Author Archive

A Life Is Not Important

April 3, 2011 Comments Off Uncategorized

“A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.”

One of my favorite quotes owes its creation not to a world leader, professional entertainer or renowned orator, but to a humble baseball player from the 1940’s. Jackie Robinson didn’t set out to change the world, but by living his life in this simple, humble mindset, he left a legacy that continues to have a profound impact upon humanity today.

We all have the potential to become people of tremendous consequence. What often impedes us is not a lack of wealth, prestige, access or opportunity, but understanding. We misunderstand our own role. We underestimate the impact of our daily lives. We overlook the amazing breadth of our own influence. We downplay our importance to others, and ignore our own ability to make this home, town, country or world a better place.

My young life has rewarded me with a long list of very poignant and heartwarming memories. Tales of human triumph, stories of unlikely success, adversities overcome, friendships fostered, futures reclaimed; all memories earned through a simple and humble investment in others. I acknowledge that my role in life stands to effect those around me, and I embrace the importance of my daily interactions -regardless of how small. While the world may never come to view me as a “person of consequence”, I try to live my life in a consequential way.

“Far too many people willingly forfeit their legacy to the inconsequential utility of routine. The future is owned by those who recognize their own importance.” – Author’s Note

Many of us mistakenly look to other people, or other positions, as having more importance than we have ourselves. That simple falsehood is responsible for 90% of the world’s problems. Instead of diffusing or delegating consequence to others, we must make a commitment to embrace our own. This mindset is not expressed by an occasional good deed, it is manifest in our daily routine . It is the manner in which we inhabit our role, and the seriousness with which we view our own legacy. It is a humble and simplistic acceptance of our responsibility to one another.

We become people of influence not simply by what we do, but by how we do it. Like fingerprints, our values are imprinted upon everything that we do. The secret lies in how we share ourselves; how our actions and interactions convey those values. Jackie Robinson’s fame allowed him to influence millions of people at once. We see his icon and are instantly reminded of his legacy. You too have a legacy to share. You leave a piece of yourself with each and every person that you engage with. The challenge is to make a daily investment in the life of those with whom your path will cross. A life is not important, except for the impact it has on other lives.” From now on, begin each day with the determination that your impact will be a big one.

Decyphering the Text Code

April 3, 2011 Comments Off Uncategorized

A recent report issued by researchers at Beloit College, highlighted a shocking cultural disparity in America. The concerning divide was not found between religious or racial sets, but between everyday Parents and their Teenage Children. It seems that a technological revolution has sheared a rift between the way in which today’s teens interact with the world, and the way in which their parents do.

It’s not at all shocking to acknowledge that most teens know little about the prominent cultural or historical events that shaped their own parent’s adolescence. It is concerning to say the least, however, that most parents today know little about the digital world that is shaping their own kid’s adolescence. According to Professor Tom McBride, today’s teens can’t write in cursive, most have never used a phone with a cord on it, and few have ever used a stamp. While most of today’s parents didn’t send an email until they were in college, today’s teenagers already view email as an obsolete technology; a relic of the digital age at its infancy. Though we parents were alive and conscious during this time period, a dynamic cultural shift took place without barely a blip on our radar.

Breaking The Code: Know Your Abbreviations

LOL and OMG are easy because each letter stands for a word. Usually, if you read an abbreviation in context with the conversation, you can quickly reason out the longhand form. 4COL, means “For Crying Out Loud”, B4YKI, means “Before You Know It.” (Always try this technique first.)

These circumstances not only highlight some major differences in the mediums that today’s teens use to interact, but also expose a major change in the way that young people communicate. Most of today’s teens claim that email is too slow. And while instant messaging is faster, its just not fast enough. It was against this backdrop of next-gen technology and social necessity, that digital shorthand was developed. Very rapidly, there evolved an entirely new language for digi-savy teens to use with one another. In today’s digital shorthand dictionary, numbers and symbols have replaced letters and words. This code is no longer limited to simple abbreviations, such as LOL, but includes artistic representations, such as \%/, meaning cocktail, or @:-||, meaning headache.

Not only are most parents inexperienced with the mediums in which their children are communicating, but they are unfamiliar with the language that their kids are using to communicate. With the average teen sending and receiving over 50 texts a day, there’s a lot of information being exchanged in what may as well be a vacuum. Parents never hear it, they rarely see it, and when they do notice it, they don’t understand it.

