We is Better than Me

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Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. ……….But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

The emphasis throughout both the New and Old Testament is that life is better lived in relationship with another.  I came across athe following quote that is attributed to C.S. Lewis:

The safest road to hell is the gradual one . . . the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. This is why it’s so dangerous to do life alone.” 

A quote from a resident of a halfway house in Darien Connecticut put it this way:

The mind alone is a bad neighborhood.”

A 2015 study done in the U.K. found that a majority of the men surveyed (51%) had two or fewer friends, and 15% had no friends. None.  Nada.  Zip.  That’s hard to imagine.   According to C.S. Lewis, they are leading a dangerous life. It’s so easy in life to do things solo – without any aid from our friends.  We live in community with one another – in fact, most of the New Testament deals with how our Christian life is to play out on the horizontal field with other people.  Christianity is an individual decision,  but it is also a team sport.

So, who is on your team?  Do you have a friend – someone who knows you inside and out – the good, the bad, the ugly, including what your spiritual and thought life, and what junk you have in the trunk of your car (or “boot”, as it is called in other parts of the world)?  The British survey is sobering, but it really is even worse, because their definition of a “friend” really doesn’t go beyond an acquaintance with whom you share a common interest.  That’s not the friend that will stick by you through thick and thin, and will help you up when you have failed or fallen down or had a serious setback of circumstances.

The passage from Ecclesiastes above is one of the many scriptures that follows the theme of what I call the “principle of the twos” in the Bible.   Another one is found in Proverb 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.”  I have met with two men weekly for the past 24 years.  It is an intentional and covenantal relationship. Over time, we have shared each others ups and downs, successes and failures, trials and tribulations, and rejoiced at each others accomplishments for the kingdom. It’s second nature to us to be transparent with our lives and challenges.  I am really saddened how few other men have what we have experienced over a long time.

The majority of men I meet disregard the principle that life is best lived in community, unfortunately to their detriment. As the title says, “We is better than Me”.   Pastors are often the biggest offenders and yet the most vulnerable. They put moats around their lives and become insulated from others because of their position.   But that’s not how Jesus modeled it when he sent out the seventy-two disciples in Luke 10.  He sent them out two by two with a reason. This was their first “road trip”. Had I been advising Jesus, I would have suggested that it might make strategic sense to send them out individually because they would have covered more territory.  But Jesus had more wisdom than me, knowing full well that sending them in twos was more important than getting more geographical coverage.

I have long been known as an advocate of having someone else in your life (other than your spouse) to whom you can confide in and be accountable to.  The evil one doesn’t attack us in groups:  he isolates us and takes us down when we are alone.  Satan doesn’t influence a group to go out and collectively commit adultery.  It happens when we are isolated.

If you don’t have one or more close friends that you can be transparent with, you risk violating the biblical principle of the twos, and as C.S. Lewis suggests, you are in danger.  I encourage you to find one today.

Bill Mann

 

Smartphones

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Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

 In researching my last post, I came across an intriguing article by a psychologist writing in Atlantic Magazine entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”.  The article by Jean Twenge, a PhD in Psychology, covers several topics I have already written about including the impact of the digital world on the next generation. See my posts entitled Digital Darkside (March 6, 2017) and Loneliness (July 4, 2017).

This article, however, takes it even further, and suggests that the current Generation Z is headed down a one-way street when it comes to smartphone usage.  The article interviews several from Generation Z (those who are just now getting out of high school, and who have always known a world with Smartphones).

The iPhone was introduced on June 29, 2007, just 10 years ago.  It is so pervasive now, that it is hard to imagine life before this technology. As a footnote, even Steven Jobs limited his children’s use of his own invention.

I find it interesting that these issues are now getting national attention. I saw a news story on television recently, and am glad this is getting more broad coverage than niche magazines like Psychology Today.

The subtitle of the Article is riveting: “More comfortable online than out partying, post-millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But, they’re on the verge of a mental health crises.

Trips to the Mall, once a staple of adolescents, is being replaced with spending time together with friends on the internet, using platforms like Snapchat, unchaperoned. They keep up with “Snapstreaks” which keeps track of how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with others.

One girl aged 11 put it this way: “That’s just the way her generation is, she said. ‘We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people’.”

The author has studied generational trends for 25 years, and notes that most trends are slow in developing. Until now.

“Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.”

Twenge was trying to identify the reason for the sudden shift. She believes it occurred in 2012, in the middle of a poor economy from the last recession. 2012 was the year that the number of smartphones owned by Americans exceeded 50 percent. In 2017, three out of four American teens owned a smartphone. She calls these adolescents who have only known smartphones “iGen” which is like “Gen iY” coined by Tim Elmore.

