The Secret Handbook 4 Teens

Helping Others = Happiness. It’s Pretty Simple.

This weekend my family and one of my daughter’s friends volunteered at the 2016 Food Fight to end hunger at our nearby expo center. Sure the girls are looking for community service hours for school but I don’t think any of us knew how bubbly, giggly and happy we would be at the end of our service period. This event was sponsored by Feed My Starving Children and as a volunteer you help make and pack  up bags of MannaPack Rice. This incredibly nutritious combo of rice, soy protein, vitamins and veggies contains about six meals and costs only about $0.25 per bag. Our job (though there were plenty of different things to do) was to scoop the ingredients into the empty bags and then hand them off to the rest of our table where they were weighed, sealed and boxed. Our little ole table of just nine people managed to pack up 47 boxes in 2 hours which equals over 9,000 meals for hungry children!

Knowing we were helping others was reason enough to attend but I cannot tell you how much fun we had together. There was a DJ so we were dancing and singing and there were various challenges along the way to keep us motivated and boy we were motivated knowing our hard work was providing more food to more children! But here’s the thing, sure our event was fun but studies have shown that people who are the happiest are people who give back. You don’t have to feel hungry children to give back. You can donate old clothes or electronics to a good cause, help out a local animal shelter (another one of our favorite things to do), help your elderly neighbor carry in her grocery bags or donate your old prom clothes. You don’t have anything to lose by giving of your time or self but you do have everything to gain!

Worried that you won’t be able to find any volunteer opportunities where you live? Check out the site Do Something. You can choose a topic you’re passionate about, figure out how much time you have and what type of volunteering you’d like to do and it will give you some ideas.

I know lots of you are busy with end of the year tests and exams but when that’s all over, give some thought to giving back and helping others this summer. I promise you’ll have fun, I promise it will look good on your college resume and I promise you will make a difference in someone’s (or some animal’s) life. All those pluses and you’ll end up feeling happy too. What are you waiting for?


One Important Thing 2 Remember in High School That Could Impact the Rest of Your Life

Last night was Back to School night for my daughter who is a sophomore in high school. I have to admit, while I dread having to go out after a long day of work (on a rainy dreary evening no less), I love Back to School night. Yes I enjoy meeting my daughter’s teachers and hearing what she’s learning about and I love the enthusiasm of the teachers for their craft. It’s easy for me to feel these things as an adult though because I don’t have to sit through these classes and have enough life wisdom to know that what you’re learning in high school will shape your future and outlooks for the rest of your life. But did anyone tell you that in high school? I bet not and that’s what got me thinking.

As I was sitting in the English class presentation I found myself fondly reminiscing about the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird and those first deep dives into literature and reading where you turn from a regurgitator of facts to a critical thinker. I felt that love of writing and reading bubble up in me again and wished that someone had told me when I was a teen to pay attention to those feelings. While my college and graduate school path led me into science (another love) I easily could have been an English major and may have been if I had honored those high school feelings a bit more.

So my advice to you is this: pay attention to how you feel about certain classes, topics, events and experiences in high school. Pay attention to what sparks your interest, what leaves you stone cold bored, what makes you want to learn more, etc. You have plenty of time ahead of you to carve out your career and academic choices in college and beyond but these first exposures to all these different classes matter. They are your first deep dive on a higher learning level into so many different worlds and topics and, if you pay attention, you may see a certain path or interests developing along the way.

I know there will be classes with bad/boring teachers and classes that you’re only taking because you have to so the moments and sparks of interest may be fleeting and limited but all the more reason to pay attention to them. Your sudden interest in a topic is something you can explore as you go along and either embrace more fully or reject along the way. But that “Oh, that’s interesting” moment could also lead you into your future career path and choice of study.

Small moments matter and so do your feelings. Honor them in high school and they will serve you well in the rest of your life.

Search 4 a Dream, Not a Job

These days I hear so many teens worrying about what college they will get into and what kind of job they will get (or fears about not getting a job once out of college) and I’m here to beg you to change the way you think about your future.

