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Education
Kids & Family
Parenting

Parenting with a Story Podcast

Updated 6 days ago

Education
Kids & Family
Parenting
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Tell a young person what to do – play fair, be yourself, stick to the task at hand – and most will tune you out. But show them how choices and consequences play out in the real world, and the impact will be far more effective and long lasting. Based on interviews with over 100 people from around the world and from all walks of life as they reflect on their most profound and unexpected moments of clarity about who they are and how they should treat others. The lessons help teach 23 powerful character traits that will help your child grow into the adult you’ll be proud to call your own. Character Traits include: ambition, open-mindedness, creativity, curiosity & learning, courage, integrity, self-reliance, grit, hard work, self-confidence, money & delayed gratification, health, positive mental attitude, dealing with loss, kindness, patience, fairness & justice, humility, respect for others, friendship, social intelligence, forgiveness & gratitude, appreciation of beauty.

Read more

Tell a young person what to do – play fair, be yourself, stick to the task at hand – and most will tune you out. But show them how choices and consequences play out in the real world, and the impact will be far more effective and long lasting. Based on interviews with over 100 people from around the world and from all walks of life as they reflect on their most profound and unexpected moments of clarity about who they are and how they should treat others. The lessons help teach 23 powerful character traits that will help your child grow into the adult you’ll be proud to call your own. Character Traits include: ambition, open-mindedness, creativity, curiosity & learning, courage, integrity, self-reliance, grit, hard work, self-confidence, money & delayed gratification, health, positive mental attitude, dealing with loss, kindness, patience, fairness & justice, humility, respect for others, friendship, social intelligence, forgiveness & gratitude, appreciation of beauty.

iTunes Ratings

13 Ratings
Average Ratings
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Ok ok

By poopantor - Jul 27 2019
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I googled would you rather for kids and this came up I’m not trying to say this is a bad podcast but I googled would you rather and all they talk about is their children i’m listen I’m not trying to be that one guy but still

Excellent stories, great podcast

By Pankeyman LR - Jul 30 2014
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Excellent stories, quick, to the point & thought provoking. A great podcast for parents.

iTunes Ratings

13 Ratings
Average Ratings
11
0
1
0
1

Ok ok

By poopantor - Jul 27 2019
Read more
I googled would you rather for kids and this came up I’m not trying to say this is a bad podcast but I googled would you rather and all they talk about is their children i’m listen I’m not trying to be that one guy but still

Excellent stories, great podcast

By Pankeyman LR - Jul 30 2014
Read more
Excellent stories, quick, to the point & thought provoking. A great podcast for parents.

Listen to:

Cover image of Parenting with a Story Podcast

Parenting with a Story Podcast

Updated 6 days ago

Read more

Tell a young person what to do – play fair, be yourself, stick to the task at hand – and most will tune you out. But show them how choices and consequences play out in the real world, and the impact will be far more effective and long lasting. Based on interviews with over 100 people from around the world and from all walks of life as they reflect on their most profound and unexpected moments of clarity about who they are and how they should treat others. The lessons help teach 23 powerful character traits that will help your child grow into the adult you’ll be proud to call your own. Character Traits include: ambition, open-mindedness, creativity, curiosity & learning, courage, integrity, self-reliance, grit, hard work, self-confidence, money & delayed gratification, health, positive mental attitude, dealing with loss, kindness, patience, fairness & justice, humility, respect for others, friendship, social intelligence, forgiveness & gratitude, appreciation of beauty.

How Larry Bird Picked His Agent

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Larry Bird was already a basketball hero in his home state of Indiana by the time he was a senior in high school, graduating as the all-time leading scorer at Springs Valley High. By the time he was a senior at Indiana State University, he was being touted as the best college player in the nation.

It was no surprise, then, in June 1978 when the notably shrewd president of the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach, drafted Larry before his final college season, a tactic allowed by the NBA at the time. So at the young age of twenty-two, and still without a college degree, Larry Bird found himself needing to negotiate with one of the toughest NBA presidents in the league. Larry badly needed an agent! And with the prospects of a million-dollar contract, every talent agent in the sports business wanted the job.

To speed the process along, a committee of business leaders from the city of Terre Haute volunteered to help with the selection. Out of sixty-five agents on the original list, one of the lucky ones who made it to the final list of three was Bob Woolf. The final interviews were held at a country club in Terre Haute. At one end of the long rectangular table sat Bob Woolf. Along the length of the table were all the committee members. And at the other end of the table sat Larry Bird. Larry and Bob shook hands when the interview started, but Larry hardly spoke a word.

Bob knew one of the big questions from the committee would be what Larry’s salary should be. He came prepared with contract details of virtually every top athlete in the country. When the conversation turned to salary, somebody asked, “What does Tommy John make?” Tommy John was a New York Yankees’ pitcher at the time, and the first athlete to have a successful elbow tendon replacement that’s now referred to as “Tommy John surgery.” But he was also a Terre Haute native, and until Larry Bird came along, he was the city’s biggest star athlete.

A hush fell over the room, and every eye turned to Bob as they eagerly awaited his answer. But before Bob could even find his notes, Larry spoke out: “Mr. Woolf, Tommy John happens to be a friend of mine, and I don’t particularly care to know what he makes . . . or have anyone else know what he makes.”

Bob was deeply impressed with the character and integrity expressed in that statement, especially coming from a twenty-two-year-old college student. And it may have helped prepare Bob for his own opportunity to exhibit character and integrity with what happened next.

After the interview, Bob returned to his hotel room. Shortly after he arrived, the phone rang. It was one of the committee members, Lou Meis. They wanted to come by to ask him one final question. Larry was coming too. When they arrived, Lou said, “Here’s the situation. We’ve narrowed it down to you and one other agent. We have to know what your fee will be for representing Larry. The other agent gave us his number. Now we need yours.”

This wasn’t the first time they asked that question. But previously, Bob was able to avoid answering it. It wasn’t even possible for him to approximate a fair figure this far in advance. He had no idea how long the negotiations were going to take or what the work would involve, or even how successful he would be at negotiating a top salary for Larry. All these things, he thought, should influence what his fee was.

“I understand why this question is being asked,” he told the committee. “But I want to work with Larry the same way I work with everyone else. At the end of the negotiations, when Larry has a contract, then we’ll agree on a fee. It wouldn’t be fair to my other clients if I gave special treatment to Larry to get his business.”

Lou looked at Bob intently. “Do you understand the consequences?” he asked, meaning if Bob didn’t give them a number, he probably wouldn’t get the job. Bob nodded and said, “I’m prepared to accept the consequences.”

Everyone shook hands, and the committee members left, Larry having never said a word. Bob knew he had done the right thing, but he wasn’t feeling good about it. He knew he had probably just thrown away his chances at the contract.

About an hour later, there was a knock at the door. It was Lou Meis and Larry Bird. Bob was surprised to see them, but invited them in. Lou said, “Larry would like to ask you something.” Since Larry had not asked a single question during all the interviews, Bob couldn’t imagine what he would ask now.

“Of course,” Bob responded.

“Mr. Woolf, will you represent me?” Larry asked. Despite his shock, Bob quickly answered, “I would be thrilled to.”

Larry explained, “Mr. Woolf, I’ve heard all about how tough Red Auerbach is. And I want somebody to stand up to him the way you stood up to us. You’re the kind of person I want to represent me during my negotiations.”

Sometimes choosing the hard right over the easy wrong doesn’t have to come at a cost. People recognize when someone stands by their convictions, and they respect him for doing so. In Bob Woolf’s case, it also landed him a contract with one of the biggest NBA stars of all time. And as for Larry’s choice of Bob to represent him, well, that worked out pretty well, too. Bob negotiated a five-year, $3.25 million contract with the Celtics, making Larry Bird the highest paid rookie in NBA history at the time.

As with all these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Why do you think Larry didn’t want anyone to know how much money Tommy John made?
  2. How difficult do you think it was for Bob to treat Larry Bird like all his other clients when it meant that he might not get the biggest job of his life?
  3. Most people like to do business with people they trust. Do you think you could trust Bob Woolf? Why or why not?
  4. Can you think of a situation when not sticking to your convictions would be a good idea?
[Adapted from The Greatest Sales Stories Ever Told. Used with permission. You can find this and over 100 other character-building stories in my book, Parenting with a Story.]

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post How Larry Bird Picked His Agent appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jul 05 2016

6mins

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4 Steps to Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle

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Neil Brown is a psychotherapist and author of the book Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle. He joined me this week to share 4 steps to break out of the too-typical battle of wills parents have with their teenagers.

He shared an all too familiar example of parents of teenagers who fall short of their school and home responsibilities because of their obsession with video games. He recommends an intervention that starts with a talk that covers these four ideas:

  1. Be positive. Recognize the strongest character traits in your kids. When parents struggle to get their teenagers to cooperate and manage their responsibilities against teen resistance, parents become frustrated, often angry, and will lose sight of their teenager’s good qualities. They often use a tone that communicates a negative message to their teenager. By holding and communicating a positive vision of their teenager, in words and tone, parents take an important first step in ending that control battle.
  2. Make it clear there is a problem, and what that problem is. It’s a parent’s job to establish healthy standards and expectations. Control battles often muddy the waters of exactly what the standards and expectations are.
  3. Apologize for your role (the parents’ role) in the continued, unproductive battle of wills. Two things happen when parents apologize. It models taking responsibility and it keeps the teenager from becoming defensive.
  4. Establish that all future privileges (i.e., video games) will be earned based on accomplishing the more important priorities. That way parents move away from a model of punishment and consequences, which a teenager will fight against, and puts the teen in charge of earning their privileges. Parents can take the position of, “I’m on your side. I would love for you to have plenty of privileges and you’ll get them when you earn them. And you earn them by managing your responsibilities.”

Click the play button above to listen to our conversation where he explains the steps in more detail, as well as shares the story below from his book as an example of how to execute the plan. As usual, the devil is often in the details.

Excerpt from Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle:

Geoff (15) and his brother Will (13) enjoy playing video games and competing. Both boys are good students and play sports, but the video games have become an obsession. The only thing the boys seem to think about, talk about, or engage in are their games. They still do their schoolwork, although they rush through it to get to the games. They still go to sports practice, but they rarely talk about the team. On the weekends their friends come over and they have large-scale competitions, including overnight marathons.

Getting Geoff and Will to do any home responsibilities, including cleaning their messes in the kitchen, the game room, and the bedroom, has become a major effort. The parents get nods, but no follow through. They’re hearing this a lot: “We’re in the middle of an important game and will do it as soon as we get to the next level.”

As far as the parents can tell, neither kid has ever made it to
the next level!

So the parents have been frustrated for some time now but have been putting up with it for several reasons:

  • They’re glad their boys are getting along and share a common interest. This is way better than the fighting they used to do!
  • They always wanted their house to be the house that all the kids come to. They don’t want to ruin that.
  • They’re glad their sons aren’t out using drugs or alcohol.

Geoff and Will are basically good kids, so why start a huge battle? They almost always have friends over, and the parents don’t want to make a scene in front of the other kids. Their parents have tried being nice, but that has accomplished nothing. Now it’s to the point where there is a battle almost every night and weekend. “Clean this up!” “Put that away!” “Stop the games and do your work!” “Stop the games and go to bed!” Each request elicits the same response: a passive “I will,” followed by no action, which is lately followed by ”Right now!” After spending an enormous amount of energy, the parents get about half of what they asked for, and then the boys are back to their games.

Breaking point
After what seemed like weeks or months of this, Mom got totally fed up and told her sons: “No more video games for a week.”

What happened? Both boys hung out at their friend’s house and played their games there. The restrictions made no difference, and three days later their father let them start playing at home again in exchange for some minor cleanups. This didn’t go over well with Mom. When Mom got upset with Dad for “giving in,” he said, “Well it wasn’t working anyway, so I decided to try something different. At least this achieved something.”

Three days later, things were back to the same unpleasant normal, except Mom was still angry with Dad, and Dad thought Mom was being unreasonable and should be more supportive of him and the kids.

It was at this point that I received a call from Mom, asking for a consultation. She explained that she and her husband were struggling with their boys, and now with each other, and needed to get on the same page.
During our consultation, we established that the boys’ lack of accountability and responsiveness to their parents was indeed a problem and that a control battle with some momentum had developed. The boys were becoming less responsible, and this was affecting their school effort and performance. We acknowledged that both boys were essentially excellent young men with many strengths, but the current problems were overshadowing those strengths and were too unpleasant and destructive to be allowed to go on.

We also established that while both parents agreed there was a problem that needed to be solved regarding the boys, Mom and Dad had also become frustrated with one another because of their different styles of communication.  Mom has a tendency to become emotional and sharp when she is upset, whereas Dad tends to avoid intense emotion and conflict. We decided that a “control battle reversal plan” would be ideal because it encouraged a positive tone, which Dad liked, and put the burden of change on the kids, which they both liked, and this helped them feel better about one another, too.

Turning point
That night they sat the boys down and had the following discussion.
Dad: Look, boys. Mom and I aren’t happy with the amount of tension and arguing we’ve all been experiencing together. We’re not comfortable with your lack of cooperation and your priority of games over responsibilities.

Will: What’s the big deal? We get our work done!

Mom: Please let us continue. You’ll get a chance to speak. We know you’re great kids: bright, talented, athletic, handsome, and in many ways, thoughtful and responsible. And yes, most of the time you get your schoolwork done, but not up to the best of your ability. And family responsibilities and chores are another story.

Dad: You’re teenagers, so I guess a certain amount of ignoring your parents is to be expected. But things have gotten out of hand and there needs to be a serious adjustment here. Mom and I are feeling completely taken for granted, and every request and limit is an enormous battle. We don’t want to work that hard.

Mom: I feel like I owe you all an apology. I’ve been upset with you, so I’ve been angry and argumentative. That’s not how I want to be, and it’s not what you need.

Dad: I owe you all an apology as well.

Geoff: You don’t yell much, Dad. You’ve been pretty cool with us.

Dad: That may be true, but it’s also true that I haven’t been dealing with things. I think I’ve given you both the impression that I’m okay with your behavior, and I’m not. And you both deserve a father who will be straight with you. Your mom deserves that too.

Mom: So here is what we’ve concluded. Video gaming is fine with us. Having friends over is fine with us. Here’s what’s not fine with us: Not doing a thorough job on your homework. Not doing your chores. Saying “okay” when we ask you to do something and then just not doing it.

Will: We can’t help it. When you’re into a video game, nothing else exists. That’s what’s so cool about video games.

Mom: That explains a few things, but it’s not good enough. We need to be able to talk to you and know you are hearing us.

Dad: So before you go forward with any more gaming, before any friends come over again, and before you go out, there are several things that need to be addressed. First, Mom and I need to know that you understand and agree to uphold the priorities of schoolwork, home responsibilities, and being responsive when Mom or I ask for something. Next, we want a full cleaning of your bedrooms and bathroom. When that is done, Mom and I will review where you are in each of your classes and see where things need to be shored up.

Will: Okay. Geoff, let’s get this done fast so we can play this afternoon.

Mom: That’s not going to be possible, boys. First we need to know that you get what we’re saying. If you both show an excellent attitude and a full effort, Dad and I will consider offering you the privileges you want, but not until we’re confident that you have your priorities straight and you demonstrate that to us. Right now is your opportunity to earn them, and earning them is the only way you will get them.

The Outcome
Parents did get an immediate positive result, but things remained a bit cloudy for how to deal with each thing as it came up.  Mom, Dad, Will and Geoff all came in for some sessions together and we identified the control battle beast. What fed the beast was Mom getting upset, Dad soft peddling, and kids putting the burden of their responsibilities on their parents and prioritizing recreation for their responsibilities.  We had several sessions together where it became much easier for everyone to see clearly that if the boys wanted their privileges, they needed to earn them by taking their responsibilities seriously.

The boys were attuned to and responsive to parental requests and parents no longer looked for exactly the right formula for communicating with the boys. Mom was no longer shrill because she wasn’t trying to get them to do anything, that was their job. She was just informing them and letting go. Dad no longer felt like he needed to soften Mom or let the kids off the hook. Once they were starving the beast, teen development and parental sanity was back on track.

You can get a copy of the book at this link: Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle. And you can find out more about Neil Brown and his work at his website: neildbrown.com. He also has a podcast you can find on iTunes at this link: Healthy Family Connections podcast.

Use these links to subscribe to this PWAS podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post 4 Steps to Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Oct 16 2017

22mins

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The Only Way to Listen Better by Talking More

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Listening is one of the most important communication tools we have. In fact, it’s one of the only two requirements for actually having a conversation — the other being it’s far more popular teammate: talking.

But even when we do listen, most of us listen with the intent of responding, not with the intent of understanding. In other words, we’re thinking about the next thing we’re going to say. That’s not listening. Sometimes really listening means more than being quiet while other people talk. You have to be looking for the meaning in what the other person is saying and doing.

A wonderful and underappreciated tool to help you do that is asking questions. In fact, I would argue that asking good questions is less a form of talking than it is a form of listening. A lovely example of how to do that well comes from Dan Ball, a brand narrative designer in London.

A Probing Question at the Pub

Dan was having lunch at one of his favorite pubs in Greenwich with a good friend, a struggling illustrator who lives with his grandmother. As Dan describes him, “If you want to find him, you’d probably be disturbing him at whatever time you call. He locks himself away in his home studio and works strange hours on satirical pieces of art.” So he obviously has a high degree of passion for what he does.

During lunch, the topic of work inevitably came up, and Dan started shared what he was working on. He told me, “I spent a good deal of time sharing the projects I was most excited about. And he was very happy to join in and ask questions along the way. But when I turned the conversation to him and asked how his projects were coming along, all he said was, ‘I’ve been working on a new technique to add more texture to my illustrations.’ And he left it at that.”

Here we arrive at a critical point in the conversation. Dan could have filled the silence by returning to one of his projects. And that’s what many of us would do, return to our favorite topic—ourselves. But that would be talking, not listening. To get his friend to do the talking, Dan knew his best tool was to ask a probing question. A good listener, then, might ask his friend to say more about this new technique: Like, “How exactly does that technique work?” or “What kind of texture does it add?” or “How did you discover it?”

But a great listener can ask an even more probing question. And Dan, it turns out, is a great listener. Dan noticed that recently when he asked about his friend’s work, the answers have gotten shorter and shorter. So he responded,

Why do you rush through telling me about achievements that I know are important to you?” And he immediately knew that he’d asked the right question.

