Archives For Generation iY


Today’s blog is a Guest Post from Regi Campbell. Regi is an entrepreneur, CEO, investor and an author. But his passion is mentoring and enlisting older, wiser mentors to focus on intentional relationships with younger men. I know you will enjoy Regi’s words as much as I do!

Six Reasons Mentors Tell “Failure” Stories

I’m a leader. Not bragging. Didn’t really set out to be. But through fifteen startup companies, five CEO jobs, a couple of church starts and a few other ministry launches, I’ve been cast as a leader. Years ago (thirteen to be exact), I bought into the idea that more time with fewer people yielded greater impact. I got that principle from Tim Elmore, a man I love and deeply respect. I began mentoring eight young leaders each year, spending three hours each month pouring what I’ve learned, i.e. ‘what’s in my cup’… into theirs.

I sometimes do this by telling stories. And I’ve noticed how much more intensely young people listen to the stories of my failures than those of my successes.

Why are mentees drawn to failure stories over victory laps?

1. Authentic -  When I talk about winning “High Technology Entrepreneur of the Year”, I sound like everyone else. But when I tell them about having an MBA at 35 years-old, but making a naive decision about how to expand my company and burning through all my cash, that sounds different. They want to hear more…what I did wrong, what I learned, what I would do different next time. They can’t get that kind of information anywhere else. And because they see me as real and authentic, they’ll listen and learn other stuff from me too.

2. Approachable – If you feel like you’re around perfection, you’re going to be quiet. Walk softly. Project yourself to be as close to perfect as you can. But when a mentor demonstrates humility by sharing his failures, he’s more approachable. More accessible. And more helpful.

3. Emotional – All decisions are made at an emotional level. I believe the most meaningful learning happens when emotions are engaged. Hearing and feeling the pain, embarrassment, or remorse of a situation gone bad brings the mentee into the mentor’s circle. Hearing about a mentor’s passionate resolve to recover and learn from mistakes can galvanize a younger leader’s penchant to ‘go for it’, even if ‘it’ fails.

4. Valuable – Sometimes, it looks like good leaders find success effortlessly. It seems to come cheap. But the lessons learned through mistakes and failure are expensive. They take the skin off. Leave a mark. Young people know the value of lessons learned from painful experiences. Wisdom comes from experience. Experience come from mistakes. Mistakes are costly, thus valuable. 

5. Believable – We can spin the stories of our success to a level no one can believe. They don’t see how they could ever get to where we are or emulate what we’ve done. But when leaders share their failures, their successes become more believable. More doable for younger leaders. The ‘cookies’ appear to be on the bottom shelf where they can be reached by mere mortals…like them.

6. Challenging – When a young person sees a leader he looks up to share his failures and shortcomings, he may start to believe in himself. “If he can succeed, I know I can”. He sees his own potential. He sees the chance to stand on the shoulders of one who’s gone where he wants to go.

If you’re a mentor, open up. Loosen up. True strength is revealed in vulnerability, so tell your mentees where you’ve screwed up. Let them learn from your mistakes. They’ll make others, but at least they won’t make the same one’s you made.

If you’re a young leader, press your mentor. Give him a “C’mon man!” Make him take you to the biggest mistakes he’s made and share what he’s learned. Don’t let him off the hook. Force him to get real with you. You’ll both be better for it. 

Regi’s track for mentoring men in small groups can be found at You can also follow Regi on twitter @radicalmentor.   



Frosty Westering died not long ago. He lived a long life, born in 1927 and coached NCAA football for much of that time. But his life wasn’t merely long. It was full. Frosty really, really lived—and chose to invest his life into young men. He built men out of boys during their years in college. After reading about his life, I thought I’d summarize a handful of lessons I learned from the way he led those athletes:

1. He had fun with his team and had no pretentions.

Without shame or hesitation he coached a different way. Although he was a retired Marine, he had fun with his players. One time his team dared him to belly-flop into a California hotel pool and he complied—at age 75. He once took a running plunge into the mud during a sloppy game in Oregon. He actually enjoyed it when players pulled pranks on him and insisted his boys call him by his first name, “Frosty.”

2. He loved his players uniquely.

He loved his guys, in a healthy way and made no bones about it. Seasons would always begin with a three-day getaway, where players bonded, played games, (but not football), apologized for any shortcomings from the past season, and sang songs. Frosty would always remind them how much he cared for them as people, learning about their family background and future dreams. They actually acted like a family.

