Do not be misled; Bad company corrupts good character. 1 Corinthians 15:33

I’ve always believed that you are what your friends are. Not sure where or why it was instilled in me.  When I became a believer at age 38, I learned that this was also biblical.

I have posted frequently about the value of friends in your life. All of them point to the benefits of having friends that you can count on. Sadly, in this day and time, the concept of friendship in the age of social media has gotten watered down.

The millennials and Generation Z have a lot of mobile “friends” who they interact with, sometimes almost constantly. Yet, in many cases, their interaction is digital, leading them to become isolated. Isolation leads to depression, and worse. The research on this is quite consistent.

I recently was meeting with Daniel,  one of my mentees and a member of Gen Z. He is always challenging me with questions. I think he spends the time in between our meetings to dream up interesting questions. No matter.

His latest question was one that has caused me to reflect on it in-depth after we met. He told me that he had a lot of friends, many of whom he has had from childhood, but that he felt they may not be good for him at this point in his life. He wondered what, if anything he should do.

My answer, after consideration, was to suggest that he pick his friends carefully. I cited an old proverb that if one lays down with the dogs, he will get their fleas. I then gave him the biblical version of that which comes from 1 Corinthians 15:33, above.

Friends can be a good influence, or a negative one. I suggested that if he was interested in “upgrading” his friends to those who might have a positive impact on his life, he should consider striking up friendships with people that he admired, or who had skills that he desired.

Now I have found that neuroscience has confirmed the value of having the right friends. Moran Cerf, a neuroscientist, has “made a living studying how people make choices.” has now determined that choosing the rights friends may lead to a happier life.

The studies done by Moran suggests that we should focus on who we spend our time with. This science behind this suggests that our brainwaves “synch” with those we spend time with so that the brainwaves start to resemble each other.

I must pause here to note that science is now confirming biblical truth. The writers of scripture didn’t need a neuroscientist to tell them what is observable data of life: Having the right friends is important to maturity.

With this science as a backdrop, Phoebe Weston, in an article about Dr. Cerf’s research  in The Dailymail,  said this: “If people want to make life improvements, such as reading more or getting better at cooking, they should spend their time with someone who has those desirable traits.

For example, choosing which restaurant to go to is less important than choosing who you go with. This was essentially, the advice I gave to my mentee.

Dr. Moran Cerf  also suggested that we are better off not worrying about small decisions like what to wear or what we want to do. Instead, he suggests the important decision is deciding who we want to spend time with.

If we are on the same wavelength as another person, we can often anticipate what they are going to say, which helps us understand them better. Having been married for 51 years, this insight was helpful for me. There are lots of times that my wife finishes my sentences. Now I know how she does it.

The upshot is that people on the same wavelength work better as a team. Researchers have previously suggested that this “neural-coupling” is a key to improved communication. 

Being on the same wavelength doesn’t mean that you think alike at everything. What I think it does do for one is that you will be able to understand more quickly your friend’s position or opinions. I think the old-fashioned word for this is “bonding”, but now we have a more scientific explanation on how that works.

Another study done by researchers at New York University and Ultrecht University found people’s brainwaves sync up with colleagues at work. They used electroencephalography (EEG) to record the brain activity of a class of students and their teacher over a semester.

The results showed that the more a student’s brainwaves were in sync with those in the classroom, as a whole, the higher the likelihood for the student to give the course a favorable rating. But, the study showed that pairs of students were more in sync in class, but only if they interacted face-to-face before class.

The last finding only puts more emphasis on face-to-face interaction (not through texts or media) in our lives and our friendships. These studies were done in the context of finding out what affects our health and happiness in life. Their conclusion is basically that it is wise to invest in friendships that make you happiest, but that investment must be in person and not through social media.

Dr. Cerf had one additional suggestion:  do good for others. His conclusion that you will be happiest when you are doing something for others.  It can be in the form of donating money or donating your time for others. The payoff is that this leads to reduced stress and a reduction in physical illness. Good stuff from an academic.

The studies also give credence to the expression of “being on the same wavelength” with a friend or colleague.

As I have unpacked these studies, I cannot help but think about the traits of the next generation whose friends are mostly digital.  Face-to-face interactions are declining. The next generation is isolating themselves to their detriment, and often are not investing in face-to-face relationships.

The takeaways are multiple:

  • Pick your friends carefully. Not all friends are beneficial to your maturity or growth as an individual. Choose friends that will help you advance in life. You can influence them in return. It can be mutual.
  • Spend time in face-to-face dialogue. Texting is inadequate.
  • Skip small decisions like which restaurant to go to and focus on who you go with.
  • Get involved in serving others by volunteering.
  • Seek out an older mentor that you admire. They are all around you waiting to be asked.

The challenge here is to encourage the next generation to invest in the right friends and go beyond a digital connection. Mentors should challenge their mentees as to who are their friends. The litmus test is whether their friends are a positive influence to help making them the best they can be with the gifts and talents that God has given them.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be a great influence as a friend to your mentee. You can also encourage him to evaluate his friends to see if he or she might want to seek new relationships with those whom they admire or have traits or skills they desire.

 FURTHER STUDY: The article on Choosing Friends by Phoebe Weston:

Another article in Inc. magazine by Chris Weller on the six important things you can do to have a stress-free and happy life:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Travis Cottrell sing “Friend of God” showing us that we always have one friend in our corner:

FRIEND OF GOD – Travis Cottrell.m4v – YouTube

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

 No, that’s not a misprint or misspelling.  Selfie-esteem is a new term coined to describe the effect of taking selfies on self-esteem. A recent study said that 65% of teenage girls said seeing their selfie had a positive effect on their self-esteem.  Another 40% said that social media helps them present their “best face possible to the world.”

The issues I talked about in prior posts (Identity and Image) were aimed  at the millennials. They also apply to Generation Z – those who are just now getting out of high school and entering college.

