Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What do you want for your child?

The only time I remember talking back to an adult as a teenager was while coaching a Little League baseball team. A parent twice as big as me, Mr. Gooch, was riding the umpire, the boys, and me.  I finally marched to the backstop behind the catcher—stopping the game—and yelled at the man, “Hey you! You wanna coach this team?  Come over right now and take this cap.”  I held out my manager's cap and pointed to the dugout.  “Come over right now and take over. You’re the new coach!”  He sat down and became silent, swearing and profaning under his breath.

His son was under such pressure to perform that he would tremble at games and make stupid mistakes. My golly, can’t we let the boys have some fun?  I used to think this was a male thing (Little League dads and soccer dads) until my daughter entered dance and I met the dance mothers. 

What are we teaching our children?
Here’s a tip I gleaned from author Dennis Prager: ask your children what they think you most want them to be—happy, good, successful, or smart (1). I want my children to choose “good.” Sometimes doing what is right does not lead to immediately happiness, such as choosing not to cheat and suffering the “D” grade. Mr Gooch stressed “successful.” He would try to bully the empire into making a wrong call so his son could have a successful experience.

I’ve conducted the Prager survey with many children.  Most think their parents want them to be happy or smart. If a parent stresses “being smart” over goodness, then cheating becomes okay, even a strategy. How many parents willingly intimidate teachers into giving grades their child did not earn so that their child can have the appearance of being smart and successful, or “get ahead”?  What does that teach the child?

A friend recently told me that a child had been caught stealing from his school several times and was taken to the principal’s office. Each time, the parents threatened to sue the school for singling out their child and creating “undue stress.”  What does that teach the child? 

In many cases, we rescue our children from consequences that, if suffered, might help them build character and better prepare them for the real world later. Today, every child gets a trophy, whether they earned it or not. One long-time educator told me, “We don’t have resilient kids because we don’t allow them to fail.” Are we raising facades or good, moral human beings prepared for the difficulties of life? As Neil Maxwell pointed out, “it’s easier to be a character than to have character” (2). Is character really that important?

I’m betting it is, which is why my wife and I do our darndest to stick to agreements we make with our children and allow them the opportunity to experience painful consequences, which are much less consequential now than the harsher consequences of life will be when they are adults. 

What would you do?
Jim Fay, parenting expert, tells the story of a boy who missed six days of school in one term. Three were excused because the boy had forged his mother’s signature. When his mother confronted him, the boy confessed and said, “You can’t tell anyone, Mom, because if I miss five days, I’ll lose my grade, and I’m an honor student. And you want me to be an honor student” (3). 

What would you do? 

Let’s ask ourselves this question: What do I want most for my children—be good (build moral character), be happy, be smart, or be successful?  We want all four—that’s a given—but which is most important to you? And then, we muster up our courage and ask this one: What am I teaching my children through my own actions and words?  Good luck and keep living!

P.S. Here's a picture of my son's Halloween costume which he described as "A soccer referee after dealing with parents and coaches at a little kids' soccer match."


(3) Developing Character in Teens - https://www.loveandlogic.com/

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Battling bullies

Dad Picks her up from School and Finds Out She's Been Bullied. Watch What He Does!

This particular girl has faced her fair share of bullying and her Dad was naturally not happy about it when he found out. So he came up with a very unique solution: click here.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

What the Blood Moon Really Means

My daughter was the first in the family to spot the moon rise above the mountains and seemingly drip blood over the tops and down the sides like a giant sundae with a cherry on top.  

The neighborhood children celebrated in a mad frenzy with grotesque expressions on their faces, running about with no apparent purpose. “How strange and clearly portentous,” thought I. It made me wonder what the deep theological meaning of this Blood Moon could possibly be.

Later, while pondering the ominous sight, I fell into a trance and I heard a voice say, “The Cubs win only once in a Blood Moon.” Then a vision was opened to my view, and I saw the Chicago Cubs win the World Series! After all, their logo looks like a Blood Moon with a blue circle around it! I awoke with a sob in my throat. “If the Cubs become a Wild Card and win the Series,” I conjectured, “the end of the world cannot be far behind.”  

