Archives For Parenting

On Wednesday, I blogged about the latest census data, suggesting the dark prospects for American young people entering their careers. The New York Times calls them “Generation Limbo.” After seeing the data, Harvard economist Richard Freeman took it further, saying, “These people will be scarred, and they will be called the ‘Lost Generation’ in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster.”

I encourage you to check out Wednesday’s blog post, “Generation Limbo” to see the reality we face. Today, I want to offer a conversation topic you can have with your young people, as they face a bleak economic picture as they launch their careers.

toll booth

Tollbooth or Roadblock?

As we move through various stages of our lives, we reach junctions—points of transition—where we must shift gears and slow down. Suddenly, we realize we have to pay a price to proceed. It’s like a tollbooth. The price might be a tough decision we must make or a situation we must leave behind; it may mean a class we must take or a job we must quit. For many, it could be a career that won’t seem to launch as we had planned. It can be anything that is costly to us. It’s at these moments that we discover that the junction will either become a tollbooth or a roadblock. We either choose to pay the price…or we can’t find it in ourselves to do what is hard. And we get stuck.

In 1962, Victor & Mildred Goertzel published a book called The Cradles of Eminence, a study of hundreds of high-performing people. The authors spent years attempting to understand what led to their greatness, and they searched for similarities in the stories of these outstanding and famous people. Can you guess what they found? The most stunning fact was that 392 of the 415 people had endured great obstacles on the way to becoming who they were. That’s 95% of the incredible performers! They had paid the toll by perseverance, determination and overcoming obstacles—that is, by choosing to pay the toll.

At this point, ask your young person a question: In what area are you stuck right now? Why have you stalled? I’ve found I often stop moving forward when I feel like a victim of my circumstances. In other words, if I feel I have no choice in a matter, that I’m forced to do what someone else wants me to do, I unintentionally stop progressing. The fact is, it may be true that there’s only one option ahead. At times the tollbooths we face are on a “One Way” road. We have no choice but to pay the price. But that doesn’t mean we have no choice in the matter. Never assume that. This is when we get to decide just how we will travel. In short, you may not get to choose where you go, but you always can choose how you’ll travel. We can decide to engage our challenges with passion, to commit to a goal, to compete with our past and improve, to overcome setbacks we face, and to enjoy the journey along the way.

This metaphor is actually a Habitude in our latest book in the series, “Habitudes For the Journey.” To check out the entire chapter and the book, click here.


Meet Generation Limbo

July 10, 2013 — 4 Comments

Generation iY, the kids born since 1990, are now graduating from college.  The youngest kids today, often called The Touch Screen Generation are beginning to graduate from middle school. These young people are considering their careers and wondering. They are finishing school (as graduates or not) and entering the adult world. The working world. And for millions—it isn’t working for them.
generation limbo

New census data casts a shadow over the long-term impact of the recession on America’s young people. In the last decade, the unemployment rate for youth spiked to the highest levels since World War II; 45% of American’s (ages 16-29) are jobless, a double-digit jump from the jobless rate in 2000. Faced with dark prospects, many young adults aren’t leaving home until their 30s. (The number of Americans aged 25-34 living with their parents jumped 25% during this recession.) Last month, The New York Times called these youth, “Generation Limbo.” After seeing the data, Harvard economist Richard Freeman took it further, saying, “These people will be scarred, and they will be called the ‘Lost Generation’ in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster.”

The last American “lost generation” was the kids who grew up during the Great Depression. Our world has seen several “lost generations” in the past century. Gertrude Stein first coined this term in the 1920s referring to Europeans who grew up during World War I. Today, it’s used to refer to Japanese youth who grew up during their recession in the 1990s. In Japan, the amount of youth sent to work at temporary or contract jobs doubled during that decade. This led to a mammoth suicide spike. According to author Mike Zielenziger, more than one million simply withdrew from society. They refuse to leave the protective walls of their bedrooms, or they pace the house or play video games, frightened to step out and take a risk.

I don’t know about you—but I plan to work to prevent this “generation limbo” from happening in our nation. These kids are not bad kids, but they’re growing up in tough times. History teaches us that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Some of the greatest inventions and leaders emerge during troubled times. Let’s seize the day and get these young people ready to do just that.

On Friday, I will offer a conversation topic to have with a young person that can help them approach their adult lives and careers with hope.



It seems every school in America is seeking ways to reduce bullies on their campus.

A Wisconsin community has come up with a new way to handle the bullying issue. In Monona, a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, police can give citations—just like traffic tickets—to families whose children torment other kids.

This community has recently adopted an ordinance that allows police to cite the parents of chronic bullies, if they’ve been notified in writing that their child is a perpetrator on their school campus. If the bad behavior continues for 90 days or more, the parents can be fined $114 in a municipal court. According to Julie Hertzog, director of the National Bullying Prevention Center, this is the fist community she’s seen pass such a rule.

“For so long, we were just looking at our schools as being responsible for this, but now we understand that it’s about community working together: it’s the schools, it’s the parents, it’s law enforcement,” says Hertzog.  At the same time, some parents have tried everything to stop their kid from being the bully. (One of most frequently downloaded articles on the website of the National Bullying Prevention Center is called, “What if my child is the bully?”)  In those cases, police won’t write tickets. The officers have been given a lot of discretion on the issue.

