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Parenting with a Story Podcast | Real-life lessons in character for parents and children to share

Updated 10 days ago

Education
Health
Kids & Family
Self-Help
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.

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.

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10 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

10 Ratings
Average Ratings
9
0
1
0
0

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.
Cover image of Parenting with a Story Podcast | Real-life lessons in character for parents and children to share

Parenting with a Story Podcast | Real-life lessons in character for parents and children to share

Updated 10 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.

Rank #1: Episode 1: Finding the Courage to Pursue Your Dreams

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This story of an 80-year-old man and his 75-year-old dream will help you (and your loved ones) finally muster the courage to pursue your dreams.

The post Episode 1: Finding the Courage to Pursue Your Dreams appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jul 16 2014
5 mins
Play

Rank #2: Episode 2: Self-reliance in Missouri

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Meet a 9-year-old boy from small town Missouri who learned a life-changing lesson about self reliance.

The post Episode 2: Self-reliance in Missouri appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jul 18 2014
6 mins
Play

Rank #3: Top 10 tips to move beyond “How was your day?” at the family dinner table

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This week I was joined by Harvard psychologist Dr. Anne Fishel to talk about how to make better use of the time we all spend around the dinner table.

In her work as Director of Family and Couples Therapy at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-founder of the Family Dinner Project, she’s learned a few things about building stronger families. One is that families that have dinner together suffer less depression, anxiety, substance abuse and teen pregnancy, among other things.

On that topic, she’s just authored a new book, called Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids. In it she explains how to maximize that time around the dinner table with healthy recipes, tips for dinner conversation, games to play, instructions on storytelling, and how to lead the family through change right at the table.

In her book and our conversation this week, she offers these concrete tips and tools to move beyond the simple “How was your day?” conversation starter at dinner:

  1. Rose and Thorn – Each family member has to share something positive (the rose) that happened to them during the day, and something negative (the thorn).
  2. Two Truths and a Lie – Each family member has to share two things that actually happened to them during the day, and one thing that did not. The other family members compete to see who can guess which ones are true and which one is the lie.
  3. Would You Rather – Take turns asking each person “Would you rather. . . ” and then finish the sentence with an interesting choice like, “. . . be able to fly or be invisible? . . . live in the future or in the past? . . . speak every language or play every instrument?”
  4. The Storytelling Game – Make up a collective fictional story. One person starts by making up the first few sentences. Then the next person has to make up the next few sentences, and so on. Helps build creativity and imagination.
  5. Guess that Emotion – Agree on a set of emotions to work with (i.e., happy, sad, surprised, worried, angry, etc.) One person leaves the room for a minute while the others pick which emotion to play with for the round. When the other person returns, the rest of the family has to talk and eat with that feeling in mind but without naming the emotion, while the other person tries to guess which emotion is on display. Helps build empathy.
  6. Mindfulness Game – Everyone close your eyes and be quiet for one minute. Then describe in detail what you heard, felt, smelled, during that minute. See how different the answers are.
  7. Guess the Title – Someone starts describing a list of items, tangible or not, and the rest of the family tries to figure out what the intended title of the list would be. So, “loose change, car keys, lipstick, etc.” might be titled “Things in my purse.” First one to guess the right title wins.
  8. Fruit and Vegetable Game – One person think of someone everyone at the table knows. Then everyone else asks them metaphorical questions to help them guess who the person is. For example, “If they were a vegetable, which one would they be?” Or “if they were a color, what color would they be?” This helps kids think abstractly and metaphorically.
  9. Higglety-Pigglety – One person thinks of two rhyming words, like “crazy daisy” and then gives the other players synonyms as clues, such as “insane flower” to see who can guess the rhyming words quickest.
  10. How well do you know me – Agree on a set of interesting questions, like “if you had a tatoo, what would it be?” or “If the house was on fire, what one item would you grab on the way out?” Then each person write down an answer to each question and put the answers together somewhere. Over dinner, read the first question and all the answers that go with it. Then try to guess which answers came from which person.

With all of these games, the objective isn’t just to play the game, but to have a conversation and tell stories that bring about better understanding and better relationships. The games are just the impetus to start that conversation.

You can learn more about Dr. Fishel and her work at www.thefamilydinnerproject.org and annefishel.wordpress.com or on Twitter at @Home4Dinnerbook. Her book provides many more ideas for leveraging family time for dinner, and is available online and in bookstores everywhere.