Even so, just in case the world doesn’t end, you can take it from me—put your money on the Cubs. Oh, and put a few things aside for an emergency, such as a partial end of the world, and keep living! 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tips for the Tricky Teacher

It’s “Back to School” time, and soon you will be getting clever excuses from some of your students.  Whether you are a teacher, parent, or manager, the following principles apply.

Handling excuses
It used to be “my dog ate the homework”; now it’s “my computer ate the homework” (a hard drive crash) or “my printer’s not working.” One excuse has not changed over the years, and that’s the famous “I forgot.” 
Courtesy www.i-am-bored.com

As a college instructor with three decades of experience, my empathetic response is generally, “That’s sad. You can still get the homework in with a late penalty.” And then I might ask, “What can you learn from this experience so that it doesn’t happen again?”  After the student says “I don’t know,” I might make some suggestions such as backing up files or, in the case of a broken printer, downloading your homework to a thumb drive and printing it somewhere else. If you can get a student to say this himself or herself, it will be much more powerful.

“But I had an opportunity to go to a One Direction concert last night.”  Your tricky response to that could be “I understand completely, and you can still get your assignment in with a late penalty.”  It doesn’t matter what the student says next; your response is this:  “I guess you had to make a choice. If I were you, I would have chosen the One Direction concert, too. I understand. Of course, our choices in life bring consequences.”  And then the follow-up: “What can you learn from this experience?”  After the student says “I don’t know,” you can point out that waiting to the last moment to do an assignment is risky, but that’s a choice, too.

My favorite excuse while teaching college was “my grandmother died.”  After checking with other instructors, I discovered that this woman’s grandmother had died five times over the past few years.  She just used the excuse over and over with different teachers and at different times.  I sat down with the student and asked her for the secret of life. She looked puzzled. “How do you get your grandmother to come back to life every class?  How many times has she died now?”  We had a good laugh, but she still faced the unexcused absence and the late homework penalty.

The great secret of education
We teachers teach students, not subjects, and that includes helping students understand certain things about life. The most important, from an educational standpoint is this:  You are responsible for you.  You are in charge of your life and your education.  My responsibility is to teach; your responsibility is to learn.

I often hear, “You gave me a bad grade.”  My response: “I don’t give grades.  You earn them.”  A person grows by accepting responsibility for their life without blaming others and circumstances.  If my own child gets a “crummy teacher,” my response is, “Good. You’ll have a crummy boss someday and this will teach you how to deal with that. 

One of my favorite questions came from a very capable young man, “What’s the minimum I have to do to get an A?”  Did he just say “minimum”?  Well, you earn an A by providing superior work, not by doing the minimum.  That’s an erroneous perception. 

I’ve seen students put great effort into trying to do as little as possible, creating excuses, and getting out of stuff (such as the dead grandma story).  I often congratulate them on their creativity, but also reason with them: “Well, you can always just do the work and learn something.”

Whether you are a teacher, parent, or manager, it’s important to think through your pre-emptive strike; that is, provide a clear explanation of expectations beforehand. Good luck in the new school year!

Keep teaching, keep learning, and keep living.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

You Are a Pioneer!

Tomorrow is Pioneer Day in Utah, which celebrates the arrival of the first Mormon Pioneers in Salt Lake Valley. 

I am wondering, in what ways are you a pioneer?  As you know, pioneers explore, innovate, lead the way, or journey to unfamiliar places physically, mentally, spiritually, and/or emotionally.  Here are a few examples of what other pioneers have done:

-- Learn a musical instrument

-- Be the first to break the cycle of anger or abuse or poor parenting in your family

-- Use writing or art to express something worthwhile to others

-- Develop a new procedure or product or methodology for your company

-- Start a new company

-- Overcome a habit or addiction through a 12-step program or other method

-- Teach something useful and positive to your children or others

-- Forgive people from the past that have harmed you

-- Be the first to get a degree or advanced degree in your family

-- Decide to take responsibility for everything in your life rather than blame others or circumstances

-- Move to a new location

-- Create a plan to transition from your current work to what you know you should be doing, and then implement that plan.

