Make Your Bed

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

The famous first line from the book by Rick Warren titled Purpose Driven Life is “It’s not about you”. The book has sold millions of copies which underscores how desperate people are to find their own purpose in life.

That message seems to have gotten lost on millennials, who have been called entitled, self-absorbed, and even narcissistic.  Mind you, not all millennials are like that, but in general, the next generation is more concerned with “me” than “you”.

They have company. The Boomer Generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) were called the “Me Generation”,  but the millennials are called the Me Me Me Generation.  Some attribute this “Me Me Me” focus to how they were raised.

Millennials were told they were special and that they could do anything, even when they weren’t.  They received participation awards when their actual achievements lagged.

The idea of this style of parenting was to instill in their children positive values and self-esteem. Millennials learned to cherish accolades over actual achievement. That background sets them on a collision course because, once they get a job, achievement, not accolades, is important.

I have pondered how do you take the millennials from being selfish to being selfless? I have some ideas, of course, but I don’t have a corner on the market. If you are a mentor, just your presence in their life is an example of serving others.

Motivating them is always a challenge. Admiral McRaven, a former Navy Seal, gave a commencement speechat the University of Texas in 2014 which is excellent. He distilled his address into a book entitled Make Your Bedwhich gives 10 principles that could change lives.

His first principle is, of course, is “If you want to change your life and maybe the world – start by making your bed.”

In his commencement speech, he notes that the average human will meet around 10,000 people in a lifetime. It would be too much to expect that you can impact all 10,000 people. But if you consider impacting just 10 people, and each one of them changed the lives of another 10 people, in five generations, you will have changed the lives of 800 million people.

I love this illustration. It is an example of how Jesus built his Kingdom. He didn’t start with 10,000 people in an auditorium.  He invested in 12 men, who invested in 12 men, and so on.

Tyler Bonin, a Duke university graduate, wrote good advice in the Wall Street Journal recently. His advice to new college graduates was not the usual platitudes of “take risks” or “be courageous”.  Instead, he admonishes graduates to “Start Mopping”.

His rationale is that millennials often don’t want to get their hands dirty due to their sense of entitlement. He started in his first job doing the messy ordinary things like cleaning bathrooms, and his managers noticed his work ethic and promoted him.

His advice is condensed to this: “Do the job that nobody wants, because, believe it or not, somebody appreciates it.” He ends with something I believe is important: “Volunteer to learn and provide value to others.”

I have encouraged my mentees to be involved with others through volunteering, mentoring or other activities where the object is not about them. A short-term mission trip is also an excellent way of opening their eyes to the needs of others.

Our challenge is to help the next generation find ways to become selfless and overcome their selfishness. Getting to this mindset may be one of the chief tasks of mentors. Getting them to look beyond themselves is a critical component to this task.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are in a key position to encourage their mentees to be selfless by volunteering. There is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained by helping others.

FURTHER STUDY: Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” is available at Amazon.

High School Commencement Addresstelling graduates from High School “You are not special”.

Make Your Bedby Admiral McRaven is available from Amazon.

WSJ Essay: “My Advice to Graduates: Start Mopping

WORSHIP:  Listen to Paul Baloche sing Today is the Day reminding us that today is a good time to start mentoring the next generation.

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.comSUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (  and entering your email address.


Digital Boredom


Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. Proverbs 4:1

Generation Z  has been called “Digital Natives”. Being connected digitally is all they have ever known. Previous generations didn’t grow up with smartphones or tablets in their hands.

Ninety percent were on a tablet or phone as preschoolers. Some think children are getting too much social media too soon.  There are an estimated 7.5 million social media users under the age of 13, despite an age limit of 13 to get an account.

Generation Z – those born roughly between 1998 and 2010 – may be getting jaded on things digital. According Taylor Lorenz, “Many have had smartphones since elementary, if not middle school. They’ve grown up with high-speed internet, laptops, and social media.”

