Set Back or Opportunity?

Set Back or Opportunity?

We all have those moments in life that we must choose. Is this event, situation, or interruption going to propel me on to the next stage? Or is this the time when I begin to plateau, or even worse, I let frustration set in and begin to give up? These moments come often and are a part of life. If we really think about it, they begin as early as walking. A child that begins to walk stands up and takes a step and falls, then that child has to either decide to get back up or give up. Thankfully, most of us chose at that point to get back up.

But as we get older, it becomes harder because the amount of tasks add up and the difficulty of getting back up increases. Or does it? What if it is our mindset that makes or breaks what we will face?

It has been a journey for me to shift my mindset and honestly that journey is still continuing. For me, it began when my Grandfather died. He was my fill in Dad. He represents the kind of man I want to be – a good husband, father and a hard worker. I looked up to him and admired him, and I felt he deserved to live. However, life interrupted that, and he got cancer and died. I struggled with this for a while and in some ways still do. But since then, I have sought out new perspectives that help focus on the right things and point me toward how these set backs can actually become what helps us move forward.

Here’s the thing. This idea has been popping up in several different places for me. I am amazed at what people can go through and still accomplish great things. Here are two examples you may want to spend some time exploring for yourself.
  1. On the podcast, This American Life episode 559 titled “Captain’s Log,”  one of the stories they highlight is about an amazing Girl Guide (Girls Scouts in the U.S.) group from Great Britain that journaled their experience in a Japanese Concentration Camp during World War II. If that doesn’t get you interested already, you can just skip to the next paragraph, otherwise click the link!
  2. My wife and I watch America’s Got Talent. This season is in the final episodes and there are several good singers this year. One of them is Brian Justin Crum, and he said if he hadn’t experienced bullying he wouldn’t be where he is right now. What? He took a negative experience and used it to propel him to a place that only he could go. The national stage of America’s Got Talent.

I think having a perspective like this on negative circumstances comes from a choice we make outside of the situation itself. We have to choose to have an outlook on life that is different then a lot of people have. Simply put it is a mindset of abundance verses scarcity. You can read more about this idea on Michael Hyatt’s blog, “Two Types of Thinkers…”

To put this in practical terms here are some ways that teenagers can start to implement this new mindset now. (Parents, these are insider tips so please have these conversations covertly rather than explicitly.)


  • You can always learn from what you are experiencing.
  • When faced with a difficult situation, intentionally look for the small, good thing and focus on that.
  • Don’t run from risk and negative encounters, but instead consider how that experience might help you be a better you.

What negative experience have you had that propelled you forward? Did something or someone help you see that experience differently?

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.

It’s Not the Teacher’s Fault

It’s Not the Teacher’s Fault

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this. Mainly from students but also from parents who see the teacher as the problem in a particular class. I have to admit, I have even said the same thing when I was in school.

Even though this is an easy thing to fall back on, I have never felt comfortable (and the more I work with teachers and schools, I feel less and less comfortable) with this mentality. The problem has been that I didn’t know how to process this mentality in order to make it better, much less how to communicate to people how they too could shift their perspective, stop blaming and start making positive progress.

That is until recently. I just finished a book called Extreme Leadership. It is a business book, but the last principle they talk about in the book helped me begin to clarify why the idea that the teacher is the problem doesn’t compute for me, and I hope it won’t for you either.

In my experience talking with and dealing with teachers, they are smart people. They have put in hard work in school and the teaching exam in their state. Not to mention, they are often under paid but put in extra work so that the students they work with get the education they need. That being the case, I have not met a teacher who wants students to fail. If for no other reason, they don’t want a difficult student in their class a second time! But mainly because if they fail students, it is a reflection on them. I don’t mean to be naive here, I know there are some teachers out there that are in it for the wrong reasons, but they are the minority by far.

If we see it from this perspective, then what do we do when our student is falling or struggling with a particular subject or class? I believe the principle that is outlined in Extreme Leadership helps point us in the right direction.

This principle is the idea of leading up and down the chain of command. In the military, this means that subordinates must learn to lead up to their commanders in appropriate, helpful ways. The most clear definition of this is that if a group leader has been tasked with a mission, it is up to him to make his commanding officer(s) aware of the resources he needs to carry out that mission. If the commanding officer has to ask for more information, it is because the squad leader did not provide enough information to begin with.

An application to a student-teacher relationship looks very different, but it’s not about the details of the situations. It’s about the principle that makes this work.

If a student is failing, it is because there is a lack of understanding on the student’s part as to the requirements of the task or the details of the lesson. Because teachers make the lesson plan and have their own way of learning things that drives how they teach, a student may need to get creative in how they ask for clarification. So it is up to the student (and a parent helping them) to get creative in how they seek help from the teacher. The hope is that they help the teacher give them the information they need by being very clear on what is not making sense to them.

I do understand this sounds like a backwards approach. Isn’t it up to the teacher to be clear, teach, and make sure that students get the lesson they need? Well, yes, but this is about more then one class or lesson. This is about learning more than a subject; it is about learning how to deal with people, to expand your brain power to think about how you can contribute to the solution instead of focusing on the problem.

What would happen if you shifted your perspective to one that says, “I’m going to own the problem and find a solution.” rather then “It’s the teachers fault!”? What ideas do you have for dealing with difficult people or situations that are different then our reactionary response?

Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better.