My sister Jessee is pretty awesome. She has cheered me on with this website, written inspiring posts and is a fabulous sounding board. While I tend to hide my feelings, she is really great at sharing hers. She also likes sending random presents. (Yay!)
When we were talking on the phone one day, she mentioned that she was sending me a present. This week, I opened my mailbox and found a beautiful cheerleader there.
No, not that kind! (BTW, do you know how hard it is to find a picture of a cheerleader with a decent amount of clothes on?!) But I digress. Ahem.
I was talking about this cheerleader:
This is not flashy, shiny or glittery. It's not loud. Instead, it speaks quietly to your heart. But this little children's book, What Do You Do With An Idea, made me want to cry. I have poured my heart and soul into this website, and although numbers are growing, sometimes I wonder if all my hard work is worth it. I wonder if it is helping anyone, or if I'm just a crazy nut on the internet. It's only been two months since we launched RTG, but it feels like a lifetime. When you only have 2 months worth of results, in what feels like a lifetime, it can get discouraging.
This book was exactly what I needed to calm my anxieties, fears and insecurities. It is so sweet, so validating and so lovely in it's belief that we all have good ideas that are worthwhile. It is perfect for both children and adults-it explains common, complicated emotions that you and I have all felt, in simple language that is empowering and easy to understand for children.
This is the perfect gift for someone trying something new, or for someone too scared to try something new. It is the perfect confidence builder for children who are beginning to dream. It was the perfect gift for me.
Family Discussion Guide
-Why did the boy at first pretend that the idea didn't belong to him?
-Why and how do ideas take a lot of work?
-What if people laugh at your idea?
-Why did the boy decide not to believe those who said it was a bad idea?
-Why does working on an idea make you feel good?
-Did you notice that the book went from black and white to color? What do you think that means?
-How can an idea change the world?
Community Question: What was the most confidence building gift you have been given?
Today's hero spotlight is an awesome 11 year old. Since many of us are now in the middle of back to school shopping, I thought that this story might inspire some of you.
A few years ago, this great kid watched the news about the earthquake in Haiti. He felt so much empathy for the children there, that he decided to do something for them. (Hint: it involves old backpacks). Read this story to see what he did!
Family Discussion Guide
-How did a good imagination help Alex when he learned about the earthquake?
-Who did Alex think should help? Why?
-Helping is good, but practical help is even better. How did Alex try to be practical?
-What do you think getting a backpack would feel like if you were a child in Haiti?
-How did Alex grow and learn from this? How did he benefit from helping others?
-Did you see how people of different faiths were able to work together?
-What would have happened if Alex had tried to do this by himself?
-Because he was a leader, Alex was able to get others to help and eventually 400 children in Haiti were given backpacks. Do you see something that you can be a leader in?
**If you have a hero that you would like to spotlight, we would love to learn about them!
Please click here for more information.**
I'm sure most of you have heard about TED talks. They are awesome. But let me introduce you to FRED talks-they are waaaay cooler!
FRED talks stand for: Family Research, Education and Development. My siblings and parents do these at our family reunions and WE. LOVE. THEM! Here's the theory behind it: We all have different specialties. We all have been learning different things, have different interests and live in different parts of the country. Why not share these things with everyone? If this sounds boring, I promise-it's not! We've learned what it is like to live in Russia, seen beautiful pictures from different hikes a family member took, and learned about different hobbies of various family members. It doesn't have to be academic (though it can be) or stuffy (which they never are!). But no matter the topic, they are always fun!
These are the family pictures we had taken recently. It was the first time we had all of us together in a long time!
Photo credit: Sherilee Olson
I hate to brag, but my family is really awesome (seriously!). We have social workers, educators, marriage and family therapists/college professors, lawyers, software developers, real estate investors, nurses, and more! I'll bet your family has similarly fascinating people. I want to learn from all these cool people, and FRED talks at our family reunions are a super fun way to do it.
The rules are easy:
1. You only talk if you want to. This way, FRED talks are super easy and low pressure.
2. Talk about what ever you want.
3. Talk or lead a discussion for as long or as short a time as you want. The ideal for us has been 5-10 minutes. It's not too long, and it doesn't take a ton of time to prepare for it.