Lorenz describes a Gen Z person as having the capability to sit in a doctor’s waiting room and being able to check email, Instagram, Twitter and play Angry Birds. But they are now experiencing a new kind of boredom which she describes as “Phone Boredom”.

That’s news to me. One would have thought that the connection to technology at their finger-tips would have killed boredom as we know it. Well, apparently not.

It reminds me of when I grew up when television was labeled the “boob tube” and teachers and librarians scrambled to compete with TV sets. Now, YouTube and Netfllix have replaced television for passive, often mindless, entertainment.

Previous generations may have scrolled through TV channels or music channels, but today’s teens may open or close 20 to 30 apps, hoping that something or anything will catch their attention. “Phone boredom occurs when you’re technically ‘on your phone’ but you are still bored out of your mind,” according to Taylor Lorenz.

Generation Z is already changing from the millennials when it comes to Apps. Twenty-five percent of them left Facebook in 2014, long before privacy issues were known. Their taste in social media has now gravitated to Snapchat, Secret and Whisper. Millennials, on the other hand, use Facebook to post anything and everything about their lives with little concern about the consequences.

As a result, Gen Z tend to be more private, and the millennials more self-absorbed, so that posting selfies is the norm.

While they use the internet for school work, 41% of Generation Z spends 3 hours a day on a screen on non-schoolwork related activities. According to Tim Elmore, “being online is where they learn, where they shop, where they connect with others, where they entertain themselves, and where they play.”

This shift has consequences. Chief among them is spending more time indoors, leading to a more sedentary life.  The sedentary lifestyle has led to 16% of Generation Z being overweight or obese, a number that has tripled since 1980.

Another 11% have been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which is higher than any previous generation. More kids have trouble sitting still and staying focused. According to Tim Elmore, “kids mental ‘filters’ have reduced their attention spans from 12 seconds in 2000 to only 6 seconds in 2015.”

You would think with the variety activities at their fingertips, it would be hard to get bored.  But bored they are, only this time from a new source: technology.

Listening to music tops the usage with 82%, followed by playing games and taking photos (76% each), texting (74%) and finally, videos (72%). This is from a study of 4,000 teens in 8 countries around the world. 48% of Gen Z checked their phone at least 15 times an hour. 24% checked it at least 30 or more.

Most members of Gen Z find high-speed internet more important than having a good bathroom. They won’t have to wait long, since it is predicted that the internet speed will double by 2022, just 4 years away.

These studies show that the life of the Digital Native is a mixed bag. The positive side of the coin permits them to research information faster.  The downside: being always “on” and connected socially has led to anxiety, depression, cyber-bullying and a sedentary life leading to obesity, and yes, even boredom.

Our challenge is to reach Gen Z and encourage them to look beyond the smartphone in their hand for entertainment.  Encourage them to put their phones down and be physically active, even if it is just taking 30-minute walks.  Exercise is an antidote for depression, by the way.  Encourage them to read books, not just listen to audio books. These habits can be life changing.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Generation Z are open to mentoring. There is an opportunity to reach out to them while they are still in high school.  Encouraging them to adopt healthy lifestyles (both physical and spiritual) can be incredibly valuable and life-changing.


  1. Taylor Lorenz on “Phone Boredom”.
  2. 7 Generation Z Statistics Every Adult Should Know from Tim Elmore.
  3. An article on Generation Z and Obesity:
  4. Information on Generation Z’s social media preferences: by Adweek.
  5. Study of Generation Z’s technology habits.


A parent’s experience with an ADHD child and resources to help.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Paul Baloche sing Today is the Day reminding us that today is a good time to start mentoring the next generation.

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

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



The Trial


For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

 I was asked to sit on a volunteer jury to judge 8th grade students who were conducting what is called a “mock” trial. The students were given the facts of a murder case from South Carolina (a real case, by the way), and each of them played a role – either as the bailiff, the witnesses, the defense attorneys or the prosecutors.