[You can find 101 character-building stories in my book, Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share. Sign up for my newsletter here to get a story a week delivered to your inbox.]

The post Top 10 tips to move beyond “How was your day?” at the family dinner table appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mar 09 2015
23 mins
Play

Rank #4: Three successful strategies for dealing with bullies at school

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Of all the reports parents can hear from their child about how things are going at school, few will raise their ire and outrage more than finding out their child is being bullied. And any parent who’s been in that situation struggles with how to advise their son or daughter to respond. Do you give the age-old wisdom that “if you stand up to bullies, they’ll always back down”? Or is that ill-advised in today’s climate? Maybe you should just suggest they go tell a teacher next time and risk them being branded a tattletale.

Fortunately, after a decade of effort, many schools have significantly reduced the most overt and offensive bullying behavior. In many places, the days are gone of the schoolyard thug extorting milk money, homework papers, or test answers. What’s still prevalent, though, and probably always will be, are unkind words — the taunts, teases, name calling, etc. That kind of harassment is just harder to identify and police. So how should a child to respond to that kind of mistreatment?

The best response, of course, depends on a number of factors. But what follows are three successful strategies used by elementary school boys. Let’s see if we can find some wisdom in them. We’ll actually start with me.

Bully #1: John

Despite being a talkative know-it-all with a sarcastic sense of humor, I somehow made it all the way to the fifth grade without having what I would consider a real enemy. But that’s where my luck ran out. I had somehow become the target of ridicule of the class clown. I’ll just call him John. For weeks, he made me the butt of his jokes, teased me, and called me names. And since the other kids admired his sharp tongue, many of them soon joined in. My life had become a fifth-grade version of a living hell.

Well, one night I went to my dad for advice. For some reason I chose the one night a week when his drinking buddies were at our house. Ironically, that turned out to be a far better choice than you might think.

The men listened to my dad give me the mature and reasonable advice to have a respectful talk with John, telling him how his comments made me feel, and asking him to please stop. After patiently suffering this apparent affront to masculinity, my father’s best friend at the time, Jerry, interjected with this advice: He said, “Bullshit! This is what you need to do. You get to school tomorrow morning extra early. You wait outside the school in the parking lot and wait for this ‘John’ to get dropped off. Once he’s away from his mom and not yet buddied up with his friends, you walk right up to him, get in his face, and you say this:

John, you and I are either going to be friends, or we’re going to be enemies. And you need to decide which it’s going to be, right now.

“Then what do I do?” I asked.

“Nothing.” he said. “That’s all you have to do.”

“But what if he says he wants to be enemies? Or what if he wants to know what I’m going to do about it?”

“He won’t,” Jerry assured me. “But if he does, all you have to say is, ‘I just need to know where we stand, John. Are we friends? Or are we enemies?’ Then no matter what his answer is, say ‘Okay’ and walk away.”

It sounded too easy. But all the men, including my father, seemed to think it was a good solution. So the next morning, that’s exactly what I did. I waited to get John alone in the parking lot and executed my lines with the precision and seriousness of a military officer. John’s reaction was priceless. It surprised me as much as my parking lot ambush probably surprised him. Despite his being a few inches taller and several pounds heavier, he took a step backwards. His eyes got really wide. And he stammered out a set of words less meaningful than the tone of voice he used to stammer them. Each of his two or three disjointed sentences contained the word “friends.” But his tone was a combination of shock, fear, and shame. Our business concluded, we walked into the school together.

John never spoke an ill word of me again.

That was 37 years ago. I have two boys of my own now, I’ve tried to identify what it was about this response to a bully that made it work. But it wasn’t until I came across two other successful examples that I saw it. Listen to the following stories of a boy named Carson and see if you can spot the similarities.

Bully #2: Jim

When Carson was in the fourth grade he found himself playing a game of tag with some other boys at lunch each day. But after a few days, one of the boys, we’ll call him Jim, came up to Carson at the beginning of recess and told him he wasn’t allowed to play anymore. Apparently, Jim explained, some other boy had been sick and absent from school for a few days, and Carson had only been allowed in to fill his place. “But he’s back now, so you can’t play anymore.” And that didn’t just mean today. It meant ever.

Of course, the whole decree was silly since there are no player limits in tag. And who appointed Jim as headmaster of the playhouse anyway? But that didn’t matter. He had asserted himself as the leader and had the support of the other kids.