3. He helped his players see the big picture.

Sometimes, Frosty halted practice to have players spend five minutes gazing beyond the towering evergreens at Mount Rainier. At other times, he’d pause practice to have players go to other sporting events and cheer on fellow athletes at the school. He always halted two-a-day practices in the fall to have his players help the freshmen move into their dorms. All of this, he felt, helped them remember who they were.

4. He modeled selflessness for his guys.

An airline pilot wrote Frosty to thank him after a flight. Why? Because his team had flown on that flight and showed unusual respect to all the crew. They entertained everyone by clicking their seatbelts in unison, then lined up on the jetway to form a “go tunnel” high-fiving all the crew as they exited the plane. A janitor at an opposing school wrote the president saying Frosty’s team left the locker room in spotless condition, arranging the chairs impeccably. A note was left on the whiteboard wishing them a merry Christmas and that they would get some great time with family.

5. He sang with his players.

Freshmen players would stand on a chair during their first week together and sing their high school fight song or a round of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Frosty had them singing all the time. He believed deeply in singing, before and after games, and whenever a moment reminded the team of a song—they’d sing it, pop songs, kids songs, Christmas songs, birthday songs, etc. Can you imagine opponents warming up before a game to singing on the other sideline, then losing to those singers? Why singing? Frosty believed when you sing, your consciousness is raised.

6. He taught his players to set their own standard.

Frosty had stern rules for his guys, including helping opposing players up from the field when his players knocked them down. After all, the privilege of playing football couldn’t occur without opponents. Eventually they set their own standards when they saw the influence of excellence. Troublemakers didn’t have to run sprints—because they felt that love motivated better than fear. Players needing discipline would receive what Frosty called “put ups” (instead of put downs). They got six a day.

7. He used athletics as a platform to teach life.

The bottom line? Frosty coached football to teach life. Practices, games, and every day were full of teachable moments he took advantage of. And lest you think he was some wimp, this former Marine Corps drill instructor coached 32 seasons at Pacific Lutheran without a losing record. He never mentioned playoffs to his team, but won four national titles and four runner-up finishes. He knew how to win at every level.

Do you lead your students with the big picture in mind?

By this time of spring, most schools have selected their student government, resident advisors, club leaders, and peer mentors for next school year. My big question is—could they use some help getting ready?

At Growing Leaders, we’ve decided to post a helpful article each week continuing through the summer on our blog page, geared especially for student leaders. You can expect it on Fridays. They’ll contain practical tips for leading meetings, communicating a vision, choosing priorities, dealing with difficult peers, bossing your calendar, effective planning and more. You can find today’s tip below. If you like it, it’s our gift to you and your students. Feel free to copy it for each of your student leaders as a discussion guide that will equip them to be more healthy leaders. Also, click on “Free Resources” to view and download the growing library of Leader Tips on a special page of our site. This is a page just for young leaders to practice great leadership. Feel free to have your students look for it, all summer as they anticipate leading this fall. Enjoy.


How to Read a Book

Almost everywhere we go, people ask the question: how do you read so many books? Where do you find the time? And…just how do you read a book? Do you read it from cover to cover?  The fact is, this question stems from the belief that leaders are readers. By and large, if you plan to be a lasting leader—you must continue to grow. It’s the only way to stay in front and provide fresh ideas and direction. In 1987, while I was finishing my Masters degree, a faculty member shared with me how he reads a book and saves time. I began using his ideas and later formed my own steps. Below is a list of tips about how I read a non-fiction book.

1. Choose books based on your target growth areas. Don’t be random; I don’t read everything that comes out. Know how you want to feed your mind and heart. Each January, I take a day to completely get away and decide what my plan for personal growth is; then I choose books that are suitable to be part of that plan. For a place to start go to:

2. Commit to reading a set number of pages per day. I do twenty pages a day, five days a week, which allows me to read at least two books a month. Our team is using the App: irunurun. It allows us to hold each other accountable for our growth, our reading, our health, our work, etc. My entire team knows if I have failed to reach my reading goal.

3. I begin with the author’s bio. I always read the inside flap or I Google to find out the background of the author. This will inform me about their perspective and their heart and their intent on writing the book. Each book flows from the author’s character and since you’ll be spending some time with her or him—it’s good to know them.

4. Read for speed at first. When starting a book, read the front matter thoroughly—the introduction, preface, foreword, table of contents. Once you are very familiar with the author’s thinking, read the first two and the last two pages of each chapter. Authors almost always get their idea across and summarize it in these pages. This way, you will have received the big ideas of the book. 

5. Review the chapters that were most relevant for you. Once you grab the big idea, go back and fully digest the great chapters and mark them up. Identify your favorite stories, quotes, statistics and facts. The criteria should be: useable, helpful, relevant and fitting to your mission. Don’t feel guilty about not reading every word of each chapter.

