The 10 Climandments: Higher Expectations

In 1963, research psychologist Robert Rosenthal wanted to know how our expectations affected our reality. In one of his earliest studies, Rosenthal brought in experimenters to his lab and had them take rats out of two separate cages – one labeled “smart” and the other labeled “dumb.” They were told that the smart rats had been bred for maze-racing, while the others had been tested as less capable. They had one week to prepare their rats for a maze race.

The “smart” rats outperformed the “dumb” rats by a landslide. It was then Rosenthal revealed the all the rats, regardless of what cage they came from, were the same, average kind of rat. They had been randomly labeled as smart and dumb. 

So how come there was such a huge gap between the smart winners and the dumb losers? Simple – it was what was expected of them.

Don't Poop In the Pool: Social Media & Our Need For Attention

In the past one month in the United States – if you were to add up all the hours looking at our screens – we have spent a collective 230,000 years online. 230,000 YEARS of time googling, facebooking, snapchatting, and tweeting. The average teenager spends two hours a day online in some way.

Because I get the opportunity to speak and work with young people everyday, I have to ask myself the big question wrapped up in a little word: WHY?

I think the answer is simple, logical, and just a tiny bit scary.

We all want to feel recognized, valued, and loved. We all want attention. It’s a fundamental need in Maslow’s Hierarchy – just after food, water, and safety.  And what’s scary about that? Well, I probably don’t have to tell you as educators that young people (and old people alike) do some strange things when we want attention.

One Percent Famous

Five years ago, I was working down in LA on a movie set with Lindsay Lohan. I had always dreamed of being an actor – my name in lights, my own TV spinoff (Keeping up with the Kraftdashians they’d call it), famous just like Lindsay (only without the red hair and rehab).

It wasn’t too long after watching the desperation of the paparazzi, the frustrated grumbles of cigarette-ridden directors, and the sadness that was, at times, Lindsay’s Hollywood story, that I realized that fame isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

The Comparison Complex

I am insecure. 

My biggest fear is what other people think about me. More than anything is this world (even more than I want to meet Leonard DiCaprio) I want to be liked. I want to be accepted. I want to have friends who think I am funny and nice and cool.

I suffer from what I liked to call the comparison complex. I find value in myself by comparing myself to others and evaluating where I stand in relation to them.

Youer Than You

Do you remember the middle school mantra? It was repeated to us relentlessly – from parents and teachers alike. As our squishy elementary school brains begin to transform into a more independent middle school minds, we are told over and over again: BE YOURSELF. Don’t let the haters in. Be true to yourself. You’re all you’ve got. And, in nearly every yearbook signature, “never change.”

If I had never changed since middle school, I would still have frosted tips and wet the bed (only very occasionally, when I had those dreams about going to the bathroom…you are so tricky, Brain!)

So what does it mean to be ourselves? 

Dear Humanity

Dear Humanity,

I agree. 

I agree that human nature is pretty rough around the edges. I agree that meanness and insecurity are intrinsic pieces of our personality. I agree that, more often than not, we think hurtful/cruel things. And I certainly agree that life can be dark and messy and complicated.

I am not asking you ignore these things. In fact, I am asking you to consider them to put your darkness in the light so you can take a long, hard look at it. Maybe even laugh at it. 

Choose Love Shirts: How They Are Made

Two years ago, I spoke at Lincoln High School in Des Moines, Iowa. Afterwards, a senior approached me and asked if I had ever thought about doing t-shirts to relate to my message. Later that night, he sent me a sketch of what is now a symbol for thousands high schoolers and middle schoolers around the country of what it means to stand up against your feelings of fear and choose to love.