I don’t know about you, but I have always wanted to sit on a jury. Not anymore.  Even though I practiced law for 45 years, I was only called for jury duty one time in a federal court.  I was excused from duty by the Judge because of some work I was doing with the U.S. Attorney’s on another case. The mock trial was my first “real” experience as a juror sitting in judgment of another.

It was a murder case, not a car accident.  The wife was charged with killing her husband with a gun, and the defense argued that she was an abused spouse and that it was self-defense.

The trial had eerie similarities to the facts of a case of a friend of ours.  My wife has ministered to an inmate in prison who has a life sentence for killing her husband under similar circumstances. We visit her numerous frequently, and it is always sobering to see what her life inside a prison looks like.

In the mock trial, we were tasked with judging the effectiveness of each student’s performance. Even though it was a mock trial, we, as jurors, felt a responsibility that is hard to describe. While we weren’t actually called to make a decision on the defendant’s guilt, we ended up making our own judgments as to whether or not the defendant wife was guilty. It was harder than I thought it would be.

The students did the case twice – one time they would be on the prosecution’s side, and the other on the defense side. A real judge from a local court supervised the proceedings.

I couldn’t help but think of our inmate friend who is in jail for life without parole. She is now a Christian and knows that her ministry is in prison to those around her.  I realized that the skill of the participants had a significant effect on shaping our decision.

If my imprisoned friend been able to afford better representation at her trial, she might have gotten a lesser sentence. She has 5 children and 2 grandchildren, the latter of which she has never seen.  But she is not trapped by her circumstances. She has resolved to make the best of her lot, even if it is in prison.

The weight of making decisions about people’s lives is real. Our decisions were not life-changing, but in reality, the grade we assigned to those students would have some lasting effect.

There were two take-aways from my experience. The first was that the exercise for the students was an invaluable one. The students had to learn a character and the details of the case. During the trial, they had to be able to ask or answer questions to elicit evidence just as in a real courtroom proceeding.   It’s this kind of exercise that improves critical thinking.

The second take-away is a spiritual one. We all will face judgment in the end, and, unlike the defendant in a real murder trial, if we are a child of God, we are forgiven and there is no condemnation.

A Christian doesn’t have to worry about the effectiveness of his counsel to be sure that he gets justice. Jesus will be our advocate before the judgment seat of God. As the song below says, we have a jailbreak because “our chains are gone”.

The challenge here is to find exercises like the mock trial for the next generation to hone their skills in doing things that increase critical thinking. Studies show that their constant attachment to the digital world causes creativity to decline. This was a great antidote.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can help your mentees develop creativity by pressing them into interactive conversations which challenges them to think about both sides of an issue. Only if they consider both sides to an argument can they really be capable of understanding the nuances of an issue.

WORSHIP:  Listen to one of my favorites by Vertical Church “I’m Going Free (Jailbreak)” reminding us that we are freed from judgment by our decision to follow Christ.

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.comSUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (  and entering your email address.
















Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. Proverbs 13:11

A famous case in torts class in law school defined constitutional limits to free speech. Free speech means that you can say anything without impunity even if it is unpopular. Well, there are limits. The famous case set out one of the exceptions which is you can’t yell “FIRE” in a crowded theatre resulting in panic and injury.

But the title to this post has nothing to do with free speech.  It has to do with financial freedom. It’s a recent trend with American millennials and comes from an unexpected source: a 72-year-old woman who lives in Whidbey Island, Washington.

Her name is Vicki Robin who authored a best-selling book in 1992 (updated in 2018) titled Your Money or Your Life. While recently recuperating from a hip operation, she spent time cruising the internet, only to find out that she was a celebrated guru in a community she never knew existed.

She has become a cult leader in a growing segment of millennials and other who are obsessed with retiring early.  FIRE stands for “Financial Independence; Retire Early”.  Learning about this growing group surprised me, because most millennials are often described as “spenders” but not “savers”,  which is more an attribute of Generation Z.

