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Ep. 116: Dr. Tim Elmore - Beyond FOMU (Fear of Messing Up)

July 15, 2020 Sucheta Kamath, Tim Elmore Season 1 Episode 116
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Ep. 116: Dr. Tim Elmore - Beyond FOMU (Fear of Messing Up)
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Full PreFrontal
Ep. 116: Dr. Tim Elmore - Beyond FOMU (Fear of Messing Up)
Jul 15, 2020 Season 1 Episode 116
Sucheta Kamath, Tim Elmore

There is no generation like Gen Z whose stressors have been quadrupled by the times they have grown up in - the economic dotcom burst, highly skilled stressed out parents always in-between jobs, anxiety of a flattening world, and a technology/social-media enabled personal life. Naturally, the question emerges as to how do we help this generation of kids master their executive function and help them strive for personal self-sufficiency in spite of all the things considered.

On this episode, Founder & CEO of Growing Leaders and prolific author of more than 30 books, Dr. Tim Elmore shares how best to empower Gen Y and Gen Z to focus on growing from within.

About Dr. Tim Elmore
Dr. Tim Elmore, Founder & CEO of Growing Leaders, is a world-renowned expert on leadership as well as Generation Y and Generation Z. He uses his knowledge to equip educators, coaches, leaders, parents, and business leaders to impart practical life and leadership skills to young adults. He has trained thousands of leaders in partnership with nationally renowned schools and organizations like the Kansas City Royals, Stanford University, University of Alabama, National Football League, Ohio State University’s Athletic Department, Chick-fil-A, and more. Dr. Elmore has also authored more than 30 books including the best-selling curriculum – Habitudes®: Images that Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes.

Websites:

Book:

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Show Notes Transcript

There is no generation like Gen Z whose stressors have been quadrupled by the times they have grown up in - the economic dotcom burst, highly skilled stressed out parents always in-between jobs, anxiety of a flattening world, and a technology/social-media enabled personal life. Naturally, the question emerges as to how do we help this generation of kids master their executive function and help them strive for personal self-sufficiency in spite of all the things considered.

On this episode, Founder & CEO of Growing Leaders and prolific author of more than 30 books, Dr. Tim Elmore shares how best to empower Gen Y and Gen Z to focus on growing from within.

About Dr. Tim Elmore
Dr. Tim Elmore, Founder & CEO of Growing Leaders, is a world-renowned expert on leadership as well as Generation Y and Generation Z. He uses his knowledge to equip educators, coaches, leaders, parents, and business leaders to impart practical life and leadership skills to young adults. He has trained thousands of leaders in partnership with nationally renowned schools and organizations like the Kansas City Royals, Stanford University, University of Alabama, National Football League, Ohio State University’s Athletic Department, Chick-fil-A, and more. Dr. Elmore has also authored more than 30 books including the best-selling curriculum – Habitudes®: Images that Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes.

Websites:

Book:

About Host, Sucheta Kamath
Sucheta Kamath, is an award-winning speech-language pathologist, a TEDx speaker, a celebrated community leader, and the founder and CEO of ExQ®. As an EdTech entrepreneur, Sucheta has designed ExQ's personalized digital learning curriculum/tool that empowers middle and high school students to develop self-awareness and strategic thinking skills through the mastery of Executive Function and social-emotional competence.

Support the show (https://mailchi.mp/7c848462e96f/full-prefrontal-sign-up)

Sucheta Kamath: Welcome to the Full PreFrontal podcast today. I’m here with Todd. Todd, how are you doing?

Producer: I’m doing great, Sucheta. This promises to be a really intriguing conversation, and I heard you say the gentleman has written 30 books, so methinks he knows what he’s talking about.

Sucheta: Yes, he’s certainly does, and it’s so interesting. I’m really honored to have so many guests from wide walks of life, and this particular individual has a place in the universe as he inspires of a youth and brings the spiritual inner development of an individual and how to conceptualize inside out growth, and so so many wonderful things to talk about, but before I talk about that, I thought I’ll share a quick story. I don’t know, recently, I heard on Fresh Air [inaudible] interview with San Francisco’s district attorney Chesa Boudin. I hope I’m pronouncing it right, but he’s such an interesting individual, and I thought his story kind of runs parallel to the conversation we are going have today. He was born in New York City, and when he was 14 months old, his parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, they were Weather Underground members who were arrested for murder in the role of a getaway car, drivers in the Brinks robbery 1981. This was an attempted robbery to get money finance their radical activities during that time, and since event, he was raised by the friends of the family, but what’s so interesting about him, that he’s a prosecutor with a life story unlike any others, a very different view of criminal justice system is how he is described, and he kind of developed back from having visited his parents in the prison on a regular basis throughout his life, and he says that I want to restore a sense of compassion, and then build [inaudible] criminal justice reform in a very unique way. What’s so interesting about this particular story as I said, every person is a life story and that life story shapes of their journey, and some of us are lucky to have parents in our lives who take care of us, send this to the best possible educational opportunities and some are not so lucky, and get there are always those unique individuals who rise above it all find that inner light so to speak and stand for something larger than themselves, and the stories always have inspired me, and that’s why it’s a great pleasure to invite Dr. Tim Elmore, and let me tell you a little bit about him. He is the founder and CEO of Growing Leaders, and he’s a world-renowned expert on leadership as well as generation Y and generation Z which I think it can get very confusing, so I’m going to have them explain that to us. He uses his knowledge to equip educators, coaches, leaders, parents, and business leaders to impart practical life and leadership skills to young adults, and lastly, I’ll say that he has trained thousands of leaders and informed partners nationally with schools and organizations, and he’s an author, prolific one, and written more than 30 books, and I highly, highly recommend people to explore his writing, but one particular thing that speaks to my heart is Habitudes which is a curriculum which is a best-selling curriculum which has Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes, and I had the privilege of actually seeing that actualize in Maynard Jackson School here in Atlanta, and so it’s a great joy welcome you, Tim, to the podcast. Thank you for agreeing to be here.