The iPhone didn’t appear until 2007, but by 2012, over half of the American population had a smartphone. At that point, something remarkable happened, and it was not all good. According to Jean Twenge, a PhD from California, she began to see a dramatic rise in depression, suicide and isolation.

Twenge wrote an article in The Atlantic entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation.”   For those who are overusing their smartphones, you should consider downloading Moment, an App that measures your smartphone use and even rewards you for not overusing. My 15 year-old granddaughter introduced me to it last week.

Fast forward to this topic – where just the existence of selfies brings good vibes to teenage girls. That, of course, is superficial.  It only shows the mask that they portray to the rest of the world.

It am reminded of the book for men entitled “The Man in the Mirror”.  The author, Patrick Morley, talks about men’s issues that they face. It is written in the context that, when you look at yourself in a mirror, you see more than just your outward appearance. Only you, while looking at your image in the mirror, know the real you inside.

Underneath this “feel good” approach is an insecurity that is masked by the feigned smile on the selfie. As Tim Elmore puts it, the next generation has been hiding behind a mask of social media for a decade. They are hiding behind what they are comfortable with – social media. But, beyond that, the mask that it provides hides their real insecurities.

According to research, Generation Z is more private than the millennials. It may be because they are “digital natives” – they have grown up in a world that has always had a smartphone technology.  To my generation, which didn’t even have mobile phones, it is a little mind-boggling.

They appear confident, but their confidence is limited to the known: they know and understand how to use technology, but that’s the limit of their comfort zone. Once they wander outside, the truth is that this Generation Z is very uncomfortable and often lack self-confidence.  In fact, a 2016 study by Growing Leaders shows just the opposite. They were generally frightened about:

  • Their grades
  • Their future
  • The impact of terrorism
  • Getting a job they like
  • Getting into college
  • The future of the world

Their confident selfies covers up their real inner discomfort.  Their picture becomes a “mask” as described by Tim Elmore.  The confident picture obscures what is really going on inside. Additionally, depression and suicide have greatly increased over the past decade.

For mentors and parents, there is an opportunity to build confidence in Generation Z, but it takes a little encouragement. Elmore suggests five ways to help:

* Encourage them to do public speaking. Most (like me) are afraid of public speaking. Suggest that they get into drama (that was something that helped my own son years ago).

* Help them find personal strengths – use various tools that can help evaluate their strengths.  Find out what they are good at and encourage it.

*  Teach them social etiquette.

*  Help them narrow their focus to concentrate on what they are good at. They often feel overwhelmed at trying to be good at everything.

* Empower them to serve others. Serving others can transform how they see the world and take their focus off themselves.

To those, I would add two more:

  • Help them discover their purpose in life
  • Encourage them to be involved in organizations that provide good role models such as Young Life (YL) and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)

I attended a Young Life banquet last night in the Research Triangle, and am currently mentoring the area director of the Sandhills YL.  I have financially supported YL and FCA for over 30 years. I believe they are ministries that have lasted well over the decades.

They are both successful at providing an opportunity for those in middle school and high school an opportunity to have an encounter with Jesus. That encounter can be life changing. One benefit they offer: Generation Z spends more time with their peers than their parents at this stage of their life.  Encouraging them to find a faith life on their own can be instrumental in their emotional and spiritual well-being.

In addition to youth ministries is the opportunity for mentors to impact young lives. The first step in the mentoring is to help identify what the mentee’s strengths, interests, talents and gifts are.  You can do that using various tools that readily available, including some old ones like Myers-Briggs. This works with Generation Z, too.

Most people want to know what their purpose is in the world.  Rick Warren’s book “Finding Your Purpose” has sold over 30 million copies world-wide. This is a quest of every generation, not just Generation Z.   Christianity Today had a recent article entitled Celebs from Michael Phelps to Kim Kardashian want a Purpose-Driven Life. All of them had read Warren’s book and were impacted by it.

Just a footnote here.  Warren’s book, which is one of the best-selling books ever, has never been reviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times. I find that a remarkable fact, and one which confirms that we are living in a post-Christian era.

People who are comfortable in their purpose, their gifting and talents have more self-confidence as to who they are and what they are about.  As mentors, you can play an instrumental role in helping a mentee gain insights into his identity and purpose in God’s kingdom. With a developed sense of their identity in hand, relying on a selfie to boost their self-esteem and confidence will not be an issue.

I am currently meeting with one member Generation Z – in fact, I will meet with him later today. He’s the youngest of my mentees, and it’s been invigorating for me to meet with him. He comes to our meetings with all kinds of questions. One of them was “Can you perform at a Picasso level at more than one thing?”  That resulted in a fascinating discussion.

The challenge here is that too many of the Generation Z are overtly confident, but inwardly insecure. I have always considered adolescence to be a period in life where one seeks to find an identity – answers to who they are, why they are here, and where they should be going. Having a mentor walk alongside them in their journey may be an invaluable investment in their life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Every generation needs mentors – those who will take the time to walk along side and help them become the best they can be. Generation Z is no exception so think about meeting with members of this younger generation, not just millennials.

FURTHER STUDY: Tim Elmore in Growing Leaders:

Article on the impact of the book Purpose Driven Life in Christianity Today:

Jean M. Twenge’s Article in The Atlantic on Smartphones and the next generation:


To find out more about “selfie-esteem”: Selfie-esteem: Teens say selfies give a confidence boost –

Patrick Morley’s website for The Man in the Mirror, which has recently been revised:

Jean Twenge’s book iGEN can be obtained from Amazon:

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon.