Who knew?  Certainly not Vicki Robin who was unaware that her twenty-five-year-old book had made her a financial Rockstar with millennials. She is a non-traditional financial advisor. She never went to Wall Street and had many non-traditional jobs.  What sets her apart is not how much she earned, but the discipline she developed in spending what she had.

Her book goes through nine-step program that helps one decide how much is enough. It teaches frugality and then investing the difference until the income from the savings exceeds your expenses. That’s called the cross-over point; it’s the point that you have financial freedom.

One financial principle I have always adhered to is spend less than you earn. That’s the basic principle that Robin espouses. It helped me years ago when I went through financial reverses because I never changed my standard of living when times were financially good.  When things went south, I didn’t have to cut back my living standard.

The popularity of this movement is interesting. There are 350,000 subscribers on a subreddit on financial independence, and a directory on Rockstar Finance has 1,666 blogs on retiring early.

I have long been an advocate for retirement planning. I find this trend a refreshing development. Of the men I mentor, most are very interested in their finances and careers. The fact that I have a son who is in the financial business at Motley Fool also is of interest to them.  There is a free discussion board titled “FIRE Wannabeeson Motley Fool

One of the subscription services at Motley Fool is Rule Your Retirement which I think is valuable to anyone doing financial planning for the long haul. It is not just for those who are ready to retire, but for those who want to plan their financial future. That means millennials, too.

I often write posts on the Rule Your Retirement Board, but not about planning the financial part of your retirement. That’s just part of the equation. As the article in Money notes, retirement means more than just having idle time to spend. Grant Sabatier notes in the Money article, most FIRE people are focused more “on numbers and calculations” than about filling in the looming void of not working.

I encourage my mentees to keep their eye on the financial ball in their life. There are excellent programs offered in churches, such as those offered by either Crown Financial or Dave Ramsey.  These courses are an excellent way to help the next generation become grounded in dealing with their personal finances.You can find locations that teach these courses on their websites.

Our challenge here is that our educational system has long been deficient on teaching sound financial principles. Most millennials are clueless about finances – just basic stuff, not just how to retire early. Simple things like credit card debt, or, the realities of taking on debt to finance a college education. We can help them avoid financial mistakes by guiding them to resources that can be life changing.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: As a mentor, you don’t have to be an expert to guide your mentee through financial minefields. Directing them to courses that can educate them may be the best advice you can provide. Helping a mentee make sound financial choices can be invaluable.

FURTHER STUDY: An article on FIRE and Vicki Robin:

Rockstar Finance blogs on retiring early:

Rule Your Retirement is available on Motley Fool (, which has a lot of information.  It is a subscription site, but it gives you access to everything they have ever written over the past 20 years.

Top 20 Christian Financial Websites:

Motley Fool has a discussion board titled “FIRE Wannabees” for a free discussion of retiring early.

Vicki Robbins has done a 2018 update to her book Your Money or Your Life, available at Amazon.

Grant Sabatier has a website titled “Millennial Money” to help millennials become financially independent.

WORSHIP:  One of my favorite songs to sing is All My Fountains, which reminds us of having a resource that never runs dry.

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

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











How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!
And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.
 (Proverbs 16:16, Amplified Version)

I love the short lessons of life, often provided by others, but which resonate with each of us because we can often say “been there, done that.”  We live in an age with Digital Natives – where all of the information of the world is located within their smartphones and at their fingertips.

But having access to information is different from being able to apply it correctly.  Wisdom is the artful and practical application of knowledge. It does you no good to be able to access all the information you need if you don’t look for it BEFORE you act.