Dan told me, “His eyes moved from me and the conversation to something in the distance, and then back again. And his lips started to quiver as if what I said hit a chord. No longer holding back, he told me, ‘Well, living with my Nan . . . she doesn’t quite understand what I do or why I even do it. So when I get a new client or work with someone of interest or I win an award, I have to share it really quickly. If I don’t, she just looks confused and loses interest. I guess I’ve gotten in the habit of doing that now.’ ” And that, of course, took the conversation in an entirely new and probably more important direction for the two men.

The Lesson

Asking the right questions is a powerful listening tool. But, as Dan explains, “You can only ask the right questions if you’re truly listening to what the person is saying.” So the two feed off one another. “And truly listening,” he continues, “doesn’t just mean listening to the words that are coming out. It’s observing their body language as well. When they get agitated or show some flecks of emotion, that’s when you see some little tics in their behavior. I think that’s what truly listening is. It’s seeing people’s tics and asking questions about them.”

So, if listening is something you or the young person in your life struggle with (and who doesn’t), try asking more questions in the conversations you have every day. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll lose interest in your own favorite topic (you!) and how much more fascinating and important the people you talk to will become.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

1. How is asking questions more like listening than like talking?
2. Have you ever told someone really important to you that you wanted to talk about something, but they just turned the conversation to themselves or another subject and never asked you any questions? How did that make you feel?
3. How does it make you feel when someone asks you questions about your life and what’s important to you?
4. How can you tell when someone doesn’t want to talk about something and maybe it’s a good idea to just move on to another topic?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post The Only Way to Listen Better by Talking More appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Feb 12 2018

6mins

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“What do you care what other people think?”

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One of the most prevalent human frailties — one that begins in childhood and stays with us the rest of our lives — is a concern about what other people think of us. To a 10-year-old, it might be what the other kids will think of her new tennis shoes. To a teenage boy, it might be what the girls think of his moves on the dance floor. To an adult, it might be what his peers think of his work, or what her boss thinks of her leadership potential.

That’s a lesson Richard Feynman learned while standing at his wife’s hospital bed.

If you don’t recognize that name, Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965 for his work on quantum electrodynamics. In scientific circles, he was known just as much for his sarcastic wit and bongo playing as he was his brilliant science. But, publicly, he was probably best remembered as the guy who solved the mystery of why the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986. Which he did, by the way, by refusing to go along with the investigation plan that NASA had approved and that the U.S. Congress had sent him and 11 other people to conduct.

In fact, it was his unapproved conversations with NASA engineers that helped him figure out that it was a failure in the rubber O-ring on the fuel line that caused the explosion.

Then, during the congressional panel, on live television, Feynman famously demonstrated his theory by taking one of the O-rings out of his glass of ice water and showing that it didn’t work properly when it was cold. Apparently, the temperature on the morning of takeoff was lower than at any previous shuttle launch. Too cold, as it turns out, for the O-ring to maintain its flexibility, which caused it to fail under pressure.

Now, was Feynman just born brave? Yeah, probably. But there was at least one defining moment in his life that I’m convinced made him even bolder. And it was the moment that taught him to stop caring so much what other people thought of him.

It was back in the early 1940s. Feynman was one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Labs — that was the top-secret government program to build the atomic bomb.

Now, at the time, Feynman’s wife Arlene was undergoing treatment for tuberculosis in Albuquerque, New Mexico, about a hundred miles away. So, on the weekends, he’d hitchhike to the hospital to visit her.

Well, Arlene knew Richard was frustrated that he couldn’t really do anything to help her. So one weekend when he got there, she showed him an 18-inch charcoal grill she’d ordered through the mail. After all that hospital food, what she really wanted was a home-cooked meal. So she asked him to grill her a steak.

But Feynman said what most people would have said. “How the hell can I grill a steak in the room, here, with all the smoke and everything?”

So, Arlene told him he should just take it out on the lawn in front of the hospital. But the hospital was right on Route 66, one of the busiest highways in the country at the time. And with all the automobile and pedestrian traffic, he said, “I can’t just fire up a grill and start cooking steaks in front of the hospital. People will think I’m crazy!

And that’s when Arlene said something to him that changed everything. She said,

What do you care what other people think?”

That struck a profound chord with him. Not only did he cook Arlene the steak she asked for, he came back and did it again every weekend after that.

After all, why should he care what other people think? He cared about Arlene! Her comfort and happiness was more important than what anyone else thought.

At any age, an unhealthy concern about what other people think about you can stifle your creativity, sap your courage, and keep you from doing what’s really important to you.

So, if you find your young person becoming too worried about what other people think, share this story and ask, “What do you care what other people think?”

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Do you ever worry about what other people think of you?
  2. Has that ever stopped you from doing something you wanted
    to do?
  3. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you did it anyway?
  4. What are some situations where it does really matter what other
    people think of you?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a Story and Parenting with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post “What do you care what other people think?” appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jun 13 2018

5mins

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Facing Down the Demon of Perfectionism

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Giving up isn’t always a bad thing. There are many legitimate reasons to give up on any task. Maybe you’ve accomplished enough of it already. Maybe the cost of continuing outweighs the benefits of succeeding. Or maybe you’ve just lost interest in the goal. But there are some bad reasons to give up as well.

One of those bad reasons is a demon that’s haunted Shawn Spradling most of his life, and it’s probably haunting you, too. I interviewed Shawn in his office at Center Pointe Christian Church in West Chester, Ohio, to get his personal story. As always, it’s more interesting to listen to my guests tell their own story, which you can do by clicking the play button above. But below is a shortened version of his story that was published in my book, Parenting with a Story.

Shawn grew up in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, a city of about six thousand people in the north-central part of the state, right in the heart of basketball country. At that time, school basketball teams for boys started as early as the fourth grade, and Shawn was quick to be among them. In those early grades, anyone who wanted to sign up could be on the team.

But by Shawn’s seventh-grade year, the teams were more selective, which meant to earn a spot he had to make it through tryouts. That made Shawn anxious.

I was really concerned I’d get cut, primarily because it would be embarrassing, and I’d have to explain that,” he recalls.

Tryouts were scheduled after school every day for a week. All the boys who wanted to go out for the team played together and went through drills for the first couple of days. By the third day, the coach started making cuts. At the end of the hour, names of the players remaining on the team were placed on the board. If your name wasn’t on the list, you didn’t make it.

Shawn made it through the first cut, and the second one. But going into the final day of tryouts, he was nervous. He knew how many spots were available on the team. And by now he knew all the other boys and what their skill levels were. So he started doing the math in his head. And he didn’t like his odds. “What if I don’t make it?” he asked himself. The thought of being cut weighed heavier and heavier on Shawn, and that fear eventually overwhelmed him. He started looking for an exit strategy.

So on the last day of tryouts, Shawn simply didn’t show up. Instead of going to the gym after school, he got on the bus like he would have on any other normal school day and went home.

When Shawn’s father got home from work, he found his son playing basketball in the driveway. When he asked him why he wasn’t at basketball tryouts, Shawn told him,

I just decided I didn’t want to play.”

Shawn thought that would be easier to say—to himself probably as much as to anyone else—than it would be to explain that “I didn’t make the cut, I didn’t get picked, or I wasn’t good enough.” But Dad saw through that immediately. Shawn described his reaction this way: “He was absolutely furious with me, that I would quit on the last day.”

So there Shawn was, playing out his exit strategy, perhaps considering if he was right. Was suffering his father’s disappointment indeed easier than his own embarrassment of getting cut? And if that’s where his ordeal ended, he might have concluded that he was right. But it got worse.

That night, Shawn’s best friend, Brady, called him and asked him why he wasn’t at tryouts. Shawn practiced his rehearsed answer once again. And once again, his audience saw through it. That’s when Brady told Shawn something he didn’t expect to hear.

But Shawn, you’d already made the team!”

Apparently, the coach had confided in Brady that he’d been debating between Shawn and another boy named Jason. But he’d already decided to give the spot to Shawn. He just hadn’t posted that decision yet. Unfortunately, since Shawn didn’t show up on the last day of tryouts, he had to give the spot to Jason.

You can imagine Shawn’s disappointment, both in knowing that he could have been on the team and in ending his basketball career in such a cowardly manner.

Looking back, Shawn knows that wasn’t to be the only time something like that happened.

I picked up a guitar a long time ago. But I couldn’t play it perfectly right away. So I quit. I still have the guitar. And I still can’t play it. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. If I couldn’t excel at it, I didn’t even try.” He admits, “I’ve missed a lot of opportunities in life because I was too afraid to disappoint myself and other people.”

One example he described was when he was a student at Cincinnati Christian University. “There was a preaching contest every year. You’d write a sermon and deliver it in front of a few of the professors. The top three finalists got to preach in chapel. It was a huge honor. At the time I felt like I was gifted to preach, and several of my friends encouraged me to do it. But here’s the lie I stood behind: I told them, and myself, ‘you know, I’m not a fan of preaching contests. I just don’t think it’s right to preach for a silly contest. It demeans the act.’

But the real reason was that I was afraid I wouldn’t get picked. I didn’t want my name read off as ‘the guy who lost.’ So I never even tried it. I still regret that decision.”

Shawn only turned the corner in this battle about seven years ago, at the age of thirty-five. He was offered the senior pastor role at Center Pointe Christian Church in West Chester, Ohio. Instead of jumping quickly at the opportunity to take his first senior pastor role, leading a congregation of 1,100, he spent weeks debating with himself if he was good enough.

Then one day, while he was still wrestling with this decision, his mother told his wife, Janelle,

I think he’ll do a really good job as long as he understands it won’t always be perfect.”

And that’s when Shawn finally had a name for his demon. It was perfectionism. He faced the truth as he described it, that “perfectionism had stolen a lot of my joy in life.”

Knowing he’d been unsuccessfully fighting this demon for two decades, Shawn realized he couldn’t continue to fight alone. He found his solution, as he describes it, “in placing more dependence on God. I had to stop relying on my own strength and talents and wisdom.”

Shawn decided to take the job and succeed or fail “according to whatever plan God had for me.” He describes taking that job as “a huge victory for me over perfectionism.” He admits he still struggles with it on occasion. But he finds joy in the small victories now that he knows his enemy and is no longer as afraid of failing.

By the way, Shawn has held the position of senior pastor for eight years now. And it looks like his mom was right. Things aren’t always perfect. But he is doing a great job.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Which is worse, having your mother or father disappointed in you for quitting or knowing you got cut from a team?
  2. What are you afraid of failing at?
  3. What have you not tried in the past just because you were afraid to
    fail?
  4. How do you know when it is time to give up?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Facing Down the Demon of Perfectionism appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nov 27 2017

17mins

Play

The Problem of Getting Something for Nothing

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Thomas Paine once observed, “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”

If true, that might suggest that something we obtain for free we don’t esteem at all. But so what? Does it really matter if we esteem something too lightly?

One person who knows something about that is John Chancellor.

Paying for the Psychiatrist

A few years ago, a psychiatrist friend of John’s borrowed some money from him and was having difficulty paying it back. At the same time, another friend of John’s was struggling with a different problem, the kind that might benefit from the help of a psychiatrist.

So John suggested what seemed like a great solution. He asked his psychiatrist friend if he would take his other friend as a patient, but instead of charging him, simply take it as credit against the amount he owed John. The psychiatrist gets his debt reduced, a troubled man gets the counseling he needs, and John gets the satisfaction of knowing he’s helped both his friends. It was a brilliant idea, except for one thing: The psychiatrist refused to do it.

John was surprised, as you might imagine, and even a bit angry.

Let me understand this,” he scoffed. “You owe me a fair bit of money. My friend needs help. But you won’t help my friend and offset that against what you owe me?”

The psychiatrist looked John straight in the eye and said, “Yes, you’re correct. I understand and agree that I owe you. I also understand about your friend, and from what you have told me, I think I could be of real help. However, I refuse to take your friend as a patient on that basis.”

“Why?” John asked.

For the very simple reason that I never want to enter into a relationship with a patient when I know it’s doomed to fail.”

He explained, “when a patient comes to me, he has to be hurting enough that he’s willing to do something about it. If the pain is enough, he’ll make sacrifices; he will do whatever it takes to relieve the pain. But if it’s too easy for him, he won’t benefit. In this case, if he doesn’t pay, the patient won’t value the service and as a result won’t do what it takes to benefit from it.”

What he meant, of course, is that in his experience, patients who don’t pay for his services are unlikely to follow his advice or take whatever medications he prescribes. In this case, the psychiatrist would get his debt reduced. But his patient would be no better off. And that didn’t seem to be a fair arrangement.

John’s anger started to melt away as the wisdom of these words sank in. We tend to value things based on what we have to give up to obtain them. If something comes too easy, if the cost is too low, we place little or no value on it.

The lesson

John’s conclusion from this for parents struggling with the decision to help their children through every little problem was this: “Don’t rob children of the benefits that come from solving their own problems by trying to solve their problems for them.” It also helps make a strong case for not buying them every little thing their heart desires.

And for the children, this story may help them understand why we can’t (and shouldn’t) always come to their rescue or satisfy their every whim.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Do you think the psychiatrist was justified in refusing to take John’s friend as a patient
  2. What does the saying “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly” mean to you?
  3. Do you have any toys or clothes or a car that you had to work hard to earn the money to buy? How well do you take care of that item compared to things your parents gave you for free?
  4. Can you think of some things that you don’t have to work for that
    are extremely valuable to you?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post The Problem of Getting Something for Nothing appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

May 16 2018

5mins

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Showing Up — The First Strategy of Successful People

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Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is showing up.” Here’s what that looks like in real life. In this case, the life of a 16-year-old high school student in New York.

In most cases when you try to be self-reliant, people around you will encourage you. But it’s not always that way. Sometimes being self-reliant means doing something even when other people tell you it will never work. That’s exactly what Emily Chang had to do as a teenager.

Emily grew up in Pittsford, New York. By her junior year in high school, she decided she wanted to be a doctor. So when she found out there was an internship available in Eastman Kodak’s biohazard lab in nearby Rochester, she was immediately interested.

She knew medical school would be competitive. And what better way to differentiate herself than have some real work experience in a medical-related field? It didn’t even bother her that it was what she described as “a very unsexy job. I would have to harvest diseased cells and organs from mice and freeze them so they could be used in cancer research.” And besides, at around $15 an hour, the pay was outstanding, certainly for a high school student.

The only real problem was that the internship was intended for college students—people a few years older, more mature, and perhaps with other work experience under their belt. Emily was just sixteen years old and had no real qualifications for the job. She recalls some adults discouraging her:

There’s no way you can get that internship. It’s for college students. . . You’re still in high school. I don’t know why you’re even wasting your time.”

Undaunted, Emily applied anyway. She filled out the application with her surely unimpressive credentials. But she also attached a passionate essay describing why she wanted the internship.

The result? She said, “I got the job! I was so excited.” She wasn’t really sure how or why they picked her instead of a college student. But she didn’t ask. She just started working.

About a month into the job, she remembers being off in a corner of the lab, out of sight, when two full-time employees walked in. They obviously didn’t know Emily was there, because she overheard them talking about her. She heard one of them say,

Well, sure, she was the best fit. She was the only one who applied for the job.”

That, of course, ended any mystery over how she got the internship, and perhaps tarnished a little of the luster of being selected. More important, however, consider this: Hearing that news would disappoint most people. But Emily was glad she heard it, because it taught her a valuable lesson. It reinforced how right she was to apply for the job in the first place.

Imagine how foolish she would have felt if she hadn’t applied and then found out the job never got filled because nobody applied.

The possibility that you’re the only one brave enough,” she explains, “is a great reason to try. Because you never know.”

Emily credits that internship as one of the most important turning points in her life. It was the stepping stone that got her a later job in a hospital, which helped her get into a top medical school. She later switched to an MBA program and went on to a very successful career at notable companies including Procter & Gamble, Apple Computer, the InterContinental Hotels Group, and Starbucks. And it all started with being bold enough to apply for a job she wasn’t qualified for and that apparently nobody else wanted.

Emily Chang showed up. Do you?

Now, as with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. What difference do you think Emily’s passionate essay would have made if there had been other candidates for the job?
  2. How do you think Emily would have felt if she hadn’t applied for the job and then found out it was canceled because nobody applied for it?
  3. Have you ever entered a race or competition and gotten a prize because you were the only one that entered?
  4. How do you know when it’s a good idea to follow your instincts and when it’s a good time to follow the advice of the people around you?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Showing Up — The First Strategy of Successful People appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jun 19 2017

Play

Episode 13: Why I asked Lou Holtz for my position back: A Notre Dame lineman’s tale

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In this episode you’ll learn the value of patience and listening from ex-Notre Dame football player Michael McGlinn who quit the team under legendary coach Lou Holtz during his 9-season streak of bowl game appearances, but was convinced to come back by someone who barely said a word to him.

The post Episode 13: Why I asked Lou Holtz for my position back: A Notre Dame lineman’s tale appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nov 15 2014

11mins

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What Happens When a Japanese Woman Decides to be Friends with a “Very White Male”

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Becky Okamoto is the principal and founder of an operational consulting company called the Evoke Strategy Group, LLC. But she’s an engineer by training, and spent most of her career in and around manufacturing.

Meeting Marvin

Earlier in her career, she was part of the leadership team at a production facility in California. It was one of the most diverse leadership teams she’d ever been a part of. In addition to her as an Asian American, there were two other women on the team and two Hispanic managers as well. In an otherwise Caucasian, male-dominated country and industry, it was nice to be on a team where her culture and values weren’t in the minority. She felt comfortable. Until a guy we’ll call “Marvin” showed up.

Marvin was the newest member of the leadership team. And as Becky described him, “He was very ‘white male,’ a man’s man, played football in high school and college, loved talking about sports.” Her first impression?

I did not like him.”

She recalls in one of the first meetings he attended, he was sharing some analogy about Scottie Pippen he thought would help make his point. When one of the Hispanic women asked who Scottie Pippen was, he was astonished. “He plays for the Chicago Bulls!” he blurted out.

To which she replied, quite unimpressed, “What are the Chicago Bulls?” If there was any indication he was out of his element, this was it.

Becky also didn’t like that he’d just come from an assignment in marketing (unusual for a team of engineers) and he was very aggressive. She admitted, “I was competitive myself and I probably felt threatened by him.” As a result, their interactions were often antagonistic.