-- Begin that fun hobby you’ve always wanted to try

-- Break out of a negative thinking or behavior pattern 

And there are many other ways to forge ahead and be a pioneer.

On this Pioneer Day, put some thought into how you have been a pioneer or how you are a pioneer or how you can become a pioneer.  Pioneers are courageous and optimistic. They plan ahead and are willing to do the work. 

To spur you on in your “journey,” you can listen to a song that was sung by Mormon Pioneers as they crossed the Plains, adapt it to your situation…and keep living!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Providence or Coincidence?

My teens had heard the story of Yorktown before, but a few days ago they saw it with their own eyes and were amazed. 

We were driving south on the Colonial Parkway and could see the Coleman Bridge ahead on the left connecting Yorktown (on the right) and Gloucester Point. 

“Cornwallis was waiting for the British navy to rescue him, but the French were waiting.  The Battle of the Capes was the only battle the British navy lost in over 350 years (1588-1941).”

“Wow, so then what?” my daughter asked while scanning for restaurants.

“Cornwallis decided to cross the river right about where the bridge is now.”

“That shouldn’t have been hard,” my son said as he gazed across the York River.

“Looks like it,” I agreed, “but a sudden gale turned back most of the boats, so Corwallis was stuck.  And, of course, he later surrendered.  If he had not surrendered, the war would have continued on, and the Colonies were in poor shape to continue fighting.”

We turned left onto the bridge and my children just stared down at the river as we crossed over to Gloucester Point.

“Washington thanked Providence, but I guess it could have been coincidence,” I remarked. 

After a moment of silence, I added, “Of course, I could tell you the stories of Long Island and Boston and—“

“—Dad,” they interrupted, “Can we just get something to eat?”  We all laughed because, after all, we've got to keep living. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Big Promotion

Decades ago, I was the company clerk in the U.S. Army Reserves.  I was my own version of Radar O’Reilly from M*A*S*H.  I controlled all things, including the company jeep, duty rosters, and the paperwork. And the Army operates on paperwork (in triplicate), especially when it’s not operating in the field. 

The epiphany
One day, it dawned on me.  Who types up all the orders?  Me.  Who has deserved a promotion for nearly a year?  Me.  And who has told me countless times I deserved a promotion, but is too lazy to initiate anything?  Captain Cappuccino, my commanding officer (name changed for his own protection).  In my military mind, the math was compelling and the moral imperative was apparent.

So I searched for an MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) slot that was open.  I knew Spanish and found an opening for “interpreter” to help interrogate Spanish-speaking prisoners.  Since we weren’t at war with Spain or Uruguay, the slot was ideal. 

The daring deed
I typed up the orders and left the signature line open for Captain Cappuccino.  I had a pile of about eight items for him to sign, so I stuck my orders in the middle of the pile and handed it over to my lazy bones C.O. for signatures, all the while engaging him in small talk about the deteriorating condition of the coffee machine, the only source of sustenance for the entire unit.

“I wish someone would fix that thing,” he remarked as he dashed off signatures. 

Getting my stripes
The day came for an official company meeting, the official company meeting.  The entire unit stood at “parade rest” in formation. Captain Cappuccino glanced at his paperwork and shouted, “Trottier, David, front and center!”

I marched to the captain, saluted respectfully, and stood at attention—chin up, chest out, stomach in. “Yes, sir.”

Then, he looked puzzled as he glanced through the paperwork (in triplicate). He whispered, “Did I promote you or something?” 

I did not panic; I was ready for the question. “That’s your signature right there, Sir, and I am most grateful.”