The advent of the smartphone goes far beyond concerns of reduced attention spans. She notes that the impact of these devises “has not been fully appreciated.” “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.”

These changes are pervasive – in every corner of the nation. It is not limited by boundaries of standing – it affects poor and rich alike in small towns, suburbs and cities.  “Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

To generations who grew up in the analog world, it is difficult to wrap our brains around this trend. In prior generations, one key pursuit was independence. That was usually associated with getting a driver’s license so one could get out of the house and away from parents. The allure of independence does not have the same “sway” over teens today.  They are less likely to leave their house without their parents.

The results are predictable.  Dating has become less frequent, and it doesn’t start with “friending” of Generation X. It starts with “talking”.  Odd choice of words for a generation that prefers texting to actual conversation. The incidence of dating has dropped from 85% to 56% in the past several decades.

One positive trend:  teens are having less sex than prior generations – the statistics show teenage pregnancy is down 67 percent in 2016 from its high in 1991.

Even getting a license to drive has been affected, often a result of the “nagging” of their parents. In prior generations, it was more important. Being independent takes money, but teen employment hasn’t rebounded from the poor economy even as availability of jobs has.

Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.”

While other things in high school haven’t change – participation in activities, for example, iGen are spending less time studying than prior generations, which means they actually have more leisure time.  What are they doing?  Well, “they’re on their phones, in their rooms, alone and often distressed.”

I recently observed this first hand. My daughter and her husband kept his niece who lived in Germany as an exchange student for a year. She was a sophomore in high school, and initially spent most of her time in her room at their home with the door closed on her iPhone. She had rare interaction with the family. She spent most of her phone time on Facetime with her friends in Germany, and in the U.S.

Some behavioral issues changed that, and she was limited to time on her phone and was forced to try out for soccer which occupied some of her free time. The result was remarkable. She quickly joined in family events and played games with the younger children. She became involved in their family life.

After she returned to Germany, she wrote a thank you letter for all that she had learned in her exchange student environment.  She was grateful for her experience, although there were some awkward moments. What I observed was a young woman who quickly learned to enjoy those around her. I give a kudo to my daughter and her husband for drawing the line on overuse of a smartphone.

One might assume that by spending so much time at home, there would be increased interaction with parents.  That is not the case. “Teens who spend more time than average on-screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.”

Depression is a common ailment tied to smartphone usage.  “Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.”

Even worse, teens who spend at least 3 hours a day on their smartphones have a 35% greater risk factor of suicide, or even formulating a suicide plan. That’s astonishing and terribly sad. Sleep deprivation is another by-product, and a high percentage of this generation sleeps with their phone within arms -reach, or even in their bed.

The increase in sleep-deprivation increased with the release of the smartphone in 2007. Sleep deprivation leads to several issues, among them, “compromised thinking and reasoning, susceptibility to illness, weight gain, and high blood pressure.”

As mentors and parents, we have choices when interacting with this generation.  One of them involves teaching them reasonable smartphone habits.  Our parents had to deal with over-watching television, which, by comparison is mild when it comes to mental health outcomes compared to the smartphone.

While this article has a focus on the American scene, I have found that in many parts of the world (Africa and Asia), the use of cell phones and smartphones parallels what we are seeing in the west. I suspect the issues are similar.

Twenge has one recommendation to iGEns: “Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.”  Good advice!  Another suggestion, defer giving your young children smartphones at an early age. It may be hard to do this given we have a generation of kids accustomed to a 24/7 digital world.

Our challenge is to recognize the potential damage that excessive smartphones can do the lives of the next generation. It’s the old story:  unless you see something as a problem, there isn’t likely to be any change.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You are in a good position to speak into the lives of your mentees about being wired all the time.  Moderation is a reasonable goal to establish.

 FURTHER STUDY:  The article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” in the Atlantic Monthly can be found at:   https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon. Here’s a blurb on it from Barna Research:

https://www.barna.com/techwise/

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker give encourage us with his song “I Have a Hope”:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Entitlement

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 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”  Phillipians 2:3

 A recent psychological study shows that large numbers of millennials have developed an entitlement complex.  “The psychological trend comes from the belief that you are superior to others and are more deserving of certain things.”  Wow.

Examples of how this plays out ranges from disregarding rules, freeloading or being the cause of inconvenience.  It is also tied to a likelihood to assume the role of leader while working with others. It is described as a “toxic narcissistic trait.”  It can lead to frustration, unhappiness and disappointment with life.

It’s really where the rubber meets the road.  A person with a worldview of self-superiority will have an inevitable collision with the real world. A millennial with this trait is almost doomed to failure because their self-centered desires doesn’t mesh with the fact that the world doesn’t work that way.

Many millennials approach their first job with an expectation that they will start at the top rung, rather than at the bottom and work their way up.  From my own experience mentoring young lawyers, I can safely say that this is almost a reckless view.