Dr. Tim Elmore: Oh, it’s my pleasure, Sucheta. Thank you for having me.

Sucheta: So, the first question that comes to my mind is, when did you become aware of your own self-guiding abilities or this ability to direct your own thinking and behaviors from a childhood perspective?

Dr. Elmore: Yeah. Wow, that’s a great question, one that deserves probably far more time that we’ve got. I would say for me, it did begin with two really good parent, very presence parents, so they were guiding me, I remember going through my middle school years and feeling like most middle school kids do, a little bit self-esteem problems, where do I fit in? I remember them pointing out, I had some gifts, some artwork gifts, and even though I knew that, they make sure that my identity was being shaped not by peers by strengths. That was huge, and then funny story, when I was 17, who was a mentor that entered my life. He was somebody that was on a high school campus that I attended, his name is Shawn, and Shawn was a former football player and he was on the campus when I met him and he said, “I’m starting an outreach here in San Diego,” where we lived, “and would you like to help me?” and I said, “Absolutely!” So, we were reaching at-risk kids in San Diego, it was a Friday night deal where we would show a great movie, movie that had a life principle in it, and then Sean would speak afterwards. I share this with you because about eight or nine weeks into the journey on this Friday night outreach, Sean met me backstage and said in a raspy voice, “Tim, I don’t think I’m going to be able to speak tonight,” and I said, “Shawn, what are you talking about? You are the speaker.” He goes, “Listen to me, you’re going to have to speak tonight,” and he handed me his notes and he said, “You’re going to go on tonight instead of me after the movie.” Well, I was shaking in my boots, you can imagine. I was 17 years old, we were reaching my peers that night, at least trying to. I went on, I did the speech, he clapped – we traded places. I mean, he sat on the front row and cheered me on instead of me, but when we got done, Shawn came up gave me a big hug and said, “Tim, that was great.” He said, “From now on, I’ll be on one week, you will be on the next,” and since I was 17, Shawn, I’ve been speaking on a regular basis for now, yeah, gosh, I’m 60 now, so that’s 43 years. The reason I bring this up though is this: a few years ago, Shawn and I met for dinner, just to reminisce about the old days and when we brought up that first time I got up to speak, Shawn looked at the floor and could not give me I contact, and I said, “What’s wrong?” and when he looked up, he goes, “Tim, I have a confession to make.” He said, “I did not have laryngitis that night.” He said, “I didn’t know any other way to get you up to speak unless you knew I couldn’t.” Of course, I wanted to slap him right then and there, but to this day, I now think God that Shawn Mitchell, that’s great leader, his goals that night was not to get the best speaker in the room up on stage – that would’ve been him. His goal was, I’m treating this next generation and I’m going to make sure he gets up and gets a shot at it, so I’m very, very fortunate that I had people pouring into my life, making sure I reached my potential.

Sucheta: What a wonderful way to mentor somebody, giving you the job of helping, and who doesn’t want to help? So, you rose to the occasion simply to help him, not to showcase anything about you. So, that brings me to the idea of it maybe you can [inaudible] leadership and what do you mean by growing from within? When does it begin to emerge and what kind of environment acts as a catalyst for this process?

Dr. Elmore: Wow, that’s a great question. So, I did a book way back in 2001 called Nurturing the Leader within Your Child, and I really believe that leadership has less to do with the position and more to do with the disposition. It’s a way of looking at life and seeing that we can influence the world around. It’s not just waiting for a badge or a title, or a position, and I’m sure you believe the same way. So, once we broadened it past the title of a CEO or a president, or a chairman, and we say, you know what, if you can solve problems and serve people, you can lead, and by the way, at Growing Leaders, that’s really what we say: leaders essentially solve problems and serve people. The two fastest ways to gain influence with a group of people, think about it, is by solving a problem that they have. Everybody’s looking to me now, “Okay, what do we do, Bob?” And then, serving people. I believe by serving people, as cliché as it sounds, I earned the right to lead because I’m benefiting them. So, our little phrase that we use is, we want to build leaders from the inside out so they can turn the world upside down.

Sucheta: Oh, I love that. One of the things that strikes me about the definition or way of perspective is you're kind of challenging, inviting, and nudging young people to think about their inner strength that can be hidden from them. In my field, we call that self-awareness, and in order to build that self-awareness, there needs to be something that acts as a mirror that lets you see your own reflection, to assess yourself. There are some dangers though because what if you notice some weaknesses and challenges? How do you see this growing from within process which can be scary? What can help in disarming young people from not walking away as they see their strengths but may not be seeing the weaknesses in the most positive way?