Want to find out how much you or your family is addicted to smartphones?  Download the App Moment and it will track how much you use our smartphone every day. It keeps track of your history, and can even track usage on individual Apps.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “I Will Follow” encouraging us to follow God:

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

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Fake News


 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
  Psalms 55:2,3

A topic of discussion in America recently has been the concept of “Fake News”. The concept came front and center during the last Presidential election because of slanted news stories by the media.  The stories were either factually wrong, or misleading, at best. They were not objective.

Fake news is not new in America. Yellow journalism occurred in the late 1800’s.  At the time, there was only print media – newspapers. Two owners of newspapers in New York – William Randolph Hearst and Joseph P. Pulitzer II – changed the content of papers by adding sensationalized stories, which eventually was called yellow journalism.

At one point, Hearst sent two reporters to Cuba to report on the Spanish-American war. When one of the reporters, William Remington, reported that there was not much going on in Cuba, Hearst sent this famous reply by telegram: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”  Many credit Hearst’s publicity which he used to sell his newspapers as one of the reasons for America entering the war.

Pulitzer would later become known for establishing the Pulitzer Prize in 1917 for 21 categories of journalism and the arts.

Today, journalism has expanded to television and other media beyond just the newspaper. Traditional journalism reported facts and the news objectively and without bias.

Another version of “news” is what is called the tabloids which grew popular in the last 50 years. Tabloids never were held up to the standards of journalism where stories were to be legitimate and well-researched. The covers of tabloids were highly sensationalized (they still are), but at least consumers knew that they should read stories with a high level of skepticism.

Today, I am seeing the traditional press gravitate more to the tabloid press mode, where media has blurred the distinction between objectively reporting the facts with being biased or even promoting false narratives.

In Russia, it’s called propaganda, which is basically news that carries some kernel of truth, but not the whole truth, leading you to assumptions and conclusions that are not valid.

Traditionally, newspapers reserved pages called the Opinion pages where the editorial staff provides their opinions about various topics. If you read the opinion pages, you know that you are getting someone’s opinion, complete with the writer’s own set of biases. Now, however, the opinion page has shifted to the front page, only they aren’t labeling it “Opinion” and are passing it as objective reporting.

Telling intentional false stories has been around since time began.  There are even stories in the bible where stories were made up to gain an advantage over an adversary. Providing disinformation to the enemy is a long-used wartime strategy.

A recent example might be helpful. A story about Russian collusion of one of the presidential candidates was one built around a memo (called the “Trump Dossier”) which was passed off as authentic. It gave spurious accounts of false contacts that one of the presidential candidates had with Russia. It purported to have detailed information on Russian influence in the elections.

The problem? It was all made up, even though it was supposed to have been prepared by a former British Intelligence officer, Christopher Steele. The dossier was supposed to contain damaging information on one candidate, and was leapt upon by the mainstream media who favors candidates from the opposition party.

When I did the first draft of this post, I didn’t realize what a twist would occur with my dossier illustration. It has just been discovered that the dossier was paid for by the opposing presidential candidate and her party. It was then passed to newspapers as factual. Even one of the leading newspapers, the New York Times, is now crying “foul” and saying that they were lied to by the attorney for the opposition party.

In addition to the shift by media to biased reporting, we all get our share of fake news in our email inbox, often with outlandish assertions and not all of which are accurate or true. Fortunately, you can go to and determine whether an email is true, false, or somewhere in between.

How does one protect themselves against fake news?  One answer is critical thinkingthe ability to objectively evaluate and analyze an issue and come to an independent conclusion or judgment.

Put another way, one now should keep a healthy dose of skepticism today. We have passed the time when you could rely on the press and journalists to be fair, objective and unbiased.

Will Rogers was one of the great humorists in the early 20th century. His homespun humor often came from newspapers.  He said: “All I know is just what I read in the papers and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”  On another occasion, he said something similar, but then he said  “I only believe half of what I read.”

I’ve always loved Will Rogers’ humor, including this: “Common sense ain’t common.” Will Rogers was skeptical of what he got from the media. Skepticism and critical thinking is needed now by everyone, particularly the next generation who increasingly rely on social media for their news.

Trust in the mainstream media is now at an all-time low according to a 2016 poll. In addition, a recent Harvard-Harris reports that two-thirds of people of all ideologies believe mainstream media publishes “fake news” as reported in The Hill.

Part of the reason for this media distrust is that there is some acceptance that complicated issues can be truncated down to a sound or video bite. Political messaging has gone from a sound bite of an average of 42.3 seconds in 1968 to seven seconds today according to Ray Williams in Psychology Today.

He continues: “This reinforces the belief that there are brief simple answers to complex questions that don’t require more intensive dialogue or reflection.”

Oxford Dictionary called “post-truth”the word of the year for 2016. Ray Williams goes on to note: “The post-truth doesn’t discount the truth, supported by facts, but rather, the post-truth is supported and justified by opinions or false claims where feelings and emotions are more important than facts.”

Skepticism and discernment requires critical thinking, and the next generation is lacking in this skill,  which is worrisome. Employers are begging for critical thinking from the next generation. Often, they are disappointed.

As I have said before, social media platforms are “dumbing down” the next generation (See my post Dumb and Dumber, September 17, 2017). It’s impossible to form a reasoned opinion when your input is limited to 140 characters such as on Twitter.

The founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, admitted that social media is now a threat to “undermine our sense of truth.” He basically says that the low quality of information that is being consumed is limiting peoples’ “open-mindedness and respect for truth.”

If those quotes came from anyone else, I might not have paid much attention, but coming from the founder of Twitter, I find them scary and concerning.

Tim Elmore recently wrote a post on his blog entitled Five Steps to Fight Fake News. In his article, he notes that critical thinking will be the second most required skill in the workplace by 2020, according to The Future of Jobs prepared by the World Economic Forum in 2016.

Tim suggests some practical tips for developing habits to cultivate critical thinking that I found practical and useful.