I always told young associates working under me that it would take at least 3 years of daily involvement with my legal specialty to be proficient. There is no substitute for actual hands-on experience, or what I referred to as “OJT” [On the Job Training].

Julie Exline, who was involved in the study, says this: “The entire mindset [of entitlement] pits someone against other people.  When people think they should have everything they want, often for nothing – it comes at the cost of relationships of others and, ultimately their own happiness.”

Interestingly, the study goes on to suggest a very biblical value to break out from this mentality: humility. If a person is more grateful and accepts their own limitations, they are less likely to be trapped by this trend.

Other practical solutions for the millennials dealing with this outlook include an introspective bent: Reflection on incidents from someone else’s perspective, promotion of others, and ceasing to rationalize things when you have been wrong.

I would submit that there is yet another practical solution:  having a mentor. A mentor can guide a millennial through this minefield.  An older person who has experience with relationships and expectations, combined with a strong hand of reality of how things really work, is invaluable.

Alicia Boyes, PhD. in Psychology Today,  has written a good primer entitled “9 Types of Entitlement Tendencies and How to Overcome Them.” It’s a good read and helpful.

One of the reasons for this trend is that current parenting styles set into motion in our children’s minds that they are special.  One simple illustration: instead of a birthday party, we have an over-the-top extravaganza.  What message does this leave with the child?  They know they can expect to get anything they want.

We have catered to the “Me, Me, Me” mentality by satisfying our children’s every need or want.  Gratitude goes out the window. We have, in many cases, over-indulged our children to their detriment because they haven’t developed a sense of balance as to what is or is not appropriate to expect. They lose their sense of gratitude and replace it with an attitude of entitlement.

When my three kids were growing up (they are all Generation X), I was concerned about over indulging them financially.  I could have easily done that. But I adopted my father’s philosophy which was that I would pay for their education as far as they wanted to go, and after that it was up to them.

As a reward for completion of college, I gave each of them a car. It was not an entitlement;  it was a reward for a job well done, and I didn’t want them to start their careers with a car payment.

Granted, not every millennial has an entitlement mentality, but it is pervasive enough to be a problem for the next generation. When the entitled millennial goes into the business world, their view of self-importance collides with the reality that they aren’t “special” and they don’t have the training or skills to handle what they think they should be doing.

One anecdote of this last point.  A young entrepreneur, a millennial herself, was interviewing to hire some additional staff. She went through 20 interviews with millennials.

None of them were willing to start as an assistant – their sense of entitlement made them feel they were above starting at the ground floor. She finally hired one, but had to fire her after some behavior issues after only 2 days.

The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting—over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising, and jumping through hoops to meets kids’ endless demands,” says Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions. “Today’s generation of parents are overly invested in their child’s happiness, comfort and success.

As Simon Sinek in his video Millennials in the Workplace (link is below and it’s worth watching) – many millennials are the product of poor parenting styles, so they’ve been dealt a “bad hand.”  Business is having to adopt and adjust to them, not the other way around.

For parents, it’s time to rethink the results of our parenting which leads to behavioral issues later in life. This phenomenon is not new:  Tony Compolo, a Christian sociologist,  wrote about this in the early 1990’s in a book entitled “Who Changed the Price Tags.”

Our challenge is to reach out to the floundering millennial who might have unreasonable expectations of entitlement. Sadly, someone who is narcissistic is a tough case to handle, so this is no easy fix. As mentors, we are in a good position to be the sounding board of reality and speak into their lives.  They need outside help to develop a sense of gratitude and humility.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Your relationship with the next generation can be instrumental in correcting any “vision” issues they have as to what they are or are not entitled to. In many cases, they cannot “see” that their attitude is a problem.

FURTHER STUDY:  The Alicia Boyes article in Psychology Today is found at:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201303/9-types-entitlement-tendencies-and-how-overcome-them

The article on the Entitlement trend is found at: https://www.indy100.com/article/young-people-entitlement-disappointed-narcissism-psychology-research-7867961

Another helpful article:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201511/9-signs-child-has-entitlement-issues

An article on entitlement leading to chronic disappointment: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160913134442.htm

Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplacehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

WORSHIP: Listen to Christ Tomlin sing “We Fall Down” which reminds us we all have shortcomings that are forgiven at the foot of the Cross:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

Vacations

 

Puffins

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:15, 16.

Having just returned from an almost month-long holiday with my family in Europe, I was reflecting on what I accomplished. First, I honored my wife’s request to make the vacation a real vacation, and not be distracted by doing “work” – in my case, blogging, and interacting with the many men that I have been mentoring recently.