Dr. Elmore: Yeah, that’s a great question because I think that happens tens of millions of times especially for generation Z right now that you’ve heard the phrase ‘experience FOMO,” Fear of Missing Out, but they also experience FOMU, I’m hearing this now on high school campuses, FOMU, Fear of Messing Up, so there is such a great fear of making a mistake that they don’t want to even try sometimes because somebody’s going to capture it on video and posted on YouTube or I’m going to be the brunt of the jokes for the rest of the day, that sort of thing. So, I believe you’ve got to really help kids, certainly focus on their strengths, meaning let me get the primary attention cultivate strengths that I have, not try to develop something I don’t have. I think that’s what, number one, that we could talk an hour about but secondly, I think this fear of messing up thing, we need to deal with. I’ve heard now recently of two colleges, small private colleges we now have a class called Failure 101 and it’s all about just helping kids fail forward, helping them move and say, “What have I learned from this?” So, let me give you one great story from history. So, we are in the middle of this coronavirus pandemic now which has thrown many of us for a loop and it’s very difficult for some people for sure, especially those that know somebody that’s been infected or somebody that has passed away, it’s horrific, but we could take this time and say, “What could I do now that I could not have done in the normal busy routine that I typically house?” So, way back in 1665, the great plague of London broke out in England and it was part of the black plague there, but I don’t know if you know this, but in 1665, Isaac Newton was a college student going to camp which University, and their own version of social distancing, all students were sent home, and while he was home, instead of just getting lost sitting around and being bored, he kept researching, his curiosity got the best of him. While he was away that year, he invented calculus.

Sucheta: Oh, wow.

Dr. Elmore: Now, some people might say that’s bad news, but in any case, he invented calculus. He actually came up with his theories on optics, he bought a prism and was looking at it, he came up with his theories on optics that we still used to this day, and then, get this – he came up with the laws of motion and the law of gravity. That’s when that proverbial apple fell from the tree that we’ve all heard about and it was in record time he wrote it out.

Sucheta: Oh, wow.

Dr. Elmore: So, one year later, he goes back to school, does this sound familiar? One year later, he goes back to school, brings his theories with him. Within a year, he’s a fellow. Within two years, he’s a professor, and I believe he would look back and say, “I don’t know if those things would have happened had I just been taking classes and in doing the normal routines.” So, I say to every listener, a pandemic is a terrible thing to waste. Let’s make the most of it and grow [inaudible] things we could never do before.

Sucheta: I am 100% on urgent. In fact, I’ve been doing some webinars for parents and teachers, and one of the things that I have been saying is that this idea of downtime doesn’t need to be bad. It is really in sideshow. In fact, at the neurological level or the brain chemistry level, you know that’s the default mode network. That’s when most creative stuff happens when you are doing nothing which actually allows all the connections to get strengthened and we can see the bigger picture, so yes, completely 100% agree with this pandemic, the pandemic is welcome in my house.

Dr. Elmore: Absolutely.

Sucheta: Now, you mentioned in a fleeting way, but let’s talk about these two suggestions, specifically, all the research that we are seeing with kids who are growing up with the technology in their hands, in particular week, it’s since 2011 will have been born with fully functioning iPhone kind of features. So, what are your thoughts about the profile of generation Y, generation X, and what are some of the pressing issues that they are facing that are very different from any generation before them?

Dr. Elmore: I think that’s very important to know this, what you just said, we need to raise our kids not just with what we had before. Some of that is timeless, but we need to remember, they are growing up in a very different culture than the one you and I grew up in. So, very quickly, let me explain, as you mentioned earlier, the difference between generation Y and generation Z. So, generation Y would typically be the ones we came to know as the Millennials, okay? And they are no longer kids. We’ve been talking about the No one else for almost 20 years now and I was just talking to an NCAA Division I athletic coach recently who said, “I’m trying to figure out my Millennial student athletes,” and I said, “Sir, the Millennials are your assistant coaches right now.” So, the Gen Z would be the kids still in school. Most of them have no memories prior to the turn of the century, the 20th century, and if you think about it, for the Millennials, not all the time but many times, life is great. The 90s was a time when the economy was good, we all got our technology start with computers and Apple this and Apple that, and it was just a time that was pretty cool, and parents began being consumed with their children during the 80s and 90s when they were growing up. In fact, we were concerned about our children’s safety, self-esteem, and status, so that was a period of time we started giving them trophies just for showing up. We have all laughed about that one, we began to put helmets on them all the time because we wanted them to be safe, and then status, we wanted to make sure they got into the college of choice, and that of course, is still true today but because of this all-consuming mindset, Millennials grew up feeling very special. Gen Z has little bit of that but there has been a more thing going on, there has been a shift going on, so think about a child that was born, let’s say in 2001. This is the third economic downturn they had experienced in the last 19 years even though they were an infant in 2001, they grew up as a young baby toddler aged parents that were a little bit scared about the economic downturn, the corporate scandals, and of the dot com era bubble bursting, and then there was the 2008-2009 economic recession, we all remember that one, so moms always looking for a job, and then now, there is this 22 million Americans have lost a job in four weeks, so you can imagine the narratives they have is life is scary, and even though I got my smartphone and I feel kind of cool and I love using the TikTok or Snapchat, internally, there is a narrative that very much feels postponed right now. In fact, I’m calling the ages 17 to 24 the parenthetical population. They are the ones that feel like I had all these plans and now, it’s off.