  • Always confirm the information from more than one source.
  • Always seek to see the other side of an issue – avoid “group” think.
  • Take time to evaluate the logic and the details.
  • Try to detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning.
  • Ask hard questions: who, what, where and why?

To the above list, I would add two:

  • consider the source of the news, and
  • encourage reading.

Be aware that the news source may have a previous bias one way or another. Then ask this question: Who stands to gain from this information?  If you are comfortable with a news source that has been consistently objective in the past, then you have a better basis to rely on it.

As for reading, millennials are deficit in this area. Some 33% of millennials have never read a book. One cannot understand an issue in-depth without more reading, and headlines and slogans provided by social media are insufficient to convey issues in depth.

My youngest son is and example of the benefits of reading. In high school, he rarely, if at all,  read books. After a ski accident that sidelined him for a year between his high schools and college, he spent six months in Australia with his sister, doing odd jobs to earn their way. They stayed in hostels that rarely had TV and it was there he learned to enjoy reading.  I attribute his success in college to having learned this valuable skill.

In countries like Cameroon, China, and elsewhere, the government controls the content of media.  Resulting stories are therefore suspect as to their accuracy. Alternatively, events that are news are not being reported at all.

An example of government interference with media is the oppression by the government of English-speaking people in a region of Cameroon that was previously under British rule. When several journalists recently attempted to report this story, they were arrested.  Many still are in jail in Yaoundé, the capital. I am aware of this example because I have friends in Limbe, Cameroon, who keep me informed with what is going on via the internet.

As mentors, we can help our mentees develop an ability to think critically.  It might be the first time someone has challenged them to think deeply about an issue, so be prepared for some discussion. Still, the challenge is to help them develop their own critical thinking about issues. A mentor’s job is not to tell them what to think, but encourage them how to think.

This is an important step for the next generation, particularly at a time when their future jobs require an ability to think critically to have the skills to succeed.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be an asset to the next generation by challenging your mentee to do critical thinking of issues and topics in which they are interested.

FURTHER STUDY:  A brief commentary on Yellow Journalism:

Information on the Pulitzer Prize: The Pulitzer Prizes

The Future of Jobs can be found at:

Ray Williams in Psychology Today

Some quotes by Will Rogers:

The Hill’s poll on Fake News:

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker sing Earnestly (We Want to Know): Earnestly (This is Eternal Life) by Tommy Walker – YouTube

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

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No Where


 Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal.  Psalm 69:4

I always chuckle when a person says that “everyone has to be somewhere.”  Sometimes that “somewhere” is a good place; sometimes not. In my lifetime, I’ve been in a couple of spots that I would rather not have been, yet in hindsight, wouldn’t trade the experience nor the lessons learned for anything.

I’m sure you have too.  Perhaps it was the illness or death of a family member or friend. It could be financial setbacks or bankruptcy.  It could even be broken limbs from an accident.  When stuff like that happens, it’s life.  Often,  we search for the meaning of it and we can’t see God’s hand.

That’s when we think he is NO WHERE to be found, or at least we despair and feel abandoned.  As the Psalmist notes, we feel like victims of our circumstances through no fault of our own. We ask questions like “how could you let this happen” or “why me?”

While I can’t answer the latter questions, I have learned that the perspective of time provides an answer that we can’t see when we feel like we are in a valley.  Then there often is an “Aha” moment when we realize God was there all the time.  God can turn our NO WHERE into NOW HERE.  The difference is only one letter being moved, but it makes a big difference.

Of the many tough times in my life, one stands out.  I was a relatively new Christian, and in addition to my real estate law practice, I embarked on investing as a partner in 27 real estate ventures in the 1980’s. I was flying high, and my net worth looked pretty good on paper.

And then, the unexpected happened in 1986.  Congress changed the rules of the game by enacting a major tax reform, and the real estate industry was rocked. I was rocked. All those great projects I was involved in became financial death traps over-night. There was no escape.

I was facing bankruptcy – I was liable on over $55 million of debt.  It was complex, and it was staggering.  My new fledged faith floundered, I was searching for answers and asking God why was this happening to me? Along the way, a friend of mine sent me the above verse from Psalm 69:4.  It spoke to me.  I didn’t steal anything, yet I was obligated to “restore it”.

It took me almost 8 years to work through the problems.  What didn’t help was that I kept it all inside, and rarely discussed the problems with my wife.  I quickly learned that was a big mistake.

We sold off projects that we could; others were foreclosed or turned back to the lender.  It took time and a lot of stress. At probably the lowest point when things were looking very bleak, I finally had a heart to heart with my wife.

It was a game changer. She brought in a perspective I had lost sight of.  It was the importance of my faith in God, and what was important in life. She asked me what could happen if all goes badly, and I said: “We could lose everything.”

She quickly countered and said that’s not true.  We can’t lose our faith in God, we can’t lose each other, we can’t lose our family, and we won’t lose our friends. Then she asked: “What else  matters?”

Wow. Hit me like a ton of bricks. As I said, I wish we could have had that conversation a lot earlier.. I was in a fog about the importance of “stuff” – material things, that, at the end of the day, don’t matter.

I realized that I was on a desert in a canyon, and that someday I would be on the canyon wall looking back over my life and see God’s hand in it.  In fact, from that point on, I often prayed for God to hurry up and put me on the canyon wall so I could see what He was about with me. He hadn’t taught me much about patience at that point in my life.

Our conversation changed God from being NO WHERE to NOW HERE.  My faith deepened as we started seeing His hand in our circumstances. When things got tough, I would even laugh and say things like “Well, God, I can’t fix this, so I can’t wait to see how you are going to handle this for me.”  And He came through. Not just once, but many times.

I learned a lot from my financial distress of those years. First and foremost, I learned to lean on God when times were tough.  Secondly, I learned to both communicate and listen to my wife.