The drive for parents, and to those who find themselves in the position to help educate parents, is to actively bridge this divide. It is now essential to become versed in these new mediums, and to develop literacy in this new language. Never before, has the information streaming into our kid’s heads been so unfiltered. Never before, has the number and manner of their social connections been more diverse. Never before, has it been more important for parents to take a hint from their children’s generation, and learn a new skill.

Breaking The Code: Know Your Numbers

Numbers are often used because they either look or sound like a certain letter:

  • 1 stands for L because it looks like an L
  • 3 stands for E because it looks and sounds like an E
  • 7 stands for T because it looks like a T
  • 2 stands for U because is sounds like a U

For example, 182 means “I Hate U”. The 1 looks like an “I”, the 8 sounds like “ate” and the 2 sounds like “you”.

Tools like the Teen Chat Decoder, can be a significant part of this action plan. It is a website which provides an easily searched database of popular chat abbreviations. If you run into crazy looking number combinations or symbols, visit noslang.com. If you still don’t find what you are looking for, just put quotes around the symbol or abbreviation, and enter it into a google search. The answer should be revealed.

Breaking The Code: Know Your Symbols

Symbols use a combination of characters to produce a hieroglyph. <3, uses a symbol and number to create a heart, or say "I love you". @ usually means "at", but it can also represent a head, as in @8K for "headache".

In addition, it is suggested that parents actively engage their own kids via text as well. Make sure you get your screentime. Cool tips and sample messages can be found at our Text This resource page. Finally, never be afraid to ask your child what it is that they’re typing back and forth. What you learn could truly surprise you.

What To Do When Your Kid Says They’ve Tried Drugs

April 3, 2011 Comments Off Uncategorized

What should you do if your teen suddenly informs you that they’ve “tried” alcohol or drugs? You definitely need to take this seriously, but be very careful about your initial response. This earth-shattering admission might be nothing more than a cryptic plea for guidance.

I would never advise any mentor to take a confession like this lightly, but I am happy to offer a ray of light for those who’ve just had a bomb like this dropped on them. Some teens would rather have their parents think that they’ve “tried” drugs, than risk exposing their own indecisiveness. Crazy, maybe, but true. Somewhere amongst the quest for independence, the struggle for autonomy, the confusion of immaturity and flux of evolving family roles, kids become a little squeamish about asking Daddy for advice. In this mixed up mindset, “I tried it”, can seem preferable to “I’m thinking about trying it.”

“With a little technique, you can probe for truth, offer some very poignant guidance, and even improve rapport with your teen.” – Author’s Note

I’ve followed more than a few friends through this scenario. In several cases, it later turned out to be nothing more than a sly probing attempt on the part of the teen. What they really meant to say was, “This is a very real issue for me right now. I feel that it’s my choice to make, but I’d like your input.”

Keep this context in mind, before you respond. Suppress the adrenaline and think “strategy”. Rather than bluntly tell them how you think, or how they should think, use a little verbal judo. The ninja-communicator in you might say something like:

“I really respect the fact that you chose to talk about this. You can probably guess how I feel about it. I’m more interested in how you feel. Tell me:”

  • In general, how do feel about people who (drink underage or use drugs etc.)?
  • What are you hoping drugs will do for your life that you don’t have now?
  • It’s illegal. Are you worried about getting caught?
  • Every addict/alcoholic started with one try. Are you scared of getting addicted?
  • We all have people who look up to us, or depend upon us. How would (fill in the blank) feel if they knew about your decision?

Each of these questions gives a gentle nudge in the right direction, while providing you with some good leads for follow-up topics. You can even begin to vet out the voracity of their statement. So, following your gentle path of persuasion, you could now ask things like:

  • I’ve never tried it myself (or) I hear it’s a lot different these days, how exactly did you do it?
  • It’s different for everyone right? What exactly did it feel like?
  • I never really thought about you doing that, are most kids doing that these days?
  • You’re so young. Is it really that easy to get?
  • How did you feel about yourself after you did it? Can you see yourself doing it again?