“Ah…okay, I see.  Hmm, well, Trottier, you earned it.  Carry on.”

“Thank you, Sir.”  I saluted, about-faced, and marched smartly back into formation. 

The aftermath
To this day, I don’t know if the good captain realized I had helped him do the right thing, or if he thought he had initiated the promotion himself.  He seemed content with what had happened.
After that, I became drunk with power. I unilaterally requisitioned a new coffee machine and surprised Captain Cappuccino with a dramatic unveiling, all at taxpayer expense. 

And now?  Now, I just march forward and keep living. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Who Needs Rules?

Recently, two writing clients have expressed their irritation at formatting guidelines and the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  After all, shouldn’t a writer or anyone else be free to write any way he or she wants? 

It’s a good argument, and I’m buying it. People should be free to write in whatever manner they feel comfortable.  After all, it’s not like the arbitrary rules of English are like the Ten Commandments, although who needs those?  I should do whatever I feel like doing. I have my own path. And we can begin to be truly free by first abolishing the rules of punctuation, grammar, formatting, and spelling. 

Sins than Ive feel AWESUM free!!! 2, be a riter & rite weather u approve or, not & i lol @ ennyone who aint lik it asap i comm w/ any ya dont say or that fyi my stressload reduced greatly & that a, fact wanna me singin LIKE BIRDIES now i FREE to cre-ate + u can 2 by plunk down w/ me in protest & its duh new lazee fair! thoses are French words haha who can say 1 writing is better than another HUH u can c that now no 1 can judge

what does it matter example 1

Woman without her man, is nothing

example 2 same words w/ punctuation rules

Woman—without her, man is nothing.

what does it matter who needs themdumstupidrules!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bumps on the Creative Path

One of my favorite movies is UP by Pixar.  I remember looking around the movie theater and
watching the adults cry and the kids laugh.  It reached nearly everyone.  The marriage montage at the beginning is already a classic sequence.  The crafting of the story must have come easy, right?


Read these comments on the creation of UP from Ed Catmull, Pixar Animation Studios President in a speech at BYU:

"The first version of UP took place on a castle floating in the sky, and there was a king in the castle who had two sons; the sons didn't like each other. And the people in the castle were at war with the people on the ground, and...the two sons happened to fall overboard and ended up wandering around in enemy territory. And in this wandering around they came across a large bird.

"This version of the movie didn't work; all that was left was the bird the word 'up.' [Creativity] is a path that is filled with false turns and errors, and the errors are a necessary part of the process."

As I like to say, trust the process.  And of course...

...Keep writing and keep living!

More tips on creativity: Double Your Creativity in 3 Hours

Saturday, March 21, 2015

10 Faith-Based Movies

Since Easter is nearly upon us, I thought I’d make a list of faith-based movies for Christians to consider watching.  These are not ranked in any kind of order.

The list
Ben-Hur (1959) – This classic has everything, including a genuine chariot race.  The director once said privately, that it took “a Jew to make a decent movie about Christ.”  Eleven academy awards.

Les Miserables (2012) – The story is Christ-centered, although I wasn’t completely enthralled with the motion picture version, particularly Hollywood’s idea of Heaven—an even bigger barricade with dead soldiers on the ground.  I might prefer Les Miserables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary (2010).

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) – For those who love the writings of C.S. Lewis.

The Scarlet and the Black (1983) – You’ll love watching Gregory Peck defy the Nazis.

Chariots of Fire (1981) – Eric Liddell keeps the Sabbath during the 1924 Olympics.  Four Academy Awards.

Wide Awake (1998) – M. Night Shyamalan’s first movie.  A 10-year-old, coping with his grandfather’s death, embarks on a mission to find God. 

Amazing Grace (2006) – The campaign against the slave trade in the British Empire and the conversion of John Newton, a slave ship crewman.

Saints and Soldiers (2003) – What if your enemy is someone you converted to Christ?  Based on actual events of LDS (Mormon) soldiers in World War II.  There are two sequels, but this is the best.