Equally important was that I possibly saved my children from being over-indulged financially.  Instead of providing them things like cars when they could drive as many of my friends did, they grew up learning to do without and it helped shaped who they are today.

So, what’s your circumstances that causes you to think God is NO WHERE to be found?  My life experiences tell me that God hasn’t moved, but perhaps you have.  You are in a season of doubt. Your faith might be a little shaken. We’ve all been there.

This post was inspired by a song we sang yesterday entitled “You Never Let Go”. The chorus reminds us that God is NOW HERE: “You never let go, Lord; You never let go of me.”  He is with us through “the calm and through the storm”.

When I meet with men who have life issues in front of them, I can see it in their eyes that they are shaken and might be on that canyon floor like I was, searching for a way out. I can encourage them by reminding them that their worst fears are not bad. They have things to be grateful for that have been eclipsed by their circumstances. Most would rather that God took away their bad times, but He is in the business of building character by leading one through circumstances.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As a mentor with wisdom coming from years of life experiences and hard knocks, you can be instrumental in helping a mentee gain a new perspective. You may not be able to solve their problem, but you can help them see that God is NOW HERE to help.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Matt Redman sing “You Never Let Go”:

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Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

For the next generation, life is a blank canvas in terms of what they want to achieve. Only they can paint that picture. Even though they may not get all the details right, they have a say in what the picture will look like.

Often their goals relate to career choices.  Figuring out what you want to do the rest of your life is important, and I’ve found that when you do what you enjoy and were made to do in life, you will be a lot more content.

As Tony Dungee says in his daily devotional, “What you believe and what you expect has a tendency to come about.”  It’s what is called “the power of self-realization” where your future is, in part, determined by what you think it may be and how you see yourself in it.  In the mentor process, it is called vision casting – developing a vision of what you want to become.

Which brings us to the topic of this post: Goals and setting them. I’ve always remembered the saying that “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.”  According to studies, some 94% of people don’t write down their goals. This is a little like archery: if there is no target, how do you know where to aim, and how do you know what you hit.

Goals are not just for the next generation – I still am setting goals even though I am retired. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that may be helpful to others.

Goals must to be specific.  Something like “I want to be successful” is too vague and abstract as to be meaningless. A goal that says I want to become a competent professional in [insert profession like medicine, law, dentistry, etc.] is better.

Goals are not ambitions, although the line can be blurred.  To me, ambitions are personal and often emotional, and I don’t know anyone who wants to be described as “ambitious” because it often is not a compliment.

Instead, I would suggest that setting goals is a better terminology than ambitions. While your goals may be ambitious (i.e., I want to walk on Mars), they are a better starting place for defining your preferred future.

When I meet with a mentee, after developing a relationship, I will touch on this topic by asking where are they going and what destination do they want to have in their life. Career choices are always big issues for anyone, regardless of age.

The initial step in mentoring (from a process standpoint) is to help the mentee determine what makes them unique: how they are hardwired, what are their strengths, weaknesses, gifts, talents, passions and accomplishments. Sometimes, the results are obvious and point to an obvious direction.  A person desiring to become a concert pianist who has no musical talent will never succeed.

Part of mentoring is helping the mentee develop a vision, and then breaking it down into achievable goals. Setting a vision or goals is the second step in the process, after you have helped your mentee figure out his strengths and passions.

Several thoughts on setting goals. They should be specific and tangible (i.e. there must be some way to measure achievement).  You start with an overarching goal (or, vision): “I want to be a successful tax lawyer”, and then break it down depending on where you are on the path. If you haven’t gone to law school, that should be a subset of the larger goal.  If you want to be a good lawyer, then you need to be good at law school.  You need to have small goals that are footsteps to achieving larger ones.

What makes one successful at achieving goals?  Well, there are probably several factors, including having someone beside you encouraging you along your path. To me, the key to achieving goals is discipline.  Jim Rohm is quoted as saying “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

And discipline means that you must not lose sight of your goal, and in fact, you should periodically review those goals – sometimes weekly or monthly – to see what progress you are making (or not).

Getting back to the picture painting metaphor, if you were to paint a picture of your life, why not make it a good one.  Envision your future based on how God made you, including your passions, gifts and talents. Set your goals high and be intentional.

Several years ago, when I was restarting my law practice after changing firms, I joined a few of my friends to go through a course called Focus Four.  It is a program designed for entrepreneurs of any kind, and it seemed to fit well into my need to develop my legal specialties of commercial real estate and tax.

The course incorporated biblically based values. The four core concepts that they taught were: balance, focus, habits and accountability.

What made this program effective was that it emphasized balance between your personal life and your professional. It also helped to “focus” your goals by making you clarify what you wanted to accomplish, and develop a path to your desired results.  The third prong of Focus Four was to develop new and effective habits for achieving your goal.

The final prong of Focus Four was accountability. That was achieved by having quarterly meetings over the course of three years where you charted your progress of attaining your own personal goals. It was a new experience for me, and, in hindsight, a very valuable one.

You were asked to set goals in different areas of your life – not just the occupational side. One category was personal – how much time off you would take (they used the term “personal days” which meant a day devoid of any work).

You could plan to have time for the family or even plan vacations. What happens at our sessions is that you actually pull out your calendar and mark down days or weeks where you will be “off” for the next quarter.

This was the balance emphasis.  The underlying concept of balance was that a person who is emotionally and physically rested will be more efficient and effective at work, so taking time off is a priority.

I think what intrigued me was that everyone taking the course was going through the same process, but their goals and occupations were entirely different from each other. In other words, the process worked for everyone because it was the individual who set their own personal goals for their own unique needs.  The process was the important part, not the individual results.

