“You’re Not An Alcoholic Until You Graduate” – The Collegiate Code Of Stupidity

We spend insane amounts of time, money and energy getting kids into college, and no where near enough preparing them to succeed there.

Things that teens need to know before they go off to college:
There’s a discussion I have with every client of mine before they go off to college.
In it I outline the 4 most common mistakes people make that leads them to become part of the 34% of incoming College Freshman who do not return to that school the next year, or even semester… and the 60+% who take 5 or more years to graduate a 4 year program.
Having received too many calls from parents after their kids have made these mistakes, I have a lot of examples to draw upon.
In short – and in no particular order, they go:
1) **Failing to manage their academics without all the coddling and crutches they are used to and often then winding up dropping classes or on Academic Probation**:
e.g. When no one is taking attendance, teachers aren’t updating the website with homework reminders, grades are based on few things and no one is emailing their parents…
2) **Lacking the emotional and social maturity to be away from home: **
Can you get by without having your own private bedroom to retreat to, without your parents managing your health and well being, able to deal with challenging roommates and starting from scratch socially, etc. Many kids are not prepared for how hard it is to be away and then they crumble emotionally.
3) **Getting there and quickly realizing you chose the wrong school:**
You chose because of status (most common), proximity or because friends went there… and in more and more cases, because your parents and/or advisors told you to choose that school. Then you get there and realize all the ways in which it is not a match for you (“I don’t know why I chose this school, I am so not a city person… I should have gone somewhere with a traditional campus and lots of space” . Or “It is so small after a few weeks I feel like I know everyone and I should have gone somewhere much bigger..” – two recent conversations)
4) **Over-doing it with the “partying”,becoming a nuisance and winding up on Social Probation (or Parent Probation!).**
It’s one thing to get black out drunk once and learn from it. It’s another when you become that person others have to continually “take care of” or the one who urinates in the stairwell then vomits in the hallway the next week, or drunkenly sleeps with half the campus… Your reputation quickly goes from fun person to go out with to someone who is annoying, embarrassing and/or undesirable. Do this too much and you will pay the price socially and quickly wind up on the radar screen of the school… or be banned/ dropped by Fraternities and Sororities.
While the vast majority of conversations I have with college students are about managing the social world and adjusting to being away from home, the one that concerns me most urgently, is how many calls I get from parents after their kids have gotten in trouble with #4 – drinking/drugs/partying:
The story is almost always the same:
They went to college assuming partying is just a fun, safe extra-curricular activity like they see in the movies and hear about from older siblings, only to discover that a little drinking and experimenting, quickly leads to a hell of a lot of problems.
We are familiar with the tragic stories of deaths related to hazing in Fraternities, but there are countless other dangerous and even tragic stories, that most people don’t hear about.
One client went to a prominent competitive admission college that is well known for its cavalier attitude towards substance use, from the campus to the community it is in. His first semester there, 5 students died: one was a suicide, the others were alcohol and drug overdose or accident related. At a campus of 5000 students, that is 1 in 1000 in one semester. This client eventually left the school and looks back on it now and clearly sees how unhealthy and irresponsible the environment was, and how ill-prepared he was to manage it.
I cringe every time someone enthusiastically tells me they “got in” there. His story about that school is not isolated… and it is not just at that school.
In fact, every client I have knows people personally who was a high achiever in high school, then who went to college and came home early, and also knows of ones who never came home at all.
This culture of “the blind leading the blind” that goes on on these campuses, is deeply concerning and I would argue, should be to every parent who is sending their kids off to college in today’s culture.
Everything you read in the news about toxicity of today’s majiuana and the dangers of psychosis, of the binge drinking culture and of the high risk lifestyle associated with this aspect of college life, is true. Everything.
I hear the stores first hand. I help them try and recover and reset their lives, too often, after the fall.
I wish you could have heard when one kid told me his friends would regularly group text “Let’s go Black Out!” and openly confess they did not even think twice about the risks associated as they would repeatedly drink so much that they wouldn’t remember their night.
It wasn’t until he wound up almost killing someone in a bar fight that he realized this was seriously dangerous.
Last August I did a program at a Summer Camp in the Poconos with a group of young staff members who were heading off to freshman year in college after camp.
I told them I could either talk with them about the challenges they face working as a camp counselor, or I could talk to them about how not to fuck up in college from someone who will tell them what college promotional brochures and tour guides will never tell them.
They chose the latter.
For the next 90 minutes they were spellbound and locked in engaged with me as I went through story after story of kids who kicked ass in high school socially and or academically, then crumbled in college… where they made their mistakes and what they could learn from it.
Then one by one they began to reference stories of their own… I hear these stories from 18 year olds like them all the time:
About kids from a year earlier at their high school who failed out of college… about kids who were near 5.0 GPAs who couldn’t handle being away from home… about their own sister who wound up moving back home and attending the local Community College after her social world collapsed because of a guy she drunkenly hooked up with and the social fallout she suffered because of who he had been dating… and about one whose cousin wound up in a psych hospital because of a psychotic break after a bad drug trip.
Many times these kids come back and tell me how grateful they are to have been told all this ahead of time… and how it influenced decisions they made.
Sometimes it doesn’t become real to them until they have a tube down their throat pumping their stomach.
A few days ago I had a conversation with a college freshman who was crushing it academically at an elite school, involved in activities on campus, making a ton of friends, being recruited by a popular fraternity… and almost wound up dead from substance overdose early last week – all from just casual normal partying.
The difference for him was that unlike the boy at Penn State whose “brothers” stepped over him while he died on the floor, his friends had enough sense to get him to the ER where they saved his life. 
These are calls no parents wants to receive. These are conversations too few are having in any way that does it justice.
We spend insane amounts of time, money and energy getting kids into college, and no where near enough preparing them to succeed there.