Please please please search for and pursue your dream and don’t worry about the actual job. Think about why this is important. Surely you know people who hate what they do right? Think about the adults you know (maybe even your own family members) who drag themselves to a job they hate every day just so they can get a paycheck. I’m not saying there aren’t times when you might need to take a job because you need to earn money but if you start planning the right way now, hopefully your job will just be you living your dream and happening to earn a paycheck as a bonus.

Use your time at school to help you build this dream and vision.

Go into college being open to new ideas and new experiences. Take classes that you might not even think you’re interested in because it could be the one that blows your mind and changes your perspective on life. Get good grades because you are inspired to learn. Plan your future and create an action plan to get you where you want to be, not to just get you a job. Don’t come out of college and go on and aimlessly search for something that sounds moderately interesting just because it’s time to make some dollars and join the real world. Nothing could be more depressing.

So how do you actually do this? How do you build a dream and not just become a job seeker? All it really takes are some actions (which you can actually write down as an actual plan but that’s another blog post) that you execute along the way.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you want to go to college with a goal of opening your own cupcake business. Now think about what you need to learn and do to build that business. You’d probably want to take some business classes and maybe some finance-related classes in school. You might also want to take some cooking classes on the side and maybe an art class to inspire your creative mind. Maybe you get a summer job working at a bakery to learn the ropes. Maybe you find a mentor who has created a successful business. Maybe you spend your free time baking up new and interesting batches of delicious cupcakes to test on your family and friends. Perhaps you go to a bank to learn about small business loans and what would be required of you. Maybe you read books about successful entrepreneurs (or famous bakers!) for inspiration and ideas. I could go on and on but basically, there are any number of steps you can take to design and pursue your dream.

Now, it might turn out that you go on and find an add for a job as a baker and that’s great but you can also take deliberate steps to pursue a dream and not just a job. You’ll notice the one thing I did not say is required is that you go to Harvard, Princeton, Yale or Stanford to achieve this dream. There are many many wonderful colleges and universities out there where you can learn, grow and plan your future. The name on your college sweatshirt will not make or break your dream. Trust me on this.

Want some help? Comment here with your questions and I will try to help you map out your dream!

What Do U Want 2 B When U Grow Up? Why It’s OK Not 2 Know


The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. – Einstein

“What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to study in college? What major are you going to choose? What schools are you thinking about? Any idea what you want to study?”


I know, I know. These are the annoying persistent questions that adults like to pepper you with all the time but I hope, in most cases, we’re asking because we’re genuinely curious and excited about your futures. At least that’s why I ask. I know you understand this deep down but you do get that the world really is yours for the taking right? You get that? You can be and do whatever it is you set your mind to do as long as you really want it and work on it. You know that right?

So here’s the thing. Don’t be stressed out about college or a major or knowing (or not knowing) what you want to do with you life. It’s ok if you don’t know. In fact, I tell people all the time that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and I am a grown up – or at least I pretend to be. Constantly reinventing yourself to be true to yourself is ok. In fact, I think it’s a great way to live. That said, you do need to follow your instincts and what your gut is telling you in order to live this way and that means paying attention.

You know how a bloodhound gets a scent and just sticks with it until it finds what it’s looking for? That’s how you should be with your dreams.

If you’re sitting in a class and a little thought flutters through your mind about a goal or a career – follow it. If you read an article about someone who inspires you, figure out why. If you look at a problem in life (big or small) and wonder if you could come up with a solution to fix it, keep thinking about it!

Whatever you do, please please please promise me that you’re not going to do something just because your parents want you to do it (or a teacher or friend or family member). Don’t pick a school just because everyone else is going there. Don’t choose a major just because it seems like a good enough option and you have to pick something. Don’t slog through life and commute to a boring business job that you hate just because you need to earn a paycheck. It’s true that you will eventually need to earn a paycheck but you have the option to make money doing what you love if you pursue it, plan for it and pay attention to it early on.

These are exciting times in your life and ones that once they’re gone, they’re gone. So live big. Dream big. Be present to every moment of every day and keep an eye out for those wishes, hopes, desires and dreams. The fleeting thought that you brush off as just a daydream, might just be who you are supposed to become. You won’t know unless you’re open to it.