Becky soon went to a confidant on the team, Ernie Ahumada, to vent. “Ugh, he’s so arrogant! I really don’t like him.” Since Ernie was a minority manager himself, Becky assumed he’d be sympathetic to her complaints. His response was anything but.

Becky, it’s your fault you don’t like Marvin. This has nothing to do with him. This is your problem. If you decided to like Marvin, you’d like Marvin.”

How did Becky feel about Ernie’s response? “I was so mad! He was supposed to take my side!”

But Ernie wasn’t done. He continued, “You need to make an attempt to like Marvin. If you did, you’d find out he’s exactly like you.”
“Oh no, he is not!” Becky shot back.

“Yes, he is,” Ernie assured her. “You both have the same values. And I have tremendous respect for both of you. Why wouldn’t you respect each other?”

Ernie convinced her that she’d just made a judgment about Marvin because of his cultural differences growing up as a white male versus her as a Japanese female. “You need to approach Marvin, and you need to like him.”

So she decided to follow his advice. She went to Marvin and said,

I want to make our relationship work. I don’t want to keep fighting. I apologize because I’m the problem.”

Recalling that moment, she admitted how hard it was to muster those words. “It darn near killed me. But I’m so glad I did it.”

Marvin’s response was, “I want to make this better too. It’s not working, and it’s a shame. We should do something about it.” A gracious response, Becky thought, given the circumstances.

She described their progress this way. “As we started working together with more positive intent, we found out Ernie was right. We had the same core values and had the same goals for the organization. We just had different ideas about how to get there.

After that, we would still have animated debates about what to do. But we did it respectfully and knew that we both shared the same objective.”

The Lesson

Looking back after two decades, Becky sees several lessons in this experience:

  1. Don’t judge the proverbial book by its cover. Marvin wasn’t the arrogant white male she assumed him to be.
  2. Not liking someone is a choice, which meant that liking that person is also a choice. Liking someone or respecting someone is something you do, not something that happens to you without your control.
  3. A genuine apology is a powerful tool for taking a relationship in a different direction.
  4. She learned from Ernie’s example what good friendship looks like. It would have been easy for Ernie to sympathize with her complaints and join her in criticizing Marvin. “But he didn’t take the bait,” she explained. “He never said a bad word about Marvin.”

Today, Becky describes Marvin as “one of my most trusted and respected mentors, coaches, and role models. I admire him greatly.” The two enjoy a wonderful relationship. And it all started with a decision to be friends.

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post What Happens When a Japanese Woman Decides to be Friends with a “Very White Male” appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Apr 23 2018

5mins

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How to Build Confidence in New Situations

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I think all parents want their kids to have a healthy sense of confidence, especially when they’re going into a new or unfamiliar situation — like attending a new school, or moving to a new neighborhood.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a proven way to do that in exactly those situations? Well, it turns out, there is. And it’s a method professor Art Shriberg had success with every year with his new MBA students at Xavier University.

In the past three decades, he’s worked with literally thousands of students from dozens of countries around the world. And over the years, one of the things he noticed is that the foreign students — who are a long way from home and whose first language isn’t English — often come into the program with less confidence than the local American students. And in some courses, class participation and group projects made up a significant part of the grade. So that put them at a real disadvantage.

Dr. Shriberg’s solution was to organize a soccer match.

Each year, he arranged for all the students to play soccer as part of new student orientation week. His reasoning was that the international students were almost always better than the Americans at soccer. They’d grown up playing it. And that showed on the field. Having those early victories on the soccer field gave them confidence and helped them win friends and earn the respect of their peers.

He noticed the foreign students did much better in their studies after he started the annual soccer matches. And the confidence it helped them build is the obvious reason why.

It’s really a simple concept. A sure way to build confidence in a new environment is to do at least one thing you’re already good at. It builds your own confidence while at the same time building the confidence others have in you.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Why do you think the foreign students weren’t as confident as the American students?
  2. Do you think it was fair for Dr. Shriberg to pick soccer as the game for all the incoming students to play, instead of baseball or American football?
  3. If someone were new to your school, how could you build their confidence in a similar way?
  4. Next time you’re in a new school, grade, job, etc., what kind of thing could you arrange to participate in that you’re already good at to build your confidence?
  5. What’s an example of a situation where you’d want to completely immerse yourself in something new and not do anything old and familiar?
  6. Who do you think is going to win the World Cup this week? Me? I’m pulling for Croatia.

Use these links to subscribe to this PWAS podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post How to Build Confidence in New Situations appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jul 11 2018

3mins

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Teaching Your Kids to Think Critically and Detect C.R.A.P. Online

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This week I got a chance to chat with digital literacy educator Diana Graber. Diana is the author of RAISING HUMANS IN A DIGITAL WORLD: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology and the creator of Cyber Civics, a course taught in 42 States and 4 other countries.

It was an eye opening discussion and I’m definitely going have some different discussions with my kids about their use of technology — and probably my own as well.

Her new book covers a number of topics related to kids and their online behavior, including:

  • What is appropriate screen time per week,
  • How to maintain your privacy online (Hint: Don’t take quizzes! They just collect your information to sell to advertisers),
  • How to protect your reputation online, and
  • Online relationships: cyber bullying, sexting, and safety

But what I wanted to talk to Diana about was a chapter in her book called Critical Thinking, which is really about media literacy and how to not be fooled by everything you see on the Internet. Gullibility to propaganda has caused nations to crumble, and ruined the lives of people unable to spot truth from fiction.

We had a wide ranging discussion that touched on a lot of problems and solutions. Click the play button above to listen. If you’re in a hurry, you can read an excerpt from that chapter of her book below. But the conversation is more fun.

Excerpt from Raising Humans in a Digital World

If you’re at all familiar with middle school kids, then you know they love anything remotely scatological (think fart jokes). That’s why I love telling kids I’m going to teach them about crap. It gets their attention every time. . .

In [his book] Net Smart, something of a guidebook for the digital age, [Howard] Rheingold suggests that a crucial “digital know-how” skill needed today is “crap detection.” He defines “crap” as “information tainted by ignorance, inept communication, or deliberate deception.” According to Rheingold, “Learning to be a critical consumer of web info is not rocket science. It’s not even algebra. Becoming acquainted with the fundamentals of web credibility testing is easier than learning the multiplication tables. The hard part, as always, is the exercise of flabby think-for-yourself muscles.”

I try to help my students exercise these muscles by using crap detection’s handy acronym, C.R.A.P. An unforgettable tool to assess the veracity of online information, C.R.A.P. is a set of four questions you can ask yourself whenever you encounter something dubious online. Variations can be found all over the internet, and here are mine:

Currency
• How current is the information?
• How recently was it was posted? Has it been updated?

Reliability
• How reliable is the information?
• Does the author provide references or sources?
• What proof do you have that the information is reliable?

Author
• Who is the creator or author of the information? What are her credentials?

Purpose/Point of view
• What is the purpose of this information? Is it intended to inform, entertain, or persuade?
• Does the information sound like fact or opinion? Is it biased?
• Is the creator or author trying to sell you something?

Personally, I rely on the C.R.A.P. test a lot. Like most people, I’m a sucker for salacious headlines. But if they seem suspicious, I give them the test (please bear in mind, online misinformation is nonpartisan, examples exist on both sides of the political aisle). Here’s one example:

One day while scrolling through my Facebook feed, a friend’s post caught my eye. The headline she shared read: “Shock Revelation: Obama Admin Actively Sabotaged Gun Background Check System.” Intrigued, I clicked on the article and discovered it was posted on a website called Conservative Tribune. While the website and article appeared current enough, neither seemed entirely reliable. The site was full of clickbait headlines sporting words like “vile,” “stunner,” and “disgraced.”

I checked out the author, and his humorous bio and few Twitter followers (only three people when I checked) made me wonder if he was a true journalist. So, I looked up Conservative Tribune on “Media Bias/Fact Check.” This is a media bias resource site—one of many online—that claims to be an independent outlet “dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices.”

There I learned that Conservative Tribune is a “questionable source” that “exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor or no sourcing to credible information and/or is fake news.” I also discovered that the site “consistently fails fact checks, glorifies violence against Americans and Muslims,” and more. Finally, a scroll back through the Conservative Tribune website revealed a distinct purpose and point of view.

The article seemed like crap to me.

Back on Facebook, I returned to where the article was posted and in the upper right-hand corner selected “Report Post.” A box popped up that read, “Help us understand what’s happening,” under which I selected “It’s a false news story.” Facebook presented me with some options. I could block, unfollow, or unfriend the person who posted the story. I didn’t select any of those options, because I don’t want to end up in a filter bubble. Instead I selected “Mark this post as false news” and was done.

This entire process didn’t take much longer than it took you to read what steps I completed. It felt good, too! It’s the small part I can play to help curb the flow of fake news stories online. I encourage my students to take action when they see false information online, too. It’s important for them to use their critical thinking muscles and to feel like empowered digital citizens.

You can find Diana’s book wherever books are sold. Here’s a link to it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ENCwcV

If you’d like to learn more about Diana, you can find her at Cyberwise.org and Dianagraber.com. And you can learn more about her cyber civics course here: Cybercivics.com

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Teaching Your Kids to Think Critically and Detect C.R.A.P. Online appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mar 06 2019

18mins

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The Gift We Love to Receive But Hate to Give

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Not too long ago, “ropes” courses were all the rage. Remember those? Outdoor team-building programs where people climb through trees on ropes and ladders. The idea is that going through some hardship together builds camaraderie and team spirit.

So learning the value of patience was not what Dave Orewiler expected from his nine-day ropes course outside Asheville, North Carolina. But that’s exactly what he got.

Dave was a human resources executive from Long Island, New York, at the time “in between successes,” as he politely put it. Not being with a corporate team, Dave was put in a somewhat random group of other people who showed up by themselves. His team included a teacher, a nurse, a small business owner, and a retiree, who ranged in age from the early twenties to nearly sixty.

In addition to the ropes course, the program also included hiking, camping, rappelling down mountain slopes, and canoeing. And it was in the three-day canoeing part of the program that Dave learned what he concluded was the most important lesson of the trip.

Each participant was paired with someone else for the two-person canoes. And while the course wasn’t designed as a race, people are naturally competitive, so it usually ends up that way. So while he would never say it, Dave was probably disappointed when he found out his assigned partner was an extremely thin woman in her forties with limited upper body strength and a deformity in one arm that kept it bent at the elbow.

After making it successfully through most of the canoe trip, they got to the most difficult part of the river: the rapids. As Dave explained, “Riding the rapids had a certain thrill to it, but also some danger. If you don’t do it right, you can find yourself upside down pretty quickly. But our coach taught us how to put our oars straight down into the water and stabilize the boat without paddling until we got safely through the rough parts.

“Well, several of the faster boats had already made it through. When it was our turn, I reminded my partner to keep her oar straight and upright in the water. But, once we shoved off, I guess her fear got the best of her and she just kind of froze, clutching her oar waist-high above the boat.

“Of course, we pretty quickly lost balance and tipped over. Our next attempt was no different. And after the third time going over the edge of the boat, I was getting pretty tired of the cold water. I’ll admit my patience was getting thin. Everyone else was downstream already, cheering for us. That was nice, but also a little embarrassing.

“What I wanted to say to my partner was, ‘Why don’t you get out and I’ll take it in myself.’ But I bit my lip and reminded my partner one more time to keep her oar in the water to help stabilize the canoe.”

Well, off they went down the river again, taking the rapids head on, but this time with both oars in the water, straight up, and without paddling. After a few bumps and splashes and getting knocked around a bit, they found themselves safely on the other side of the rapids, welcomed by a round of cheers from the other canoers.

After the course ended, Dave went home and landed a new job. But, a few months later, he got a letter in the mail from his canoe partner. On the trip she’d told him about struggling with her disability, and part of how she responded to it was competitive bicycling. But the letter explained even more.

For her, the ropes course was an investment in self-confidence, to help her get to the next level of cycling. And apparently Dave had played an unwitting role in that. Before the ropes course, she considered trying out to compete as a cyclist in the Paralympic Games, but had decided not to.

In the letter, she explained that Dave’s patience helped her regain her confidence. “Thank you for being such a patient teacher,” she wrote.

She went on to explain that after getting back from the trip, she decided to try out for the Paralympics after all, and she made the team. She closed the letter with words that forever changed the way Dave thought about the value of showing someone patience: She said, “I won the silver medal.”

Dave’s patience had paid off for her. And after reading her letter, he knew it had paid off for him too.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. How many times do you generally have to try something before you get the hang of it? Whatever your answer is, that’s probably how many times someone else needs to try something before they get the hang of it too.
  2. How do you think his partner would have felt if Dave had said, “How about you just get out of the canoe and let me take it through the rapids by myself”?
  3. Has anyone ever given up waiting for you to do something and said, “Here, just let me do it”? How did that make you feel?
  4. hat’s an example of a situation where it’s a better idea to be impatient?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post The Gift We Love to Receive But Hate to Give appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Aug 02 2018

6mins

Play

One Sure Sign You Need New Friends

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For most people, especially young people, hearing one person demean another is a particularly juicy piece of gossip. It’s therefore one of the hardest to keep from sharing, especially from the person the insulting comments are about.

They sometimes justify it by telling themselves, “I’m just being a good friend by telling her. After all, I’d want to know if someone said something mean about me, wouldn’t I?”

Would you? Consider what happened to Mandy.

Mandy was a high school senior. She was bright and outgoing and had a tight group of friends. But her relationship with her mother was another story. The two fought constantly and disrespectfully, much more than the typical teenager and parent. So they’d been attending counseling together to help resolve their differences.

In one of their counseling sessions, Mandy surprised the counselor, and her mother, by sharing her most recent reason for being upset. Apparently, one of her mother’s best friends had spoken of her quite unkindly.

She said I was ‘fat and lazy,’” Mandy insisted.

Her mother responded quickly, “I’ve never heard her say anything like that about you. What makes you think that?”

Mandy was vague and evasive in her response, so the counselor asked her directly, “Mandy, who told you that?”

Mandy answered defensively, “I don’t have to tell you that. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Let’s just say that one of my friends over-heard her saying it at school in the drop-off line, and she told me.”

“Really?” her counselor asked, looking confused. “A friend of yours told you that?”

“Yes, of course. I have loyal friends. They look out for me.”

The counselor’s response was the last thing Mandy expected to hear.

It sounds to me,” the counselor offered, “like you need better friends.”

That took Mandy aback. She didn’t understand it. But she could also tell there was some wisdom in it that she just didn’t grasp yet. So she asked in a humble tone that suggested more genuine interest than the defensive retort one might have expected, “What do you mean, ‘better friends?’”

“Mandy, I’m not excusing what that woman said about you. It was unkind and uncalled for. But she didn’t hurt your feelings when she said it because she didn’t say it to you. Your feelings got hurt when your friend told you about it. A good friend would protect you from hurtful things like that, not bring them to your attention.”

Those words hung in the air as Mandy processed them. She’d never thought of it that way. Perhaps her friend had done her a disservice. And she’s certain she’s done the same thing on many occasions with her friends. She may not have made much progress in her relationship with her mother at that session. But she gained a whole new perspective on what friendship means.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Why do you think Mandy’s friend told her what that woman said about her?
  2. Before you heard this story, would you have told Mandy if you were her friend?
  3. Now that you’ve heard this story, would you change your mind? Why or why not?
  4. What kind of conversation might you want to have with the woman who called Mandy “fat and lazy”?
  5. If you agree that Mandy is fat and lazy, what kind of conversation, if any, might you want to have with her?
  6. How would knowing someone else called her “fat and lazy” help Mandy?
  7. How would you decide if it was a good idea to share something unpleasant like that with a friend? What kinds of things would you want to consider?
[The name and some details in this story have been altered to maintain anonymity.]

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post One Sure Sign You Need New Friends appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

May 08 2017

4mins

Play

Ambition, Regret, and College Applications: The Conversation I Wish I’d Had 30 Years Ago

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What colleges did you apply to in high school? Did you apply to colleges at all? Do you regret those decisions now? And what would you do differently if you could do it over again?

Those are the questions I would have liked to have asked my future middle-aged self when I was a teenager. And I suspect Kelly Olson wishes she had, too.

When Kelly was in high school, she took all the college entrance exams that might be necessary: the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. And she did very well. So well, in fact, that she was named a National Merit Finalist. Her scores put her in the top one-half of 1 percent of all college-bound high school seniors in the country.

As a result, she probably could have gotten into any school she applied to, likely on scholarship. She just didn’t fully realize it at the time.

And since her family wasn’t overly wealthy, she didn’t want to burden her parents with Ivy League debt. So when it got right down to the application process, she only applied to one: Hendrix College — the same hometown college where her father worked as a professor.

After all, Hendrix was a private liberal arts college that attracted top high school graduates from several neighboring states. And since her father worked there, she could attend tuition-free. It was an excellent choice by any standard. And it had always been assumed she’d go there. So why apply anywhere else?

Even after successfully completing graduate school at William & Mary in Virginia and many years in the working world, she’s confident the education she got at Hendrix was top notch and allowed her to be competitive with any of her peers. But when asked thirty years later what her biggest regrets in life are, the first one she mentions is not applying to other schools.

Notice she didn’t say not attending another school. She said not applying. The reason was this:

Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “I loved my Hendrix experience. But I’ve always wondered what my life would have been like if I had applied to Ivy League schools, for example. Why didn’t I at least apply? I might have been offered scholarships, and then I could have made a more informed choice.”

Kelly might have still chosen Hendrix at the end of the day. But if she had set higher or at least broader goals for her college application process, she wouldn’t suffer that lingering doubt thirty years later.

Kelly and I have a lot in common: we grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same small-town high school, both only applied to Hendrix College in undergrad, both thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated that undergrad experience, yet both regret, 30 years later, not having considered any other option.

My reasons for that choice were different than Kelly’s, but the result was the same. Like Kelly, two years after graduating from Hendrix, I finally satisfied my ambition by applying to and gaining admission to a master’s program at an Ivy League school. That helped me get into the career path I wanted. But it took me an extra four years to get there than if I’d tried sooner.

Whether you think all this talk about hometown versus fancy east coast schools is a meaningful conversation or nothing more than academic snobbery is irrelevant. What matters is whether your kids will think it would have been a meaningful conversation when looking back thirty years from now. And since you can’t know that, it’s a conversation I’d encourage you to have with them, so that they’re not suffering that thirty-year lingering doubt Kelly and I harbor.