I covered this theme in an earlier post entitled “Free Days” which is a concept we used in a life coaching class I took over 20 years ago.  The idea behind “free days” is that you should plan your schedule to include a reasonable number of free days – days that are devoid of work where you are truly off duty.  Staying in touch via text or email or phone is frowned on.  And you can’t cheat by playing golf with a client or customer.

The idea is that we all need a breather from our occupations (in my case, my avocations). It is a biblical concept, because Jesus took time to withdraw from the crowds. It is a time of refreshment. A time to pause and smell the roses. A time to spend valuable time with your family. It is a time for replenishment of your emotional tank.

For most of us (including me), we often ignore our emotional tank, and the stress of work and life can take its toll.  For men, it is often hard, because we are taught to tough it out and “don’t let anyone see you sweat”.  If you are really drowning emotionally or are depressed, it is countercultural to let others know you are barely making it and are just hanging on.

This is particularly true of the millennials who have exhibited to isolation leading to loneliness and clinical depression.  The suicide rates are alarming in this age group. Recent studies have shown this, and it is something that needs to be addressed by parents and mentors. Many of them don’t realize their plight, to their detriment.

One other accomplishment of our trip is that we got to spend quality time with Sarah, our 11-year-old granddaughter.  The idea of the trip was initiated when my youngest son’s twins played in a soccer tournament outside of Barcelona for a week. We decided to  come along and take another of our other grandkids with us and make it into a tour of Europe – seven countries in all.

The trip accomplished several things. For Sarah, she got to see things she always wanted to see – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tower of Big Ben in London, Mad Ludwig’s castle in Bavaria (the one that ended up being the model for Disneyland).  Better yet, we spent valuable time together having fun.

It was a rare opportunity to have those one on one (or in our case, one on two) moments for almost a month. To walk together, laugh together, rush to a plane together, and sometimes sleep in hotels with cramped quarters.

She will remember it the rest of her life. Not just memories of the places she visited, but the time she spent with us.  You see, we were mentoring her in a very natural way. She learned to adjust to new currencies and exchange rates, and to navigate in places where the language was foreign. She learned to choose her food on menus that weren’t in English.

She learned to take care of her stuff and pack sensibly. My rule of travel when it comes to packing is that if you can’t wear it, or can’t carry it, don’t bring it. We rarely checked bags on 11 airplane flights.  Having been a travel warrior in my career, I know what a mess it becomes if your bag gets misplaced. It is even more troublesome if you are on the move and not going to stay in one place for more than a day or two.

She learned that her grandparents were not perfect, and that we all had our moments, but that we always managed to resolve them quickly. She learned to do Sudoku with Sis, she read a lot and was very engaged on what we were doing or considering options of things that we could do. We literally watched her grow up by the time the trip was through.

So now we have a template of our role as grandparents.  Taking one or two of our grandchildren on an adventure that is geared to their interests. Sarah loves travel, so that was easy. Our other grandkids all want to know where we are taking them, now that we have set this precedent. As long as our health holds out, we will continue this tradition with the others.

I did similar things with my children and my own father. I went on an Outward Bound expedition with my eldest son when he was in high school.  With my daughter (Sarah’s mom), I took her on a weekend trip to San Francisco.

It was also something I did with my own father about a year before he died. He was living in San Francisco when he met and married my mother. I remember sitting at a restaurant in San Franciso with my father and recounting details of trips we had taken together years before. He was amazed that I remembered the details, many of which he had forgotten.

I never really knew my own grandparents. My mother’s parents all died early, and my father’s grandparents lived 3000 miles away and didn’t have the resources to visit frequently. I feel like I missed some deep connection with my past. Most of what I know about my grandparents came from conversations about them with my parents, rather than personal interaction.

I have frequently said that our legacy is to leave our fingerprints on our grandchildren – all over them, for that matter. We want them to know us and what we are like (the good, the bad, and hopefully not the ugly). We want them to know our Christian values and how that plays out in everyday life.  We want to plant memories that will last a lifetime.

Our challenge is to take time away from the stresses of life and encourage others to do the same.  Make sure you spend it with family because, at the end of the day, that’s our legacy.  You may not be able to do what we just did, but you can figure out ways to do something special.  As the saying goes, you only live once, and you may not have opportunities later. It’s time to live for the moment, not the future.

MENTORING TIP: The next generation that you interact with may be struggling with depression. If possible, spend time with them doing something together so you can get a sense of their emotional well-being. Emphasize that taking time off is important.

FURTHER STUDY:  Studies by Barna and Pew Research have all consistently shown a high level of depression and suicide in the millennial generation. See my post entitled “Loneliness” which was posted on July 4, 2017.