Fireproof (2008) – This is about making your marriage work.  As the second of a double-feature, consider Courageous, which is produced in the same spirit as Fireproof. 

Jesus of Nazareth (1977) – This mini-series features an incredible cast.  Some may prefer Son of God (2014).

Bible-based videos about Christ  
If you’re interested in high quality and authentic videos about specific events in the life of Jesus Christ, visit this page.  

Four more movies worth considering
The 10 Commandments (1956), which is much more faith-based than Exodus: Gods and Kings

The Robe (1953) – A Roman soldier who helps crucify Jesus becomes a Christian.

Going My Way (1944) – Bing Crosby plays a singing priest and wins an Academy Award.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) – Watch Sir Thomas More maintain his integrity while under pressure from Henry VIII.  Six academy awards.

Christmas movies
I did not name any Christmas movies in the above list, but three I would include are It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, and The Bishop’s Wife (1947 version). A great Christmas comedy is Elf, although the makers managed to keep religion out of it.

What did I miss? 
Do you have a recommendation?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Is religion good or bad?

My favorite In-n-Out Burger was packed, so Bob, a business acquaintance, made small talk while we stood in line, “What was your favorite rock group in high school?”

“The Association. Saw them in concert and they seemed positive and filled with promise. I loved the song ‘Enter the Young.’”  And then I recited a verse:

            “Here they come, some with questions, some decisions
            Here they come, some with facts and some with visions
            Of a place to multiply without the use of divisions
            To win a prize that no one’s every one.
            Enter the young!”

“You still remember that?”

I nodded.  “I’ll tell you why.  Jules Alexander was a member of the group whose stated goal was to study the religious life of India.  He left the band at its height just to do that.  And when he returned, I saw The Association once again in concert, but this time they were all drugged out and seemed empty…all except Jules Alexander.  It made a huge impression on me.”

By now, we had had received our orders. I dived into my no-salt hand-cut fries.

“So you think religion made the difference, huh?”

“In general, I think religion is good for people and makes them better than they would otherwise be.” 

“Are you kidding?  Look at all the wars fought over religion!” Bob declared as he bit into his Double-Double.

I pointed a fry at him. “Name a religious war of the 20th Century.”  He frowned.  He couldn’t think of any.  “I’m sure there was one, but World War I and World War II were not fought over religion.”

And then he smiled and said, “Well in this century, we have jihad.”

“You have a point there,” I relented, “although I wonder how much of that is thugs using an ideology to unite the masses.” 

“Still religion,” my friend emphasized, “and they want to kill every Jew alive.  I’m sensitive to that because I’m a Jew.”

“But do you think religion itself is bad?”  He shrugged, so I said, “Let me paint a picture.”

He nodded “okay” as he sucked his chocolate shake. 

I charged on: “Imagine it’s late at night and you’re on a dark street.  You see a gang of teen boys walking towards you.  Would you be glad to know they just got out of a Bible class?”

“Okay, you got me. And I’ve been baitin’ ya.”  He laughed. “I kinda agree with you, but here’s the problem: most religious people don’t practice their religion.  But if they did, I would agree that they would be better people and the world would be a better place.” And that was that.

So is religion good or bad?  I share this conversation with you because Bob makes a good point. In my opinion, we shouldn’t be “In” and then “Out” with God.  I firmly believe that we become better with God and religion in our lives and hearts, and so I urge you to include God in yours…and to keep living.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I am an abolitionist

In 1860, there were 4 million slaves in the United States.  But slavery did not end with Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.

About 50,000 people are sold into slavery every year in the U.S., and there are probably about 100,000 slaves in the U.S. today. The statistics may not be entirely accurate, but they are close enough to indicate a serious problem.

Globally, there are about 27 million slaves (statistics from the State Department and U.N.).  Of those, about 10 million are sex slaves, and about 2 million of those sex slaves are children, some as young as 3 years of age. 