Sucheta: On hold. 

Dr. Elmore: One college senior that said, “I feel like I have to start all over again,” so you can just imagine, I know it’s just, we need to lead with compassion even though we may need to call them to give a little grit in their lives, let’s start with empathy and say, “I know it must be difficult right now, but I believe you can do this.” That’s the message, it’s a velvet-covered brick, that’s one of our Habitudes, by the way. We would lead with velvet and with brick. Velvet is “I believe in you, I love you. I’m attending to you, I accept you as you are.” Brick is, “And because I believe in you, I’m not going to lower the standard just because it’s hard on Tuesday.” We call them up to a higher standard. That’s what kids need, responsive and demanding, responsive and demanding.

Sucheta: You are mentioning so many things here, jam-packed, they are full of wisdom. If I may ask you to clarify a few things here so people understand how to deploy it, not just understand it, help us understand that conceptually, I think parents get it. There was an article that I recently, I was reading about commoditizing of mindfulness. I don’t know if you read it. It’s like a bordering billion-dollar industry now, so now, everybody’s saying, “Come on, take a breath, grief, do meditation.” It’s almost like one more thing that kids are asked to do as a way to find a solution rather than changing. So, how do you see parents and educators bridge the gap with conceptually, they get it but when it comes to implementation which is an execution gap that I see that they are not able to be in that space where they are doing the things that promote agency in children? So, do you have some suggestions for that?

Dr. Elmore: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of thoughts. One is, we really do need to give more and more autonomy as they age, so far too many times, I see a very caring mother or father just continue to do things for their children well into their middle school and high school years because after all, that’s what a good mama does. I walked into a Starbucks typically where I live and see a mother doing their homework for their children, so while I know that feels good to the child action

Sucheta: I work with those kids.

Dr. Elmore: Yeah, yeah. It feels good now but you know what that screams to that child when you stop and think about it, that screams, “Oh, you can’t do this. Let me do this. I’ll be the hero that flies in and rescues you,” rather than the mom that says, “Honey, I’m so sorry you’re so overwhelmed right now. Let’s put things in order, and then I’ll guide you but you can do this,” so one of the studies that I know you know about in your field was a study that happened way back in the 1950s with Dr. Julian Rotter at Ohio State University began to come up with these terms, locus of control.

Sucheta: Yeah, internal locus.

Dr. Elmore: And listeners, basically, is this: he began to ask questions, it was a series of questions of these students to determine whether they were experiencing an internal locus of control or an external locus of control, and the difference was, if you are an external locus of control, your person that believes that somehow, outside forces governing the outcomes of your life. If you are an internal locus of control person, you believe that you are responsible and you own these outcomes in your life. Now, if we are honest, like this both, isn’t it? It’s a little of both, but here is what he discovered: the kids that are going to adulthood that had an internal locus became far more successful. They took responsibility for their health, for their careers, for their marriages and families. You can imagine, they just owned it. The kids with external locus were blaming other people, “This is why I didn’t get this or that, or the other,” so moms and dads, leaders listening, we’ve got to begin to cultivate a “this is up to you, I believe in you, you can do this.” Here is a quick application, so this is such a good – it was a study done out of New York from some of the Ivy League schools but they went to New York to do it, but they discovered that the best response to a middle school student is struggling to get their assignments done is getting feedback that went something like this: “I’m giving you these comments because I have high expectations of you and I know you can reach them.” Let me say that again: “I’m giving you these comments because I have high expectations of you and I know you can reach them,” so even though they put red ink on that paper they just turned then, that elicited a minimum of 40% better effort up to 320% for kids of color, and I’m saying it’s because the teacher or the parents didn’t do it for their child. They said, “You can do this, it will be hard but it’s worth it,” so I’ll stop there but I think that’s really what we need to do.

Sucheta: I love that. I think you just hit the point home for me and those listeners who want to see excellence, somehow, they feel that excellence is their excellent advice, their excellence of work, and it doesn’t need to be that way. I feel like tilling the soil. If the soil is well-tilled, the seed would do its own job, you don’t need to tell the seed anything.

Dr. Elmore: Absolutely, that’s exactly right, it’s natural.

Sucheta: It’s natural. So, talk a little bit about struggling kids. Do you distinguish [inaudible] sense of personal agency, they have much more proficient executive functions still, it could be genetic as well as environmental factors combined, but there are kids struggle will have learning disabilities including ADHD or spectrum disorder like Asperger’s or autism spectrum disorder, and one thing that they struggle with is they are consistently inconsistent. The second thing I see often if they lack the drive to pursue excellence. They feel subpar performance, subpart output is fine, you are being [inaudible] for the rule, mom, or teachers, ugh, they are just nagging me. What is the role of habits and routines to shape that self-driven leadership? And the second, like the backside of the same quality is boredom. What are your thoughts about boredom in a child’s life?