But this remains a huge issue. About one third of students in America report they have been the victims of a school bully.

So what do you think? Is it right to punish the parents for a bully? Do the schools just need to do a better job? Should the bullies have to pay for their own crime? Who’s really responsible? Let’s have a conversation.



The College Gap

June 27, 2013 — 3 Comments

college gap

Here’s a fact that may be news to you. Kids today are among the first generation in a century that may be less educated than their parents. Yep. This is the issue that has educators and social scientists musing: America’s trend has been that children are typically more educated than their parents, through each generation. Today—that trend is in decline.

But why? Here are some reasons from my perspective.

1. College education today doesn’t guarantee a job, but it does guarantee a debt

Many adolescents know friends who got their bachelor’s degree, and now have no job but they do have a $25,000 debt. They don’t want to take that risk.

2. They now see beyond the one gauge their parents had for success: a college degree

For years, Boomer parents said: my kids will go to college!  It was a reflection on them. Today, kids now look for other creative avenues to pursue their dreams or make a living.

3. Few have any interest in courses that don’t seem relevant to their career

Our culture conditions kids to be pragmatic. They have a Google reflex. Stimulation and information overload keep them from investing in a liberal arts degree with no sure ROI.

4. Many adolescents don’t possess the Emotional Intelligence for student success

Many have never shared a room, a bathroom or developed conflict resolution skills. Low- level social skills and low self-awareness prevent them from healthy campus living.

5. The cost of higher education has swelled higher than inflation rates

For some, college isn’t a realistic proposition. While working graduates do make more money, the degree costs more than it’s worth due to high debt and unemployment.

6. A large amount of kids have atrophied virtues that enable them to finish well

Virtues like old-fashioned discipline, patience or tenacity have atrophied like an unused muscle. Kids used to speed, convenience and passivity find the rigors of school difficult.

7. Lack of support from those closest to them

Without constant encouragement, many drop out of education. Dysfunctional home environments or going solo make it difficult. It’s tough to finish the journey without help.

The fact is—when Generation Y was first surveyed in 2000, 90% of them planned to attend college. Today, almost a third of them don’t finish high school. Sadly, the rigors of high school don’t prepare young adults for the world they’re about to enter. We must develop employable skills in them in high school and college. While I am a firm believer in the value of education, not all kids should go to college. Many need to further their education in technical fields or vocational training to fill jobs that don’t require liberal arts degrees. It sounds cliché, but today we need education to help emerging employees both get the corner office and build the corner office.

Talk to me. Can you think of other reasons for this trend? And…is this bad?



For fifteen years now, the term passion has become a vague expression. There are organizations, books, non-profit ministries, conferences and campaigns that all market the word to push their brand. It’s a great word, but is so often overused that I think it’s meaning has been diluted.

So—let’s look at the root word. Passion means any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, such as love or hate. We feel passionate about a football team; about a lover; about ice cream; about our faith in God. We all know, however, there’s a difference between passions—some mean more than others; some we sacrifice for and others…not so much. If we are honest, we fail to discern the difference between:

  • Curiosity
  • Interests
  • Opinions
  • Beliefs
  • Commitments
  • Convictions

There is one truth I know. Passion requires at least two ingredients if it is ever going to turn into action. The two ingredients are:

  1. Ambition: the longing to experience something beyond your current reality.
  2. Discomfort: the current misery you feel pushing you to change your reality.

One reason I think we often don’t see a student’s passion turn into action is they aren’t uncomfortable enough. Kids today are full of energy and creativity. But it’s frequently not transformed into behavior because their current reality is quite satisfactory. They’re not dissatisfied enough. Adolescence is full of playful pleasure.

Do you know why Egypt experienced a revolution in January of 2011? The young people in that country were dissatisfied and uncomfortable. Passion became action.

Do you know why Alexei Navalny, the young Russian who opposes the oppressive regime of Vladimir Putin, is getting results? He’s uncomfortable and dissatisfied. He has harnessed the Internet and his voice is being heard.

Do you know why Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is making films? She is angry at current conditions. She is fighting the injustices of Pakistan by telling the story of the acid victims who’ve been marginalized.

None of these ordinary people would be doing these things without passion. And none of them would be passionate enough to sacrifice for their causes unless they were ambitious and dissatisfied.

So let’s talk turkey. Are you ambitious and uncomfortable? How about the students you lead? Have you allowed them to experience some disequilibrium that leads to action? I recommend you create some environments and experiences where your “kids” get uncomfortable…and see what passion lies inside. Expose them to some problems and then—make sure they feel the weight of those problems.

Years ago, a major airline had a pattern of losing luggage. No matter how much the CEO talked to his managers, however, they just couldn’t seem to solve the problem. So, the CEO created a little passion in them. He called for a meeting at headquarters asking each manger to fly in for two days. Then, the CEO requested the baggage handlers purposely lose the managers luggage. They did. Amazingly, it was at this meeting these managers found some great solutions to stop losing luggage.

I’m just saying…

Learn more about leading and channeling your passion in: Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Growing Up Authentically.