This year, we learned about: our resident headmaster's efforts on the new school he has been developing, the LGBTQ legal history in the court system, how to properly perform the Heimlich and CPR, a new software tool that makes analytics for businesses super easy, a theory on personality types and finally, a particular epistemology in psychology that was really interesting.
It was so fun to learn new stuff, get to know my family members better, and have fun, interesting, and educational discussions that I might not otherwise have. Kids can chime in, too! This year Katie prepared a talk about what she learned about Mars in her science class.
Here's how we handle the logistics.
- Designate a time for the FRED talks. We like to do it at night after the little kids get in bed.
- Decide who is speaking. My family likes to do as many people as possible, so we try to do 3-4 people each night, so we aren't burned out and they stay fun. (With 10 original members of the family, plus in-laws and grandkids, we have to pace ourselves!)
- Props are helpful. Computers hooked up to TVs for slides or other visual/audio aids are really great.
That's it! Let the family love, bonding and learning begin!
Community Question: What awesome family reunion traditions do you have?
This post is going to double as a hero spotlight, and a book recommendation-there's just sooo much great stuff here!
The story of Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance is one of my favorites. This true story of Shackleton's leadership and perseverance during a time when most of us would want to just roll over and die is so amazing, it is hard to believe. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up!
-a ship being crushed by the ice and the crew being stranded on icebergs near the Antarctic-- for over 2 years!
-the poor stowaway who picked the wrong ship
-countless near death escapes
-taking what basically amounts to a big canoe into the most dangerous sea in the world in an effort to find help.
-a 1,000 ft. "sled" ride going blindly down a mountain to find help down a previously unexplored mountain. Mountaineers going back later said that this was the one and only route they could have taken without being killed.
-Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this, is that at the end of the whole misadventure, NOT ONE MAN DIED.
If you are interested in learning more, I recommend this book, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. The writing is a bit dry, but the story is so incredible, it really doesn't need fancy writing.
The courage, the choice to not give into despair, and the will to never give up is something that I hope will rub off on me. I hope you read the book. It is inspiring and will make your life right now seem incredible easy!
(I'll be the first to say that this video is not super entertaining, but I included it because there is too much to write about. At least it will give you a little taste.)
These two books have had a profound affect on me. I read them right after another just because they had both been on my reading list for a while. However, the timing was serendipitous, and it has changed the way I approach my children's education and how I raise them.
“The Element” explains that everyone is a genius or has talent in their own right. Everyone. The trick is recognizing it. Sometimes the intelligence we or our kids might have is not easy to see-it’s not traditional. School only teaches one kind of intelligence, and if we don’t fit that world, sometimes our talent can go unrecognized.
Sir Ken’s book is chock full of examples of people who on the outside, didn’t appear to be anything special. But on the inside, they had talent brimming out of them. Some of these people? Paul McCartney, Richard Bransen, Vidal Sasoon, and Arianna Huffington, just to name a few. Your name is there, too. The trick is recognizing this creativity and talent and bringing it out. Sir Ken teaches us how to do that and I love all of his suggestions.
On a different tact, Malcolm Gladwell in his book, studied what made people outliers in their fields, and life in general. The answers varied. But for those who were outliers in talent, he popularized the research that proved that doing 10,000 hours of something will make you world class at it. As in, the best in the world. Proof? The Beatles (hmm, Paul McCartney again), Bill Gates and his cohort, and many, many more. 10,000 hours usually equals about 10 years. And people who do this generally make VERY good livings.
That is when my brain exploded. What if I could help my kids recognize their unique, special talents at an early age, AND get their 10,000 hours started early? They could live a life they LOVED, instead of just putting in time at a dead end job they hated. They could make an awesome living at it, freeing them up to do whatever they wanted to. What an amazing gift to give your children, as you mentor them through this process!
As it turns out, I’m not the only one who has had this idea. Jonathan Harris, creator of 10ktotalent.com, tries to start his kids on their course by the time they are freshmen in high school. Ideally, his kids will be honing their own skills, reaching out to professionals in their specialized field, volunteering to work for free for them, or at the very least, corresponding with them. By the time they are seniors (4 years in), his kids will have gained a significant skill set and developed a portfolio, qualifying them for college scholarships. How awesome is that!?