Dr. Elmore: that’s loaded questions. I love these, these are great, so here’s the first thing that came to my mind when you brought up that first question: we have a little template that we’ve crated at Growing Leaders that helps a caring adult – teacher, parent, coach, whatever really guide a student who’s struggling all the way through to an outcome that’s positive. We call it rolling the dice, so you start with a dilemma, that’s the letter D. I think kids learn best when they feel like they are solving real problem, not a hypothetical one on a math equation or an assignment where they are circling a multiple-choice test. You follow what I’m saying? Nothing wrong with typical classes in school, but if I’m now saying, “Let’s talk about this real problem that’s going on in our community or our neighborhood, or our world,” and restart applying our gifts to that problem, suddenly, I’m incentivized. Here’s why: kids learn just in time, not just in case, and yet most of the time, we teach them just in case. Just in case you need this algebraic equation, here it is and they are going, “I’m not interested, I’m not even thinking this is something I’m going to use in 10 years,” so start with the dilemma, teach from a problem, not a curriculum. Makes sense? All right, the letter I in dice is image. These kids are ‘screenagers’ and they have grown up with images – Instagram, YouTube, you know this is true, so what if we had an image that represents a timeless truth or principle that would help us address that dilemma? So, you know this already, you’ve mentioned it, but we developed nine courses called Habitudes, habitudes are images that form leadership habits and attitudes. It’s a way of teaching a timeless life skill or leadership skill through a picture. So, one of them is called Rivers and Floods, and we have a really cool photograph of a flyer to that’s just taking over a building. It’s very fascinating. We just say, Rivers and floods are both bodies of water. Here’s the difference: a flood is water going in every direction and often doing damage. Rivers are flowing in a single direction and you can leverage them to do a lot of good because they have banks to them, so we teach kids, are you a river or are you a flood? Are you trying to do everything instead of something? And this is our multitasking Gen Z-ers right now. So, we start talking about what does it mean to be a river, not a flood? So, the dilemma is, we’re unfocused – we may talk about that – the answer is, we got to be a river, not a flood. The C in dice is conversation, so we mean this is not a lecture we are giving them. Pictures are worth 1000 words, so let us let them offer their 1000 words, and then the E is experience. This needs to lead to an experience, not just a talk or a discussion, or a memorizing a fact, and we have [inaudible] Dilemma, Image, Conversation, Experience really works for kids to begin to grow those muscles of executive functioning and socioemotional learning. Really, we’re talking about socioemotional learning right now and learning everything except – everything in addition to reading, writing, arithmetic. That’s why I think we need to put our focus right now especially.

Sucheta: So, Tim, I love that example of dice in the kind of conceptually creates a roadmap for anybody who is teaching these skills to the kids. Do you mind sharing with us a good illustration of implementing the E part of it? How does that look like during completing homework or getting ready for soccer practice, or even as the teacher is teaching math curriculum, let’s say?

Dr. Elmore: Okay, so let’s just take the rivers and floods image that we just talked about. The dilemma is we’re not as focused as we should be. The I is this river and flood Habitude image, so we discuss it in the conversation part. The letter E might be, okay, we all have an assignment, mom, dad, siblings, you. We’re going to talk about what would life tomorrow look like more focused and we actually all have to have this experience that we monotask instead of multitask. We list in order of priority the things that need to get done, okay, and we make sure it’s first thing’s first, not easy things first, and then we all say, we’re going to do the river not a flood thing and we can’t go onto the fun thing until we do the hard thing. Now, here’s another illustration though. Well, I’ll give you the example. One of the athletic departments we partner with is the University of Alabama Athletes, so really good athletes there at Alabama, so will teach an image that we call light sentence and the whole truth is, we are going to get one sentence at the end of our lives that describes us. Not a book, not a paragraph – some do, but most are described in a single sentence. That’s what we get, and it’s not fair but it’s true, so we show that image, we talk about it but then what we do is right outside of the football stadium at Alabama, there is a graveyard and we walked to the students out, open the gate to this old 19th century graveyard and it’s kind of hearing. Now, we go during the daytime, not the night time, so it’s not freaky, but we tell them, go and just read the tombstones for about 15 minutes, just read them, and so they are reading the epitaphs of this is Susan Smith who lived from 1892 to 1952, whatever, and they read dozens of them. Afterwards, we come together and we say, what did you read? Well, the students will say, “Well, we found out some people lived a long time, some people, not so much. Some people had really nice things said about them, some people, not so much,” and then we say, what is your sentence going to be? And it’s an experiential way better than in a classroom that’s kind of sterile to really talk about what’s on our tombstone, and I have had such a meaningful, actually emotional conversations with kids. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it or remembering grandmother or grandpa and they are going, “I want my life to matter,” and suddenly, it’s an experience we wouldn’t have had just sitting in a chair looking at a screen, so anyway, that’s some creative [inaudible].

Sucheta: I love that. This reminds me of David Brooks’ book where he talks about resume versus [inaudible] company.

Dr. Elmore: Yeah, reputation.