Here are lessons that are best learned early in life. For the mentors in the audience, these are things that you would do well to instill in your mentee:

  • Life is not a level road. On any journey, there are hills and valleys. They don’t last forever.  They are really temporary, in a way. We often focus on the journey, but not the destination. Everything in life is a lesson – learn from them so that at some point in your life, you can reflect on what you learned, either good or bad. If you recognize the full measure of your messes or difficult times, you will appreciate your journey. I am hard-wired to be reflective about my life – when something significant happens, I often step back and ask myself “What did I learn?” so that I can help myself and possibly others from my own experiences. I often write down my reflections which is a handy way of providing it to others. When I had prostate cancer, I wrote of my experience. The result (Prostate 101) ended up being distributed to several thousand prostate patients by a Raleigh hospital that had gotten a copy.
  • Enjoy the present. You can live in the past, but that’s often not beneficial. You can worry about tomorrow, but that may not be helpful for your today. For some reason, we often are wired to dwell on the past or worry about the future.  Don’t let it hamper your enjoyment of today’s moment. Live as if there is no tomorrow, for we don’t know what will happen. Put another way, live life without regrets of what you missed doing, saying or experiencing.
  • Do what you love to do. What is it that you love to do or are passionate about? Most people learn too late that what they are doing isn’t what they are really interested in doing, and they become miserable. If you are unhappy at your work, it will creep into the rest of your life as well. To do what you love, you may have to invest in yourself. Seek additional training or education to get to your desired goal. This applies to your hobbies and interests.  Which ones do you want to end or want to develop? I never sang in any way until a couple of years ago, although I always wanted to. Now, I am singing with our worship team and it is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.  It’s never too late.  I only wish I had started earlier. The only thing standing in the way of doing what you love is you.
  • Reality is framed by your perception. Put another way, your viewpoint frames not only what you believe, but how you live your life. This is extremely important to understand for millennials who live in a world where emotion drives their decisions because things seem to “feel good.”  But that “reality” may be framed from a narrow vantage point (i.e. emotion), rather than a broader perspective.

That’s why curiosity is important and why education has been an important value in all societies. You don’t know what you don’t know, or, as I have often said, “what you don’t know can hurt you”. The saying “ignorance is bliss” is laughable if the ignorance causes pain.

What’s the solution?  I would say never stop learning.  Ask yourself, what is it I need to learn?  Have a mentor in your life to give you another point of view that you might have missed.  It will widen your horizon.

  • Happiness doesn’t just happen. It takes work. The happiest people are often those who have taken control of their own lives. They have taken responsibility for themselves and chosen wisely. We live in a digital world where comparisons to someone else is a tragic mistake. So often, the social media portrayal of others having “fun” is a false or misleading image of reality. It results in your perception that others are happy but it’s a fallacy. They are no happier than you are. The only difference is that they want to project themselves as something they are not. Their “happiness” is not your happiness, nor should it intrude on yours. Don’t be distracted. You only have one life to life. Make the best of it. It may take giving up your ego or forming more self-loving habits. Today is a good day to start.
  • Laugh more. Develop a sense of humor so that you can even laugh at yourself. It keeps you balanced if you have a well-developed sense of humor. Having fun is underrated. I consider it one of my goals to have fun in life, and to bring that fun to others. Making them smile is a major goal.  Even when life is hard, being able to smile and enjoy humor is a great relief.

The challenge here is to reach the next generation who are still early in their journey of life. They have extended adolescence, often lasting into their late twenties or early thirties. They are searching for meaning in life, yet they are often looking in the wrong places. Helping them learn the above things may shape their journey to a better destination.

MENTOR TAKEWAY:  Each of us has learned lessons of life, sometimes the hard way. Your mentees can benefit from your experiences, but they are worthless unless you step up and invest in their lives. Keeping them to yourself is a huge waste.

FURTHER RESOURCESQuora hosts a blog which has a discussion about what people found to be the most useful or difficult things to learn in their 20’s:

WORSHIP: Listen to Passion sing Glorious Day reminding us that God will reign Glorious.

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

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