Carson was of course disappointed. It was a really fun game to miss out on. But more important, he would be cut out of the friendship-building time with the other boys. At home that night, Carson’s parents could tell something was wrong. When he shared what happened, Mom and Dad had an idea. They knew the boy’s parents. So two weeks later, they arranged for Carson and Jim to have something of a play date at the school football stadium when little else was going on. Carson, as instructed, took Jim around the field and showed him all of his favorite places: the best seats, hiding spots, and play areas. Basically, Carson took an interest in Jim and was nice to him.

Then he asked Jim to sit down on a bench and said to him very maturely,

Hey Jim, about that thing that happened a couple of weeks ago at recess, when you said I couldn’t play anymore. That really hurt me. It made me feel really bad.

Not exactly the conversation Jim expected.

But Jim’s response was equally mature, and probably just as surprising to Carson. He said, “Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that too. I’ve been feeling guilty about that ever since. I’m really sorry.” And with that, it was over. Carson started playing tag with Jim at recess again. And these boys who had been avoiding each other for days were now at ease.

His parent’s well-planned intervention worked. And Carson executed his part flawlessly. Being nice to Jim and then confronting him was the furthest thing from Carson’s mind originally. But he had to admit, it did work. They were never best friends. But they did have a better relationship. And Jim never excluded Carson from any game again.

Bully #3: Brandon

Now, fast forward two years, and let’s see how Carson handled another experience with bullying. But this one happened four thousand miles away and involved more than just a game of tag. In his sixth-grade year, Carson’s family moved to Geneva, Switzerland. It was unlike any environment he’d experienced before. He was used to the conservative atmosphere of his suburban Christian school back home. At the new school, the language and topics of conversation among the boys were, let’s just say, worldly. And one of the worldlier of his peers was a kid named Brandon.

In addition to bad language, Brandon made a habit of slinging insults at the other boys around the locker room. Each of his targets had the pleasure of a tailor-made set of degrading comments constructed just for him. For Carson, one of his favorite barbs included “fat, stupid American.” He also enjoyed teasing Carson for his foreign accent. But the worst part was when he included Carson’s mother in his slurs. You can imagine what that sounded like.

Again, Carson’s parents were quick to pick up on his mood and ask what was going on. But unlike the last time, neither Mom nor Dad had any relationship with Brandon or his parents to arrange a meeting. And Carson had even less stomach for trying to befriend this boy through kindness than he had last time. They needed a different plan. So here’s what they did.

A few weeks later, on a field trip across the border in France, Carson saw his opportunity. The students were exploring a large cornfield. He waited until Brandon was separated just a bit from the other kids. Then he approached Brandon and asked if they could talk for a minute. He then led him off to the side. Perhaps not out of eyesight, but definitely out of earshot. And that’s when he delivered his one and only line he’d been practicing with his dad for two weeks.

He looked Brandon straight in the eye and said calmly, but seriously,

Do we have a problem?

“What do you mean?” Brandon said, a bit off balance

“I said, do we have a problem?” And then Carson briefly reminded him of the locker room incidents.

Now Brandon was in full backpedal, he said, “Uh . . . oh, that. No, I do that to everyone. Nothing personal, man.” Then after nervously stammering out a few more retractions, Brandon finished with, “I don’t have anything against you, Carson. Really. I’m sorry.”

“Good,” Carson said. And then he and Brandon walked back to join the other students.

Brandon never bothered Carson again.

Like the last example, this response to bullying seems simple. But also like the last one, it took practice. Carson and his father role-played the entire event several times, sometimes with Dad and sometimes with Carson playing the role of Brandon. When playing the villain, Dad challenged Carson with every potential response. “What? Why do you want to talk to me over there? Do you want to kiss me or something?” You get the point. After several scenes, Carson was comfortable playing his role.

Why these strategies worked

Let’s look at what else these two scenarios have in common, along with the first one that involved me. I would argue three key similarities.

First, and most obviously, in all three cases the victim confronted the bully face to face, as opposed to leaving the situation to get better on its own or relying only on adult intervention.

Second, in each case the victim addressed his tormentor with a statement or a question, not a threat. There wasn’t any “if you don’t stop being mean to me I’m going to . . .”

Third, and I think most important, in all three cases the victim got the bully away from his friends to have the conversation. Without any witnesses, the bully has nobody to impress and no reason to be defensive. The same confrontation, if played out in front of a cohort of friends, could easily backfire.