Sucheta; Obituary, I think, yeah [inaudible] obituary, yes, and what’s so powerful about that, I think you can only conceptualize the summary of your life at the end of life and in a sentence. What you are doing is teaching them how to do the future mapping. In my work, I kind of talk about future self, creating a relationship with the future self, and I have, as an exercise, people write a letter from the future self to the current self, thanking for all the things that they have done that have helped. Thank you for waking up in the morning for me, thank you for actually setting that subject. Remember how hard chemistry was for us? Thank you for going for the extra help but because now, I have an A and I’m taking AP Chemistry. I’m just making this up but that ability to conceptualize a different outcome for itself by having socioemotional relationship is what you’re describing, and I love that yeah, some graves have no encryption other than the name and the span of life, and some actually have some inspiring message about what they stood for and some have who they have left behind. So, it is something to think about, what will that tombstone inscription look like? So, what is, in your eyes, every work that I feel, like all the writing that I have read, your talks I have heard, you are an incredibly inspirational speaker and you are charged with this concept or mission, and that passion comes through. However, I feel, and maybe you can help me understand in different ways that not every person has that gift and the students are unfortunately subjected to some teachers and parents who are not inspiring people, so what can some basic principles people can think about when it’s their job to inspire and mentor you effectively and they have to behave in a mature adult way? I find sometimes parents are so caught up in being friends with their children that they are neither inspiring. In fact, they are very competitive and they are very catty and shallow. How can we solve that problem?

Dr. Elmore: You know, you bring up a big problem but I think many parents are guilty without even knowing it. It’s easy to do and fall into that trap of being a power rather than a parent when really what they need is a parent. My wife and I would often have conversations when our young children were growing up that they have many pals. They only have two parents. We need to be those people that they need, even if it means we’re not liked this week by our children, and by the way, moms and dads, we may have to go through a week or two where they don’t like you. That’s okay. It’s much better to at the end of the childhood [inaudible] have them say, “Oh my gosh, I so respect my mom and dad, I admire them and I want to be with them now that I’m 25 because they were willing to lead me, not just be a pal growing up,” so that’s one thing we need to get in our heads. We need to stop preparing the path for the child and start preparing the child for the past, that is huge, but that we share a couple of other spots that I think you will appreciate because of your field but maybe it will make sense to your listeners as well. So, I’ve been intrigued most recently and I put this in a Generation Z book that I did on learn helplessness and learn industriousness, so I’ll give you the skinny on these studies. So, they go back to the 1960s but learned that helplessness is simply a concept that says when a kid is growing up and they try something and try something, and try something, and they don’t see any progress at all, they are going to learn helplessness, they are going to go, “It doesn’t make any difference, I’m horrible at math, I’m horrible at science, I’m horrible at baseball, I’m horrible at whatever,” and you and I both know that, happen to us growing up in certain categories. Learn industriousness came along several years later when studies were done in the field of psychology that said, if the adult leader can make sure that the experience of the child is they have to put in a good effort but they see even the slightest bit of result, not a lot, even just a little, it is learned industrious. They learned that that muscle they are exercising actually is making things better and that makes them exert even more effort even in other categories, so I was talking to John Maxwell about this, I worked for John for 20 years, Mr. Leadership, and John and I were talking about this and John said, “Tim, that’s exactly what my dad did growing up.” I said, “Tell me.” He said, “Well, when I was in sixth grade, my brother Larry was in eighth or ninth grade.” He said, “We would always wrestle in the living room after dinner at night, so we have dinner and then the two boys would go to the living room and they’d just wrestle,” and he said, “My dad would come in and watch us and he started noticing that Larry,” the older brother, “was beating me faster and faster every night. It didn’t take long before I got pinned to the ground, and he said one night, my dad said, ‘Larry, let me wrestle John,’ “ and so Larry got up and walked over to the couch, and John said, “Tim, I was even more scared to wrestle my dad, but my dad made me really fight for it, but he eventually led me pinned him to the ground.” John said, “I got up afterwards. I felt really good about myself,” and he said, “Tim, Larry never been to me again,” and he said to the lesson I learned was I just needed a little help, just a little hope, and even though that’s an anecdotal picture, I think we need to be thinking as teachers and parents, and leaders, what can I do that makes them struggle but you win? How can we somehow – it’s not like you fix it but you just make them work hard enough that something you know they can do. Don’t give in, don’t do it for them, encourage them, but I’m telling you, that’s what they mean, and slowly, they learn, learned industrious and that starts with executive functioning, but I think it goes on to almost every category of their lives.

Sucheta: I love that story and your message about hope should be embedded in everyday life, and it should be coming of every adult. There is wonderful research and concept in positive psychology, only, as you know Marty Seligman’s work and its recent. Before that, we were so hung up on providing the self-esteem: “You’re good, you’re great,” rather than “Are you really capable of pulling yourself out of a ditch?” That should be something you praise. The ditch doesn’t exist, but one thing is the idea of charismatic adult. It sounds like what John’s dad did was be that charismatic adult who has this incredible faith that you are wherever you are, perfectly capable of being your perfect self, not perfect outcome but exactly what you are is adequate. I myself have had those wonderful experiences from my parents. I don’t know if you had tough parents like mine but we had the velvet brick but I would say velvet boulder, but I think there’s a lot of encouragement. However, there was no shortcut in hard work, a perfect way of making a mistake, and what was nice about that is it was not not making a mistake, but let me show you in how many ways this can be done in a wrong way, so they used to illustrate, for example, we had a garden and we would land plants and my mother would show three ways of planting a plant, and she would then say, “Which one is not going to grow and why” rather than making you redo or taking or hijacking it and doing it, and fleshing it out so that it’s perfect. I found that experience very helpful because you kind of the had a little mental template of wrong things and that wrong things then become [inaudible] oh, there’s a variety of ways of making a mistake, but the faith in me fixing it is far superior than me making a mistake kind of thing is what you are trying to say.