In college, his children will continue on their course. They will not waste time or money trying to figure out a major. They will also be focused, unlike a lot of college students these days. They will seek internships with some of the best. When they graduate college (with 8 years of work behind them), they will be ready to take the world by storm. And just 2 years post college, these adults will be experts in their field that others will be looking to.
Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?!
But…I don’t think you can put discovering talent and nurturing it on a timeline. I think this is a best case scenario. But I love the concept in general. Even if the timeline is considerably delayed, choosing this direction seems like a great way to intentionally choose a life path that will be rewarding for your kids—wherever their talent lies and whatever timeline they are on.
I can hear some critics saying, “That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s not realistic. Every salesman says ‘Follow your dreams,’ but it’s just that-a sales pitch.”
Following your dreams is not a sure fire recipe. Some people have done it and won. Others have done it and lost. What is the difference? I think it can be best illustrated with a Venn diagram.
The gray area is your sweet spot. Some people do what they love, but they stink at it. (No 10,000 hours there.) Or maybe, the world really just doesn’t want pickle flavored chocolate. But I firmly believe that everyone’s creativity has a usefulness, a way to help the world. We just need to find the right angle. Perhaps choosing to work in the gourmet chocolate industry with a variety of flavors (instead of just one) will bring better results.
(Side note: I tried some expensive bacon flavored dark chocolate the other day that was sent to my husband by his employer—it was actually pretty good!)
Not every kid will find their passion early. But we don’t need to push them. Let them be kids. Let them experiment and learn about life. This needs to be self-directed, not parent directed in order to be successful.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be creative with Christmas and birthday presents, or give them new experiences that might be out of their comfort zone. We can help lift their vision.
If kids DO know what they love, let’s get them started! I don’t see anything to be gained by waiting. Keep it light, keep it fun, and just move to the next step up the ladder- remembering that it’s not a race. Let’s help them find what they love and a legitimate way to earn a living and make the world a better place.
Self knowledge is invaluable and ultimately leads to happiness. Let’s help our kids find it. Let’s sentence them to a fun, fulfilling, confidence boosting 10,000 hours doing something they love. Both they and the world will be the better for it.
Community Question: What talents do your kids have? Brag about them!
(I have this picture hanging up next to our entry way door.
I love it, because sometimes I don't feel very kind.You can find it here.)
Our world is in trouble.
-Yesterday we got word that there was a terrorist killing in France. 80 people were killed. Our hearts are with the people of France.
-Today a large national protest by Black Lives Matter (that in the past has resulted in violence) is being held. We are holding our breathes that no one is injured. The United States is radically divided over the cause. We mourn with both the black community and the police officers and their families.
-Another organization called Anonymous is planning and urging people to make today a national "day of rage", to show discontent. Who knows what the consequences will be?
That is just two days' worth of news. . . and it's not even all of it.
What is happening to people?
I think it is because we have neglected to teach hearts. The weapon of choice doesn't matter. In France, the terrorists used a truck. It is hearts that are sick right now. That is why educating the heart is SO important to me. Aristotle said, "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." We are smarter than ever before, but we also have more heartache, violence and hate than ever before.
That is why I LOVE this new resource. When I reviewed a new tv series, I gave you a teaser about this website. Well, here's the whole story:
RandomActsOfKindess.org has a lot in common with Raise the Good. We have the same goal and belief: that we change the world we live in by changing ourselves and interacting with the world with love. Here's their challenge for the year:
Their website is AMAZING! Stories on kindness, videos that make you cry, quotes that inspire, ideas to get you started on doing random acts of kindness of your own . . . even a K-12 full fledged curriculum for parents and teachers to officially "educate the heart" about kindness! They also have the scientific research to back up WHY doing good is a quantifiable asset for our communities, our health and homes.
You can even get involved on the content side of the website and submit a kindness that happened to you, or an experience that you had helping someone else. They also have fill in the blank notes to help you express love and thanks to someone, if you find writing about your feelings difficult, or if kids need a little prompting.
Super cool stuff. Super easy to use. Super inspiring. Check it out! Really. Today. You will love it.
Let's change our story. Let's change the world. Let's start by doing Random Acts of Kindness.
