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August 19, 2016, 9:56 AM

Seven Habits That Help Students Begin Their Year Well by Tim Elmore


So how can we equip our students to lay the groundwork for a great school year? As young adults, kids can become victims of their emotions or the whims and opinions of others. They are at the mercy of outside forces… unless they choose otherwise.

  1. Make up your mind before you make up your bed.

You have to choose the right attitude. Fighting a victim mindset means we have to be intentional about our outlook. We must make up our minds to make it a great day before the day gets away from us.

  1. Choose to give.

This will sound cheesy to students, but challenge them to give something away anonymously to another student weekly. Get in the habit of generosity. Studies show that the happiest people are the ones focused on others.

  1. Determine your River.

Rivers and Floods is one of our HabitudesÒ for students. Most students are a “Flood” — they move in multiple directions without focus. Successful students must be “Rivers” — they find a single direction and flow toward a specific goal.

  1. Decide on outcomes, then work backward.

Stephen Covey used to say, “Begin with the end in mind.” Help students determine where they want to end up, what their target is at year’s end. Then, help them ask themselves, “What steps do I need to take to get there?” Finally, encourage them to take the steps.

  1. Schedule your priorities.

Successful leaders know: The issue is not prioritizing your schedule, but rather scheduling your priorities. The time to decide how the day or week will go is when calendars are still blank. Put your most important activities in first.

  1. Treat deadlines like accountability partners.

One of the chief reasons we disappoint ourselves is because we fail to meet deadlines we agreed to meet. I have found deadlines are lifelines — I treat them like a friend who’s asking if I will finish in time. Write them down and take them seriously.

  1. Choose who you lose.

Be intentional about your friends. Choose them wisely, knowing you can’t be close with everyone. You will choose who you “lose” as a friend by where you invest time. Keep the ones who make you better close to you.

May 13, 2016, 8:52 AM

Sticky Faith

I’m looking at the calendar and I cannot believe that we have a little over two weeks left of school!  I can only imagine what the parents of seniors are feeling right now.  “Are my kids ready for the next phase of their journey?  Did I give them the spiritual foundation, the moral compass, the inner resolve to navigate life successfully? Are they grounded in their relationship with Christ and know what is truly important? Do they have the people skills to work well with others?”

These are great questions we all need to be asking ourselves all throughout our parenting life cycle.  Each day is an opportunity to invest, to impart, and to impress our faith and values onto our children.  Faith is not just taught, it is “caught.”  Moses tells all the moms and dads that their role is critical in creating an amazing home, culture, and country.  He tells them not to shirk their responsibility, but be intentional.

Deut. 6:4-9 (NIV) 4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Faith that sticks is real, relevant, and relational. We are not to ignore or side-step the questions of life, but seize every day opportunities to communicate truth in a loving way. 

OUR NUMBER 1 PARENTAL PRIORITY:  Create a family environment where God is SUPREME. 

Every day, every place, every opportunity is an altar to encounter God & serve Him (Romans 12:1,2).  Whether we are at the store, shuttling kids to games, watching TV, putting them to bed or on our way to church, we are to:

  1. TEACH our kids what a fully-devoted life looks like
    • Not just what, but why
  1. TRAIN them to follow God whole-heartedly
    • Not just why, but how

Sticky faith is stickiest when we involve our kids in our faith journey. 

We must be intentional & consistent.  Paul tells us: "Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives."  (Galatians 4:19, NLT)

Let’s enjoy our kids, savor every moment we have with them, and make this summer memorable.  As you map out your summer

  • Pray—for opportunities to lean into your kids and make a lasting, spiritual impression
  • Planbe intentional about growing spiritually as a family.  Maybe a new routine (prayer at bed time, serving together as a family, devotions, etc)
  • Persistthe hardest thing is starting.  The second hardest thing is continuing. The third hardest thing is finishing.  Don’t give up—the reward is right around the corner. 

Shaping Hearts & Minds,

Dr. Chris


October 30, 2015, 10:44 AM

Is it Okay to be Average?


Last year, a minor league manager said to me, “I can’t figure out our young ball players today. They hit .211 in single A ball, and think it’s good enough to be called up to double A.” Then, he smiled as if an epiphany had just struck him. He looked at me and said, “Maybe that’s the problem. All they’re targeting is ‘good enough.’”


Our society today unwittingly encourages our kids to simply “blend in”—to do what’s asked of you, but only what’s asked of you. In fact, we condition them to do the bare minimum requirement to get by, to look for loopholes and shortcuts.

As a result, too many of our gifted young athletes, academicians, and other performers carry this “good enough” mindset with them. They are fine with being “average.” Certainly there are exceptions, but Walt Whitman noticed the same thing in his day. He wrote:

Our leading men are not much account and never have been. But the average of the people is immense, beyond all history. Sometimes I think, in all departments, literature and art included, that will be the way our superiority will exhibit itself. We will not have great individuals or great leaders but a great average bulk, unprecedentedly great.