WORSHIP: Listen to Tommy Walker sing “Taste and See

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Millennials

 

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“Unless we learn the lessons of history and ‘teach… the next generation’ (Psalm 78:5–6) they will repeat the mistakes of the past.”  Nicky Gumbel

The term millennial applies to Generation Y and iY – the first born in the early 1980’s and the latter after 1990. They are distinct from prior generations in the outlook and attitudes. I’ve described them as being a different culture which means that we need to understand them in order to be able to mentor them.

I recently went to Togo to attend a gathering of leaders from 10 west African countries. It was a profound experience in many ways.  I was asked to give a presentation on the North American millennial as part of a practical presentation on mentoring.

What surprised me was my profile of the North American millennial was not limited to the next generation of North America.  Almost all the attributes are true of the next generation everywhere – even in Africa.

As I went through my presentation, heads of the leaders were nodding in assent to what I was saying.  Since about half of our audience spoke only French, I am going to have the presentation translated into French for their use.  Fortunately, we had a translator as I went along who translated it into French.

I had shown my power point presentation about 18 months ago to a friend of mine in Cameroon.  I was just going to show him a picture in the presentation, but he and his wife both asked for me to go through all the slides.

As we went through them, they confirmed that the profile was largely accurate of the African millennial, save the attribute of having college debt (the slide notes that 20% of millennials have college debt).

Recently, my friend used the presentation with a group of leaders in Cameroon and said it was very well received and accurate.  That caught me a little off guard, but I have now learned that millennials in all parts of the world have almost universal interests, priorities and desires.

When I put the presentation together, I had just read almost 30 books on mentoring.  That doesn’t make me an expert, by any means. In fact, much of what I post on is not from all those books, but is inspired by my own personal experiences.

My personal takeaway is that I have observed that the current millennial does not trust any institution, including the church. If the typical millennial isn’t going to come to the church, then the church has to pivot and go to them.  It’s a total reversal of the priorities of a church which is often more inward focused, not outward of reaching the next generation.

So, here are some of the attributes:

  • They are spenders, not savers.
  • Asian in outlook – values are formed by their peers
  • Delayed entrance into adulthood – late 20’s or early 30’s
  • Delayed marriage into late 20’s (average age is now 27 up from 24 a decade ago)
  • 40% live with parents through early 30’s
  • 20% have college debt (U.S. only)
  • Distrust of all institutions – church, government, education, business
  • Have grown up in post-Christian era
  • Most would like to be mentored
  • Truth is relative; No absolute truth
  • Indecisive – they shun making decisions
  • Digitally obsessed on social media
  • They don’t read, hence have shallow critical thinking
  • Short attention span – shorter than a gold fish (8 seconds vs. 9 seconds
  • Self-centered and self-absorbed – hence taking “selfies”
  • They are impatient – often without a context for having reasonable expectations
  • Many feel lost – loneliness, anxiety and depression are high, as is the suicide rate
  • Many have grown up protected and haven’t faced failure
  • Poor interpersonal skills – they don’t deal with conflict well
  • Desire for instant gratification which does poorly in business world
  • Accustomed to rapid pace of change
  • Almost 40% have grown up in single parent homes (US)

I am happy to share my PowerPoint presentation with anyone that wants it. I have converted it to a .pdf file so you don’t have to have Powerpoint to look at it.

My presentation is entitled “Sensei” which was inspired by my daughter who suggested that everyone has seen the movie “Karate Kid” in which an older man takes on a young man to teach him karate. The older man is a visual image of a Sensei, which literally means “one who has come before another” in Japanese.

Our challenge is to reach the next generation.  They will be our leaders. They have been described as being “lost”, and part of that is not entirely their fault, but the fault of our culture and often poor parenting skills. They might have been dealt a bad hand, but at least we, as mentors, can help guide them through some of the pitfalls of life by walking besides them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  While not every millennial will have all of the attributes in the above profile, they will have some of them. It is instructive in understanding them in order to walk beside them and communicate with them in terms they can accept.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Desert Song by Hillsong United

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Loneliness

texting                                       

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

I would have never guessed that I would write a post on loneliness of the next generation, but research and studies consistently show that this is a problem. And it’s a problem not just the millennials, but also Generation Z, the oldest of whom are now just finishing high school.

I recently participated in an email dialogue about this topic based on a study in the U.K.  The friend that sent it, Fred Berkheimer, said he was absolutely “shocked” at the results.

Studies by Barna and Pew Research have all consistently shown a high level of depression and suicide in the millennials. So, it is not entirely “news” that the next generation is one of the loneliest and lost generations.

They would rather sit next to each other and text one another than have a relationship with a face to face conversation.  So much is lost in the digital world, including body language and personal interaction.

What started the email conversation was a recent study by a British department store that does marketing research on its customers to see what brands are relevant.  They initially did a study of 800 of Generation Y (also known as the millennials).  They found the results stunning.