Hopefully your young person never has to confront this difficulty. But if they do, now you have a few responses to consider.

As with all my 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 were the similarities in Carson’s two bullying incidents? What were the differences?
  2. What’s the difference between what Carson said and a “threat”?
  3. How might the result have been different if Carson had said the same things in front of not just the bully, but in front of the bully’s friends?
  4. How do you know if a bullying situation is too dangerous to deal with this way and it might be better to handle another way? What might you do in that case?

[You can find this and 100 other character-building stories in my book, Parenting with a Story: Real-life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share. Sign up for my newsletter here to get a story a week delivered to your inbox.]

The post Three successful strategies for dealing with bullies at school appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Feb 23 2015
12 mins
Play

Rank #5: 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
31 mins
Play

Rank #6: Going alone: an underappreciated strategy for not missing out on life

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Glenda Cecil (front right) and family

Glenda Cecil was born in 1908 in Parker City, Indiana. When she was still a young girl, around the age of twelve, she was invited to attend one of the biggest Christmas parties in the county. Everyone was excited to attend because word had leaked out that the hosts planned something special for the evening hors d’oeuvres: fresh oranges.

That may not sound impressive to today’s reader. But in the middle of an Indiana winter in 1920, it was very impressive. At the time, nobody had figured out an economical way to get fresh produce from the Southwest to the colder states during winter. It was simply unheard of to eat any crop out of season. Somehow, and surely at great expense, the party host had made arrangements to do the impossible.

Young Glenda was so excited. But her mother was raising proper young ladies, so she and her sisters received the following instructions before going to the party. The first time the basket of oranges came around, they were to pass it along without taking one. Only on the second pass were they allowed to take anything. At great pain, Glenda did as instructed. Watching that basket of ripe oranges pass by must have been difficult for a twelve-year-old. Even more difficult, however, was what happened next. It never came around a second time. After the first pass, it was empty.

Glenda was heartbroken. No, it wasn’t like the devastation of unrequited love. But it made just as permanent an impression on her. Enough so that sixty years later, she would tell that story to her granddaughter, Kelly Olson. It was one of many stories Glenda told Kelly to teach her important lessons about what life was like in her day and the expectations her mother set for how young women were to behave in public. But in this case, Glenda took away a different lesson than the one her mother intended and that she wanted to impress upon young Kelly. That lesson is this: Sometimes when life presents you with an opportunity, you just have to take it, because you never know if that opportunity will come around again.

That lesson stayed with Kelly. And those moments when she’s drawn upon it have turned out to be some of her greatest. One such moment was when Kelly was a junior in college. That year, she was selected to participate in an overseas study program at Birkbeck College in London, one semester abroad with twelve classmates. It was an amazing opportunity.

Near the end of the three-month program, the group had an unscheduled evening and the students were debating what to do. Kelly desperately wanted to see a live performance of Les Miserables. It was perhaps their last opportunity while in London. There were only a few cities in the world where she could see such a performance, and she didn’t live near any of them.

Despite her impassioned plea, none of her companions was interested. Each opted for another attraction or to simply stay home and study. Kelly was heartbroken. The thought of venturing out on foot, by herself, in the dark and cold winter of an unfamiliar city of eight million people was beyond consideration. (Was she even allowed to do such a thing?) Besides, she didn’t even have a ticket. After mustering as much courage as she could, however, she decided to go it alone.

She checked her map, bundled up for the wintry weather, and set out on her adventure. She trudged two or perhaps three miles through the snow and ice to Queen’s Theatre. Without an advance ticket, Kelly had to wait in line for unclaimed seats of season ticket holders.

While she was waiting in the cold with dozens of other hopefuls, a rumor rushed through the line that the queen might be attending the performance that night. At first, that seemed to call for excitement. And then she realized what it really meant was that season ticket holders were even more likely to show up that night. Not to see the play, but to see the queen! Her heart sank again. But she continued to wait.

Slowly, the line shrank in front of her as a few people got tickets or gave up and went home. As she was close to giving up herself, the ticket master came out and announced that he had one single ticket available. “Is there anyone who wants just a single ticket?”

“Yes! Here! Here!!” she shouted, her hand shooting up like an eager college student barely able to contain a correct answer. And with that, it was hers.