A couple of observations from my involvement with Focus Four.  The larger goals that were set were usually ones requiring patience – many took at least 3 years to achieve. Secondly, as one achieved small milestones along the way, you were always developing other complimentary goals to advance your vision. The process reinvents itself at each benchmark of the journey.

That’s true for life, too. Often our short-term goals become achieved, so we need to set new ones to replace them. The part of Focus Four which emphasizes accountability was what really made the process work.


It took discipline.  That’s what made it work. Dean Smith, the fabled Hall of Fame college basketball coach once said something that I agree with. Dean said: “a person can have all the talent in the world, but if they don’t have discipline, they won’t succeed”.

One thing I learned was that the most valuable part of my week was the hour I spent (usually at the beginning of each week) reviewing what I had done the past week, what I needed to do in the upcoming week, and then scheduling what was needed for that week. It might have just been to schedule a lunch with a new client, but it forced me into making the goal into a tangible step.

This hour with myself each week became a habit because I could chart my progress (or lack thereof) for the prior week.  It was also a valuable tool for making progress on achieving my own goals.

Discipline can be innate and come from your inner self. Developing a habit of weekly review was important for me. For some, accountability may require outside help – someone to help you monitor your progress.

That’s where mentors can help. Besides helping mentees develop a vision and set of goals to achieve, they can monitor progress and make suggestions where things seem to be going off track. Mentors can also help a mentee look “outside the box” – suggest goals that the mentee may not have considered. This can be hugely valuable to the next generation.

This has been a practical post – really giving ideas on how to set goals and make them achievable. I’ve found that setting goals never stops in life. Even now, my wife and I set goals for ourselves.  One of our goals is to leave our fingerprints all over our grandchildren. That’s an overarching goal, but it takes planning of steps to accomplish it.

We’ve decided, for example, to take each grandchild on a trip or journey that matches their interests. We started with one of our granddaughters this past July. She loves travel, so we designed a trip to Europe that included places she wanted to see, or things she wanted to do.

There’s more to do.  We have eight more grandchildren who want to know when and where we are taking them. As long as our health permits, we plan to continue this journey with each of them.

Our challenge is twofold:  One of them is to develop your own goal setting habits and a way of following through by developing habits which makes them achievable. The latter is really a form of discipline.

The second part of the challenge is that, as mentors, there is a generation out there that is searching for their purpose in life. God has gifted them uniquely. A mentor can help them figure out why God has put them on earth, as well as to develop vision and goals to achieve it. That is a very valuable role that you can play when you invest yourself in another’s life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   You can help your mentees paint the picture of their life in ways that they may not have imagined. Once a picture is painted, you can help them execute and stay on track.

WORSHIP: Listen to Michael Smith sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart”:

Michael W Smith – Open The Eyes of my Heart – YouTube

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

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Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:14-15

When is one considered “grown up” or mature?  Given the millennials propensity to have a prolonged adolescence into their late 20’s or early 30’s, this question has been rolling around in my head.

A recent article by Jenny Anderson in Quartz entitled “When it comes to sex, dating, and drinking, 18 is the new 15 for American teens” caught my eye because it is a trend of Generation Z, or those who are just now getting out of high school.

The title  of Anderson’s article makes one pause and wonder what is going on. The actual quote “18 is the new 15” comes from Jean Twenge who is quoted in the article as saying: “In terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did.”

We have seen the prolonged adolescence of the millennials, but the regression of maturity of younger adolescents is something new.  Twenge said that, unlike other generational trends which take years to surface, it occurred suddenly in 2012 when smartphones were owned by over 50% of the American population.

The human brain is described by researchers as plastic and that it doesn’t completely develop in humans until the middle 20’s. An 18-year-old might be able to vote or even drink alcohol in many states, but their brain is not yet fully developed.

Becoming an adult is no longer a good construct.  Instead I am focusing on the term maturity.  The typical markers of being an adult are when you have achieved the following: taking responsibility for yourself, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent.

One may have settled down by marrying and having a family. Most other countries have similar criteria. In some, like China, the list gets extended by adding the ability to support parents, and in India, the ability to keep one’s family physically safe.

Adulthood (i.e. when you are an adult”) is probably more blurred than it has ever been, although historically, there have been periods in history where the trends were similar to today.

An anecdote may be appropriate:  Henry graduated from Harvard, moved back in with his parents, and managed to land a teaching job even though it was during a recession. He quit teaching after two weeks and spent the next 12 years changing jobs and bouncing back and forth living with his parents, living alone or crashing with a buddy.

He published his first book at age 31, and the buddy he crashed with said he was “as full of buds of promise as a young apple tree?”  His buddy’s name?  Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Who was Henry? Well, you might recognize Henry by his full name: Henry David Thoreau.

Henry’s path in young adulthood was not atypical in the 19th century. We may have bought into the “myth that the transition to adulthood was more seamless and smoother in the past” according to Steven Mintz, a professor of history at University of Texas at Austin.

Maturity is not just about the marks of adulthood, but the marks of social, emotional and intellectual achievement. Today’s youth are often advanced intellectually, but lag emotionally and socially.

Part of that is because they have been exposed to “information on everything from cyberspace to sexual techniques before they graduate from middle school.  “Everything is coming to them sooner”, says Tim Elmore in Psychology Today. And it comes before their brains are equipped to handle it.

Tony Compolo, a Christian sociologist put it this way: “I am convinced we don’t live in a generation of bad kids. We live in a generation of kids that know too much too soon.”

The digital world – particularly after 2007 when the iPhone was introduced – has accelerated this trend giving the next generation unlimited information at their fingertips, but often at a time when their brains are not able to process it.

According to Elmore, scientists say that kids between the ages of 11-14 “lose some connections in the part of the brain that enables them to think clearly and make good decisions.”  If you are a parent of one of these kids and are reading this, I can visualize you nodding your head in assent.