As a parent, my first instinct might not be as gentle as what I’ve suggested above. But we need to avoid shutting them down until we know more about the situation. Teens LOVE expressing themselves; even more so when they feel that their insight is valued. If they’ve breached the topic, your enticing inquiries will likely blow it wide open. By simply asking a few gentle questions, you’ve gathered yourself some valuable Intel. This intel will ultimately guide your next move. Whatever that move is, it will be built upon a solid foundation.

If you’re left with serious suspicions of drug use, you’re going to need to jump on it as quickly and thoroughly as possible. As bad as drug use is, teen drug use is particularly devastating to young futures. For more on dealing with these issues, please visit our Responding to Drug Use Page.

If Columbus Had Turned Back

April 3, 2011 Comments Off Uncategorized

Statue of Christopher Columbus

If Christopher Columbus had turned back, no one would have blamed him….But then again, no one would have remembered him either. This simple allusion should bring inspiration to those of us who endeavor to invest our own efforts in the pursuit or discovery of a better future.

The journey that ultimately discovered the Americas was at many times believed to be foolhardy, overreaching, even fatalistic. To be sure, Columbus and his men were beaten, famished and unspirited, well before they got a glimpse of the promise land. Yet centuries later, their efforts continue to be heralded as encompassing one of the bravest and most consequential endeavors of all time. Many of us can draw parallels between the story of Columbus, and that of our own efforts. We carry noble passions, that drive us to go beyond what others seem to think worthy. Yet we also carry the prudent concern that our valuable investments may be lost to a goal that will never come to fruition.


Many people develop dreams, goals and solutions. Not so many have the vision and commitment to see them through. -Author’s Note

The moment we begin to question the valor of our commitment, is the moment when we must be at our strongest. Over the years, we’ve all had our ups and downs. Particularly those in leadership positions. Daring to pursue that which is difficult, is guaranteed to reward you with difficulties. Contributing to an organization of people can be a major source of heartburn. No matter how passionate you are about the pursuit, and no matter how much you love working with your people, the road less traveled is going to be bumpy. The test of time for those who will ultimately change the world, boils down to how they handle the ups and downs of achievement. Success is rarely accomplished without adversity. The trick is being able to detach from the emotion, persevere in the face of frustration, and inspire others to do the same.

If the answers were easy and the journey undaunting, everyone would be doing what you are trying to do. In the end, we must remember that no goal has ever been achieved by giving up. No problem was ever solved by surrender. Have the fortitude to keep driving. Have the strength to persevere. Indulge yourself in the acknowledgment of difficulty, but carry forward with the knowledge that your destination lies just over the horizon. It’s true that if you turned back now, no one would blame you…except maybe yourself.

Got Influence?

April 3, 2011 Comments Off Uncategorized

Many people enter organizations or endeavors with the fairytale belief that the merit of their cause, or the strength of their efforts, is enough to accomplish their goals. While both of these attributes are worthy, their ultimate value may prove to be disappointing.This is particularly true if those goals include some type of change.

The truth is, neither resolve nor hard work can accomplish much without influence. Absent influence, an idea is as impotent and unbinding as a figment of your imagination. Influence is the leverage that converts ideas into action. Unfortunately, no amount of reason, or even popularity, can serve as a substitute. Influence is a prerequisite to change. This can be a hard pill for some to swallow, particularly if you are among the young, the passionate or the self-reliant. I know this first hand, as I have myself evolved through each of these categories.

“The cultivation of influence is an essential investment, for it can make effortless, what would otherwise be impossible.” – Author’s Note

Influence is an asset that persuades compliance via obligation or association. It is an executive-level tool that sways decisions, opens doors and facilitates connections. For most, it comes by way of their professional, political or social status, and is derived through their control over relevant people or resources. Influence can also be obtained vicariously, through the leverage of friends or acquaintances who hold influential positions. Finally, influence can be bartered through the use of favors, gifts or services. Regardless of how it is obtained, the key question we must all ask ourselves is, “How can I obtain the influence I need to accomplish my (or my organization’s) goal.

This critical question should be asked as early as possible, and needs to become an integral aspect of any action plan. In fact, the cultivation of influence should become the key component of any efforts you undertake. To some, this may seem to be an indirect, counter-intuitive, or maybe even disingenuous way of accomplishing a goal. But I encourage you to think otherwise. The fact is, the accumulation of influence is an investment that will ultimately enable you to accomplish far more, while exerting far less.