Dr. Elmore: Yeah. I love that and I love the fact that it was experiential too. So, just thought of a couple of quick examples that really a code that, so David is a friend of mine. He has kids that are about our kids’ age. They are now young adults but David told me that when Nick, his oldest son was in middle school, they were in the Apple Store at the mall and Nick wanted the latest iPod that had just come out, and he goes, “Dad, dad, we are going to run out, we’re going to run out. If we are not going to get this last iPod, we’re not going to get it!” Well, David knew that he had the money to get it for his son but he also knew this was a great opportunity for a life lesson, so David said, “Well, Nick, how much money you got?” Well, Nick didn’t have any money at all so Nick goes, “I don’t have anything, dad,” and so David did a brilliant happy medium. He said, “Well, Nick, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to get that iPod, that last iPod in the store to make sure that we have this iPod,” but he said, “Nick, I bought it, so I’m going to hide it away in my room and if you will pay monthly installments month by month, once you get paid off, I’ll give it to you,” so he ensured that Nick would get the iPod but he also made him wait and delay gratification, and he said, “Tim, Nick paid on time every month. I never saw a kid that was more grateful than Nick was when he earned that iPod.” So, that’s what I’m looking for, velvet brick, velvet grip. They know you believe in them, they know you are backing for them, that you are going to back, but they also don’t just make it easy, like your velvet boulder [inaudible]. They made you do it but you somehow felt you could do it. I’ll give you another quick example, if you don’t mind.

Sucheta: Of course! That’s great.

Dr. Elmore: Julie Diaz just retired as a high school principal in Houston, Texas, the area. Julie is my favorite example of building young leaders with executive functioning. So, they are doing our Habitudes school-wide, so they are building these habits and attitudes in their kids, but she said, “Tim, I decided to meet with a group of high school students just for my own mentoring group,” so this high school principal met with a handful of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and they would talk about leadership. One day, Julie asked the students, what do you think our school really needs? And without a moment’s hesitation, every student said, “Oh, my gosh, our school is drab.” They used the word ‘drab.” They said, “Look at the walls, they are base, our school colors aren’t these colors, why do we have such a drab school?” Well, Julie said, “Well, that’s true, you’re right. What do you think we should do?” He said, “The school needs to be painted.” So, Julie said, “Well, let me check the budget and see if we got some money to paint the school.” Well, she came back and said, predictably, “Well, no, we don’t have enough money to paint the school. Maybe next year,” and the students lead-in and said, “Ms. Diaz, could we paint the school?” And I’m so glad she said, “Sure,” so get what these kids did. Now, these are teenagers. The first thing they did is they marched down to Sherwin-Williams paint store and they got $1500 worth of paint donated. Kids can do, we cannot.

Sucheta: That’s great!

Dr. Elmore: They are cute, we are not, right? Okay. But that was not even enough money. They needed more, so they began to have fundraisers, bake sales and so forth to raise the money for the rest of the paint and sticks, and brushes that they needed, and that Julie let the kids get on the intercom and make an announcement and said, this Saturday, we will paint the school, we would need a bunch of volunteers. Over 100 high school kids came to school on a Saturday all-day painted the school. 

Sucheta: Oh, wow.

Dr. Elmore: I walked down these hallways, I spoke at the school, I walked on the hallways and said, this is beautiful. Now, here’s my favorite part of the story: Julie told me that not only does the school look good and it was free. She said the kids will get on each other for bumping up against the wall and scratching the paint. They’ll go, “Get off the wall,” that sounds like my father right now, but I’m thinking that is ownership, that’s ownership.

Sucheta: Investment, yes!

Dr. Elmore: So, that’s the [inaudible].

Sucheta: Oh my goodness, and another thing of this story illustrates is the incredible innovative leadership. The principal or the head of the school’s willingness to play with the idea, like if you were in a box of doing things in a certain way, then you would never let children touch the walls. She’s welcoming it and now, not only do they feel when they walk in the hallways, I did this, we did this, but they also are protecting, they are the shepherd of their work, so what a win for everybody.

Dr. Elmore: That’s right.

Sucheta: You just touched upon my next question and our last question, I guess, but to me, one of the awe-inspiring aspects of elevating yourself to a higher game is a role of culture and religion combined together. So, holding ourselves to higher standards, holding ourselves to a cause bigger than ourselves requires some type of a backbone, and religion can act that as well as the cultural background check That. How do you see how good we infuse, and this can be applicable to secular practices were households that have mixed religions, so not sticking with religion as a main point here, but what role do you see these value-based systems of thinking add to incite our growth?