Brain researchers calls this “pruning” where the brain of a young adolescent changes that will “allow a young person to move into adult life effectively” much as a gardener trims a bush or a tree into a desired shape.

The frontal lobes of the brain which result in high level reasoning and decision-making don’t fully mature until the early or mid 20’s. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, a neuroscientist at Harvard’s Brain Imaging Center, basically says that they are in-between being a child and an adult – their brain has been pruned, but the adult portion is not fully formed.

In other words, “they are informed but not prepared.” Other research on this topic basically says the same thing:  Adolescents are being exposed to too much information at an early age when their brains are not capable of processing it.

Chronological age is not a good marker for maturity, yet it is something we often use for practical purposes. Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple says: “We all know people who are 21 or 22 years old who are very wise and mature, but we also know people [that age] who are very immature and very reckless.”

One positive finding: Anthony Burrow, a professor at Cornell, concluded in a study that for a young person to find his or her purpose in life was an important yardstick for a sense of well-being and a big step towards maturity and a sense of identity.

A May 2017, a study by Dean Soyean as part of APLUS (Arizona Pathways to Life Success for University Students) looks at adulthood, financial capability, goals and well-being of those approaching 30.

The study used the following role transitions by contemporary societies marking adult status:

  • Completing education;
  • Finding work
  • Leaving the parental home;
  • Forming committed relationships
  • Becoming a parent.

The data suggests that today’s millennials are far more educated than those 50 years ago, having four times the number of college degrees. Finding work, particularly in the U.S., has been difficult due to recession and a slow recovery since 2008, but recent declines in unemployment has improved this factor.

As for leaving the parental home, the data showed that more young adults are reported living with their parents than at any other time in the past 130 years. Somewhere between 26 and 30% of young adolescents under 30 still live with their parents.

As for the third yardsticks – forming committed relationships – the studies provide some insights, but the data is not clear whether millennials are just postponing marriage or foregoing it entirely. On this latter point, another 2015 study recently came out which makes one wonder where marriage (and family) are going.

Mark Regnerus in the Wall Street Journal wrote an article entitled  “Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage.” In it, a 24-year-old from Colorado said he wasn’t interested in marriage ““because I am not done being stupid yet. I still want to go out and have sex with a million girls.”  Sadly, he has a lot of company.

Marriage, as an institution, is now in danger.  In 2000, the number of married 24 to 35 year olds exceeded their never-married counterparts by 55% to 34%. By 2015, those ratios have reversed.

The article debunks some thinking that the poor economy has had something to do with the marriage rates, but their study showed otherwise. Also, the studies alos debunked the idea of men’s fear of commitment as having nothing to do with the trends.

Instead, sex has become “cheap” where many women expect little in return for sex. There is no demand for fidelity, time, attention or commitment.  Therefore, men do not feel obliged to supply these “goods” as in the past.

I sent the WSJ article to Paula Rinehart, a Christian author and counselor, and she noted that it was worrisome, but that “the decline was predictable.”

Elmore, in his article in Psychology Today, notes that there are signs to look for in maturity. It is a person who has these traits:

  • Ability to keep long-term commitments
  • Ability to be unshaken by flattery or criticism
  • Possesses a spirit of humility
  • Decisions are made on character, not feelings
  • A mature person consistently expresses gratitude
  • Ability to prioritize others before themselves
  • Seeks wisdom before acting

This is a good list to remember when interacting with the next generation, because, as a mentor, you can evaluate the mentee’s progress in each area.

I’ve covered a lot of waterfront on this topic; more than I intended to, to be honest. The trends are not happy ones.  The decline of marriage leads to a decline of having a family, which in several studies was the most common response as to the event where an adolescent felt like they were mature and were an adult.

The challenge is enormous, and apparently, if these trends are considered, getting larger. The next generation is flailing around, often with no defined purpose to their life.

That’s where a mentor can step in and provide wise counsel helping them to figure out why God has put them here on earth. From that juncture, a mentor can assist the mentee as to how to go about accomplishing His purpose for their lives.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are uniquely poised to stand in the gap for a mentee when it comes to finding purpose in life. Our role is not to tell them their purpose, but lead them through self-discovery to find it on their own.

FURTHER STUDY:  Jenny Anderson’s article in Quartz:

Jean Twenge’s Article in the Atlantic:

The history of adulthood by Seven Mintz entitled “The Prime of Life” is available at Amazon.

The Atlantic Article on “When are You Really an Adult?” by Julie Beck (January 6, 2016):

Article by Tim Elmore in Psychology Today entitled “The Marks of Maturity” (subtitled “Artificial Maturity”):

Research on Young Adult Maturity and Growth from the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

The APLUS Study:

Wall Street Journal Article on Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage:

RESOURCES: Andy Crouch’s book The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place is available from Amazon.

Tim Elmore’s Book Generation iY: Secrets to connecting with Today’s Teens and Young Adults in the Digital Age is available from Amazon.

WORSHIP:    Listen to Vertical Church Band play one of my favorites – I’m Going Free (Jailbreak): Vertical Church Band – I’m Going Free (Jailbreak) – with lyrics – YouTube

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.







Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
  Proverbs 1:2-5 (The Message)

Have you ever thought about what the difference is between being smart and being wise?  Maybe, if you have as much gray hair as me, you have seen the difference first hand.

Ole Solomon was a pretty bright guy in my book– he is credited as writing the wisdom literature including Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The latter is one of my favorite books in scripture. It has nuggets and insights packed away that are timeless.

So, what’s the difference between being smart or wise.  To me, I know a lot of people who are very smart, but I wouldn’t say they are wise. The French have a phrase which is appropriate to mention: savoir faire    It means knowing what to do in any situation or having an instinctive sense of doing the right thing at the right time.