To assure that they had not gotten a bad sampling, they redid the study with yet another 800 participants. The results were identical.

The findings showed an increasingly lonely and lost generation, who had lots of “friends” on social media platforms, but few if any real relationships. They noted that more people live alone than in any time of our entire social history.

The average digital usage of the millennial approaches over 6 hours a day. “Many who were interviewed view work as something that they fit in between Facebook and lunch.”

One of the participants in the email was Dr. Jolene Erlacher, an educator and author.  This summer, she has been teaching continuing education courses for teachers of K-12 (these kids are Generation Z). From these teachers, she has learned some disturbing facts.

For one, kids are having a hard time working in pairs. The either “get nervous talking to one another, or just don’t talk.”  She continues: “However, if given devices, they can communicate easily via the devices sitting next to each other in the classroom.”

The other phenomenon is what is described as the “silent” cafeterias, where students are engaged on their cellphones rather than speaking to one another. My recollections of lunchtime in school was always a noisy place with conversation going on constantly. Not anymore. “Students now sit in silence, chatting with their friends around them via their devices.”

Effectively, these kids are totally isolated from one another, even if they are three feet away. Instead of talking to each other, they are texting each other. And, it doesn’t stop in the cafeteria.

My daughter, Liz,  recently gave me a book to read (not keep, mind you). It’s by Andy Crouch and is entitled “The Tech-Wise Family”.  In reviewing this book, I was impressed by his thoroughness.  He cites Barna studies, where almost 80% of parents believe that bringing up children today is more difficult than ever.  65% of parents also rate social media/technology as their biggest concern.  So, if you are a parent reading this, you are not alone.

Perhaps the scariest statistic in the book was the revelation that only 53% of millennials say that families make up a “lot” of their identity.   That’s almost half.  When we talk about the breakdown of the family, a statistic like this shouldn’t be shocking.  Almost 40% of children are being brought up in single parent homes.

Crouch sets forth several principles, one of which bears repeating: “Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations. It’s out of its proper place when it prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.”  Can I get an amen?  The book contains practical steps for putting boundaries on technology in our lives.

By the way, the book is a short book.  I generally only recommend short books, you’ll be glad to know. Parents chose four areas as the most difficult, with the top choices being:  1) discipline, 2) time management, 3) helping their children develop good moral character, and 4) monitoring technology and social media.

One of the premises of the book is his discussion of the “nudge”.  In simplest terms, “nudges are small changes in the environment around us that make it easier for us to make the choices we want to make or want others to make.  Nudges don’t generally make us do anything, but they make certain choices easier and more likely.”

Studies show that we have a limited amount of willpower. “Nudges help us make some of the right decisions without having to use up that precious limited supply of willpower. “

He goes on to say that the makers of digital technology are absolute masters of the nudge. Even if you put your cellphone down, there is a constant noise accompanying a notification that you have an email, or a text waiting for you. It’s addictive.

He concludes by saying that nudges will never be enough to build the wisdom and courage we need. “We need something inside of us to develop the strength to make good choices, even when everything around is nudging or pushing us in the wrong direction.”

I won’t attempt to paraphrase the book, but I will recommend it to any parent, or even a mentor, to help their children or mentees develop stable habits when it comes to technology.

One concept that Crouch recommends is that at least one hour of every day, one day a week and one week a year, you should have the discipline to turn off all devices, and replace them with other things like play, feasting, worship, family time.

Continue reading “Loneliness”

Backlash

cellphone 

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

 In previous posts, I have described the FOMO effect (Fear of Missing Out) and the harsh reality of what living in a digital culture has done to the minds (and hearts) of the next generation.  Recently, I because aware that my description of the insidious attraction of social media has expanded to the parents, too.

Digital obsession has lots of downsides, not the least of which it hampers face to face conversations.  When you walk into a restaurant and see everyone at the table not talking to each other, but instead, looking at their phones, you realize that this is something that has gone terribly wrong, and it’s not just some phenomena of the next generation.

A recent survey of 2,000 secondary school students responded that they thought their parents were overusing their mobile devices. I could say that is the pot calling the kettle black, but as I look around these days, it’s not just the next generation that are glued to their cellphones.

The kids are now asking their parents to park their urge to be connected at meal time, instead of the other way around. A report by the BBC confirmed that a third of 11 to 18-year-olds students had asked their parents to stop checking their mobile devices. About 12.5% of young respondents reported that their parents were on their mobile phones at meal time.

What’s disconcerting is that the parents haven’t faced this reality yet. Only 10 per cent of parents think that their use of mobile phones is a problem. (They were polled separately.) What a reversal.  The parents have caught up. My earlier discussion was by parents complaining that social media obsession of their children was harming family life.