She took the ticket and entered the theater, her heart racing. Her eyes were wide with excitement and full of her good fortune. As the ushers directed her to her balcony seat, however, she could not believe where it was located—front row center! She had arguably been given the best seat in the house. She sat enraptured, barely daring to move for the entire performance. The queen never did show up that night, which is just as well. Because Kelly felt like she had gotten her chair.

Kelly Olson

Today, Kelly Olson describes that evening as one of the “shining moments” of her life. “It was magical.” She’ll never forget her tears at the climactic scenes, shed probably just as much for the heroes and heroines as they were for her own good fortune. Imagine if she hadn’t been brave enough to strike out on her own that night, or to confront the dark or the distance or the weather. Or what if she hadn’t had the patience to wait in that long line? She knows the answer, of course. She would have missed out.

Looking back, Kelly recognizes that many of her best memories in life were times she was alone, perhaps on a business trip, but had the courage to venture out on her own to explore her temporary surroundings: seeing the Frick art collection in New York City, visiting the DuPont gardens and Andrew Wyeth studios in Delaware, even catching her first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.

And as she looks back at all of those moments with a smile, she hopes Glenda Cecil would be proud of her, knowing that when the basket came around, she took her orange.

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.

For the story about Glenda Cecil and the basket of oranges:

  1. Why do you think Glenda’s mother told her to not take an orange until the second time around? What was she trying to teach her daughters?
  2. When is it okay to take something offered to you?
  3. Have you ever heard the saying, “Ask for what you want? The worst thing that could happen is that the answer will be ‘no.’” Do you agree or disagree?
  4. What’s a situation where you should say, “No thank you” even if you want what’s being offered?

And for the story about Kelly’s trip to see Les Mis:

  1. Have you ever gone off to do something exciting all by yourself? What was it?
  2. Have you ever wanted to go do something, like Kelly, but nobody would go with you? What did you do?
  3. What’s something you missed out on because you were too afraid to go alone?
  4. What’s something you should never go off to do by yourself?
[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 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 Going alone: an underappreciated strategy for not missing out on life appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

May 24 2016
8 mins
Play

Rank #7: A geneticist, French artist, and English tutor take the stress out of choosing the right college major or career

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If you have anyone in your life stressing over choosing the right college major or first career, this week’s story is for you.

With all the pressure on kids to go to college, and the ridiculously high cost of doing so, there’s more and more anxiety over choosing the “right” field of study. In the United States, for example, delaying that choice or changing direction even one year in can cost tens of thousands of dollars in added tuition. But even where cost isn’t a major concern, pressure to make the right choice can be paralyzing. Someone who hears about that anxiety firsthand is Anne Favrelle.

Anne is an artist living in Annemasse, France, just across the French border with Switzerland, seven miles east of Geneva. She works primarily with acrylic, chalk, pencil, markers, and even some ceramics. And when she’s not working on her own creations, she runs an art gallery for fledgling artists (www.pronoiart.com) hoping to update the public’s perception of what contemporary art looks like.

But she also finds time to tutor local high school students in math and English. Spending those few hours a week with teenagers, she gets to hear about their hopes and dreams and of course their fears. One of those fears, she says, is making the right choices about higher education. “In France,” she explains, “the first choice you have to make about higher education is around the age of fifteen or sixteen. So from the age of twelve, they’re told ‘you need to start thinking about what direction you want to take, and make good grades so you have options.’ That puts a lot of pressure on young people. They feel like they have to choose what they will do for the next forty years!” It’s a concern shared by young people in many places around the world.

To put their mind at ease, Anne explains that they’re not really making a forty-year decision. She reminds them of the now ubiquitous statistics that the average person changes careers seven times during his or her working lifetime. And even if that’s an exaggeration, clearly the correct number is greater than one. “You’re making at most a ten-year decision,” she ventures.

That seems to comfort some of them. But what they find more comforting is hearing her personal story. Her first sentence usually gets their attention. “In my early twenties, I completed a master’s degree in genetics from Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University in Paris.” Not exactly the background they expected to hear from their English tutor and French artist.

She goes on to explain that her plan was to become a research scientist and university professor. So her next step would be to complete a Ph.D. But after finishing her master’s degree, she had an opportunity to do a research internship in exactly the kind of academic environment she would eventually work in after getting her doctorate. By the end of the internship, she explains, “I didn’t like the work at all.” Doing more of the same for a living was out of the question. “So I decided to study marketing.”

