Archives For Generation iY

Today, I am excited to announce the official launch of Habitudes for the Journey: The Art of Navigating Transitions. As students move from high school to college or college to career, it is essential that adults prepare them to transition well.


An increasing number of higher ed faculty report freshman students are unready for college:

  • More than half of 2012 high school grads who took the college entrance exam did not have the skills they will need to succeed at college, two recent reports say.
  • Just over 57% earned a combined score lower than what’s needed to make it in college
  • Most could not maintain a B- average or above, according to SAT scores. Based on ACT scores, students came in a bit lower, showing 60% don’t have what it takes.
  • Student scores in STEM classes fared the worst, however, students continue to confidently assert they are “good” or “very good” at math and science.

Did You Know…

  • Two thirds of students change their major more than once.
  • 40% wish they’d chosen a different major once they finish.
  • More than half take six years to graduate.
  • 50% are unemployed or underemployed after graduation.
  • 40% make a decision about their major without thought of a career.
  • Two thirds graduate with a debt. The average debt is $26,000.
  • Over 60% move back home with their parents.

 We must help them transition well.

To illustrate this point, we created a video trailer for Habitudes for the Journey. We hope you’ll enjoy and share it. We also hope it inspires you to put an end to “Chronic Freshman Disorder”.


habitudes-for-the-journeyPick up your copy of Habitudes for the Journey today. It’s designed for use with groups of students. Bulk discount pricing is available. For more information, click here.



Posts related to Habitudes for the Journey:

Educators have focused on helping students through transitions for years now. You know what I mean, don’t you? Transitions like…

  • From elementary school to middle school…
  • From middle school to high school…
  • From high school to college…
  • From college to career (or in some cases, back to their parent’s basement).

Far too often, we’ve focused on predictors such as Grade Point Average or SAT scores. We figure if a kid is smart—they’ll stay in school and continue to be engaged in class. It made sense to us.

Today we’re realizing those are not the most significant categories to measure.


According to First Year Experience programs and our work with over 6,000 schools and organizations worldwide, we have reduced the list of highest predictors of student success (meaning engagement, excellent performance and satisfaction) to what we call the “Big Five.”  The “Big Five” are quite simple. When a student experiences these five realities they are most likely to graduate and excel in life:

1. Getting connected to the right people.

For years the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) has confirmed the importance of close, accountable relationships in student success. We continue to find that students who fail to graduate or succeed in school are ones who fail to engage with others outside of class or don’t get involved with activities involving new people. They get stuck and then don’t have a support system to make them want to continue. They also have no accountability strong enough to prevent them from quitting. Research shows that when students get connected to solid people (peers or mentors) they tend to stick with commitments and follow through. The Federal Mentoring Council shares one study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program found students with mentors earning higher grades than similar students without mentors. A 2007 study discovered that kids in a mentoring relationship at school did better work in class, finished more assigned work, and improved overall in academics—especially in science and in written and oral communication. After graduation, “employees who have had mentors typically earn thousands more than employees who haven’t.” Those people act as “guardrails” preventing youth from shifting or drifting from their course.

History indicates that people intuitively understood the importance of connectedness with accountability, but we have migrated into a more individualistic lifestyle in recent times. Today we have connectedness (often on Facebook) without accountability. Victor Hugo was a brilliant writer, but very distracted. It took him seventeen years to finish Les Miserables. His solution? He asked his servant to take his clothes while he was sleeping. This forced him to stay in his room…and write. This guardrail enabled him to finish Les Miserables—and the world has benefited greatly. Today, students need these guardrails.

2. Possessing adaptability and resilience.

There is a growing body of research in the last decade suggesting that adults have created a fragile population of children. Because parents or teachers have not demanded they overcome adversity or we’ve not leveled consequences to their behavior, kids often become brittle young adults, unable to cope with the demands of life. You can imagine a student like this has trouble with transitions and the hardship of adapting to new situations. Let me illustrate this drift:

– In 2006, 60% of students moved back home after finishing college. In 2010, that number had risen to 80%. It’s more than a bad economy. They’re not career-ready.

– Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein report three out of four teens aren’t even fit to serve in the military due to obesity, failure to graduate high school or their criminal records.

– The MacArthur Foundation funded a research project that said for many kids, the transition into adulthood doesn’t occur until 34 years of age.

I don’t believe this stall in students is because they’re unintelligent or bad kids. I believe we’ve failed to prepare them to cope with demands. We somehow felt that self-esteem meant we should affirm them consistently and prevent them from falling or failing. Sadly, this has had the opposite effect. We have risked too little, we have rescued too quickly and we have raved to easily about our kids—and now they find it hard to navigate transitions. Adaptability and resilience are priceless possessions that predict success far more than good grades and high SAT scores.

3. Developing high emotional intelligence.

You know this already. Forty years ago, educators frequently believed that the kid with the highest IQ would do the best, and later become the most successful. Now, it appears it’s more about EQ than IQ. If a student has high self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management, they’re more likely to graduate, excel and become a leader. It’s more about life skills and soft skills than memorizing lectures and taking exams. The concept of emotional intelligence has proven to be so influential, that it’s now inculcated the planning of educators. For example, policy makers in one state are using school programs to cultivate emotional intelligence and social intelligence in order to prevent crime, increase mental health, deepen student engagement and lower unemployment. In Georgia and Nebraska, we’ve begun working with the department of education to create curriculum that will spark conversations about these soft skills to not only increase graduation rates but make kids employable when they do graduate.

Quite frankly, the reason emotional intelligence has become such a large factor in student success is that kids today struggle more with mental health issues than they did forty years ago. This, in turn, leads to poor performance and high dropout rates. Research in education and psychology now shows the benefits of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs for children as young as preschoolers. Public awareness is catching up to the research. A New York Times editorial reviewed key research findings, saying, “…social and emotional learning programs significantly improve students’ academic performance.” Additional studies also show emotional intelligence is strongly linked to staying in school, avoiding risk behaviors, and improving health, happiness, and life success.