So, is this bad or good? What’s wrong with being average? You tell me:

Why letting others set the standard for us can prevent our growth:

  1. Being average is a moving target in society that can easily be diluted.
  2. An average goal rarely pushes us to use our talent to its fullest.
  3. Average makes us compare ourselves to others… and we’re unique.
  4. Average doesn’t push us to excel. In fact, quite the opposite: it produces a “good enough” mindset. We are OK with fitting into the “mean score.”

Being average means you’re as close to the bottom as you are to the top. You are the worst of the best and the best of the worst. Is that really you? Don’t you possess some ability or some ambition beyond average? Of course you do. Now leverage it.

Be Above Average

The following ideas aren’t new or impossible. They are simply rare:

  1. Let “average” be your starting point.

It represents the middle of achievement. While we shouldn’t settle for average, we must see what others have done. Each generation stands on the shoulders of earlier ones. Roger Bannister began with Glenn Cunningham’s record in the mile.

  1. Identify your strengths. Find the areas you’re naturally above average.

Our greatest growth and best chance to stand out lie in the areas of our natural strengths. Michael Jordan said, “All I knew was I didn’t want to be average. I didn’t come here to be average.” We must know our unique traits and value.

  1. Research enough to embrace an ideal and set a new standard.

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people,” Eleanor Roosevelt said. I believe she’s right. We must not be satisfied in repeating what’s already been done. Look at new horizons and ask: why not?

  1. Determine a need and opportunity that matches your identity.

Taylor Swift wrote, “I am intimidated by the idea of being average.” We must loathe being. This will help you see opportunity. It’s been said, “Don’t seek a passion. Chase opportunity, and you’ll naturally find it.”

  1. Each day, work to excel one percent above what you’ve done before.

Find one step you can take each day that pushes you beyond average. “How do you win?” asked Bum Philips. “By getting average players to play good and good players to play great. That’s how you win.” Excellence occurs one step at a time.

  1. Give it all you’ve got until you’ve excelled and it’s recognized.

The dream is free; the hustle is sold separately. The one element that separates dreamers from doers is effort. Anyone who’s ever taken a shower has gotten a good idea. The key is to dry off after the shower and go after it.

  1. Find and associate with people who share your ambitions.

Jim Rohn said it best: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Those who excel always spend time around other excellent people. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone took fishing trips together. All three changed the way we lived our lives.

  1. Avoid the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Run from those who let you remain lazy and unchallenged. While we need days of rest, our best self surfaces in times of rigor. Like rubber bands, we are useful when stretched. We must live somewhere between stretched and overwhelmed.

The truth that is most intriguing to me is this—excelling is within anyone’s reach. Being “above average” is not difficult, just rare. Question: How long does it take the average person to earn a black belt? Answer: The average person does not earn a black belt. Think about it:

  • Steve Jobs wasn’t necessarily the most intelligent person at Apple. He was just tenacious about excelling, and he pushed until his company led the way for others.
  • William and Catherine Booth weren’t seeking their passion as they started the Salvation Army. It was an opportunity. They excelled at meeting the need.
  • When Walt Disney took his daughters to ride a merry-go-round, he saw how pitiful it looked and wrote himself a note about the park he’d build one day: “No chipped paint; all horses go up and down.”
  • Mother Teresa stood in a classroom and grew burdened by the sight of people dying outside her school window on the streets of Calcutta. It was merely what others accepted as normal, and one day, her dissatisfaction with this reality turned into action.

Be careful, though: don’t associate “above average” with fame or wealth or status. Think of the mothers or the plumbers who’ve demonstrated excellence in what they do, without ever getting rich or famous. What makes them great isn’t fame, but ambition and initiative. They make the effort to excel. Frank Dobie wrote, “The average PhD thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another.” Don’t be satisfied with repeating what’s already been done.

We must be able to say, “I woke up this morning and realized I don’t have what it takes to sit back and be average.” May we all learn to pursue this level of excellence as we impact the next generation.


October 12, 2015, 10:43 AM

How to Avoid Ruining a Kid's Future

October 7, 2014 — Dr. Tim Elmore,


You’d think parents would have read and heard enough about “helicopters” and “snowplows” (parenting styles) by now that they would have backed off of their kids a little. But, alas, some are getting worse. I continue to hear of parents who move into the apartment with their freshman daughter, call the college president when their child has a squabble with his roommate, or join their son at job interviews. I read recently that the average parent is in touch with their college student eleven times a day.

I’ve written about “over-functioning parents and staff” for years now, yet I still hear stories from parents who seem “proud” of their involvement in their college student’s affairs.

We now see just what the damage can be.

A study published recently in the journal Education + Training found there’s an important line to draw between parental involvement and over-parenting. “While parental involvement might be the extra boost that students need to build their own confidence and abilities, over-parenting appears to do the converse in creating a sense that one cannot accomplish things socially or in general on one’s own,” wrote the authors, two professors from California State University Fresno. The authors of “Helicopter Parents: An Examination of the Correlates of Over-parenting of College Students,” Jill C. Bradley-Geist and Julie B. Olson-Buchanan, go on to detail how over-parenting can actually ruin a child’s abilities to deal with the workplace.