Anne relocated three hundred miles south, to the Institute of Management for the Health Industry in Lyon, France. A little more than a year later, she completed her degree in marketing and took her first job as a marketing research manager for a big pharmaceutical company. This change is probably the most telling to her young audience. In just over a year, Anne went from having completed a master’s degree in genetics and working at an active internship in the field, to a completely different industry and career, completing an advanced degree in that new field, and landing a job at a prestigious firm in the industry. But she obviously wasn’t done yet.

After two years, she moved to a global consumer products company, still in the market research field, where she stayed for eleven years. After a few months with a market research agency, she decided to follow her greatest passion and become an artist, which is how her students know her today.

So in the span of eighteen years, Anne has gone from geneticist, to marketing researcher, to artist and gallery owner and tutor. And she’s been successful with each new venture.

At that point she can get back to tutoring her student, who’s now settled down enough to focus on her math instead of stressing about her future.

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

  1. Have you felt any anxiety or stress over choosing your education or career path? Tell me about that.
  2. What would happen if you decided you didn’t like your first job out of college? What else could you do with the degrees you’ll have? Or what else might you want to go back and study?
  3. How many jobs or careers have your parents had so far?
  4. What kinds of decisions do you think are made for a lifetime?
[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 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 A geneticist, French artist, and English tutor take the stress out of choosing the right college major or career appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

May 02 2016
5 mins
Play

Rank #8: 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
6 mins
Play

Rank #9: 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
6 mins
Play

Rank #10: 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
22 mins
Play

Rank #11: 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

Rank #12: Ambition: How to become an adult, raised on your childhood dreams

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Renaissance artist Michelangelo once observed, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” I’m convinced that’s true, and perhaps best example of what happens to someone when they set high goals, even if they don’t reach them, is Bob Woolley.

The Ambition

Ever since the 1960s, countless young boys and girls have spent their days dreaming of becoming an astronaut, orbiting Earth in the apparent weightlessness of space, or exploring strange new worlds as they saw their heroes do in episodes of Star Trek or movies like Star Wars.

Bob Woolley was one of them.

Bob describes himself as a child of the space age. He was born in 1953 in Little Falls, New York. One of his earliest memories, at the age of four, was learning about the first man-made satellite, Russia’s Sputnik, as it orbited Earth. He was fascinated at the very idea that human beings could make something that could circle the entire planet in just ninety minutes.

He recalls watching on February 20, 1962 (his ninth birthday), the television coverage of John Glenn orbiting Earth in the Mercury-Atlas 6, the first American to do so. An autographed picture he received from Mr. Glenn on the thirtieth anniversary of that orbit is one of Bob’s most treasured belongings to this day.

So the seeds of desire to become an astronaut were sown early. Most children’s dreams of becoming an astronaut are long abandoned by the time they’re in high school or college, but not Bob’s. When it was time to make his first career decisions, he studied what career paths those early astronauts, like John Glenn, had followed. And there was a clear pattern. Almost all of them had been military pilots of high-performance fighter jets. So that’s what he set out to do.

The Pursuit

He studied astronomy, physics, and geology at the University of Maryland. And in 1981 he joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned as a naval aviator to fly the supersonic F-14 Tomcat popularized in the movie Top Gun. To listen to Bob describe the thrill of flying such a powerful machine is an adventure in itself: going from zero to 150 mph in 2.5 seconds as you’re slingshot off the deck of an aircraft carrier; flying at top speeds around Mach 2 (over 1,500 mph); breaking the sound barrier the first time; doing 360-degree aileron rolls while flying straight up 25,000 feet off the ground; landing on a carrier deck that’s only a thousand feet long and looked the size of a postage stamp only a few seconds earlier; then dropping the landing hook and coming to a dead stop two seconds after touchdown.

Bob’s plan was definitely off to a great start. But as you can imagine, the competition to become an astronaut is intense. There have been fewer than 350 Americans admitted to NASA’s astronaut program in the fifty years of manned space flight. One of NASA’s many selection criteria for astronauts was flight time as a military or commercial pilot. At the time, to be eligible for the program candidates needed to have a minimum of 1,500 flight hours. Even though Bob spent eleven years in the navy, assignment changes and medical issues kept him grounded for much of that time. As a result, by the time he left, he was still short of that number. Bob left the navy knowing he would never be an astronaut.