Not everyone has savoir faire in all situations, myself included. I know smart people who don’t have savoir faire in any situation. In the Proverbs 1 passage, Solomon says that even seasoned men and women can learn a new thing or two and get fresh wisdom to “probe and penetrate the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.”

Years ago (I won’t say how many) when I graduated from law school, our commencement speaker was Albert Coates, a distinguished law professor.  In his address, he gave a homily which gives a clue to the answer of the difference between smart and wise. He spoke about a farmer in Orange County who had encountered a difficult problem and solved it in a very ingenious way.

When Albert commended the farmer’s solution of the problem, the farmer said: “Well, Albert, those of us who don’t have book sense sometimes just have to use our heads.” Wow.  I just spent three years learning “the law” and am now told that I have to use my head, too.

I remembered that homily throughout my 45 years of law practice.   Success in the legal profession, is not just knowing “the law”, but to understand how to apply it to the benefit of one’s clients.  Anyone can learn “the law” or other information, but good ones develop the ability on how to best apply it.

You may recall that wisdom is one of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. James also addresses it in James 1:5; “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

I love the James passage because of the phrase “without finding fault.”  It demonstrates what grace is all about. Unmerited favor.  No one “deserves” to be wise, or to be anything else, for that matter.  That’s a good thing.

The topic of wisdom is ripe for today. The next generation is looking for the older generation to spend time with them – build a relationship of trust – and then be a sounding board for their lives and life issues.

Wisdom is a product of experience. For those with gray hair, not all our experiences were good ones, but we learned something from them just the same.

Having knowledge is fine, but if you can’t use it correctly, then it isn’t much benefit. Will Rogers (1879-1935) said it this way: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

The impact of social media and the overuse of digital media by the next generation is getting scary and worrisome.  Looking over my posts over the last 18 months, I’ve tried to connect the dots of the trends of the next generation with the results.

Given that the next generation spends an average of 6 to 8 hours a day digitally, it is clear to me that an intervention by parents and mentors may be needed to stop the damage.

I see is declining intelligence due to overuse of smartphones.  The statistics are in black and white – they are in my previous post (Dumb and Dumber), and I won’t repeat them.

This is not just a North American phenomenon – I have friends around the world who have seen the same thing happen to their young adults who are overly connected digitally.

The next generation is not absorbing knowledge, information or facts, but relying on their digital devices for answers. Or, even worse, they rely on their peers. In the latter case, it is the blind leading the blind, because their peers aren’t any better off intellectually.

One of the newer mental health disorders is called the Google Effect. I discussed it in my post entitled Digital Dark Side (March 6, 2017).  The Google Effect is descriptive of a condition where our brains are losing the ability to retain facts or information.

Research now shows that the ability to have all information at our fingertips from the beginning of civilization is altering our brain functions and the ability to retain information. The retention of information is knowledge. If you can’t retain information, you have limited knowledge (even if you can look it up).

The result:  the next generation cannot think critically. Their lack of reading because of the encroachment of the digital age is very concerning. Peggy Noonan, in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, said this: “If you can’t read deeply you will not be able to think deeply. If you can’t think deeply you will not be able to lead well, or report well.”

According to Barna Research, the statistics bear this out. Close to a third (33%) of millennials report they have read zero books.

I recently helped a pastor file for a tax exemption for his church. He was formerly the youth pastor at a larger church. As we were talking, he confirmed that the youth today are having difficulty understanding or thinking through scripture. That leads to the question: How do you teach a biblical world view to this next generation who cannot think critically?

Critical thinking is a necessity for tomorrow’s leaders. If the analysis of an issue is based on limited knowledge and limited depth of thinking, one must wonder where we are going.

Right now, a missing component of the next generation is that their judgment is being formed on very shallow information without much thought or consideration.  The Beloit College Mindset List (2021) is published annually reflecting attitudes of incoming freshman to college. This years’ list includes the following:

Once on campus, they will find that college syllabi, replete with policies about      disability, non-discrimination, and learning goals, might be longer than some of their reading assignments.”

How do you achieve wisdom where knowledge is just a millimeter deep?  Wisdom goes hand in hand with critical thinking.

Albert Einstein is quoted in one of my favorite quotes: “You cannot solve your problems with the same thinking that created them.” Mentors already are armed with experience and a different perspective to help the mentee arrive at the best solution.

I recently challenged the men in a bible study that I attend on Friday mornings.  There were well over 75 in the room. I said: “The collective wisdom in the room is massive, but it does no good if you are not willing to pass it on to the next generation.”

I often tell my mentees that it is a lot easier and less painful to learn from the mistakes of others, and since I have made 100’s of them, I’ve got a lot to share.

The mentor’s role is not to teach the mentee what to think.  A mentor’s role is to help the mentee learn how to think.  How to analyze an issue or provide a fresh perspective. Analysis involves critical thinking which is losing ground in this digital culture.

If the next generation is not learning from reading, nor doing any critical thinking, how can we impact that trend?  There’s a lot of answers – improved schools, parents that place reasonable limits on digital access, etc.  At a minimum, we should encourage reading.

The challenge is immense. The trends of a digital world are so pervasive today that it is almost overwhelming. I am always searching for relevant articles and books suggest to my mentees which may be helpful for them to understand a problem or issue. They don’t have to agree with the content, but the process of making them think critically is my aim.

If you have never mentored, please consider this a plea to get out of the stands and onto the playing fields with someone younger.  They are out there looking for you because many realize that they need help with answers to questions that they can’t answer on their own.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are uniquely poised to fill in the gap for a mentee when it comes to solving problems or working through issues. He can help his mentee develop the ability to think critically, which is an all-important quality needed by tomorrow’s leaders.

FURTHER STUDY: Barna Research on Reading: The State of Books and Reading in a Digital Age

The Mindset List from Beloit College:

RESOURCES: The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Judy Jacobs sing Days of Elijah which talks about overcoming trials:

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.