We've all failed at something. It can be paralyzing, embarrassing, humiliating, haunting or downright hilarious. Here's the story of my most embarrassing failure, although it's a little silly:
I flew down to Arizona to meet my boyfriend's (now husband's) family for the first time. We first met with his cool sister who really intimidated me. She offered to take us rollerblading and then to breakfast. I really wanted to make a great first impression, but I can't skate, ski, or do anything similar. I am a total klutz. But I tried.
I started rollerblading and was doing pretty well going down a hill. I was picking up speed, gaining confidence, and then. . . there was a crack in the sidewalk. BAM! I hit the cement and skidded down the rest of the hill on my rear end--ripping a hole in the seat of my pants. A big hole. In front of my boyfriend, his ever cool sister, and a whole corps of cute ROTC guys who were running past right then. I had road rash on my hiney! I wanted to sob-because of my hurt rear end and my hurt pride. Thankfully, my now sister-in-law had an extra layered shirt on, and she let me tie it around my waist. Then I limped to the car in humiliation and that was the end of the rollerblading. (Except that my rear end was numb for two years. Two!)
I've never roller bladed since. Which is kind of sad. I have a friend who loves it and goes often. It makes her so happy, but I'm missing out on that.
Do you ever get scared to try new things because you are afraid you will be awful at them? Do you try it once or twice and then give up? Or do you try, knowing that you have nothing to lose?
That scared feeling we have is often the fear of being vulnerable, and I struggle with that a lot. I am often afraid that people will think I am worthless if I show them my true, flawed self, and I think I have to be great in everything *now*. Thankfully my husband still married me even though I have lousy coordination!
I don't know about you, but I beat myself up a lot when I fall short. I have learned a lot from Brene Brown, who has a really great TED talk and book about that, but for now, I would love to leave you with this message about a whole bunch of people who failed, but then went on to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Who knows, maybe if I had kept trying, I would be an Olympian by now! (Is rollerblading in the Olympics? Does anyone know?) ;)
Every one starts out as a beginner who fails. The experts are those who keep going.
Family Discussion Guide
-What are you extremely good at?
-Were you this good at it when you first started?
-When we feel like giving up, how can we keep trying?
-What is something you are struggling with right now?
-What is your plan? Can I help?
-What is one thing you can do right now to work on your goal?
Community Question: Do you have a most embarrassing moment when you tried something new? Please share, so I'm not embarrassed in this corner of the internet by myself! :)
Humans of New York is a very special project that many of you may be familiar with. But have you thought about sharing it with your kids? All posts are not for all ages, but we learn a lot about humanity, compassion and understanding just by paying attention to each other.
HONY's founder, Brandon, is a photographer who originally wanted to capture the images of all of the different kinds of people who lived in New York. What eventually happened was that he also collected a personal story or quote from each person and shared it with the world. I love the implications and teaching moments that Brandon provides.
And we read about these people, we realize something beautiful: almost everyone is profound. Almost everyone has something valuable to share. Even people who are completely different from you or me have a good reason for thinking the way they do. And it is important for us to understand them. To give them credit. To see each other as brothers and sisters. Brandon has interviewed children, adults, students, inmates, refugees, people in mourning, people celebrating, people who feel small, people who feel confident--the whole spectrum. (I have loved getting to know inmates and refugees in particular.)
Only very rarely will he interview someone who seems like a scourge on society--not that he is measuring people or censoring who he speaks with, but most people are decent. But even the really nasty people show us just how repulsive being nasty is--and that is a lesson, too. But mostly, this is a remarkable collection of people who are vulnerable and help us see inside their souls. There are amazing people all around us if we just take the chance to get to know them.
Be sure to learn about this great project at www.humansofnewyork.com.
*Please be warned that some subject material may be too mature for children and/or you may deem an individual's language not appropriate. I would definitely read entries before you decide to share them with your children.
Community Question: What would you say if Brandon interviewed you?
Meet Holly Christensen. She is making a remarkable difference for little girls with cancer. I love her story; I think it is ingenious, fun, and loving all at the same time.
Sometimes there are people around us who are hurting. And we think, "What can I do? I live too far away, I can't solve all of their problems, I don't have a ton of money to donate, etc." So we say a quick prayer, or send good thoughts, maybe a note, and that is the end of it. Good, but not good enough.