4. Targeting a clear outcome.

This one should be obvious. Whenever a student enters school (high school or college) with a clear goal, they are more likely to stay engaged and finish well. I believe it’s the primary difference between school and sports…or for that matter: work and sports. We love sports in America because it’s often the one place where the goal is clear. Every football field has an end zone; every basketball court has a rim and backboard. We know what the score is and it energizes us. For many, both school and work represent places where we endure the drudgery and eventually disengage.

A university study conducted on “peace of mind” sought to find the greatest factors that contributed to people’s stability. The top five they discovered were:

  1. Refusing to live in the past.
  2. The absence of suspicion, resentment and regret.
  3. Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change.
  4. Refusing to indulge in self-pity.
  5. Forcing yourself to get involved with a major goal in your current world.

When author Dan Pink researched what motivates both students and adults at the highest level, he concluded it could be summarized in three elements:

1. Autonomy – The student worked at their pace and created their future.

2. Mastery – The student believed they were growing and improving.

3. Purpose – The student worked on a goal they felt was meaningful.

5. Making good decisions.

This one is almost predictable. The students who succeed make right decisions in and out of class. These are decisions that determine their moral compass, their discretionary time, their study habits, their predisposition to cheat, their outside work and how they deal with setbacks and stress. All of these can be pivotal in determining whether a kid succeeds or surrenders. Like us, students must keep a clear objective in mind. May I illustrate?

The team who created the popular game Angry Birds spent eight years and almost all their money on more than fifty games before their big success occurred. By 2012, Pinterest was among the fastest-growing websites ever, but it had struggled for some time. In CEO Ben Silbermann’s words, it had “catastrophically small numbers” for a year. He said “if he had listened to popular startup advice he probably would have quit.”

James Dyson went through 5,126 prototypes before arriving at his “revolutionary vacuum cleaner.” We all know Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times at inventing the light bulb. The popular company Groupon nearly went out of business—but went on to a “meteoric rise.” And do you know where WD-40’s name came from? It literally means “Water Displacement—40th Attempt.” Somebody kept a clear goal in mind. So must students.

 Let me ask you a question. How are you helping students with the “Big Five”? Leave a comment.



I have some exciting news. Habitudes For the Journey actually targets students in transition and can help them experience the “Big Five”.



In the last episode of the Growing Leaders Podcast, we discussed when to end a relationship (based on this blog post). In today’s episode, we are looking at why adults must prepare students to transition well. Continue Reading…


Janell Burley Hofmann gave her middle school son an iPhone for Christmas. He was overjoyed. But with it, came a “contract” for using the phone. In other words, with the privilege he also got some responsibility. I thought her contract is an interesting guide to leading Generation iY kids. The contract, published in the Huffington Post, went like this:


photo credit: Razordab13 via photopin cc

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill.
*Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.

7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.

8. Don’t text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.

10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person — preferably me or your father.

11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.

13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).

15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.

16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain-teasers every now and then.

17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without Googling.

18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

Let me know what you think. Is this “agreement” too strict? What do you like about it? What don’t you like?

Yesterday I introduced you to Aubrey Ireland, a college student who got a restraining order on her parents, because they were “hovering” over her, even when she was 600 miles away. Today—I’d like to suggest some ways we can move from helicopter parents (or teachers, coaches, etc.) to lighthouse leaders.


photo credit: reNET via photopin cc

Dan Tynan recently wrote about his son’s first driver’s license. He didn’t want to distrust his skills or integrity—but he wanted to keep tabs on his safety. So he tried something new. He tracks his son’s whereabouts with a GPS device:

“My son is an excellent driver, even if his foot has a little too much lead in it for my taste. It’s the other crazy drivers that worry me. So this year, before the issue of what he might be doing on NYE and who he might be doing it with even came up, I deployed a secret weapon: The Audiovox Car Connection, a cigarette-lighter-sized device we plugged into the on-board diagnostics port on our aging minivan.”

This device can tell you when it’s time to rotate your tires, or change your oil; your fuel efficiency, and of course, it tells you exactly where the auto is. If your kid has an Android or Blackberry, it can also block him from texting or speeding while driving.

Needless to say, Dan’s son wasn’t thrilled with it. “Why are you cyber-stalking me?” he grumbled. Good question. And this is where the helicopter became a lighthouse.

Dan and his wife sat down with their son and talked. Yep, they actually explained their leadership move and welcomed conversation. They told him the device would be useful if he ever had an accident and couldn’t communicate with them. Further, since he’s a kid who perpetually drives his car on empty, if he ran out of gas, it would relay exactly where the van was. It could actually be helpful. And, it is, indeed, a source of accountability. Dan said his motto was similar to the old U.S.-Soviet negotiators: Trust, but verify.  Hmmm. I love it.

Becoming a Lighthouse

This move is simply a picture of the move from a hovering “helicopter”, who cannot let go of their kids, manipulative, over-bearing and controlling. Dan and his wife actually let their son (at age sixteen) go places independent of them, but they are allowing him to build trust between them, until they no longer need the device.

A lighthouse is different than a helicopter in that is doesn’t move, but it’s still a beacon of light and communication. A lighthouse reveals location and provides guidance…but it won’t chase you down. Check out the difference in a nutshell:

Helicopter Parents Lighthouse Leader
1. Hovers and controls 1. Checks and communicates
2. Follows kids around 2. Won’t chase them down
3. Tells them how to behave 3. Let’s them know where they stand
4. Imposes rules and regulations 4. Offers light and guidance

What else would you add to this list?