Encourage them to apply to their dream school they think they have no chance of getting into. Or tell them why you think college is a waste of time and money. But have the conversation either way. What you should take away from these stories is that teenagers (like Kelly and I) can be unaware of the limitless possibilities for their future. They need somebody — somebody like you — to talk to them and to ask them those questions they’ll wish they could have asked their middle-aged selves thirty years earlier.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. What do you think it would feel like to regret something for thirty years?
  2. Do you think you’re more likely in life to regret things you did and wish you hadn’t? Or things you didn’t do and wish you had?
  3. How do you think Kelly would have felt if she had applied and been accepted to an Ivy League school but decided to attend Hendrix anyway?
  4. What regrets do you have so far in your life? Is it too late to do something about them?
  5. If you could get into and afford any college in the world, which one would it be, and why?

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Ambition, Regret, and College Applications: The Conversation I Wish I’d Had 30 Years Ago appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Apr 17 2017

5mins

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Forest Fires, Missing the Boat, and Sleeping in Our Clothes: 11 Life Skills Learned Through Our Mediterranean Vacation Disaster

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I’m writing these words from a tiny, hot, and unglamorous airport hotel room at the Charles De Gaulle airport outside Paris with no luggage, no change of clothes, and no air conditioning.

I should be home in Ohio right now. But instead, I’m hunkered down with my family at the end of a 10-day vacation having missed our connecting flight home from Barcelona. All that running through the airport got us nothing but sweaty clothes, which was too bad, because they’re the only clothes we’ll have for the next 36 hours.

It took an hour of standing in lines and using some French I learned 30 years ago, but we have tickets home tomorrow. What I really want to find now is a toothbrush.

The irony is, however, that this isn’t the first time in the last week that we spent an unplanned night in a strange hotel room with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Four nights ago we were in the middle of an admittedly lavish Mediterranean cruise. We decided to spend our shore leave in Marseilles by driving an hour and a half north to the lavender fields in Provence. Pretty swanky as far as vacations go.

Swanky, that is, until the forest caught fire.

Southern France hasn’t seen rain in two months, and the notoriously stiff winds, called “Le Mistral” by the locals, combined with that to make for the perfect storm of conditions for an out-of-control forest fire.

Multiple fires cropped up between the lavender fields and the port where our boat was docked. We tried one route back, and then another, and then another. Each time just to meet miles of traffic at a dead stop.

The truth was, by the time we noticed the smoke, all the highways between us and the port had been closed. The good news was that kept us from driving right into the path of the fire. But it was also keeping us from the boat, and along with it, all of our possessions, our room for the night, and our transportation to the next port of call.

We made one frantic call to the ship after another, struggling through language barriers and congested phone lines, trying to explain our situation. Not that it mattered. All we learned was that the boat would, in fact, leave without us, fire or no fire. And, in fact, it did leave without us. We had four more days of vacation paid for on that boat that were going to happen without us if we didn’t find a way to get to Nice, France by 7 am the next morning.

Okay, these are all definitely first-world problems. And that was the first of many lessons these minor disasters helped us teach our kids, and relearn ourselves, on this trip:

  1. We are supremely privileged to consider events like these as disasters. In fact,
  2. in the grand scheme of things, these were really nothing more than inconveniences in an otherwise sublime sea of luxurious experiences. Further,
  3. thinking of them as mere inconveniences makes them much easier to manage through. It keeps us from getting overwhelmed and stressed at the thought of facing real disasters.

We also learned to (4.) appreciate the help and kindness of strangers, like our tour guides Laurent Cygler and his brother Jacques who went out of their way to deliver us safely to Nice after the fires, and Blandine, a local photographer who helped us find and negotiate a last-minute hotel room.

So, we survived all right. But not knowing where or when you’ll have a bed to sleep in for the night in a foreign country can be a little stressful for parents and kids. (And having to do so twice in one week is downright nerve-wracking). So, there was more to learn. Part of our goal as parents was to show our kids how to be both resourceful when life throws you curves as well as how to emotionally handle the stress and uncertainty.

And we thought we were doing a pretty good job. We just didn’t know how many times we’d get a chance to demonstrate those skills in a 10-day period of time. In addition to the fires, missing the boat, missing our flight home, and two nights of sleeping in our clothes, we lost two mobile phones, and along with them every picture we’d taken on the family vacation we’d been planning for six months. That took more calls, emails, Uber rides, and waiting in line at lost-and-found offices (which thankfully resulted in one of the two missing phones being returned).

Again, not the most fortunate series of events. But, it allowed us to learn a few more lessons about:

5. how to be more careful with our things (use pockets that zip or button),
6. the importance of backing up the pictures on your cell phone every day (that’s what iCloud is for),
7. how to appreciate who and what we have (people are more important than things), and
8. how to navigate unplanned situations (by not being afraid to talk to strangers to ask for help). And, of course,
9. knowing a little of the local language always helps.

Finally, we also got to learn — and demonstrate to our kids — how to (10.) look at the bright side. After all, we did get to spend a week on the Mediterranean Ocean. We still got to see the lavender fields in Provence, climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, marvel at the Sistine Chapel, bike through the streets of Barcelona and Nice, see the Roman Coliseum and the volcano on Mt. Vesuvius, and walk the ruins of Pompeii.

So, while there are definitely parts of this vacation we’re glad are in our past, most of it and the friends we made along the way will be sorely missed. Which brings us to the last lesson we learned, best articulated by the one and only Dr. Seuss:

11. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

— Smiles from Paris

Okay, it’s your turn. I’d love to keep this list going with your tales of travel troubles and the lessons you learned from them. Please leave them in the comment section below.

Use these links to subscribe to this PWAS podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Forest Fires, Missing the Boat, and Sleeping in Our Clothes: 11 Life Skills Learned Through Our Mediterranean Vacation Disaster appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Aug 01 2017

7mins

Play

What Self-Reliant People Do When “I’m sorry, we tried everything” Just Won’t Cut It

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Ritvik, age 17

What can kids and grown-ups learn from a 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome, an unsympathetic insurance company, and a leadership team willing to take matters into their own hands? A lot, it turns out, about self-empowered, and self-reliant behavior — something most parents want to see in their kids (and most executives want to see more of from everyone in their organizations). And a man who knows that better than most is Mohit Das.

Mohit was born in India, but is now a permanent resident of Singapore. In 1999 his wife gave birth to their first child, a son they named Ritvik. The couple soon learned that Ritvik had both Down syndrome and autism. They knew at that moment that much of their life would be devoted to his care.

And as difficult as it is to raise a child with both Down and autism, things got even harder. When Ritvik was five years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia, a form of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Ritvik started treatment immediately, and that eventually included radiation and chemotherapy. And in cases like his, that treatment can last for years. It can also be frighteningly expensive for a young couple. Fortunately, Mohit had a professional job at a big, global company with good insurance benefits. Or at least that’s what he thought.

About a month into the treatment, he got a letter from the insurance company that said the claims for Ritvik’s treatment were being denied because the policy didn’t cover “pre-existing conditions.” That, of course, didn’t make any sense. But here was their logic: While Ritvik’s leukemia wasn’t pre-existing, his Down syndrome was. And children with Down are more likely to develop leukemia—ten to twenty times more likely, as it turns out. So even though only one in three hundred children with Down ever develops leukemia, the cause was assumed to be the same genetic makeup that resulted in his Down syndrome. Ergo, it was pre-existing.

Mohit Das

So, Mohit and his wife started to plan for the inevitable avalanche of medical bills. Then a few weeks later, when Mohit’s boss heard about the situation, she contacted the human resources department to see if anything could be done about it. After checking the policy and appealing to the insurance carrier, the answer they got back was the same. Ritvik’s condition was preexisting and would not be covered under the policy.

For the vast majority of situations like this that play out every day all over the world, that’s where the story would end. Someone somewhere feels wronged and appeals the company policy. The policy wonks debate the situation and issue a decision. All that’s left is for the middleman, the messenger, to deliver the bad news to the employee. “I’m sorry, your appeal was denied.” Case closed.

But fortunately for Mohit, that’s not where this story ended. His boss and the human resources manager still felt he was being treated unfairly. If Ritvik had not had Down syndrome, insurance would have covered 80 percent of the cost of his leukemia treatment. But since he was a special needs child, it covered none of it. That just didn’t feel right. So they took the matter to the leadership team.

The group agreed that the insurance company’s decision was unfair. But they also knew they couldn’t do anything about that. So they decided on a course of action they could do something about. They decided to pay 80 percent of Ritvik’s medical bills as a company expense. Each month for the next two years, Mohit filled out an expense report with hospital receipts and submitted it to his company just like he did with his normal travel expenses. And the company paid every one of them.

Now, notice what went on here. This isn’t a story about some wealthy and generous executives taking pity on one of their employees and paying his medical bills out of their own pockets as a charity case. That would certainly be noble if they had. But what went on here I think is far more instructive. In this case, these people decided that if the company’s insurance carrier wouldn’t pay his bills, the company would pay them anyway as a regular cost of doing business.

I describe this as a more instructive course of action for two reasons. First, most of us don’t have a big enough bank account to simply start writing personal checks every time a problem comes up. More important, in this situation, Mohit’s boss and the HR manager did what self-reliant people do. When they failed to get the insurance company to do anything, they didn’t just give up. They asked what they could do about it themselves: what resources did they have at their disposal, what decision-making space did they have?

How easy would it have been for them to tell Mohit, “I’m sorry, we tried everything in our power. But the insurance company didn’t budge.” To which I would rhetorically reply, “Really? You’ve tried everything in your power? Everything? Maybe you’ve tried everything that somebody else can do. But what can you do?”

No matter what your situation is in life, at home or at work, you’ll have far more success by developing your own self-reliant and self-empowered behavior.

And fortunately, my rhetorical rant above is not a conversation Mohit ever had to have. Today, Ritvik is 17 years old and has been in remission from leukemia for 10 beautiful years.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Do you think it was fair of the insurance company to deny paying for Ritvik’s care?
  2. What do you think about Mohit’s employer’s decision to pay his medical bills anyway?
  3. Have you ever had someone refuse to do something for you, and then you ended up getting it done by yourself? What did you learn from that?
  4. What’s a situation where being told “no” should be the end of the story?

Use these links to subscribe to this PWAS podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post What Self-Reliant People Do When “I’m sorry, we tried everything” Just Won’t Cut It appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sep 05 2017

6mins

Play

“Is that really what I need to be happy?”: How one Summer in Bombay Changed Me Forever

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Ami Desai Mathur was born in New York, a first-generation natural-born American citizen. Her parents were born in India and immigrated to the United States after getting married. During her first few years of life, Ami spent half the year living in New York and half the year in her aunt and uncle’s home in Bombay, India visiting family. Even after she started going to school, Ami and her mother traveled to Bombay for a few weeks every year or two until Ami graduated from high school.

The home her aunt and uncle lived in wasn’t just the home they lived in at the time. It was the home her mother and uncle had grown up in, and the one her grandmother had grown up in, and her great–grandmother had grown up in.

But if you’re picturing a fancy suburban estate the family owned, think again. It was a two-bedroom apartment they’d been renting for generations. In addition to the two small bedrooms, it had an eating area with a simple table and a cabinet against the wall for dishes, and a kitchen about five feet by five feet with a refrigerator, sink, and pot burner. And there was one bathroom with a sink and a hole in the ground for a toilet. By Western standards, it would be considered severely impoverished. But by local standards, it was quite normal.

And Ami has fond memories of visiting Bombay. During those visits, that simple two-bedroom apartment housed six people: her aunt and uncle, mother, grandmother, sister, and Ami. During the day, she would go shopping with her mother and buy all sorts of exotic things with their Western-size bank accounts, which were large by local standards, although quite modest back home in New York.

Well, at the end of one her visits to Bombay, Ami vividly recalls her uncle feeling some pressure to give her a gift before she left for home. And then he gave her, with some fanfare, a tiny gold-plated clock. She said, “I remember they were so excited and proud to give it to me. But I also remember feeling guilty taking it. I knew they didn’t have much money. And we had so much.”

But that wasn’t the only reason Ami felt awkward accepting that gift. The other reason was that while they clearly wanted to be generous, she realized they probably thought what Ami needed to be happy was a gift. In other words, they thought that for her to be happy, she needed more stuff.

The Lesson

That’s when it dawned on her, still at a young age, that more stuff wasn’t necessary for happiness. And she didn’t have to look far to see examples. Her aunt and uncle and grandmother living there were very happy people, and they had next to nothing.

So she started watching how they spent their time and noticed some differences.

In the U.S., what seemed to make people happy was buying a new TV, or some other material possession. But my aunt and uncle seemed so happy just going to the market to buy their daily food, or picking up a visitor at the train station.”

“When we got home every day, my grandma would cook the most wonderful meal for us. Then we would all go out and play together.

And friends and family were always stopping by to visit. We’d have tea and biscuits and talk with each of them every time. Back home in New York you’d need an invitation before showing up at someone’s house to visit. It would be rude to do otherwise. But in Bombay, it happened every day because you had dozens of friends who lived in the same building. We were never by ourselves and never bored. It was like an adventure every day.”

So, how did that trip affect Ami’s perceptions of money and material possessions? She told me, “I remember being upset just before leaving for that Bombay trip because my mom wouldn’t buy me the Keds sneakers with the blue dot that was all the rage at school.

But by the time I got home, somehow it didn’t seem all that important. The cheaper pair she got me at Walmart suddenly seemed just fine.”

Not everyone can afford the time and expense of a trip halfway around the world to learn the lesson Ami learned in Bombay. But you can start by sharing her story with your young person. Then talk about ways to spend your time that doesn’t involve buying lots of stuff.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. How does your home compare to the one Ami’s family rented in Bombay?
  2. If having a fancy home isn’t what they needed to be happy, what do you think made them happy?
  3. How would you feel if you found out that your friends and family thought what you needed to be happy was a constant supply of gifts and other material possessions? Would you agree or disagree with that assessment? Would you be proud of it?]
  4. What does make you happy?
  5. What are the few basic material possessions you think you would absolutely need to be happy?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post “Is that really what I need to be happy?”: How one Summer in Bombay Changed Me Forever appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nov 28 2018

6mins

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Professional Comedian Drew Tarvin Shares an Antidote for Prejudice and Hatred

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If you follow my Lead with a Story blog or podcast, you’ll know that last week I had professional comedian and self-described “humor engineer” Drew Tarvin on to talk about one of the most attractive parts of human nature — courage. This week I’m having him join me on my Parenting with a Story channel to talk about one of the least attractive parts of human nature — prejudice and hatred — or more particularly, how to get rid of them.

Drew recently completed a nomadic tour of the U.S. performing in all 50 States. His book The United States of Laughter: One Comedian’s Journey Through All 50 States details his funny, harrowing, and poignantly insightful experiences in each State. I asked him to join me and share his experience in the state of Michigan.

As always, it’s more fun to listen to Drew share the story himself, which you can do by clicking the play button above. If you’re short on time, below is an excerpt from that section of his book. Enjoy. . .

I HATE PEOPLE FROM MICHIGAN. I have to; I’m from Ohio and went to the Ohio State University. But I don’t hate them because of the rivalry between the schools or the fact that the states once went to war over the city of Toledo.

The real reason I hate Michiganders is that they are in love with the fact that their state is shaped like a hand. You ask anyone where they’re from in Michigan, and they’ll hold up their hand, “Well if this is Michigan, I’m from right here.” People from other places don’t do that. When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t make a makeshift Ohio by curling my knuckles and say, “Well if this is Ohio, I’m from the abductor pollicis brevis.” People from Italy aren’t like, “Well if Italy is a boota, I’ma from the stiletto.”

And so I sat, with disdain, at the top of a slide in Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan, waiting for something tragic to happen so I could justify my hatred of the Mitten State.

I was at the city park on a disgustingly beautiful summer Saturday, the weather a stupid 80 degrees. The sun was shining, and a light breeze made the whole ordeal even more sickening in its joyful perfection. To my right was Jaclynn, a member of CSz Detroit and my Michigan tour guide for the day. Unfortunately, she’s also one of the nicest people on the planet.

It was my first new state in nearly a month. After my brotherly road trip, I spent most of July in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and DC for speaking engagements, stand-up shows, and more calzones at LaRosa’s. But now I was back to my states tour, starting with what I was sure would be the worst state in the union. Much to my dismay, I had already had a good time in Michigan, and the slide would surely only make things worse.

The day before I was in Ann Arbor, where I walked around the University of Michigan, upset that the campus was beautiful and not dilapidated, as I had hoped. That night, I did a stand-up set on a show that a good comedy friend of mine from New York, Nore Davis, happened to be headlining. The jerks had the nerve to laugh at my jokes.

Then there was the monstrosity that was that Saturday. Jaclynn and I started the day by visiting Lafayette Coney Island, one of the two famous Coney hot dog places in the city. Sadly, the food was edible, though it wasn’t as good as Skyline in Cincinnati. At least one thing was working out.

And then we were off to Belle Isle, where things had gone from bad to worse by going from good to great. We walked past an open field with the horrendous sound of kids playing and people having fun. We frustratingly rekindled the days of our youth as we took a turn on the monkey bars. And we had found this dumb, fun slide.

I wish I could say it was a small, measly slide infected with tetanus. But no, it was one of those giant ones where you hike three flights of stairs to get to the top, put your feet into a burlap sack, and push off.

While I sat at the top of what was sure to be a fun experience on a beautiful summer day, I knew that if I was going to hate my time in Detroit, it would have to be because of a bad experience, not because the city was inherently awful like I had assumed. I was hopeful that I might get concussed as we raced down the metal lanes of the slide, or that I’d accidentally wipe out a kid on the way down and get locked up for involuntary child kicking, or that I’d at least get a weird rash or something. None of those things would happen.

I’m sure somewhere in this whole debacle of a day was the realization that it was wrong to hate an entire location because of a sports rivalry and silly to judge an entire populace because they used their hand to show where they lived. But the narrative that Michigan sucked had long been ingrained in me as an Ohio native, OSU grad, and decent human being.

I knew that visiting new places had the ability to change your perspective, challenge your assumptions, and reduce your prejudice; it was one of the things I enjoyed most about traveling. If people traveled more, they might hate others less.

I just didn’t want that to be true about Michigan, and I certainly didn’t want “learning a lesson” to be added to the things this dumb state had provided. Sadly, the lesson was forcing itself into my brain.

A little later we would be going to get pizza from a local spot named Buddy’s—which luckily wasn’t on par with LaRosa’s—before I would begrudgingly play in a fun ComedySportz show. We would follow that disappointment with a night of karaoke with the whole cast where I would, unfortunately, be doomed to having a good time.