When Holly's friend had a daughter diagnosed with cancer, Holly lived far away in Alaska and wondered how she could help. That is how she came across the idea of making princess wigs for sweet little girls with cancer. Made out of soft beanie hats and yarn for sensitive heads, the wigs give the girls a little bit of their childhood back. This is a heart warming video that will help you think outside of the box the next time someone you know is suffering and you wonder how you can help.
If you would like to get involved in this project and make wigs to donate, you can find video tutorials and all of the information at http://www.themagicyarnproject.com/
Family Discussion Guide
-What excuses could Holly have given herself to justify doing nothing?
-Do you think caring people can always find a way to help?
-Holly inspired others to help as well. How?
-A lot of people helped with the project in different ways. Can you think of what they are?
-Holly has gotten a lot of attention for this project. But could she have done it alone? What about the unnamed people who also helped? Is their contribution any less?
Community Question: Which wig was your favorite? Have you come across any other cool ideas to help sick children?
What is your worst habit?
What is your best habit?
Habits matter because they dictate how we spend our lives, either consciously or unconsciously. And they always have consequences attached to them: health, finances, relationships--our success or failure in these categories all stem from habits. When we have good habits, we don't have to wear out our self discipline muscle, because habits are automatic and mindless. Good habits create less stress.
My worst habit has to be my sugar consumption. Try as I might, I've been having a really hard time kicking the habit. I get so grumpy! Plus, it is such an easy thing to turn to when I've had a rough day (or let's get real-- even a really great day for that matter).
My best habit is probably getting some personal time in the mornings. Usually I try to get up earlier than my kids, read scriptures and plan out the day first thing in the morning. It helps get me centered and starts my day off on a really good foot. But I'm not as consistent as I'd like to be. And if I get up late, I usually don't get this done.
But now I'm in luck, thanks to this fabulous book!
In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin is your mentor to developing good habits and eliminating bad ones. A book about habits sounds pretty mundane and boring, but this book is fascinating! I've loved Gretchen Rubin for a while now, and she just gets better and better. This book is on my "re-read" list, which doesn't happen often, so it's that good. First, Gretchen starts with giving you self knowledge. For me, this is often the hardest part--figuring myself out. From her observations and research of human nature, Gretchen has determined that there are 4 types of people who have 4 different ways of committing to do things.
1. Upholders: These lucky people make commitments and keep them. Commitments to others or to themselves, it doesn't matter. All commitments are given equal importance. These people are like Nike--they "just do it". I really wish I were an upholder.
2. Obligers: I am one of these. Obligers need to be accountable to other people. If they know that someone is counting on them, they are more likely to do something. If not, they usually won't. They also usually take care of others before themselves. All of these things are why I am a failure at exercising by myself.
3. Questioners: These people ask "why" to everything. If something makes sense, they do it. If it doesn't, they don't. If you ask a questioner to do something, you should be ready with an explanation--and it better be good.
4. Rebels: These people only do things if they want to. They are pretty contrary when others ask them do to something, or if "that's just the way it's done."
Gretchen helps you figure out which type you are and then gives you ways to "hack" your personality style and other personal preferences to make it as easy as possible to give up bad habits and cultivate new ones. They take into account that we are all human, and they work!
One thing that I really, really love about Gretchen is that she is authentic to her true self. She doesn't apologize for not being like everyone else, and she doesn't expect you to be either! She doesn't place any judgement on habits and she is super relate-able. Before I read this book, I expected to feel guilty about all of my bad habits. But I didn't. I felt that I was just a normal human being--and I had hope.
I hope you give Better Than Before a read. It will help you with your own habits and it will help you understand your family and others around you better. ("Hmmm, I think that person is a questioner. These questions he is asking me isn't an attack; I just need to explain my request better.") This book really opened my eyes to habits I didn't realize I had, helped me to be honest with myself, and gave me practical strategies for change. I really, really love it.
Community Question: What habits do you have?
Proud to be an
affiliate of these wonderful partners!
Do you have an awesome resource you want us to share with our readers? Great! Let us know here.
"We want to illuminate the sacred meaning