Why Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away From Being a Success Story (Part 1)

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The road gets narrower.

In sobriety, this phrase gets tossed around early and often. When I was new to recovery, I had no idea what these words meant. Now I catch myself reprising this mantra daily.

Translation: left to my own devices, I will unconsciously and obsessively latch onto and lose myself in almost anything that promises to remove me from myself, take me out of the moment, numb my emotions, undermine my productivity and (preferably) isolate me from other humans — this is alcoholism.

If I want to grow, I have to be willing to let go of old habits that no longer serve me. The more sober I get, the more certain seemingly innocuous behaviors become problematic — impediments to accessing the best version of myself. Growth requires that such behaviors constantly be assessed, addressed, modified, and in some cases discarded altogether.

For me, drugs and alcohol were obviously the first to go. But the inquiry didn’t end there. When drugs and alcohol were removed from my system, my dis-ease had to find secondary behavioral weaknesses to exploit — things like how I navigate my relationships and intimacy, how I relate to food, and even how I use television.

Changing my diet 8 years ago helped me understand the full extent to which I would use food to medicate and regulate my emotional state — something that never previously even occurred to me. Next up was TV – a perfect way to lose myself in “harmless” entertainment and “not feel” whatever I was experiencing emotionally. So a year ago we pulled the plug on DirectTV. This was not my idea. Like giving up drugs or cheeseburgers, this was not something I wanted to do. It was something I needed to do if I wanted to continue evolving. The detox was brutal. But I can tell you now that I would never go back — my life is way better now without the box.

The road continues to grow narrower.

My latest struggle? Owning up to the obsessive manner in which I use my iPhone to “check out.” What good is all the meditation and mindfulness work I have been doing if every time I have a free moment I impulsively grab my phone and start addictively scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and e-mail? Without a doubt, its become my drug of choice. I am finally willing to admit that the compulsive nature of my relationship with my beloved device is not compatible with the man I would like to become. It’s a walk that doesn’t meet my talk. Things have to change.

So today — thanks exclusively to my provocative conversation with this week’s amazing guest — I deleted Twitter, Facebook and e-mail from my iPhone.

Holy crap. If you know me, then you know this is not a small thing — I damn near live on my phone. The detox already rivals anything I have previously endured. This fact alone validates my decision, does it not? To be clear, I’m not quitting social media — it has been and continues to be a huge and tremendously valuable part of my daily life. What I am doing is taking Josh’s advice (per our conversation) and creating healthy boundaries around my use of these platforms so I can grow. The desired result? Enhanced emotional well being; a reduction in anxiety; an elevation of mindfulness; qualitative improvement in my interpersonal interactions; greater appreciation for the present moment; and last, but hardly least, increased focus and productivity.

Enter  Josh Shipp.

Abandoned by his birth parents before he even left the hospital. At risk foster kid. Victim of serial abuse. Given up on by countless foster parents. From the get go, the deck was stacked against Josh, and the house always wins. Josh’s future was essentially predestined to be bleak and devoid of opportunity. Then he met someone who cared. Someone who refused to give up on him. Someone who helped transform Josh’s bottomless reserve of hurt and neglect into a channel for helping others. The result was miraculous, lending truth to the story Josh now tells the millions of teens that look to him for advice, insight, inspiration and guidance to take control of their lives:  

Every kid is ONE caring adult away from being a success story.

Now widely known as the Teen Whisperer, Josh is a recognized teen behavior expert that helps adults understand teens and teens understand themselves. He’s worked with, appeared on and/or contributed to MTV, CNN, FOX, The New York Times, 20/20, Anderson Cooper Live, Oprah.com and Good Morning America. In 2009 he was named to Inc. magazine’s “30 Under 30″ of successful entrepreneurs. Josh has lectured at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, MIT and other major universities. He has starred in two documentary-style television series, Jump Shipp and Teen Trouble and has authored two books:  The Teen’s Guide to World Domination and  Jump Ship

Heading into this interview I had a feeling Josh and I were going to hit it off. We totally did. We could have talked all day. We totally almost did that too. Therefore, I decided to break this conversation into 2 parts. I’ll post Part 2 late Wednesday night (12.10.14 PST).

How did Josh find his way out? What do adults most misunderstand about teens? How can parents better communicate with their adolescents? How do you reach an emotionally withdrawn youth? How does Josh’s life experience inform his own parenting? And how do you inspire a young person who simply feels he or she has nothing to offer?

According to Josh, the path from helplessness to empowerment begins with understanding that: 

Your imperfections are what make you you human.
Your humanity is what makes you influential.

What exactly does that mean? Let’s dive into Josh’s universe and find out. This conversation left me not only inspired, but actually compelled to make some important changes in my own life. May it do the same for you.

Peace + Plants,

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P.S. – I’ll keep you posted on the iPhone social media detox. Breathe…

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