But at that moment, a three-story slide awaited. As the attendant gave the go-ahead sign, I scooted forward to let gravity do its thing. I tried desperately to hide the smile this awful joy was providing me. I slid down the metal slope with ease and delight. As I neared the bottom, I hoped for a broken bone or at least a splinter so I could have been justified in hating this place, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t land gracefully.

This truly was the worst thing Michigan could have done: I wanted to hate it, but it wouldn’t let me. Michigan was the worst.

You can find Drew at humorthatworks.com. Or connect with him on Twitter @DrewTarvin or Facebook.

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Professional Comedian Drew Tarvin Shares an Antidote for Prejudice and Hatred appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dec 18 2017

13mins

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A Dying Mother’s Gift to Her Children

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When I was fourteen years old, my mother was diagnosed with an advanced case of pneumonia. For four months, her doctors tried every treatment known to cure it, none of which had any effect. Then they realized why. She didn’t have pneumonia. She had lung cancer. They’d been misled by the strangely uniform and checkered pattern on the X-rays.

By the time they had a proper diagnosis, it had progressed beyond their ability to treat it successfully. They gave her six months to live.

At the still young age of forty-seven, and with five children, including three teenagers who still lived at home, she searched for any way she could to ease the burden she knew the loss of a mother would have on her kids. One of the things she found came from an unlikely place: a poem.

Her mother (my grandmother) had been an accomplished poet and therefore had a circle of friends who were also poets. When my grandmother passed away, one of those colleagues wrote to my mother to console her. In the handwritten letter, she included a poem she had composed that she thought might help. Apparently it did. Because thirteen years later, my mother still had the letter. And facing her own imminent death, she took it out and read it to each of us. Below is that poem.

One Dark Branch
by Marie Erwin Ward

I have at last returned . . .
I have come back from alien lands that burned
With hate; back to this tree.
I dreamed her sweeping fronds were over me
Through nights and days, rest-yearned.

I ease my tortured way
To sit beneath the pepper tree and sway
My mind with her green lace
To calm my broken spirit, lift my face
And learn once more to pray.

This tree lives not to grieve
Because of one dark branch where green sprays weave.
One useless bough a grief?
She crowns her loss with crimson fruit and leaf . . .
I touch my empty sleeve.

After reading the poem to us, my mother shared the author’s explanation: A soldier has returned from war. He comes home and sits under the pepper tree he used to sit under to think. His quiet time under the tree helps calm him from the horrors of war he has seen. And it is there that he relearns the healing power of prayer.

He looks up and sees “one dark branch” on the tree, a dead limb. He notices the tree does not give up and die because of the loss of one branch. Instead, it just makes that many more leaves and fruit on the other branches to fill the empty space.

The last line is “I touch my empty sleeve.” This soldier, like the tree, has also lost a limb (his arm) in the war. What he learns from the tree is that because he no longer has his arm, the other parts of his body and mind should strengthen to accommodate the loss. He must become a more stable and mature person to persevere with this handicap.

Our mother explained to us that God gives extra grace to people like that to help them, such as blind people whose sense of hearing becomes more acute to compensate for their loss of sight.

The way she related this to us was by showing us how the same thing applies to families that lose members. When someone dies, the other members of the family must grow, strengthen, and mature to compensate for that loss. The family must grow new love and wisdom, just as the tree grew new leaves and fruit.

That poem was her dying gift to us. But it was also her expectation. It was her expectation for how we were to respond as a family after she was gone. When the situation calls for it with someone you love, it can be your gift as well.

Thank you Marie Erwin Ward, for the wisdom and beauty in your poem, and for the peace it’s given me for the last 36 years. And thank you to my mother for sharing it with me and my siblings, and for expecting nothing less of us. I miss you, Mom.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Do you know anyone who’s lost a family member? What are their family relationships like now? Do you think they might benefit from hearing this poem?
  2. How do you think it is that other senses can improve in someone after they lose their sight, for example?
  3. If one of your parents died, how do you think they would want you to behave as a family after they were gone?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post A Dying Mother’s Gift to Her Children appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nov 07 2017

6mins

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“Do I Really Need to Hear This?”

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In 2013, I was having lunch with a colleague of mine who used to work for me in the department I ran. A few months earlier she’d moved to a new department and so now had a new boss.

She reminded me of something she’d told me earlier — that in talking to her new boss, she got the impression that he didn’t like me very much. But he never told her exactly why. And that bothered her. As a student of human behavior, she was genuinely curious as to why.

Well, apparently since the last time we’d spoken, she found out why. And at lunch that day she was eager to share what she’d learned. But in the middle of her first sentence, I interrupted her and said,

Do I really need to hear this?

She looked only slightly more surprised to hear that than I was that I’d said it. I just kind of blurted it out. But then I went on to ask her, “Is it some deep character flaw I need to be made aware of so I can fix it?”

“No,” she said.

“Is it something I did that I need to apologize to him for?”

“No, definitely not that.”

“Something about the way I do my job that I should do better?”

“No.”

“So, it’s just something about me this guy doesn’t like?”

She thought about that for a moment and said, “Yeah, just something he doesn’t like.”

“Then if you tell me, I’m probably just going to feel bad or self-conscious about it. In which case, I think I’d rather not know.”

We both smiled at what we each considered a good decision. I was happy she’d gotten her curiosity satisfied by knowing the answer. And she was happy that she didn’t burden me with knowing it. We continued our conversation about something else.

So, if you find yourself in my position (or Mandy’s), remember that you don’t have to let someone share that kind of information with you. You can ask your friend to not share it unless it’s important that you know. If they’re a good friend, they’ll be happy to be interrupted.

Now, as with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. What does it mean to “burden” someone with knowing something?
  2. What if someone didn’t like you because of something you couldn’t change about yourself? Would you want to know what it was, or not?
  3. What if you could change it? Would you answer differently?
  4. What are some good reasons to know something about you that
    someone else doesn’t like?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post “Do I Really Need to Hear This?” appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

May 30 2017

4mins

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Meeting Kenny Tedford

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I’ve been wanting to write this post for six years. Seriously. This is the day that I get to start telling the world about one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met.

His name is Kenny Tedford. And he’s the subject of my new book that’s being published today, called Four Days with Kenny Tedford. And despite the title, it’s one I’ve been working on for over six years. So, I’m incredibly pleased to tell you that it’s finally on shelves today.

I can also confidently say that it’s the most meaningful book I’ve ever written, or ever will. And once I explain to you a little about Kenny Tedford, you’ll understand why.

Now, I’m going to have a lot more to say about Kenny and this book in other posts. In fact, I’ll probably bring him on my podcast and let you get to know him personally. But I think what I should do here is let you meet Kenny Tedford the way I met Kenny Tedford, which I explain on the first few pages of the book.

So, if you’ll indulge me, I’m just going to share those first two and a half pages to you so you can see how we met, and get to know a little about Kenny. 

Excerpt from the Four Days with Kenny Tedford, page i.

I was sitting in the front row waiting for the next performance to start when I saw him. He was a large man. Sixty-ish. With grey hair encircling a bald head, and glasses thick enough to start a fire on a sunny day.

He walked slowly and deliberately, with a slight list to one side. He made his way down the aisle and sat in the chair next to me.

Following quickly behind him was a twenty-something man with dark hair. The young man pulled one of the empty chairs out of the row, turned it around backwards, placed it directly in front of the older man, and sat down with his back to the stage.

I was intrigued, to say the least.

A few minutes later, the next speaker walked on stage and started her performance. The young man, who’d been staring at the older man, silent and motionless since sitting down, suddenly sprang into action. He lifted his hands in front of his chest and began a flurry of cryptic motions that identified him immediately as a sign language interpreter, and the older man as deaf.

I thought that was pretty ballsy, a deaf guy at a three-day storytelling festival.

I knew immediately I wanted to meet him. So at the next break, I introduced myself. We exchanged a few pleasantries, enough to know that he was an affable sort of guy. But we both had to go to our next set of workshops.

An hour later, I was walking with a tray of food, looking for an empty table, and that same affable fellow walked up to me and asked if I wanted to have lunch with him. I quickly accepted.

We sat at a table by ourselves, his interpreter having been given time off for lunch.

For the next hour, I listened to Kenny Tedford tell his story.

I listened while he spoke with impressive diction, but with the muted tones of a deaf person. And he read my lips, seemingly, as easily as I spoke with them.

But, underneath the telltale tone of his voice, I noticed something else telling. His vocabulary and sentence structure were both charmingly juvenile. As his story unfolded, I started to understand why. His deafness turned out to be only one of many challenges life dealt Kenny Tedford. He was almost blind in one eye, and had poor vision in the other, partially paralyzed on his left side, unable to speak well until the age of ten, and had somewhat limited cognitive abilities, all of which were a result of brain damage suffered at birth. And as if that weren’t enough, in the years since, he’d endured a string of near-fatal illnesses that should have left him dead many times over.

Despite it all, the man sitting in front of me seemed to be the most delightful individual one could ever meet. His temperament and outlook on life and humanity were unquestionably positive in a way I can only describe as childlike. In fact, he struck me as a remarkable combination of Helen Keller and Forrest Gump. Keller, of course, was deaf, blind, and mute. But she was a brilliant thinker and accomplished writer. The fictional Forrest Gump, on the other hand, was a model of physical health once he shook off the leg braces. But he suffered a diminished mental capacity that gave him his childlike charm.

Kenny Tedford, however, had both sets of challenges.

So there I sat, watching this somewhat goofy-looking, old, bald, roly-poly man, smiling at me with enormously distorted bug eyes through his impossibly thick glasses, telling me almost unbelievable stories in the words of a child, but with the voice of a grown man, who’d never properly heard the sound of his own voice.

I was mesmerized.

The hour ended way too quickly. I’d only scratched the surface of Kenny’s life. But it was enough to be fascinated by what I’d heard, and to be frustrated that I didn’t know more.

I wondered how a man in his circumstances could have such a positive disposition. Why isn’t he bitter at life for dealing him such a crappy hand, I wondered. I was pretty sure I would be.

I had so many questions. But it was time for the next session. My chance encounter was over. I didn’t know if or when I would ever see or speak to Kenny Tedford again. But what I did know was that I felt strangely blessed having met him.

. . . 

Well, that was June 28, 2012 at the National Storytelling Conference in Covington, Kentucky. I couldn’t have predicted then what would have transpired in his life or mine in the intervening seven years. And certainly not the four days he would eventually spend at my house with my family, sharing his unbelievable life story.

But that did happen. And this book documents not only his incredible life journey, but the impact he had sharing that journey with me and my wife and two young boys over those four days. He came into our house a stranger, but walked out of it as a family member. And I’ve done my best in the book to bring you into our home with us as we listen to Kenny share his stories and reflect on them and the beauty and wisdom they contain.

And I can tell you that I learned more in those four days about courage, faith, family, persistence, kindness, respect, and humility than I learned in the rest of my lifetime before or since.

In fact, in the final chapter we outline a set of those life lessons for people living with all sorts of disabilities and trauma and abuse and the loss of loved ones, as well as another set of lessons for people who love and care for those living with such challenges.

So, in addition to just being an incredible story, we’ve also tried to offer some practical advice from the life lessons Kenny Tedford learned the hard way.

A Personal Note

And finally, on a personal note, as I’m writing these words, on the day this book is being published, it’s two days before Thanksgiving, 2019 — over five years since Kenny spent four days here sharing his life story. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I get to drive to the airport to pick up a man who has now become a dear friend, so that my family and I can spend another beautiful Four Days with Kenny Tedford.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. 

You can find copies of the book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and just about anywhere else books are sold. You can learn more about Kenny Tedford at www.kennytedford.com

Click these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Four Days with Kenny Tedford, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.

Connect with him via email here. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Meeting Kenny Tedford appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nov 26 2019

7mins

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An Angry Therapist’s Guide to a Meaningful Life

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My guest this week is John Kim. He’s a licensed marriage and family therapist and one of the the pioneers of the online life coaching movement.

Interestingly, he calls himself the “Angry Therapist.” It’s essentially an admission that, while he was a licensed therapist and life coach, he was no better off than the people he was helping — and admission that probably made him a more empathetic therapist.  

More to the point of our conversation, John is the author of a new book called, I USED TO BE A MISERABLE F*CK: An Everyman’s Guide to a Meaningful Life which we dug right into. 

John lays out 66 Dos and Don’ts in the book, some of which are listed below. The ones in bold we actually had time to talk about, and you can see exactly where in the conversation those came up. 

John was a lot of fun to talk to. So, please click play above and give enjoy the dialogue. But, be warned, I will fully pronounce the title of his book several times.

John’s 66 Do’s and Don’t include:

  • Do be vulnerable 
  • Don’t be a douche, don’t be a bully, and don’t whine
  • Don’t choose passion over purpose (6:00)
  • Do participate in self-care 
  • Don’t get trapped in your bubble, don’t stay in your comfort zone, and don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Do go on man dates, and also do some things on your own
  • Do admit when you were wrong or when you don’t know the answer to something.
  • Don’t pee in the shower (10:22)
  • Don’t stop courting your partner
  • Do create your own definition of success instead following the definitions of others.
  • Do separate who you are from what you do
  • Do make your bed 
  • Don’t be afraid to fail
  • Do try to understand before being understood (11:55)

We also talked about:

  • How to respond and not react (13:05)
  • Going from Misery to Meaning (15:10), including how he got the name, the “Angry Therapist”. 

You can find John at theangrytherapist.com

Click these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.

Connect with him via email here. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post An Angry Therapist’s Guide to a Meaningful Life appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Oct 17 2019

19mins

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What to Know Before They Go (to College)

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My guest today is Dr. Pamela Ellis. She conducts research into the areas of high school of college transition, parent engagement, African-American males in education, and college completion.

As part of that, she’s visited more than four hundred colleges and universities internationally to understand their cultures and their academic and social opportunities available to students. That’s allowed her to help hundreds of young people successfully navigate the college-admissions process, as well as advise universities and school districts as well.

And she’s also the author of the book, What to Know Before They Go: College Edition.

In the podcast, we talked about:

  • The college admissions scandal involving Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. (1:30)
  • Should kids pay for their own college tuition? (3:20)
  • Who should think about taking a gap year? (7:25)
  • Dr. Ellis’ top tips for getting ready for college (11:50)

That last one includes ideas like:

Develop independence and self-awareness and self-advocacy

  • Start in middle school
  • Learn how to make friends
  • Spend time alone and be okay with it
  • Less screen time
  • Learn how to ask help from a teacher
  • Let them participate in overnight programs when young 3-4 days
  • Let them handle problems at school, they go to teacher, you don’t

Student owns process for post high school

  • Take an interest inventory
  • Let them do the application
  • Let them research colleges, not mom and dad
  • Let them plan college visits
  • Let them figure out what they like and want to do

Give a listen to our conversation above. . .

You can learn more about Dr. Ellis at https://compasscollegeadvisory.com/.

Click these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.

Connect with him via email here. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post What to Know Before They Go (to College) appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Sep 18 2019

25mins

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Kids, Sex, and Screens: Upping Your Parenting Game

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If you’re curious whether you should stalk your kids online (spoiler: you should, at least for a while), this is the woman to ask.

My guest this week is Dr. Jillian Roberts. She’s a child psychologist, a professor, and the associate dean at the University of Victoria. And she’s also the author of the new book, Kids, Sex, and Screens: Raising Strong, Resilient Children in the Sexualized Digital Age.

I asked Dr. Roberts to explain the problem she’s trying to solve with this book. She explained that when she first started practicing as a psychologist, the clients she had referred to her had trouble wetting the bed, or a failed math test, or a bully on the playground.

But now the challenges she sees are much more acute: children being solicited online, being addicted to screens, and stumbling on sexual material before they’re ready.

As a result, she’s devised what she calls a 7-Point Compass of solutions for parents to deal with today’s challenges. An outline of the compass is below. But please click play above and listen to our conversation as she explains each of them in more detail.

  1. Start talking early – before they get online. 5 or 6 years old
  2. Give unconditional love
    • Don’t shame them when you find a child being curious
    • Don’t react in anger
  3. Stay current – Be nimble and aware of online influences.
    • Get a Snapchat account
    • Teach them how to be a good digital citizen
    • Follow them online, at least for a while, while they’re learning
  4. Set smart boundaries
    • Self – be true to yourself and your values
    • Family – are you violating family expectations?
    • Community – what are your community’s standards?
    • Online – are you sharing shallow minutia? Purpose of your sharing? Something helpful? Consensual? Advocating for a cause?
  5. Nurture relationships IRL, not just on-line.
  6. Lose stigma and prejudice around taboo topics
    • Get rid of the awkwardness of talking about sexuality. Be very matter-of-fact.
  7. Build resilience
    See list of 40 top things in the book that parents can do to build their kid’s grit and resilience.

You can find out more about Dr. Roberts and her work at drjillianroberts.com or familysparks.com.

Click these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author.

Connect with him via email here. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Kids, Sex, and Screens: Upping Your Parenting Game appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Aug 27 2019

36mins

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Montessori Parenting Without a Montessori School

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You’ve no doubt heard that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were educated at Montessori schools and attribute much of their success to that upbringing.

So, what if you want those kinds of opportunities for your kids, but you don’t have the resources or the opportunity to do that where you live?

The answer, according to a Montessori teacher in Amsterdam, is that you can create the same environment at home, without the school.

This week on my podcast I was joined by Simone Davies, author of the new book The Montessori Toddler: A Parent’s Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being.

She shared a few simple ideas parents can use at home to get those same Montessori school benefits at home. Listen to our conversation above, and check out her book here.

You can learn more about Simone, her book, and her ideas at https://www.themontessorinotebook.com/.

Click these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Montessori Parenting Without a Montessori School appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Apr 16 2019

31mins

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Teaching Your Kids to Think Critically and Detect C.R.A.P. Online

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This week I got a chance to chat with digital literacy educator Diana Graber. Diana is the author of RAISING HUMANS IN A DIGITAL WORLD: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology and the creator of Cyber Civics, a course taught in 42 States and 4 other countries.

It was an eye opening discussion and I’m definitely going have some different discussions with my kids about their use of technology — and probably my own as well.