Bradley-Geist and Olson-Buchanan, both management professors, surveyed more than 450 undergraduate students who were asked to “rate their level of self-efficacy, the frequency of parental involvement, how involved parents were in their daily lives, and their response to certain workplace scenarios.” The study showed that those college students with “helicopter parents” had a hard time believing in their own ability to accomplish goals. They were more dependent on others, had poor coping strategies, and didn’t have soft skills like responsibility and conscientiousness throughout college.

“I had a mom ask to sit in on a disciplinary meeting [when a student was failing]”, said Marla Vannucci, an associate professor at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago who was that student’s academic adviser. Her team let the mom sit in, but in the end, it doesn’t help. “It really breeds helplessness,” she said.

Vannucci also had a college-aged client whose parents did her homework for her. The client’s mother explained that she didn’t want her daughter to struggle the same way she had. The daughter, however, “has grown up to be an adult who has anxiety attacks anytime someone asks her to do something challenging.” She never learned how to handle anything on her own.

Four Simple Principles Parents Must Buy Into…

1.  Pay Now, Play Later.

If parents are willing to bite the bullet now and not give in to every whim their child has, they actually build a healthy son or daughter who is ready for a happy life as an adult. Think “invest,” not “spend.”

2.  The Further Out I Can See, the Better the Decision I Make Today.

If parents will consider the long-term impact of their decision to rescue their child from hardship or prevent any difficulty from happening, they will be better leaders. Think long-term readiness, not short-term happiness.

3.  It’s Better to Prepare a Child Than Repair an Adult.

Parents are not raising children—they are raising future adults. Always think: I am a trainer. Everything we do each day either prepares them for their future or fails to do so. It builds their self-esteem or depletes it.

4.  Don’t Parent to Make You Happy—Parent to Make Them Healthy.

Let’s face it. Some of what we do for our children, we do because it makes us feel better as a provider, as a caretaker, and as a person who vicariously lives out some of our kids’ joys. Be sure what you do isn’t for you, but for them.

Remember: We must prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.

October 2, 2015, 9:02 AM

Seven Ideas Parents Can Use to Prepare Their Kids to Lead in Life


Today’s post is simple and practical. While we have a variety of readers on our Growing Leaders blog page, most of you are parents. So today, I offer a response to the question I get more than any other from moms and dads across the nation:

“How do I get my kid ready to lead in life?”

The underbelly of this question is: Are they even ready for adulthood? Can they do life without me? Are they ready to leave home and make it on their own?


This question is on the rise for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the emergence of a different world since the turn of the century. Life in the 1980s and 1990s was fairly positive for Americans economically, militarily, socially and for most of us, personally. We were strong and prospering as a whole. Since 2001, however, life has felt different for middle class Americans, and especially for our kids:

  • We’ve always been at war in the Middle East.
  • All they can remember is an economy trying to recover.
  • A terrorist act takes place every week, sometimes every day.
  • Jobless or unemployment rates have been higher.
  • More people are on food stamps.
  • Racial tensions erupt on a weekly basis somewhere.

This is a tricky world to navigate if you’re graduating into it today.

Seven Ideas Parents Can Employ to Prepare Their Kids to Lead in Life

If we’re going to turn this around, we’re going to have to become intentional about our kids’ development. I am hopeful we can. Instead of overwhelming our teens with loads of imitations, what if we offered the following:

1.  Meaningful Work – What if we challenged them to get a job that enabled them to labor, make money, and use their primary gifts?

2.  Solitude and Reflection – What if we paid them to read great books, then discussed their meaning and interpret their value with them?

3.  Altruistic Projects – What if we joined our students to serve in a charitable project that benefited people less fortunate than they are?

4.  Inter-Generational Environments – What if we planned gatherings where multiple generations mixed it up in conversation, to raise their EQ?

5.  Travel – What if we exposed them to other cultures that are very different than us and learned from the differences and commonalities?

6.  Gap Year – What if we gave them a year between high school and college to solve a significant problem, and actually empower them with responsibility?

7.  Mentors – What if we introduced them to our network, where they could find mentors in the careers they hope to enter?

Why Not Inoculate Them?

For over thirty years, I’ve traveled all over the world. I love travel, especially to remote, exotic places that I’d previously only seen in photos. Once in a while, I travel to developing nations that require immunizations. You know what this is, don’t you? Prior to being exposed to certain diseases in other countries, a nurse inoculates you—introducing a small dose of the disease into your body. Over a few weeks, you build up immunities to the disease and are able to handle it when you arrive in country. We actually build up anti-bodies and become strong enough to face diseases in remote places.

In one sense, this is a picture of what we must do for our kids. In order for them to face adversity well, we must introduce small doses of it early on. In order for them to possess the discipline necessary for hard work or stressful jobs, we must expose them to it in smaller amounts so they are ready for it. In a sense, they build up anti-bodies. They become inwardly strong and prepared for what’s ahead.

I know this list is simple, but these elements worked incredibly well at different points in my children’s lives. They are now in their twenties and still have lots of growth ahead of them—but I believe they’re entering it armed and ready.

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