But his love of space remained, and it took him on two more life adventures he never imagined when he was nine years old. First, with his astronomy training and navy experience, Bob had the perfect background to work at Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. There, he managed the Aviation Challenge Program, where young people got to experience navy pilot training: flight simulation, land and water survival training, and ground school academics. He was inspiring future astronauts and loving it.

Next, he started his own tour company called Astronomical Adventures. He created one- to seven-day vacation programs under the beautifully dark skies thirty-five miles southeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. Picture yourself in the middle of a ninety-thousand– acre cattle ranch, miles from the nearest streetlight. By day, he took his guests on tours of the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, and the red rock formations in Sedona. Along the tour he explained the scientific and geological formation of each amazing structure. And at night he captivated and educated his guests with a personal tour of the night sky through enormous telescopes Bob built just for this purpose. Imagine a telescope three feet wide and eighteen feet long with a ladder alongside so you can reach the eyepiece. Again each awe-inspiring view came with a full scientific explanation.

Today, entering what most of us would describe as our retirement years, Bob is a high school teacher in math and science in Phoenix, where he lives. There, he shares his knowledge and passions with students, inspiring a whole new generation.

The Result

Now, if you’re waiting for a nice Hollywood ending where decades later Bob finally gets to become an astronaut, stop waiting. There isn’t one. Life’s rarely like that. No, Bob never did get to become an astronaut. But the point is, look at the amazing life he’s been living largely in pursuit of that dream. He flew supersonic jets in the navy, taught aviation at U.S. Space Camp, led his own personal exploration of the stars through Astronomical Adventures, and inspired hundreds of students with his passion and knowledge of astronomy, math, and science. And he’s loved every minute of it. When asked to reflect on what he started out to do and who he’s become, Bob smiles and observes, “What’s not to love? I’m an adult who was raised on my childhood dreams.”

The Lesson

Imagine instead if Bob had set his sights on less lofty goals. He may never have gotten to do the amazing things he’s done. Life has a way of getting in the way of whatever goals you set for yourself. Set them high enough, and you’ll not be disappointed wherever you land.

As with all my 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 agree with the idea that it’s better to set high goals and fall short, than set low goals and achieve them? Why or why not?
  2. Would Bob have been better off trying to become a dentist or an engineer and being successful at it?
  3. What’s one dream or goal that you have for your life right now?
  4. What kind of things might you do on the road to achieving that goal?
  5. When would you consider not achieving one of your goals to be a failure so painful you would regret having ever tried?
[You can find this and over 100 other character-building stories in my book, Parenting with a Story.]

Paul Smith is a 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 Ambition: How to become an adult, raised on your childhood dreams appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

May 15 2015
8 mins
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Rank #13: Episode 10: Sometimes it takes a thousand tries to get it right

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Meet a young gymnast who learned the value of repeated, monotonous, practice on and off the mat. She put in over 1,000 practice attempts to learn to perform a 3-second maneuver. And it’s led to much of her success in life ever since.

The post Episode 10: Sometimes it takes a thousand tries to get it right appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Oct 04 2014
6 mins
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Rank #14: 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
18 mins
Play

Rank #15: 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
5 mins
Play

Rank #16: Episode 3: Talking behind her back in France

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Meet a French soldier outside Paris who stuck his foot in his mouth, and learned a painfully awkward lesson about how not to speak of someone behind their back.

The post Episode 3: Talking behind her back in France appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jul 18 2014
6 mins
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Rank #17: Episode 15: Helicopter parent, or strategic teaching partner? Which are you?

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My guest this week is Dr. Rebecca Deurlein, author of Teenagers 101: What a Top Teacher Wishes You Knew About Helping Your Kid Succeed. We discuss two very different relationships parents tend to have with their child’s teachers. One works wonders. The other does not. Find out which one you have on this week’s show. You can learn more about Dr. Deurlein at www.rebeccadeurlein.com.

The post Episode 15: Helicopter parent, or strategic teaching partner? Which are you? appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Dec 15 2014
16 mins
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Rank #18: Episode 4: The fight every newlywed couple should have

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Meet a newlywed couple in Venezuela whose first argument turned into a family tradition that’s now bringing the power of compromise to a third generation.

The post Episode 4: The fight every newlywed couple should have appeared first on Paul Smith | Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jul 18 2014
6 mins
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Rank #19: 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
11 mins
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Rank #20: 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
13 mins
Play

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