Her new book covers a number of topics related to kids and their online behavior, including:

  • What is appropriate screen time per week,
  • How to maintain your privacy online (Hint: Don’t take quizzes! They just collect your information to sell to advertisers),
  • How to protect your reputation online, and
  • Online relationships: cyber bullying, sexting, and safety

But what I wanted to talk to Diana about was a chapter in her book called Critical Thinking, which is really about media literacy and how to not be fooled by everything you see on the Internet. Gullibility to propaganda has caused nations to crumble, and ruined the lives of people unable to spot truth from fiction.

We had a wide ranging discussion that touched on a lot of problems and solutions. Click the play button above to listen. If you’re in a hurry, you can read an excerpt from that chapter of her book below. But the conversation is more fun.

Excerpt from Raising Humans in a Digital World

If you’re at all familiar with middle school kids, then you know they love anything remotely scatological (think fart jokes). That’s why I love telling kids I’m going to teach them about crap. It gets their attention every time. . .

In [his book] Net Smart, something of a guidebook for the digital age, [Howard] Rheingold suggests that a crucial “digital know-how” skill needed today is “crap detection.” He defines “crap” as “information tainted by ignorance, inept communication, or deliberate deception.” According to Rheingold, “Learning to be a critical consumer of web info is not rocket science. It’s not even algebra. Becoming acquainted with the fundamentals of web credibility testing is easier than learning the multiplication tables. The hard part, as always, is the exercise of flabby think-for-yourself muscles.”

I try to help my students exercise these muscles by using crap detection’s handy acronym, C.R.A.P. An unforgettable tool to assess the veracity of online information, C.R.A.P. is a set of four questions you can ask yourself whenever you encounter something dubious online. Variations can be found all over the internet, and here are mine:

Currency
• How current is the information?
• How recently was it was posted? Has it been updated?

Reliability
• How reliable is the information?
• Does the author provide references or sources?
• What proof do you have that the information is reliable?

Author
• Who is the creator or author of the information? What are her credentials?

Purpose/Point of view
• What is the purpose of this information? Is it intended to inform, entertain, or persuade?
• Does the information sound like fact or opinion? Is it biased?
• Is the creator or author trying to sell you something?

Personally, I rely on the C.R.A.P. test a lot. Like most people, I’m a sucker for salacious headlines. But if they seem suspicious, I give them the test (please bear in mind, online misinformation is nonpartisan, examples exist on both sides of the political aisle). Here’s one example:

One day while scrolling through my Facebook feed, a friend’s post caught my eye. The headline she shared read: “Shock Revelation: Obama Admin Actively Sabotaged Gun Background Check System.” Intrigued, I clicked on the article and discovered it was posted on a website called Conservative Tribune. While the website and article appeared current enough, neither seemed entirely reliable. The site was full of clickbait headlines sporting words like “vile,” “stunner,” and “disgraced.”

I checked out the author, and his humorous bio and few Twitter followers (only three people when I checked) made me wonder if he was a true journalist. So, I looked up Conservative Tribune on “Media Bias/Fact Check.” This is a media bias resource site—one of many online—that claims to be an independent outlet “dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices.”

There I learned that Conservative Tribune is a “questionable source” that “exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor or no sourcing to credible information and/or is fake news.” I also discovered that the site “consistently fails fact checks, glorifies violence against Americans and Muslims,” and more. Finally, a scroll back through the Conservative Tribune website revealed a distinct purpose and point of view.

The article seemed like crap to me.

Back on Facebook, I returned to where the article was posted and in the upper right-hand corner selected “Report Post.” A box popped up that read, “Help us understand what’s happening,” under which I selected “It’s a false news story.” Facebook presented me with some options. I could block, unfollow, or unfriend the person who posted the story. I didn’t select any of those options, because I don’t want to end up in a filter bubble. Instead I selected “Mark this post as false news” and was done.

This entire process didn’t take much longer than it took you to read what steps I completed. It felt good, too! It’s the small part I can play to help curb the flow of fake news stories online. I encourage my students to take action when they see false information online, too. It’s important for them to use their critical thinking muscles and to feel like empowered digital citizens.

You can find Diana’s book wherever books are sold. Here’s a link to it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ENCwcV

If you’d like to learn more about Diana, you can find her at Cyberwise.org and Dianagraber.com. And you can learn more about her cyber civics course here: Cybercivics.com

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Teaching Your Kids to Think Critically and Detect C.R.A.P. Online appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mar 06 2019

18mins

Play

Curiosity, and the Invention that Almost Never Happened

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One day, nine-year-old James was in the kitchen with his mom’s sister. Well, while Auntie was sitting at the table having a cup of tea, James was standing at the stove watching the tea kettle boil.

And he was just fascinated with it. He watched as the steam came out of the top of the kettle, and he held a spoon up into the jet of steam and watched as little drops of water condensed and ran down the spoon and dripped into a little cup. He just watched that cycle go over and over and over, just fascinated with it.

Well, eventually his Aunt just got frustrated with his laziness and barked at him, saying something like, “James, I’ve never seen such an idle boy! Go ride your bike, read a book, or do your homework. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself just wasting your time like this?”

Fortunately, young James was undaunted by his Aunt’s admonition. Because 20 years later, at the age of 29, and in the year 1765, James Watt reinvented the steam engine, ushering in the Industrial Revolution that we, of course, all benefit from today, and all based on a fascination with steam that he developed at the age of 9 in the kitchen.

How bad would it have been if that, and his other fits of “laziness” watching steam, had been squelched out of him by his parents or family? Just because your child doesn’t look like they’re working hard, doesn’t mean they’re not doing something important.

William Bennett, the former Secretary of Education, once observed,

The opposite of work is not leisure or play or having fun, but idleness—not investing ourselves in anything.”

Be careful not to discourage play. Discourage idleness. And for the record, watching TV is usually not play.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. What do you think would have happened if James Watt’s aunt had kept him from ever playing with the tea kettle?
  2. Have you ever created anything interesting after just playing around with something?
  3. When do you think you’re most creative? In the morning? At night? When you’re bored? When you’re super busy?
  4. When are some times when it’s important to be serious and not play?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Curiosity, and the Invention that Almost Never Happened appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jan 30 2019

3mins

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“Is that really what I need to be happy?”: How one Summer in Bombay Changed Me Forever

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Ami Desai Mathur was born in New York, a first-generation natural-born American citizen. Her parents were born in India and immigrated to the United States after getting married. During her first few years of life, Ami spent half the year living in New York and half the year in her aunt and uncle’s home in Bombay, India visiting family. Even after she started going to school, Ami and her mother traveled to Bombay for a few weeks every year or two until Ami graduated from high school.

The home her aunt and uncle lived in wasn’t just the home they lived in at the time. It was the home her mother and uncle had grown up in, and the one her grandmother had grown up in, and her great–grandmother had grown up in.

But if you’re picturing a fancy suburban estate the family owned, think again. It was a two-bedroom apartment they’d been renting for generations. In addition to the two small bedrooms, it had an eating area with a simple table and a cabinet against the wall for dishes, and a kitchen about five feet by five feet with a refrigerator, sink, and pot burner. And there was one bathroom with a sink and a hole in the ground for a toilet. By Western standards, it would be considered severely impoverished. But by local standards, it was quite normal.

And Ami has fond memories of visiting Bombay. During those visits, that simple two-bedroom apartment housed six people: her aunt and uncle, mother, grandmother, sister, and Ami. During the day, she would go shopping with her mother and buy all sorts of exotic things with their Western-size bank accounts, which were large by local standards, although quite modest back home in New York.

Well, at the end of one her visits to Bombay, Ami vividly recalls her uncle feeling some pressure to give her a gift before she left for home. And then he gave her, with some fanfare, a tiny gold-plated clock. She said, “I remember they were so excited and proud to give it to me. But I also remember feeling guilty taking it. I knew they didn’t have much money. And we had so much.”

But that wasn’t the only reason Ami felt awkward accepting that gift. The other reason was that while they clearly wanted to be generous, she realized they probably thought what Ami needed to be happy was a gift. In other words, they thought that for her to be happy, she needed more stuff.

The Lesson

That’s when it dawned on her, still at a young age, that more stuff wasn’t necessary for happiness. And she didn’t have to look far to see examples. Her aunt and uncle and grandmother living there were very happy people, and they had next to nothing.

So she started watching how they spent their time and noticed some differences.

In the U.S., what seemed to make people happy was buying a new TV, or some other material possession. But my aunt and uncle seemed so happy just going to the market to buy their daily food, or picking up a visitor at the train station.”

“When we got home every day, my grandma would cook the most wonderful meal for us. Then we would all go out and play together.

And friends and family were always stopping by to visit. We’d have tea and biscuits and talk with each of them every time. Back home in New York you’d need an invitation before showing up at someone’s house to visit. It would be rude to do otherwise. But in Bombay, it happened every day because you had dozens of friends who lived in the same building. We were never by ourselves and never bored. It was like an adventure every day.”

So, how did that trip affect Ami’s perceptions of money and material possessions? She told me, “I remember being upset just before leaving for that Bombay trip because my mom wouldn’t buy me the Keds sneakers with the blue dot that was all the rage at school.

But by the time I got home, somehow it didn’t seem all that important. The cheaper pair she got me at Walmart suddenly seemed just fine.”

Not everyone can afford the time and expense of a trip halfway around the world to learn the lesson Ami learned in Bombay. But you can start by sharing her story with your young person. Then talk about ways to spend your time that doesn’t involve buying lots of stuff.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. How does your home compare to the one Ami’s family rented in Bombay?
  2. If having a fancy home isn’t what they needed to be happy, what do you think made them happy?
  3. How would you feel if you found out that your friends and family thought what you needed to be happy was a constant supply of gifts and other material possessions? Would you agree or disagree with that assessment? Would you be proud of it?]
  4. What does make you happy?
  5. What are the few basic material possessions you think you would absolutely need to be happy?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post “Is that really what I need to be happy?”: How one Summer in Bombay Changed Me Forever appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Nov 28 2018

6mins

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The Shared Blanket: Life’s Most Important Lesson in a Single Story

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Imagine you had to pick a single sentence to encapsulate all of the world’s knowledge about how we humans should behave. What would it be? What one statement could capture several millennia of history’s best thinkers, philosophers, and prophets on the topic of ethics and morality?

I think you’d be hard pressed to do better than this:

Treat other people the way you’d like to be treated.”

The Golden Rule. And that’s probably why we call it the Golden Rule, and why it shows up in just about every culture that’s existed in some form or another.

But even a statement as pithy and rich with meaning as the Golden Rule pales in comparison to the effectiveness of a good story when it comes to communicating that message in a way that will be understood and heeded by people of all ages.

And that’s why I was thrilled to come across this thirteenth-century French folktale:

“La Couverture partagée” (The shared covering)

There was once a family with three generations living under one roof. And one day, the time came when the grandfather was no longer able to work to help support himself or the household. He’d become a burden on his son and grandchildren.

As was the custom at the time, his son told him that he had to move out. But he wasn’t completely heartless. So, to protect the old man from the cold, he told the oldest grandchild to find a nice warm blanket for the old man to take with him.

The child soon returned with the nicest, warmest blanket in the house, but only half of it. And the father noticed that it had been quickly and crudely torn in two. So, he asked his son, “Why did you keep the other half of the blanket?”

The child responded,

Oh, I’m keeping that for you, Daddy, when it’s your time to go.”

As parents, it’s easy to forget that our children learn much more from what we do than from what we say. So, let this story be a reminder to us all to not only teach our children to be good people, but to live out those principles ourselves. If we treat others the way we want to be treated, they’ll treat us that way. Our children will see that and do likewise.”

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. What do you think of the father’s decision to send the grandfather out when he could no longer earn his keep?
  2. Do you think he was surprised when his son explained why he only brought back half the blanket? Do you think he might reconsider his decision?
  3. Think about the people you spent time around today. Did you treat each of them the way you would want to be treated?
  4. When do you think it’s appropriate to treat someone differently than you would want them to treat you?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post The Shared Blanket: Life’s Most Important Lesson in a Single Story appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Oct 30 2018

3mins

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Why I Wish I’d Never Bought That Fancy Red Sport Car

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Jun-seo’s father loved fine automobiles. He always drove nice cars himself, and went to all the high-performance car shows — a real car aficionado. So Jun-seo grew up with a taste for fine cars himself. Having his own fancy sports car someday was a goal he set for himself at a young age.

But buying nice cars is expensive, so he knew he needed to earn a lot of money. So, at sixteen he started working as an amateur DJ creating custom mix tapes. This was before the days of digital music or Spotify when anyone could do that themselves.

After a couple of years doing that, he started importing hi-fi stereo equipment from Germany and then selling it in France, where the demand was higher. That required a lot of time and travel. But he was making good money.

All that work, however, took away time that he could have spent with his friends. But it was worth it to him at the time because he really wanted that nice car like his dad. Plus, Jun-seo found he liked having money. He even described himself as becoming somewhat materialistic at the time. So his focus continued to be on earning money.

Over the next several years, Jun-seo saved up enough to buy the car of his dreams. It was a red 1990 Mazda Miata, first edition—the hardtop version, loaded with options. “It was beautiful,” he told me. He bought it used with only 36,000 miles for about 11,000 euros. He was proud to drive it and even prouder to have someone ride in it with him.

And that’s exactly what he was doing one day, about three months after he bought it. It was January, and the streets were slippery. He admitted, “I’d never replaced the original tires. And I was driving a bit crazy, really trying to show off the car and what it could do. I remember taking a fast corner and the nice controlled skid turned into an uncontrollable spin. The car spun around completely once before hitting the curb and flipping upside-down, sliding to a stop on the roof.”

Miraculously, Jun-seo and his friend walked away from the crash without any serious injuries. But the car was totaled. “I didn’t have insurance at the time, so I had to sell the car. I think I got about 2,000 euros for it.” So he had lost 9,000 euros that he’d been saving up for seven years, just to drive his fancy red sports car for three months.

Lessons Learned

Looking back, Jun-seo learned several lessons from that experience. Of course, he should have replaced the worn-out tires. And he shouldn’t have driven it so fast and out of control. More important, however, was this:

I think I should have never set such a shallow and materialistic goal in the first place.”

Today he believes that ended up costing much more than money. “I think it cost me friendships as well.” In hindsight, he knows he had good friends before the age of sixteen, before he had any of that money. And he’s had many strong friendships again after the age of twenty-three, when he wrecked his car. But in between?

“I lost a lot of the friends I had. And I was too much of a materialistic show-off focused on earning money for the car to make any new friends. I was a really different person during that time. In fact, a girlfriend I had in college told me, ‘If I had known you at that point in your life, you wouldn’t be with me now.’”

It’s ironic really. A lot of people want to have fancy cars because they think it’ll attract friends. But at least in Jun-seo’s case, it seems to have done the opposite.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Would you like to have a fancy car someday? If not, what other expensive thing would you like to have that could take years to save up and pay for?
  2. What would you need to do to take care of that thing so that you don’t lose it quickly like Jun-seo did?
  3. Why do you think his obsession with the car and the money to get it cost Jun-seo so many friendships?
  4. What kinds of things do you think it is important to buy of the finest quality? And what kinds of things are cheaper options okay for?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Why I Wish I’d Never Bought That Fancy Red Sport Car appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Aug 30 2018

5mins

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The Gift We Love to Receive But Hate to Give

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Not too long ago, “ropes” courses were all the rage. Remember those? Outdoor team-building programs where people climb through trees on ropes and ladders. The idea is that going through some hardship together builds camaraderie and team spirit.

So learning the value of patience was not what Dave Orewiler expected from his nine-day ropes course outside Asheville, North Carolina. But that’s exactly what he got.

Dave was a human resources executive from Long Island, New York, at the time “in between successes,” as he politely put it. Not being with a corporate team, Dave was put in a somewhat random group of other people who showed up by themselves. His team included a teacher, a nurse, a small business owner, and a retiree, who ranged in age from the early twenties to nearly sixty.

In addition to the ropes course, the program also included hiking, camping, rappelling down mountain slopes, and canoeing. And it was in the three-day canoeing part of the program that Dave learned what he concluded was the most important lesson of the trip.

Each participant was paired with someone else for the two-person canoes. And while the course wasn’t designed as a race, people are naturally competitive, so it usually ends up that way. So while he would never say it, Dave was probably disappointed when he found out his assigned partner was an extremely thin woman in her forties with limited upper body strength and a deformity in one arm that kept it bent at the elbow.

After making it successfully through most of the canoe trip, they got to the most difficult part of the river: the rapids. As Dave explained, “Riding the rapids had a certain thrill to it, but also some danger. If you don’t do it right, you can find yourself upside down pretty quickly. But our coach taught us how to put our oars straight down into the water and stabilize the boat without paddling until we got safely through the rough parts.

“Well, several of the faster boats had already made it through. When it was our turn, I reminded my partner to keep her oar straight and upright in the water. But, once we shoved off, I guess her fear got the best of her and she just kind of froze, clutching her oar waist-high above the boat.

“Of course, we pretty quickly lost balance and tipped over. Our next attempt was no different. And after the third time going over the edge of the boat, I was getting pretty tired of the cold water. I’ll admit my patience was getting thin. Everyone else was downstream already, cheering for us. That was nice, but also a little embarrassing.

“What I wanted to say to my partner was, ‘Why don’t you get out and I’ll take it in myself.’ But I bit my lip and reminded my partner one more time to keep her oar in the water to help stabilize the canoe.”

Well, off they went down the river again, taking the rapids head on, but this time with both oars in the water, straight up, and without paddling. After a few bumps and splashes and getting knocked around a bit, they found themselves safely on the other side of the rapids, welcomed by a round of cheers from the other canoers.

After the course ended, Dave went home and landed a new job. But, a few months later, he got a letter in the mail from his canoe partner. On the trip she’d told him about struggling with her disability, and part of how she responded to it was competitive bicycling. But the letter explained even more.

For her, the ropes course was an investment in self-confidence, to help her get to the next level of cycling. And apparently Dave had played an unwitting role in that. Before the ropes course, she considered trying out to compete as a cyclist in the Paralympic Games, but had decided not to.

In the letter, she explained that Dave’s patience helped her regain her confidence. “Thank you for being such a patient teacher,” she wrote.

She went on to explain that after getting back from the trip, she decided to try out for the Paralympics after all, and she made the team. She closed the letter with words that forever changed the way Dave thought about the value of showing someone patience: She said, “I won the silver medal.”

