any wonder why some of them seek false comfort in the wrong places?
 
I left these retreats with a heavy heart and a strong personal desire to serve as their advocate. Ideas are already being formed, and you will be hearing about them in the coming year.  
 
Contrast this with our appearance at the FCCLA national conference  in Orlando. We exhibited our What I Wish I Knew at 18 leadership/life skills curriculum and spoke with countless advisors and students from around the country who were participating in contests and trainings. These students were engaging, confident, professional, and destined for leadership. In case any of you suffer from hopelessness about today’s younger generation, I’d invite you to attend an FCCLA conference! FCCLA is doing an amazing job in preparing young people to be tomorrow’s honorable leaders in their families and communities. Well done!
 
It made me wish that every young person could have this same sense of worth, hope, and confidence in themselves and their future.
 
I’ve often wondered whether America’s youth are indicative of the rest of the world. To my delight, I had many conversations with the young people of Indonesia this summer as I delivered my talk on “Developing the Great Leaders of Tomorrow” at several schools. Perhaps because they’ve struggled more with poverty and have had to start working at a very early age, I found their questions deeper and more mature than from their American peers. They share many of the same interests and passions, but there was a noticeable difference in our conversations.
 
One that stood out was when a 16-year old boy approached me after my talk in Bali. I was alone on stage ready to leave for lunch when I saw him coming up the aisle. After arriving, he looked up and said, “Mr. Dennis, may I ask you a question?” 
 
“Sure,” I said, “What’s on your mind?” 
 
Then, totally heartfelt, he said, “Mr. Dennis, I’m not very smart in academics. But, can I still become a great leader?”

 
I’ll never forget this moment. For the next 15 minutes we talked about academics and leadership and how my book might serve as an encouragement to him. What courage and humility that he demonstrated! “Yes, by your actions, you’ve shown me you have what it takes to become a great leader,” I said. 
 
He looked up, and with a spirit of hope, said “Thank you, Mr. Dennis” and walked away.

 
I’ll never forget these conversations. While some were painful, many were hopeful. They renew my passion for today’s youth and young adults and for our mission to help them see a worthy vision for their lives.

 
So, as we develop our New Year’s resolutions, let’s all commit to the following with the young people in our lives:

  • To appreciate and honor them for their uniqueness and worth
  • To listen to them
  • To seek to understand them, even when we may not always agree

 
It’s a priceless gift that costs us nothing!
 
Merry Christmas from all of us at LifeSmart!