I’ve decided to be an abolitionist. 

As owner of keepwriting.com, I announced on January 1 that I am donating a percentage of every purchase of services and product to charity.  One of those charities—Operation Underground Railroad—is devoted to abolishing child slavery.

A documentary film is about to be released about Operation Underground Rescue. View the trailer.

View a newscast about a sting operation that involved actress Laurie Holden.

Let's keep living and help others to keep living.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

John Cleese on Comedy and Intelligence: Are we losing it? –Intelligence, that is?

In reading interviews of John Cleese of Monty Python fame, I was surprised to see a common a theme—John Cleese longs for more intelligence these days. Maybe I better let him explain that.

The millenials
“In my day, anyone who was vaguely educated—in other words, they knew where Pakistan was—
would give you the opportunity for all kinds of humor,” he says. Mr. Cleese thinks that too much comedy revolves around sex and other “mundane” topics.  He worries that the “general feeling [among the younger set] is that anything that doesn’t affect you personally is not worth knowing about.” So there’s a smaller universe of shared knowledge for comedy writers to draw from.

This is not good news if you are a comedy lover because there is less variety in the comedy you are served.  It’s getting to be a one-page menu.

Political correctness
Cleese thinks some of the blame is due to PC.  “Political correctness started out as a very good idea. But it got latched onto by people who hang onto a small number of truths. In my stand-up, I’ll make jokes about Germans, Canadians, the English and the French. And then I say, ‘There’s this Mexican joke.’ And the place freezes. Why is everyone uncomfortable? Is that because the Mexicans need particular protection?  There is a lot of condescension in it…. Of course, jokes about Muslim fundamentalists are problematic because they threaten to kill you.”    

He continues, “There can be major developments in the Ukraine and ISIS and Putin, and the top story…will be that [someone] has used one of the ‘forbidden words.’”

Laughing at ourselves is good medicine
Cleese states that most comedy is critical of human behavior; it is saying, “This is not a smart way to behave.” Although Cleese is always pushing boundaries, he still longs for smart subjects. He even claims Monty Python fans are smarter than fans of the Rolling Stones or the San Francisco 49ers.

That certainly made me feel better: “Gee,” I said to myself, “maybe I’m smart after all.” One of my favorite short comedy films is The Crimson Permanent Assurance, which is at least a little bit funnier if you understand something about corporate raiders and takeovers.  

If you want to take a peek, you can click the following link, but I don’t guarantee it will always work: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xyqxc_the-crimson-permanent-assurance_fun

So what’s a comedy lover to do?  Expand our universe, of course. Improve our behavior so that we are not the butt of jokes. And keep living.

“Weekend Confidential” by Alexandra Wolfe, Wall Street Journal, 11-15-14
“10 Questions” by Belinda Luscombe, Time, 11-17-14
“Former Monty Python John Cleese,” The Independent [UK], 2-4-15

Friday, January 2, 2015

3 Steps to Success in 2015

Rather than write an entire book on the subject, I’m laying out the 3 steps so that you can get started right now!

1. Between now and Sunday, decide on 3 or 4 goals or projects for the year that are consistent with your values.  They can be in any area of life: career, family, religion, fitness, emotions (such as overcoming anger), and so on.  Many of them will have deadlines.

Decide on milestones to meet on the way to achieving a goal or completing a project. Your goals and milestones can change as you progress throughout the year. 

2. On Sunday (or other set day each week), create a Weekly Action Plan.  Decide on a few (or several) specific things that you will do during the week to meet one or more of your goals or milestones. 

For example, if you are a screenwriter with a goal to write a motion picture screenplay by a certain date, I suggest you commit to write for a certain number of hours during the week or at certain times and days during the week.

3. One week later, on the Sunday following, evaluate your accomplishments. Don’t punish yourself if you didn’t get everything done the way you had planned; instead, inspire yourself to move forward. Write a new action plan for the new week.

Do this 50 times this year and you’ll be amazed at the results!