Dave’s patience had paid off for her. And after reading her letter, he knew it had paid off for him too.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. How many times do you generally have to try something before you get the hang of it? Whatever your answer is, that’s probably how many times someone else needs to try something before they get the hang of it too.
  2. How do you think his partner would have felt if Dave had said, “How about you just get out of the canoe and let me take it through the rapids by myself”?
  3. Has anyone ever given up waiting for you to do something and said, “Here, just let me do it”? How did that make you feel?
  4. hat’s an example of a situation where it’s a better idea to be impatient?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post The Gift We Love to Receive But Hate to Give appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Aug 02 2018

6mins

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How to Build Confidence in New Situations

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I think all parents want their kids to have a healthy sense of confidence, especially when they’re going into a new or unfamiliar situation — like attending a new school, or moving to a new neighborhood.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a proven way to do that in exactly those situations? Well, it turns out, there is. And it’s a method professor Art Shriberg had success with every year with his new MBA students at Xavier University.

In the past three decades, he’s worked with literally thousands of students from dozens of countries around the world. And over the years, one of the things he noticed is that the foreign students — who are a long way from home and whose first language isn’t English — often come into the program with less confidence than the local American students. And in some courses, class participation and group projects made up a significant part of the grade. So that put them at a real disadvantage.

Dr. Shriberg’s solution was to organize a soccer match.

Each year, he arranged for all the students to play soccer as part of new student orientation week. His reasoning was that the international students were almost always better than the Americans at soccer. They’d grown up playing it. And that showed on the field. Having those early victories on the soccer field gave them confidence and helped them win friends and earn the respect of their peers.

He noticed the foreign students did much better in their studies after he started the annual soccer matches. And the confidence it helped them build is the obvious reason why.

It’s really a simple concept. A sure way to build confidence in a new environment is to do at least one thing you’re already good at. It builds your own confidence while at the same time building the confidence others have in you.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Why do you think the foreign students weren’t as confident as the American students?
  2. Do you think it was fair for Dr. Shriberg to pick soccer as the game for all the incoming students to play, instead of baseball or American football?
  3. If someone were new to your school, how could you build their confidence in a similar way?
  4. Next time you’re in a new school, grade, job, etc., what kind of thing could you arrange to participate in that you’re already good at to build your confidence?
  5. What’s an example of a situation where you’d want to completely immerse yourself in something new and not do anything old and familiar?
  6. Who do you think is going to win the World Cup this week? Me? I’m pulling for Croatia.

Use these links to subscribe to this PWAS podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post How to Build Confidence in New Situations appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jul 11 2018

3mins

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“What do you care what other people think?”

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One of the most prevalent human frailties — one that begins in childhood and stays with us the rest of our lives — is a concern about what other people think of us. To a 10-year-old, it might be what the other kids will think of her new tennis shoes. To a teenage boy, it might be what the girls think of his moves on the dance floor. To an adult, it might be what his peers think of his work, or what her boss thinks of her leadership potential.

That’s a lesson Richard Feynman learned while standing at his wife’s hospital bed.

If you don’t recognize that name, Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965 for his work on quantum electrodynamics. In scientific circles, he was known just as much for his sarcastic wit and bongo playing as he was his brilliant science. But, publicly, he was probably best remembered as the guy who solved the mystery of why the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986. Which he did, by the way, by refusing to go along with the investigation plan that NASA had approved and that the U.S. Congress had sent him and 11 other people to conduct.

In fact, it was his unapproved conversations with NASA engineers that helped him figure out that it was a failure in the rubber O-ring on the fuel line that caused the explosion.

Then, during the congressional panel, on live television, Feynman famously demonstrated his theory by taking one of the O-rings out of his glass of ice water and showing that it didn’t work properly when it was cold. Apparently, the temperature on the morning of takeoff was lower than at any previous shuttle launch. Too cold, as it turns out, for the O-ring to maintain its flexibility, which caused it to fail under pressure.

Now, was Feynman just born brave? Yeah, probably. But there was at least one defining moment in his life that I’m convinced made him even bolder. And it was the moment that taught him to stop caring so much what other people thought of him.

It was back in the early 1940s. Feynman was one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Labs — that was the top-secret government program to build the atomic bomb.

Now, at the time, Feynman’s wife Arlene was undergoing treatment for tuberculosis in Albuquerque, New Mexico, about a hundred miles away. So, on the weekends, he’d hitchhike to the hospital to visit her.

Well, Arlene knew Richard was frustrated that he couldn’t really do anything to help her. So one weekend when he got there, she showed him an 18-inch charcoal grill she’d ordered through the mail. After all that hospital food, what she really wanted was a home-cooked meal. So she asked him to grill her a steak.

But Feynman said what most people would have said. “How the hell can I grill a steak in the room, here, with all the smoke and everything?”

So, Arlene told him he should just take it out on the lawn in front of the hospital. But the hospital was right on Route 66, one of the busiest highways in the country at the time. And with all the automobile and pedestrian traffic, he said, “I can’t just fire up a grill and start cooking steaks in front of the hospital. People will think I’m crazy!

And that’s when Arlene said something to him that changed everything. She said,

What do you care what other people think?”

That struck a profound chord with him. Not only did he cook Arlene the steak she asked for, he came back and did it again every weekend after that.

After all, why should he care what other people think? He cared about Arlene! Her comfort and happiness was more important than what anyone else thought.

At any age, an unhealthy concern about what other people think about you can stifle your creativity, sap your courage, and keep you from doing what’s really important to you.

So, if you find your young person becoming too worried about what other people think, share this story and ask, “What do you care what other people think?”

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Do you ever worry about what other people think of you?
  2. Has that ever stopped you from doing something you wanted
    to do?
  3. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you did it anyway?
  4. What are some situations where it does really matter what other
    people think of you?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a Story and Parenting with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post “What do you care what other people think?” appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jun 13 2018

5mins

Play

The Problem of Getting Something for Nothing

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Thomas Paine once observed, “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly.”

If true, that might suggest that something we obtain for free we don’t esteem at all. But so what? Does it really matter if we esteem something too lightly?

One person who knows something about that is John Chancellor.

Paying for the Psychiatrist

A few years ago, a psychiatrist friend of John’s borrowed some money from him and was having difficulty paying it back. At the same time, another friend of John’s was struggling with a different problem, the kind that might benefit from the help of a psychiatrist.

So John suggested what seemed like a great solution. He asked his psychiatrist friend if he would take his other friend as a patient, but instead of charging him, simply take it as credit against the amount he owed John. The psychiatrist gets his debt reduced, a troubled man gets the counseling he needs, and John gets the satisfaction of knowing he’s helped both his friends. It was a brilliant idea, except for one thing: The psychiatrist refused to do it.

John was surprised, as you might imagine, and even a bit angry.

Let me understand this,” he scoffed. “You owe me a fair bit of money. My friend needs help. But you won’t help my friend and offset that against what you owe me?”

The psychiatrist looked John straight in the eye and said, “Yes, you’re correct. I understand and agree that I owe you. I also understand about your friend, and from what you have told me, I think I could be of real help. However, I refuse to take your friend as a patient on that basis.”

“Why?” John asked.

For the very simple reason that I never want to enter into a relationship with a patient when I know it’s doomed to fail.”

He explained, “when a patient comes to me, he has to be hurting enough that he’s willing to do something about it. If the pain is enough, he’ll make sacrifices; he will do whatever it takes to relieve the pain. But if it’s too easy for him, he won’t benefit. In this case, if he doesn’t pay, the patient won’t value the service and as a result won’t do what it takes to benefit from it.”

What he meant, of course, is that in his experience, patients who don’t pay for his services are unlikely to follow his advice or take whatever medications he prescribes. In this case, the psychiatrist would get his debt reduced. But his patient would be no better off. And that didn’t seem to be a fair arrangement.

John’s anger started to melt away as the wisdom of these words sank in. We tend to value things based on what we have to give up to obtain them. If something comes too easy, if the cost is too low, we place little or no value on it.

The lesson

John’s conclusion from this for parents struggling with the decision to help their children through every little problem was this: “Don’t rob children of the benefits that come from solving their own problems by trying to solve their problems for them.” It also helps make a strong case for not buying them every little thing their heart desires.

And for the children, this story may help them understand why we can’t (and shouldn’t) always come to their rescue or satisfy their every whim.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. Do you think the psychiatrist was justified in refusing to take John’s friend as a patient
  2. What does the saying “That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly” mean to you?
  3. Do you have any toys or clothes or a car that you had to work hard to earn the money to buy? How well do you take care of that item compared to things your parents gave you for free?
  4. Can you think of some things that you don’t have to work for that
    are extremely valuable to you?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post The Problem of Getting Something for Nothing appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

May 16 2018

5mins

Play

What Happens When a Japanese Woman Decides to be Friends with a “Very White Male”

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Becky Okamoto is the principal and founder of an operational consulting company called the Evoke Strategy Group, LLC. But she’s an engineer by training, and spent most of her career in and around manufacturing.

Meeting Marvin

Earlier in her career, she was part of the leadership team at a production facility in California. It was one of the most diverse leadership teams she’d ever been a part of. In addition to her as an Asian American, there were two other women on the team and two Hispanic managers as well. In an otherwise Caucasian, male-dominated country and industry, it was nice to be on a team where her culture and values weren’t in the minority. She felt comfortable. Until a guy we’ll call “Marvin” showed up.

Marvin was the newest member of the leadership team. And as Becky described him, “He was very ‘white male,’ a man’s man, played football in high school and college, loved talking about sports.” Her first impression?

I did not like him.”

She recalls in one of the first meetings he attended, he was sharing some analogy about Scottie Pippen he thought would help make his point. When one of the Hispanic women asked who Scottie Pippen was, he was astonished. “He plays for the Chicago Bulls!” he blurted out.

To which she replied, quite unimpressed, “What are the Chicago Bulls?” If there was any indication he was out of his element, this was it.

Becky also didn’t like that he’d just come from an assignment in marketing (unusual for a team of engineers) and he was very aggressive. She admitted, “I was competitive myself and I probably felt threatened by him.” As a result, their interactions were often antagonistic.

Becky soon went to a confidant on the team, Ernie Ahumada, to vent. “Ugh, he’s so arrogant! I really don’t like him.” Since Ernie was a minority manager himself, Becky assumed he’d be sympathetic to her complaints. His response was anything but.

Becky, it’s your fault you don’t like Marvin. This has nothing to do with him. This is your problem. If you decided to like Marvin, you’d like Marvin.”

How did Becky feel about Ernie’s response? “I was so mad! He was supposed to take my side!”

But Ernie wasn’t done. He continued, “You need to make an attempt to like Marvin. If you did, you’d find out he’s exactly like you.”
“Oh no, he is not!” Becky shot back.

“Yes, he is,” Ernie assured her. “You both have the same values. And I have tremendous respect for both of you. Why wouldn’t you respect each other?”

Ernie convinced her that she’d just made a judgment about Marvin because of his cultural differences growing up as a white male versus her as a Japanese female. “You need to approach Marvin, and you need to like him.”

So she decided to follow his advice. She went to Marvin and said,

I want to make our relationship work. I don’t want to keep fighting. I apologize because I’m the problem.”

Recalling that moment, she admitted how hard it was to muster those words. “It darn near killed me. But I’m so glad I did it.”

Marvin’s response was, “I want to make this better too. It’s not working, and it’s a shame. We should do something about it.” A gracious response, Becky thought, given the circumstances.

She described their progress this way. “As we started working together with more positive intent, we found out Ernie was right. We had the same core values and had the same goals for the organization. We just had different ideas about how to get there.

After that, we would still have animated debates about what to do. But we did it respectfully and knew that we both shared the same objective.”

The Lesson

Looking back after two decades, Becky sees several lessons in this experience:

  1. Don’t judge the proverbial book by its cover. Marvin wasn’t the arrogant white male she assumed him to be.
  2. Not liking someone is a choice, which meant that liking that person is also a choice. Liking someone or respecting someone is something you do, not something that happens to you without your control.
  3. A genuine apology is a powerful tool for taking a relationship in a different direction.
  4. She learned from Ernie’s example what good friendship looks like. It would have been easy for Ernie to sympathize with her complaints and join her in criticizing Marvin. “But he didn’t take the bait,” she explained. “He never said a bad word about Marvin.”

Today, Becky describes Marvin as “one of my most trusted and respected mentors, coaches, and role models. I admire him greatly.” The two enjoy a wonderful relationship. And it all started with a decision to be friends.

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post What Happens When a Japanese Woman Decides to be Friends with a “Very White Male” appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Apr 23 2018

5mins

Play

Surviving Prom Night

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Prom night is supposed to be one of the most exciting events of our lives. At least that’s what Walethia Aquil thought as a senior at Northwestern High School in Flint, Michigan. Unfortunately for her, it turned out to be one of the worst.

Just a few weeks before the prom, Walethia didn’t even think she’d be going. She described herself as “shy, with very little self-confidence, and not very popular.” The bottom line was that nobody had asked her yet.

As the date got closer and closer, conversation in the hallways turned almost exclusively to the prom: what kind of dress the other girls were going to wear, where they planned to have dinner, and who they were going with. For Walethia, all that only served as a constant reminder that she didn’t even have a date.

But then just a few days before the big night, everything changed.

A guy nobody wanted to go with asked the girl nobody wanted to take. So now, I was going to the prom.”

Now, Walethia didn’t have much money. But she took her preparation seriously. She found a dress on sale she could afford. She styled her own hair and manicured her nails. She already had long white gloves. And she had a pair of shoes dyed to match her new gown. She was all ready for the prom. Or so she thought.

While she prepared well for how she should look, what she hadn’t considered is that she didn’t know how to behave. And that, it turns out, was a much bigger deal for Walethia. The reason? This wouldn’t just be her first prom. It would be her first date. She had never been out with a boy on what most people would consider an official date over dinner or to a dance. In fact, Walethia had no recollection of ever eating in a restaurant before that night. As one of seven siblings, she explained, “We never had money to feed nine people in a restaurant.”

Prom night came and Walethia remembers being excited but nervous as they sat down at the restaurant. When the waiter handed her a menu, she didn’t have a clue how to read it. None of the things on it sounded like what she was used to eating at home. Eventually she saw the word “shrimp” in one menu item and at least recognized that as something she might like. So she ordered it.

When the waiter delivered it, she was mortified. He laid in front of her a plate of food so enormous she was embarrassed to even be seen sitting near it. And other than the shrimp, she recognized little of what was on it.

She sat there motionless, paralyzed in self-conscious fear. She felt like every eye in the restaurant was on her. And even if she hadn’t just lost her appetite or knew what food was on her plate, she didn’t know which fork to use or what to do with her napkin. Looking back, she describes herself as just not having any of the social skills to navigate all this strange territory.

Walethia made it through the evening and the rest of high school. But that night left a lasting mark on her, one she would revisit on several occasions. She went on to attend Mott Community College in Flint. After her first eighteen months, she made the dean’s list. But she was still shy and insecure, and she struggled with her social skills. It was that lack of social skills that eventually led her to drop out of college entirely. She hoped it had just been the school environment and the social pressures of being a teenager that were so difficult. But she found the working world no different. After taking a job at General Motors, she concluded that

People didn’t like me, and I didn’t like people. I was missing opportunities right and left.”

It was clear the need for these skills wasn’t going away. If anything, they were getting more important the older she got.

Walethia’s Solutions

Eventually, she decided to attend a finishing school to develop her social skills. And that turned out to be one of her better decisions. It gave her the confidence to handle any situation in business or social settings. After many successes in her career since, she concluded there was nothing she couldn’t achieve when she combined hard work with good manners, grace, charm, and poise.

But she never forgot the old Walethia and knew there were others who struggled with the same issues. And that led her to start her own business: Grace & Charm, a training firm for entrepreneurs and young executives to help make sure their personal and professional image doesn’t limit their success. For sixteen years now, she’s successfully coached business leaders, politicians, entertainers, and beauty pageant winners.

And she also never forgot that shy little girl who was terrified at her prom dinner. And as frightening as it was for her at the time, she’s since learned an even more disturbing scenario that plays out every year at prom time. The social pressure and anxiety surrounding prom night has only increased in the years since Walethia was in school. Now there are kids who fly off to New York to pick out just the right dress or rent limousines and even helicopters to deliver them to their dinner destinations.

At times, this has led to all kinds of unfortunate consequences. She learned from a guidance counselor at a local high school of a senior in her school she was concerned about. She was on track academically, with a promising college and working career in front of her. The only thing between her and that future was prom night and the final five months of high school. But she couldn’t afford a new prom dress. Her plan to deal with that unfortunate situation? Drop out of school. Seriously.

The social stigma of not going to prom, or going but wearing anything but a shiny new dress, was apparently stronger than the stigma and consequences of dropping out. If she weren’t a student, there would be no pressure to go to prom. That was her solution. And apparently, this girl wasn’t alone in her predicament or her solution.

Situations like that led Walethia to start another venture, but this one is a purely charitable one. As part of her venture, called My Dreams Do Come True, Walethia solicits donations of new or slightly used prom dresses and gives them away to girls in the Genesee County area who need them.

But she doesn’t just provide the dress. She gives the girls the whole boutique shopping experience. For most, this will be their first experience shopping for a dress. And like Walethia in that restaurant many years earlier, they wouldn’t know how to handle themselves shopping for a formal gown. So she teaches them. They come in, get sized, pick out a nice dress, and even have it altered if needed. In the first three years, she’s given away more than five hundred dresses to local girls, most of whom otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford one. She recalls at least one in a wheelchair and one in the middle of a battle with cancer. But all of them leave with a smile.

And all this came from that one awful night she’d been trying to forget. Looking back at all she’s achieved and the difference she’s made in countless lives since, Walethia now reflects, “Maybe that wasn’t such a terrible night after all.”

Today she advises the shy and insecure and tells them they’re not alone. “Reach out to a mentor, or join organizations [like hers] that provide coaching and reinforcement.” As a successful entrepreneur, author of several books, and one of Stiletto Woman magazine’s 2013 Amazing Women of the Year, Walethia is perhaps the best example of what you can achieve with a little grace and charm.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  • If you haven’t already been, do you think you’ll go to the prom someday? Why or why not?
  • What do you think about the solution to drop out of school to avoid embarrassment over prom?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know how to act or what to say or what to do? How did that feel?
  • What could you do to prepare for one of those situations if it was coming up soon?

Use these links to subscribe to this PWAS podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Surviving Prom Night appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Apr 03 2018

8mins

Play

Here’s What Happens When You Wait Too Long to Say, “I’m Sorry”

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When Darrell was in the third grade he did something he’s regretted for the thirty-five years since. What was his unforgettable and unpardonable sin? He wrote a poem. A very bad poem.