6. Record the great stories, quotes, stats and facts you pulled out. You can record them electronically on Evernote. This is a program we use at Growing Leaders to file helpful information. Or, if the material is in a hard copy of a book or magazine, file them in a cabinet. All information should be titled (you may use more than one title and file it in more than one place).

7. I write notes in the front cover. As I glean good stuff from the pages, I write them in the front and back inside cover of the book.  For instance, I will write: “Story of Zappos CEO working for Happiness, page 73.”  This way, I can easily find great quotes, points or stories later as I need them. It saves me hours of search time.

8. I use note-taking symbols. I have made up a set of note-taking symbols I can use to save space and time when I write down my own thoughts in the margins. I will use stars, triangles, dots, question marks, or even a ballot box if the content requires a decision or action. 

9. To ensure you retain the information—share it with others. I have found the more I talk about the ideas in a book, the more I am able to keep them in my own mind. It’s one of life’s paradoxes: give the idea away and you keep it yourself. Our Growing Leaders team has a book club, where team members take turns sharing brief reports on what they’ve read the last month. It’s inspiring. 

10.  I review the book and transfer information or “to do” items to my agenda. I have found great books are full of ways for me to change the way I live, lead and communicate.  So, I will transfer the great stuff (action items) to my “to do” list or to a piece I am writing. If I use it for a lesson or talk, this makes it easy to attribute the author for his/her content.

Questions for Reflection

a. Do you practice any of these steps as you read? 

b. What system do you use to read articles, web pages, and other digital content? 

c. How do you keep and pass on to others what you’ve read and learned?

d. What other action steps do you take as you consume information?


Yesterday, I shared with the Huffington Post community the following thoughts that I wanted to share with you as well…

We live in complex times. As I work with thousands of parents and faculty each year, I’m increasingly convinced we have a more engaged set of adults who care about kids today than at any time since I began my career in 1979. Simultaneously, however, I am observing a more troubled population of kids, especially by the time they reach their teen years. It appears at first like an oxymoron. How can such a cared-for generation experience such emotional difficulties?

Today, more kids struggle with depression and anxiety than at any time in modern times. In The Price of Privilege, Dr. Madeline Levine argues America’s newly-defined at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, they experience the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and unhappiness of any group of children in this country. Adolescent suicide has quadrupled since 1950.

Diagnosing the Emotional Health Problem in Many Kids Today

As I speak to psychologists and career counselors, I’ve begun to hear a term over and over, as they describe the emotional state of young people. This term appears to be a paradox, but it aptly defines perhaps millions of adolescents in America:

“High Arrogance, Low Self-esteem”

How can someone be cocky, yet not have a healthy sense of identity? Consider the reality they face. In a recent undergraduate survey, Dr. Art Levine reports that grade inflation has skyrocketed. In 1969, only 7 percent of students said their grade point average was an A- or higher. In 2009, it was 41 percent. In that same time period, students having a C average dropped from 25% to 5%. But with grade inflation at an all-time high, it’s surprising to note that 60 percent of students believe their grades understate the true quality of their work. They believe they deserve a higher mark. One has to wonder — are kids that much smarter than forty years ago, or do we just give them higher grades to keep the customer? The fact is, while student scores continue to decline when compared to other nations, the one statistic that remains constant is that our kids continue to assume they’re awesome.

Sheltered by parents, teachers and coaches who fear that unhappy kids are a poor reflection on them, we have rewarded them quickly, easily and repeatedly. Kids naturally begin believing they are amazing. Case in point: My son recently took part in a theatre arts competition. Parents paid dearly to enable their kid to get on stage, and now I know why. Every single student got a medal, just for showing up. When they performed, they received extra medals. The medal levels were: gold, high gold and platinum. (Did you notice that gold was the lowest award possible?) Here’s the clincher. If your kid didn’t get the award he wanted, trophies were on sale after the competition. This is not uncommon. Kids today have received trophies for ninth place in Little League baseball. They get fourth-runner up medals at competitions. Ribbons and stars are given out routinely. Of course they are arrogant. With little effort, they’ve been awarded a prize.

The problem is, as they age, they begin to suspect this affirmation is skewed. In fact, mom may be the only one telling them they’re “special” or amazing. By college, kids meet all kinds of other “special” students, who are as smart or athletic as they are. Between the ages of 17-24, kids now experience their first real “failure.” They bump up against hardship and difficulty and often aren’t resilient enough to bounce back. Truth be told, when a kid has been told they are “excellent” without working hard or truly adding value to a team, it rings hollow to them. We must realize that our affirmation must match their performance. Low self-esteem hits them at this point (often their freshmen or sophomore year in college) because they suddenly recognize their esteem may be built on a foundation of sand.