Dr. Elmore: It’s a great question and I love your angle on this. You’re right, I don’t think because we are in a public setting, let’s say, a public school or public business, or whatever, but we have to leave the spiritual out. We can let people approach it from their base, they are unique relationship with God and spiritual life, but I think it adds so much. So, for instance, I personally put social emotional learning in that category. I know it’s bigger I think teaching things beyond reading, writing, arithmetic, is so vital in learning environments, so I think talking about relationships, talking about being a part of something bigger than you that you serve still gets us out of our narcissistic predisposition that I’m the center of the universe. I just think it’s very, very important. Here is a good example: so, during this period of quarantine right now, any students are home, we talked about that earlier, at the college student named Liam came home from Yale, so he is a smart kid, came home from Yale and thought, I can either just sit around binging in front of Netflix or I can do something. Well, I think it was either his mother or some family member told him about Caroline. Caroline was an 85-year-old woman that lived not far away that was shut in and could not get to. So, Leah went over and gave her some food and gave her a virtual hug, but then he began to wonder, I wonder how many others are like Caroline. He recruited 1200 other college students and they are now all taking food out shut-ins. Now, that was Liam getting beyond himself. He is now the center of the universe, he became better feeling about himself because he lived for something bigger and someone else. Minimally, I think it starts with this. Whatever your faith, whatever your background, what I’m the center of my own universe, oh my gosh, I’m miserable. Somebody said, he that’s wrapped up in himself makes a very small package, that’s exactly what we got, so we need to help our kids embark into a journey that’s just bigger, bigger, bigger than themselves, and that believing that there is a spiritual realm again somehow guide us in that journey. I just believe it’s not just a luxury. I think it’s an essential.

Sucheta: I love that. I love your story as well as this little visualization that you gave me. Thank you, Tim, I think as we come to the end of this discussion, do you have any concern that you feel we need to collectively focus our attention on, that should be the direction we should take and feel hopeful about?

Dr. Elmore: Yeah, absolutely, I’ll just share a couple of quick items. I know we need to go soon area so, I’m not a prophet or a futurist but as I began to look at Generation Z and how this period of time might affect them growing into adulthood, I think there’s potential negatives and potential positives. The potential negatives might be things like the normalization of isolation, so we are all kind of hunkered down in our home and we need to make sure that this doesn’t become the easy route were or they don’t get out and really learn to be social. I believe human beings are social beings, so I commonly say to it, I don’t believe in social distancing. I believe in physical distancing but we need to find ways to stay connected and social even if it’s not physical. You follow me with what I’m saying, so that would be a potential negative, the normalization of isolation. The normalization of anxiety and panic. I mean, this is only deepening the anxiety level of most Gen Z kids, I think. A cognitive behavioral therapist of the name of Dr. Robert Leahy said something as the 21st century. but I had never forgot it. He said the average teenager in America today experiences the same level of anxiety as a psychiatric patient stated in the 1950s. I just don’t believe that’s how life was supposed to be, so we’ve got to fight, we’ve got to combat mental health issues. And then, the last thing is, I’m afraid that we might fall into the normalization of the scarcity mindset that things are running out, quick, grab the toilet paper. That whole mindset. I think we need to believe that life is abundant and we need to be creative and make more and get more, but we need to be generous, so real quick, the positives that we need to work for, I think we may see a positive expansion of resourcefulness and giving. I think when I don’t feel like I’ve got a resource, a lot of resources, I become resourceful, isn’t that true? So, maybe we can foster an okay, kids, how can we be more resourceful right now? We have limited options. I also look for the expansion of kids jumping into first responder work. I love the fact that on TV, we watch nurse is being celebrated and doctors being celebrated. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. Do you know what I remember? Do you remember after September 11, so many Millennials, young Millennials rushed over to Ground Zero to try to help out dig into the rubble, and I’m thinking maybe today, kids are going to say, maybe I’ll be a nurse. Well, we need nurses. Maybe I’ll be a doctor, we need doctors, so let’s pray and combat this anxious life is running out mindset and say, what if we could run to the problems and be problem solvers? That’s what I’m hoping.

Sucheta: I love that. I am married to a doctor and we were both born and raised in India so we have a lot of friends all over India as well as in other parts of the country, and so every week, they Skype together, some are in England, one is practicing in New York, and he’s a cancer specialist, but now he is called in as a COVID consultant, and then we have friends in India, and so they get on a call and I have two young adults in the house right now, and so we listen to their call and try to understand, in what ways they are supporting and helping the community that they are in, and then we also are talking, my one son is working with the hospital in Tanzania or a nonprofit in Tanzania who is doing healthcare management, and so he’s working with them and the second one has to mentees in New York City that he meets on a weekly basis, and then we are cooking as a family who that we distribute in the neighborhood. Now, my husband said it raised a concern, he’s like, is this a safe thing to do? Listen, we are healthy, so I think we can share, but yeah, you’re right, I think how can we put ourselves aside and put others in front of our needs and be there for them? I love that last point that you made about the concept of abundance. I think the only narrow-minded people will think that there is a plague of scarcity. In fact, there’s so much that we can share with every possible person. So, I appreciate these wonderful big picture ideas and how you present them. It’s really an ease and comfort that you bring to everybody’s mind and I appreciate that as well, so thank you for what you do and thank you for what you do for our youth. I can’t say that about a lot of people who has a knack to do that, so thank you for being on this podcast [inaudible] feel charged to take some steps towards self-improvement in improving the lives of young ones that they support and love. Thank you.

Dr. Elmore: Thank you, Sucheta, great to be with you today.

Producer: All right, that’s all the time we have for today. If you know someone who might benefit from listening to today’s show, a teacher, a principal, coach, a parent, or a student, you would be most grateful if you would kindly forward it to them, so on behalf of our host, Sucheta Kamath, today’s guest, Dr. Tim Elmore, and all of us at ExQ, thanks for listening and we look forward to seeing you again right here next week on Full PreFrontal.