Darrell’s class had been learning the rhyme and meter of several forms of poetry. One particular week they learned about limericks. That’s a five-line poem, written in what poet’s call anapestic meter, and with an unmistakable rhyming pattern. You recognize one immediately when you hear it.

To demonstrate they understood the form, each student had to write his or her own original limerick and then read it out loud to the class. Darrell wasn’t much of a class clown. But he was quite pleased with his poem because, at least in his mind, it was exceedingly funny. And he assumed everyone else would think so as well. When it was his turn, he proudly read the following to the class:

Sally Shale
Was as fat as a whale
She was so fat
She had a flat
And that was the end of Sally Shale

Darrell finished his limerick and waited with a wide smile for the howls of laughter he expected. He got none. Nor did he get the compulsory applause the other students got for even the lamest poems.

Even at the age of eight, Darrell recognized the unmistakable look of disgust and confusion on the faces of his fellow classmates and his teacher.

As for Sally Shale (a fellow third-grader in his class), it’s true, she’d struggled with her weight most of her life. Darrell had just added himself to a long list of tormentors. But at his age, it never occurred to him that his words might be offensive. It was the first time in his life he remembers being painfully aware that his words had hurt someone.

Darrell avoided Sally for weeks, just out of embarrassment. And as many children (and adults) do, what he did see her, he just pretended nothing had ever happened, hoping she’d forget about it. What he didn’t count on, though, was that he would be the one who wouldn’t be able to forget.

Today, at the age of forty-two, not a month goes by that Darrell’s thoughts don’t drift back to third grade and to Sally Shale. He relives that awful moment he first uttered his hurtful limerick. And he’s still remorseful about it. It’s not a debilitating regret that consumes him daily. But in thirty-five years, he’s suffered countless times for that one single unresolved transgression.

Just imagine how much pain and anguish Darrell could have saved himself if he’d just apologized to her and put the entire incident behind him. Oh, his teacher made him give the obligatory “I’m sorry” immediately after the poetry reading. But that’s different than a genuine, heartfelt apology from someone who really understands what they’ve done wrong. And the longer he went without giving a true apology, the harder it got to even consider.

Then, three decades later, in the Internet age of social media, he came across Sally’s name on Facebook. He thought about contacting her and asking forgiveness. But doubt set in. “Would this just open up a wound that had long since closed? Would she think it self-serving of me to apologize after all these years, perhaps just to clear my conscience?” So he didn’t. And so the thorn remains.

The Lesson

Darrell learned two valuable lessons from that experience. The first was this: Despite what you may have heard about “sticks and stones,” words can hurt people. As a result, to this day, it would be a rare occasion to find Darrell saying anything ill of another person who didn’t truly deserve it.

His second lesson was the value of asking forgiveness. Without it, not only does the pain of an offense remain with the victim, but it continues to fester in the perpetrator as well. And the longer one goes without apologizing, the harder it is to do. Resolve to apologize early, and you’ll never have to suffer decades of remorse, no matter how bad your poem is.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

  1. How do you think Sally felt when Darrell read his poem in class?
  2. If Darrell had given her a real apology, do you think he would still be thinking about that moment as often?
  3. If Darrell wanted to apologize to Sally today, what words might he use to do it in a way that wouldn’t seem self-serving?
  4. Do you think it’s ever too late to offer an apology? How late is too late?

Use these links to subscribe to this PWAS podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Here’s What Happens When You Wait Too Long to Say, “I’m Sorry” appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mar 06 2018

5mins

Play

The Only Way to Listen Better by Talking More

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Listening is one of the most important communication tools we have. In fact, it’s one of the only two requirements for actually having a conversation — the other being it’s far more popular teammate: talking.

But even when we do listen, most of us listen with the intent of responding, not with the intent of understanding. In other words, we’re thinking about the next thing we’re going to say. That’s not listening. Sometimes really listening means more than being quiet while other people talk. You have to be looking for the meaning in what the other person is saying and doing.

A wonderful and underappreciated tool to help you do that is asking questions. In fact, I would argue that asking good questions is less a form of talking than it is a form of listening. A lovely example of how to do that well comes from Dan Ball, a brand narrative designer in London.

A Probing Question at the Pub

Dan was having lunch at one of his favorite pubs in Greenwich with a good friend, a struggling illustrator who lives with his grandmother. As Dan describes him, “If you want to find him, you’d probably be disturbing him at whatever time you call. He locks himself away in his home studio and works strange hours on satirical pieces of art.” So he obviously has a high degree of passion for what he does.

During lunch, the topic of work inevitably came up, and Dan started shared what he was working on. He told me, “I spent a good deal of time sharing the projects I was most excited about. And he was very happy to join in and ask questions along the way. But when I turned the conversation to him and asked how his projects were coming along, all he said was, ‘I’ve been working on a new technique to add more texture to my illustrations.’ And he left it at that.”

Here we arrive at a critical point in the conversation. Dan could have filled the silence by returning to one of his projects. And that’s what many of us would do, return to our favorite topic—ourselves. But that would be talking, not listening. To get his friend to do the talking, Dan knew his best tool was to ask a probing question. A good listener, then, might ask his friend to say more about this new technique: Like, “How exactly does that technique work?” or “What kind of texture does it add?” or “How did you discover it?”

But a great listener can ask an even more probing question. And Dan, it turns out, is a great listener. Dan noticed that recently when he asked about his friend’s work, the answers have gotten shorter and shorter. So he responded,

Why do you rush through telling me about achievements that I know are important to you?” And he immediately knew that he’d asked the right question.

Dan told me, “His eyes moved from me and the conversation to something in the distance, and then back again. And his lips started to quiver as if what I said hit a chord. No longer holding back, he told me, ‘Well, living with my Nan . . . she doesn’t quite understand what I do or why I even do it. So when I get a new client or work with someone of interest or I win an award, I have to share it really quickly. If I don’t, she just looks confused and loses interest. I guess I’ve gotten in the habit of doing that now.’ ” And that, of course, took the conversation in an entirely new and probably more important direction for the two men.

The Lesson

Asking the right questions is a powerful listening tool. But, as Dan explains, “You can only ask the right questions if you’re truly listening to what the person is saying.” So the two feed off one another. “And truly listening,” he continues, “doesn’t just mean listening to the words that are coming out. It’s observing their body language as well. When they get agitated or show some flecks of emotion, that’s when you see some little tics in their behavior. I think that’s what truly listening is. It’s seeing people’s tics and asking questions about them.”

So, if listening is something you or the young person in your life struggle with (and who doesn’t), try asking more questions in the conversations you have every day. You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll lose interest in your own favorite topic (you!) and how much more fascinating and important the people you talk to will become.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

1. How is asking questions more like listening than like talking?
2. Have you ever told someone really important to you that you wanted to talk about something, but they just turned the conversation to themselves or another subject and never asked you any questions? How did that make you feel?
3. How does it make you feel when someone asks you questions about your life and what’s important to you?
4. How can you tell when someone doesn’t want to talk about something and maybe it’s a good idea to just move on to another topic?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post The Only Way to Listen Better by Talking More appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Feb 12 2018

6mins

Play

Dealing with Loss: The Great Berkeley Fire of 1991

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People lose things every day—a set of keys, a matching sock, or the homework they can’t find on their computer—all minor daily frustrations. Not the kind of loss most people need help dealing with.

The kind we need help with is the kind of loss that stops your heart, forever alters the course of your life, brings you to your knees, or that tries your soul.

On October 20, 1991, that’s exactly what happened to Dejah. Dejah was twenty-one years old and a senior at the University of California at Berkeley. She lived in a beautiful house in Berkeley’s Oakland Hills area with a nice view of the Bay Area from the back deck. That turned out to be a much nicer study spot than her bedroom, which was nothing more than a converted storage closet.

She had to work three jobs to pay her rent and tuition, and she carried a full schedule of classes. And for the past three months she’d been dating a handsome young man from Switzerland named René. Her life was definitely running at full speed. But she was quite happy, and it was only going to get better. She had an ambitious life planned out in five-year increments. It started with finishing her degree in archaeology the following May. Then she would go off to graduate school and eventually earn a Ph.D. and become a professor. But that was all still seven months away. She had one semester of school and a nearly completed thesis paper to finish first.

Then, one Sunday morning in October, she got up early to go to a conference outside the city. She and a friend left at 6:30 and drove south across the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge to the all-day event. It was a long drive, so, on the way home at the end of the conference, they had plenty of time to talk about what they’d learned. So they left the radio off and just talked. But if they’d listened to the radio, what they saw next might not have seemed so strange.

As they got closer to San Francisco, they saw a thick, black cloud hanging over the entire Bay Area. Dejah said, “It was unbelievable. It looked like San Francisco was turning into Los Angeles with all its smog. So we decided to drive around and use the Golden Gate Bridge instead. My mom and stepfather owned a restaurant in the city, and we were hungry, so we stopped there to eat on the way home. By then it was probably eight or nine o’clock at night. And these were before the days of cell phones, so we’d been out of touch for an entire day. As soon as we walked in, the staff at the restaurant ran up and said, ‘Oh my God, you’re alive! Where have you been all day?’ ”

Dejah and her friend just said, “What are you talking about?”

Don’t you know what’s happening? All of Berkeley is on fire!”

Dejah ran to the bar next door to see a news report on TV. That’s when she learned the fire not only passed through her neighborhood but appeared to have started there. “All I remember thinking is, ‘I’ve got to get to Berkeley.’”

They got back in her friend’s car and drove the rest of the way to Berkeley. Here’s how she described what she saw when she got there: “It was in complete chaos, like something out of Dante’s Inferno. Nobody knew where to go. There were firemen and police everywhere, people screaming and running all over the place, abandoned cars in the middle of the street. It was like a scene from a horror movie. And then somehow, in the middle of this chaos, I ran into René. He was supposed to be at a triathlon that day. But when he heard about the fire, he came to look for me. My housemates didn’t know where I was all day either. Everyone thought I had died in the fire.”

And that wouldn’t have been an unreasonable assumption. Later called the “Oakland Hills firestorm of 1991,” it ultimately killed 25 people and injured 150 others. More than 1,500 acres were destroyed, including almost 3,500 homes and apartment units. The total economic loss was estimated at $1.5 billion. And while Dejah’s share of that $1.5 billion was tiny, it was everything she owned in the world, except for the clothes on her back and $300 in her bank account.

She lost all of her family pictures, the rest of her clothing, the artwork she’d traded her time modeling for, her grandmother’s jewelry, her computer, her car, and, importantly, her senior thesis she’d spent months working on. She stood there in shock, assessing her loss. It was devastating.

She doesn’t even remember where she slept that night. But she does remember who she spent it with. And she remembers what they did. She and René consoled each other the way young lovers do. And as it turned out, among all the loss, fate saw to it that Dejah gained something wonderful on the very night she lost everything else. Two weeks later, Dejah found out she was pregnant.

“I’ve always been an advocate of a woman’s right to choose,” she told me. “So if you’d asked me earlier what I would do if at twenty-one I end up with an unplanned pregnancy, I’d have told you I’d have an abortion. But I didn’t. And I never even considered it. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, everything changed. All of my priorities shifted.”

Dejah married René and moved back with him to Switzerland at the end of the semester, where her son Alex was born.

She ended up moving back to Berkeley when Alex was eighteen months old to finish both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees before returning to Switzerland. So she got some degree of closure on that part of her life. But having a new child, a husband, and an exciting new life in a different country just after the fire gave Dejah an opportunity to compare two things not many of us get to see so closely juxtaposed in time and place: the role and importance of people and relationships in your life versus the things in your life.

As Dejah explains, “It took me a while to fully appreciate the lessons from that time. But it did teach me a few things.

  • First, you can try to plan your life out. But you can’t control everything. Life is the combination of things that happen to us and how we choose to respond to them.
  • Second, I learned that stuff isn’t important. People are. Everything I lost in that fire, that was just stuff. What I gained was far more valuable.”

Dejah and son, Alex, at his college graduation.

  • The third lesson Dejah learned was that if you do find yourself losing most or all of the “stuff” in your life, it’s okay. “Don’t fret over lost stuff or things you can’t change. Embrace them. Life has a way of working out. More beautiful and meaningful things may come from it,” just like they did for her.

But even if you’re not as fortunate as Dejah to gain a new family at the moment you lose your things, you will gain a similar perspective. Because having everything you own destroyed leaves you with only the people and relationships in your life to hold on to. That’s when you’ll learn how very important they are. You’ll realize that you’re much better off losing the things in your life and keeping the people than keeping all your stuff and losing even one person you love.

As with all of these stories, I encourage you to share this with your kids, and then have a discussion about it. Here are some questions to get you started.

1. Have you ever lost anything that was very important to you? What was it? Were you able to get another one?

2. Has anyone you loved ever died? How did you deal with that?

3. What do you think Dejah meant by “Life is the combination of things that happen to us, and how we choose to respond to them”?

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Source: Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Dealing with Loss: The Great Berkeley Fire of 1991 appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jan 22 2018

8mins

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Professional Comedian Drew Tarvin Shares an Antidote for Prejudice and Hatred

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If you follow my Lead with a Story blog or podcast, you’ll know that last week I had professional comedian and self-described “humor engineer” Drew Tarvin on to talk about one of the most attractive parts of human nature — courage. This week I’m having him join me on my Parenting with a Story channel to talk about one of the least attractive parts of human nature — prejudice and hatred — or more particularly, how to get rid of them.

Drew recently completed a nomadic tour of the U.S. performing in all 50 States. His book The United States of Laughter: One Comedian’s Journey Through All 50 States details his funny, harrowing, and poignantly insightful experiences in each State. I asked him to join me and share his experience in the state of Michigan.

As always, it’s more fun to listen to Drew share the story himself, which you can do by clicking the play button above. If you’re short on time, below is an excerpt from that section of his book. Enjoy. . .

I HATE PEOPLE FROM MICHIGAN. I have to; I’m from Ohio and went to the Ohio State University. But I don’t hate them because of the rivalry between the schools or the fact that the states once went to war over the city of Toledo.

The real reason I hate Michiganders is that they are in love with the fact that their state is shaped like a hand. You ask anyone where they’re from in Michigan, and they’ll hold up their hand, “Well if this is Michigan, I’m from right here.” People from other places don’t do that. When people ask me where I’m from, I don’t make a makeshift Ohio by curling my knuckles and say, “Well if this is Ohio, I’m from the abductor pollicis brevis.” People from Italy aren’t like, “Well if Italy is a boota, I’ma from the stiletto.”

And so I sat, with disdain, at the top of a slide in Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan, waiting for something tragic to happen so I could justify my hatred of the Mitten State.

I was at the city park on a disgustingly beautiful summer Saturday, the weather a stupid 80 degrees. The sun was shining, and a light breeze made the whole ordeal even more sickening in its joyful perfection. To my right was Jaclynn, a member of CSz Detroit and my Michigan tour guide for the day. Unfortunately, she’s also one of the nicest people on the planet.

It was my first new state in nearly a month. After my brotherly road trip, I spent most of July in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and DC for speaking engagements, stand-up shows, and more calzones at LaRosa’s. But now I was back to my states tour, starting with what I was sure would be the worst state in the union. Much to my dismay, I had already had a good time in Michigan, and the slide would surely only make things worse.

The day before I was in Ann Arbor, where I walked around the University of Michigan, upset that the campus was beautiful and not dilapidated, as I had hoped. That night, I did a stand-up set on a show that a good comedy friend of mine from New York, Nore Davis, happened to be headlining. The jerks had the nerve to laugh at my jokes.

Then there was the monstrosity that was that Saturday. Jaclynn and I started the day by visiting Lafayette Coney Island, one of the two famous Coney hot dog places in the city. Sadly, the food was edible, though it wasn’t as good as Skyline in Cincinnati. At least one thing was working out.

And then we were off to Belle Isle, where things had gone from bad to worse by going from good to great. We walked past an open field with the horrendous sound of kids playing and people having fun. We frustratingly rekindled the days of our youth as we took a turn on the monkey bars. And we had found this dumb, fun slide.

I wish I could say it was a small, measly slide infected with tetanus. But no, it was one of those giant ones where you hike three flights of stairs to get to the top, put your feet into a burlap sack, and push off.

While I sat at the top of what was sure to be a fun experience on a beautiful summer day, I knew that if I was going to hate my time in Detroit, it would have to be because of a bad experience, not because the city was inherently awful like I had assumed. I was hopeful that I might get concussed as we raced down the metal lanes of the slide, or that I’d accidentally wipe out a kid on the way down and get locked up for involuntary child kicking, or that I’d at least get a weird rash or something. None of those things would happen.

I’m sure somewhere in this whole debacle of a day was the realization that it was wrong to hate an entire location because of a sports rivalry and silly to judge an entire populace because they used their hand to show where they lived. But the narrative that Michigan sucked had long been ingrained in me as an Ohio native, OSU grad, and decent human being.

I knew that visiting new places had the ability to change your perspective, challenge your assumptions, and reduce your prejudice; it was one of the things I enjoyed most about traveling. If people traveled more, they might hate others less.

I just didn’t want that to be true about Michigan, and I certainly didn’t want “learning a lesson” to be added to the things this dumb state had provided. Sadly, the lesson was forcing itself into my brain.

A little later we would be going to get pizza from a local spot named Buddy’s—which luckily wasn’t on par with LaRosa’s—before I would begrudgingly play in a fun ComedySportz show. We would follow that disappointment with a night of karaoke with the whole cast where I would, unfortunately, be doomed to having a good time.

But at that moment, a three-story slide awaited. As the attendant gave the go-ahead sign, I scooted forward to let gravity do its thing. I tried desperately to hide the smile this awful joy was providing me. I slid down the metal slope with ease and delight. As I neared the bottom, I hoped for a broken bone or at least a splinter so I could have been justified in hating this place, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t land gracefully.

This truly was the worst thing Michigan could have done: I wanted to hate it, but it wouldn’t let me. Michigan was the worst.

You can find Drew at humorthatworks.com. Or connect with him on Twitter @DrewTarvin or Facebook.

Use these links to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or Podbean.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

Connect with him via email here.

Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sign up for his newsletter here to get one new story a week delivered to your inbox.

The post Professional Comedian Drew Tarvin Shares an Antidote for Prejudice and Hatred appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dec 18 2017

13mins

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