The leverage of influence is the cornerstone of the American political system. It is the lifeblood of most executive-level professional dealings. It is a key component of most corporate business deals and, if you’ve had trouble accomplishing your goals, it is probably the missing ingredient in your strategy.

Though hard work and resolve may ultimately bring your goals within reach, a lack of influence will impose terrific consequences upon your efforts. You will work twice as hard. It will take twice as long. You’ll use twice as many resources and you’ll make twice as much noise. All of these negative circumstances have opportunity costs for you or your organization. Exhaustion, frustration and tempestuous interactions are likely to accompany your hard-fought progress. Along the way, good ideas will be lost and meaningful projects will go incomplete.

For some of you, these few paragraphs will have offered nothing new or exciting. I also know, however, that some of you have just experienced a revelation of thought. I was one of you. The concept of influence did not come naturally to me. It took a long time for me to accept it, and I often wonder what could have been, had I done so sooner.

The challenge for all of us is to continually evaluate and improve our efforts. We must identify what’s working and what’s not, who’s succeeding where we aren’t, who’s getting more done with less effort, and who’s got it figured out if we don’t. Until you have it, a lack of influence will play a key role in each of these questions. We must never forfeit our values, our integrity or our self-respect. But we must never turn a blind eye to the importance of this omnipresent and universally effective asset.

Read Part II of This Article: Cultivating Influence by Timothy Shoemaker

Desire: Your Secret Weapon Against Drug Use

March 28, 2011 Comments Off Uncategorized

In a recent guest post published on Vanessa VanPetten’s, RadicalParenting.com, I discussed what is undoubtedly the single most important factor in the prevention of teen substance abuse. Ironically, it the factor perhaps most commonly overlooked by parents.

The desire to be sober, is a virtual inoculation against drug and alcohol abuse. If sobriety has been incorporated into a child’s belief system, the otherwise powerful allures of advertising, curiosity and social pressure become irrelevant.

If you think that your child holds these views already, it’s time to look again. Today, only half of 10th graders, and less than 60% of 8th graders, believe that weekly binge drinking is risky behavior. What’s more, 80% of these kids say that alcohol is easy to get. That means that one out of every two teenagers today, walks around with the means and mentality to have more than 5 drinks per sitting, once or twice every weekend. (1)

“Knowing is not the same as believing. This simple proverb may hold the key to your child’s future.” – Author’s Note

It’s no wonder parents lament over the seeming impotence of traditional preventative techniques. We set clear expectations, we enforce rules, we educate, and we minimize opportunity. But once our kids immerse themselves in the energetic and versatile teen social realm, we all but throw our hands up in desperation. Our influence weakens. External social pressure strengthens. Much of their time is unsupervised, and many of their friends are already making mistakes. Faced with an impossible challenge, some parents openly accept substance abuse, and hope instead that their kids will just be “careful” with it.

But no parent should have to fear this loss of control. Imagine if things were simpler. Imagine if these external influences didn’t matter. Imagine if you didn’t have to worry about loosing control, because your child had clearly taken control. Some kids traverse the teenage years without ever feeling tempted to get drunk or high. They are impervious to the temptation and pressure that others succumb to.

I was one of these kids, and since my tween years I have interviewed and associated with hundreds of others who held similar dispositions. None of these people are prohibitionists, or social misfits. They obeyed the law. They believed the warnings. And they chose responsibility. There are many ways for you to help your child grow into this disposition, but you can’t wait for them to be a teen. It’s just too late. The adds, the commercials, the reality TV shows, and the people at your parties, are creating your child’s belief system. Your job is to counteract all of that influence.

As the barrage of external stimuli forces its way into your child’s consciousness, it must be tempered by the character of your positive imagery. Never assure yourself by saying, “My child knows what is wrong”. Of course they do! But knowing is not believing. Your kids have surely proven this proverb often enough already. Now that we acknowledge it again, take this impetus to foster their belief. Build their character from the inside out, and insulate your awesome kid against the horrors of substance abuse.

For more on this subject, view the original post on RadicalParenting.com. Or visit this Prevention Made Simple page on this site. Click here for more posts by Timothy Shoemaker.

If you need facts, visit our Underage Drinking page. If you need today’s relevant news stories, visit our Talking Points page.