Solutions from the younger generation are not surprising.  Some 80% want to have meal times mobile device free. Over a third had asked their parents to put down their phones, and 20% said that their parents (mis-)use was encroaching on family time.  Of those that asked their parents to put down their phones, less than half of the parents complied.

The study also showed that 37% of parents were on-line at least 3-5 hours a day during the week, and it could be almost 15 hours a day on a weekend.  Wow. Something is tilted here.

There is now a trend reported by the New York Times recently in an article entitled “Coffee Shops Skip Wi-Fi To Encourage Customers to Actually Talk” where HotBlack Coffee shops decided they didn’t want to be an office. The owner, Mr. Bienenstock, said ““People have socially taken for granted that the coffee shop is a workplace. We don’t want to be an office. We wanted to do it old school and be a social hub.”

On a recent cross-country trip with my wife, we stopped in to a restaurant in Morgantown, WV for lunch. I inquired what the password was for the Wi-Fi which popped up on my smart phone.  One of the staff said the password was “talktoyourwife.” I loved it. Point taken.

So, the lessons here is that there is a disconnect between what parents think their social media habits are, and what their children see.  Sadly, like other things, until one sees it as a problem, behavior won’t change, as is shown by the 44% of the parents who ignored their children’s plea to not be online during mealtime.

If you are a parent, I would ask you to inventory your cellphone use when you are around your children. Does it distract you?  Nothing speaks louder to a child than for you not to be attentive to them.  If you are scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram messages during family time, it sends a message to them that they are not important.

As mentors, we have an opportunity here with the next generation. We can model appropriate boundaries of cell phone usage, particularly at mealtimes. What the next generation really wants is quality time on a face-to-face basis.  They crave this, but unfortunately for some, they are not getting it.  Put it another way, there is no social media message that you can read that is more valuable than spending time with young adults in vesting in their lives without the distraction of being on-line.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Ask your mentee if mobile phones are getting in the way of valuable family time. If so, encourage them to be vocal about it with their parents.  Life moves so quickly that it is almost criminal for relationships to be derailed by a distracted parent or adult searching social media at the wrong times.

FURTHER STUDY:  The BBC report:

http://www.bbc.com/news/education-39666863?utm_source=Master+List+%28Monthly%2C+Weekly%2C+Daily%2C+Events+%26+Offers%29&utm_campaign=ce0d52136e-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b8af65516c-ce0d52136e-304494973&mc_cid=ce0d52136e&mc_eid=d1eec73a7d

New York Times Article on Coffee Shops without Wi-Fi: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/technology/coffee-shop-wifi-access.html

WORSHIP: If parents aren’t listening, consider the lyrics of this Mat Redman song:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Just Dive In

 diving-2167584_1920

 “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25,27

One attribute of the millennials and next generation is indecisiveness.  They have a hard time making decisions, particularly about life choices:  What school should I attend?  What should I major in?  Should I ask a girl out for a date? What do I do if she says no?  Should I live with my parents?  Should I strike out on my own? What career should I pursue?

A person makes an average 35,000 decisions every day. That’s a lot of decisions, although most of them are very small and inconsequential.

While the phenomena of indecisiveness are not new, by any means, it is particularly acute in the next generation who seem to be paralyzed when it comes to making life decisions.  To some, particularly Christians, the added complexity is whether a decision will be the “will of God”.  This is a red herring.

One of my friends is a golf professional at our club.  A millennial himself, he has observed this trait first hand.  He says that he finds that too many millennials are afraid to make a decision.  They are afraid it may be the wrong decision, and that fear keeps them from making any decision, which, by default, is a decision to do nothing.

My wife was an aquatics instructor, and she ran the swimming program at St. Mary’s, a private boarding school in Raleigh. In her youth, she was a junior Olympic swimmer and diver and taught swimming lessons through college.  I’ve watched her over the years work with our children first, and now with our grandchildren, teaching them to swim and dive.

When it comes to diving, there is often a reluctance that comes from not having done something before. Kind of the fear of the unknown. She gently coaxed them and assured them that going into the water head first will be fine.

Ultimately, they overcome their fears and try diving headfirst. The second dive is easier, and they don’t need much, if any, coaxing. The solution to resolve their fears is to just dive in.

I don’t think I have the magic answer to this dilemma, other than to encourage millennials to do what the Nike ad slogan which says: “Just Do It.”  That might not be too helpful for a millennial, so perhaps I should unpack some of the reasons that the next generation has difficulty in making decisions.

One of the reasons the next generation is indecisive is that they have so many options presented to them.  In rural life, back in the 20th Century, options for jobs, friends, marriage and careers were often limited by geography.  Many grew up in small towns and never left.  People living on a small income don’t have that many choices to make.