Solving the Emotional Health Problem in Many Kids Today

My point is not to suggest your child isn’t special in his own right. My point is that this is only part of the story. In preparing our young people for adulthood, we must give them a sense of the big picture. We must drip doses of reality with all the praise. When I see troubled kids from upper-middle class homes, it makes me wonder:

• Question: Are they fragile because they’ve been sheltered?

• Question: Are they unmotivated because they’ve been praised too quickly?

• Question: Do they get anxious or fearful because they’ve never taken risks?

• Question: Are they self-absorbed because they’ve been rewarded so often?

• Question: Do they move back home after college because they’re ill-prepared?

I believe two sets of messages must be communicated to students during the first two decades of their life. Sadly, very often only one set of messages gets through. The first ten years, we must communicate childhood messages. If we have done this well, they are prepared for necessary adolescent messages that prepare them for a challenging adult world:

Childhood Messages 

1.You are loved.

2. You are unique.

3. You have gifts

4. You are safe.

5. You are valuable.

Adolescent Messages

1. Life is difficult.

2. You are not in control.

3. You are not that important.

4. You are going to die.

5. Your life is not about you.

I recognize this may sound harsh, but I find myself having to communicate the second set of messages far too often to a college student. If we love these students, we will relay both messages. They deserve the truth from us and they deserve a childhood that prepares them for the life that awaits them as adults. Whether they are emotionally ready as they enter adult life… will be up to us.


Want to learn more about how to raise emotionally healthy kids?  Bring home a copy of Artificial Maturity to drill deeper.


Today’s post is the latest episode of our Growing Leaders podcast. In the previous episode, Jeremy Affeldt shared the greatest secret to developing resilience in a young person and challenged us to apply that principle as well.

In today’s podcast, I interview Jason Russell. Jason is the co-founder of Invisible Children, and the Director of Kony 2012, which produced a campaign and video that has gone viral around the globe. Jason is a long time friend who’s passion for changing the world has led to a magnetic life and life lessons we can all benefit from.  Enjoy this recent conversation with Jason…and the update on his thinking, his leadership and his life and times.


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Episode Summary

What is it about Invisible Children that has engaged so many Gen Y’ers?

  • We level with Gen Y’ers because they want to be leveled with and told the truth. (Not sugar-coated)
  • Making sure the movement actually moves them. That engagement leads to action and allows them to see that their voices have legs and makes them want to continue doing that.

As a leader, you’ve faced intense pressure – both external and internal – physical, emotional, spiritual. What lessons have you learned about dealing with pressure? Are there any guardrails you’ve put in place to guide and protect you?

  • The big lesson I learned was to “Be Still” and slow down. What got me into trouble was that I wouldn’t stop doing things and I never slept. That pattern led me to the breakdown.
  • I don’t come to work on Monday’s now and use it as a day of rest.
  • I listen to the people who care about me the most (family/friends) and use them as guardrails. 

You started Invisible Children as a next generation leader in your 20’s. Now you are leading the next generation. What have you learned from this experience? What advice would you give to others who lead the next gen?

  • These kids want to work, but they really want to work for things that truly matter.
  • Biggest piece of advice is to “finish what you start”. We live in a world where there are so many options. Look at the commitments you’ve made and finish. 

At this point, you are 9 years into your leadership journey with Invisible Children. What insights would you give to the young leader who’s just getting started?

  • “Follow your passion and the money will follow you”
  • “Don’t ask the world what it needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that. Because what the world needs is for people to come alive.”
  •  Know the dream you have for your life. 

 What drives you? Take a moment to talk about what keeps you pushing forward (your values, faith, vision, etc).

  • What drives me is creating stories and being a part of a story.
  • Nothing changes the world like story does. Story moves things forward, changes paradigms, and gets people to act.
  • I’m always looking at the story I’m telling with my life, but also looking for other stories to be a part of.

What is your “Next Step”? 

  • Basically, asking this generation to prevent another Kony.


1. National Leadership Forum – Sign up today at This year’s theme is Marching Off the Map: Charting the Course for the Next Decade of Student Development. We would love for you to join us, as we discuss the future of education.

2. Check out Growing Leaders. If you’re new to the podcast or blog, visit our website to learn more about the resources Growing Leaders offers to equip those who lead the next generation.

What topic would you like for us to address on the next episode of the Growing Leaders Podcast? Leave a comment.