Today, we are more urbanized, and social media has dominated the dating scene.  This next generation has grown up in a world where the pace of change is dramatically faster than at any time before. Before 1985, very few people had cell phones. Now, there are 7 billion cell phones in the world, and it is hard to imagine what life was like without them.

To illustrate how life has become difficult in making choices, just go into your local grocery store and count the number of choices of cereal that they have. Look at the number of sports drinks.  When you count 150 types of lipstick, 360 types of shampoo, 64 types of barbecue sauce, or even 230 different kinds of soups, you get the idea. This illustration comes from a book by Barry Schwartz titled The Paradox of Choice.

In many countries, there aren’t that many choices, but in the western world, we have too many. One has even suggested that we would be better off with fewer choices.

Technology has changed the landscape, especially the parental controls (or lack of them) over the internet and cellphones. I was on a father-son ski trip with my two sons some years ago, along with a former law partner from San Francisco who had teenagers. At dinner one night, the discussion by my sons and this man centered on finding the right solution on how to control your child’s use of a mobile phone in the digital environment.

I must say that I didn’t have a lot to offer, and found the conversation illuminating.  These were not issues I faced when my children were growing up, so I was fascinated at listening to the next generation dealing with an unfamiliar issue.

Another reason is that many in the next generation are inwardly focused. Some call them the “me” generation.  That inward focus has some drawbacks, particularly when it comes to a career. Many have seen their parents work in occupations that are perceived as not fulfilling, and they want to have a job or career that is fulfilling.

That’s all well and good, but they want a career that is “perfect” fulfillment, and are willing to sit on the sidelines until they find it. I think the quest for the Holy Grail might be easier.  In prior generations, the young adult moved quickly into the workplace, gaining experience and, in many ways, a resume for future endeavors.  They might have switched jobs, or even occupations.  There’s not a lot of risk when you are young.

For the millennial Christian, another consideration becomes front and center:  doing the will of God in your life. In a short book by Kevin DeYoung titled “Just Do Something – A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will”, the author takes on this topic with humor.

His subtitle is “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.”  I can’t do justice to the contents of the book, but he makes several points which bear repeating.

The first is that the Bible gives a lot of instruction on morality and character.  Yet, the next generation often is looking for God’s will for “non-moral” decisions.  As DeYoung notes, “Scripture does not tell us what to do this summer, what job to take or where to go to grad school.”

His point was that while God cares about every detail of our lives, what we consider to be the most important decisions of our life are not the most important to God. “Too often God’s people tinker around with churches, jobs, and relationships, worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect will for their lives.” His advice? Give up on hyper-spiritual approaches to finding God’s will and “just do something.”

One thing I have noticed and which I fight against, is the view that getting a secular “job” is often not perceived as rewarding or fulfilling as working for a non-profit. Books have now been written on this topic, including ones by Tim Keller (Every Good Endeavor) and Tom Nelson (Work Matters), which debunks the impression that your work doesn’t matter to God.

I had to fight this tendency myself when I became a believer at the ripe old age of 38. It turned my world upside down and I felt a call to ministry and possibly seminary as a means of advancing my ministry. Then, someone wisely noted that sometimes God wants you to grow where you have been planted.  That was profound, and it caused me to retool my thinking into developing ways that I could serve God as a Christian lawyer.

The challenge here is to come alongside the next generation and help them weed through the many life choices that they face. They need someone to help them get off the edge of the pool and into the water headfirst.  A mentor can help provide the mentee make better decisions in their lives by providing wisdom that comes from experience.

That’s what a mentor does – he or she can be a sounding board for someone who is struggling to make life or career choices. Procrastination results in no choice, possibly to the detriment of missing out on what God wants for them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The mentor may be the first line of offense for a millennial stuck on making life decisions or finding fulfillment in their careers. They need your counsel.

FURTHER STUDY: John Maxwell, a wonderful communicator, has a new audio series entitled “The Mentor’s Guide to Decision Making”, which includes topics such as “missing an opportunity because of procrastination.”

https://www.johnmaxwellacademy.com/p/mentors-guide-to-decision-making?utm_campaign=E-Commerce%20Promotions%202017&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52956096&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-88Nfbzr7ofUkyCyhyU3jni-BMcKBgjHPKRCj6ADtPzg6Tuz6KMY-hlc8FmmDoFCLD_BXNPgtXfC5YJdnOrL8K07tMp6w&_hsmi=52956096

A good read in this area is a short book by Kevin DeYoung entitled “Just Do Something” which gives an enlightening look at how to use scripture in making decisions. Available at Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Just-Do-Something-Liberating-Approach/dp/0802411592/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497447893&sr=8-1&keywords=just+do+something+by+kevin+deyoung

WORSHIP: Listen to Paul Baloche sing “Today is the Day

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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