I have built my professional life on my ability to connect with these bright intense driven kids, and become a voice they listen to. . . and I can be this for your son or daughter too.

Extra semesters in college because they fell behind and dropped classes or kept switching majors or just screwed up in general.… doctors bills (and in too many cases lawyers bills) all add up… My fees are a fraction of that to offer a service that has proven again and again to be a game changer for so many college aged young adults who are faced with challenges, decisions and circumstances that tax their capacity to thrive in.
I will help ensure they do.
Reach out to me privately if you’d like to learn more. It is the greatest honor of my life to offer this knowledge to your kids.

Therapeutic Treatment Vs A Different Way Of Life

Psychotherapy Or Evolution Mentoring:

Receiving Psychological Treatment  vs Learning and Adopting A Different Way Of Life

I’ve had several conversations with people recently trying to better understand the distinctions in the “Mentoring in A Way Of Life” that I offer versus the Treatment for Mental Illness that psychotherapists and doctors offer.

I thought I’d write a little more about this as I haven’t updated it in print in several years (though I wrote a whole book about it which I published in 2016).

Something Broken OR A Lot To Learn?

The fundamental premise I start with is 180 degrees in contrast to the medical clinical model.

The Medical model begins with the premise that there is something wrong that needs to be treated/fixed/healed using techniques, clinical treatment plans and interventions which sometimes includes  medication. 

In the Evolution Mentoring Model, I believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the people I work with, but there is a lot wrong with the system we are raising them in. I believe they have limited knowledge and a very narrow, often highly skewed life/worldview that causes them to get limited results, depend to heavily on the approval of others and often leads to them over-reacting to things that don’t warrant it.

The people they work with become their patient. 

The people I work with become my client.

When my clients integrate enough of the character traits that become a Way of Life that I describe below, they are no longer inhibited by the issues that led them to reach out in the first place, and instead are leading confident, secure, deeply connected, satisfying adventurous lives.

Over the years, more than half of the people who contact me, do so  after they have tried the conventional routes and not gotten the results they wanted, or felt they reached the limits of what that could offer and are seeking more or different. 

Though I am quite learned about the various clinical models out there and find them effective in certain cases for sure (and regularly work in conjunction with people who are on medication that seems to help them stabilize), I will write here only about mine.

A Different Way Of Life

Everything I teach my clients stems from a combination of personal life experience, professional training and professional life experience. Some of this I figured out on my own. Some of this I was explicitly taught by others. Some of it comes from things non-professionals have said in random moments that offered profound clarity. The stories are too many to recount in a single blog. 

It comes from a 30 year long fascination I have had with people who seem to lead the most magical lives… people who have “That Thing” that seems to enable them to stay positive, upbeat and adventurously alive, regardless of what obstacles they have… People whose charisma regularly lights up a room or whose joy and presence lights up the lives of the people they are with… people who make the world feel bigger and better for those who get the chance to know them… people who accomplish amazing things in spite of everything life throws at them…

Mentoring offers an opportunity for an apprentice to learn, grow, evolve, adopt and integrate a new skill set, mindset and lifestyle that has been extrapolated from what I have learned and gained from these people. 

When what is being offered is the right match, it empowers them to “cross the threshold” and launch into their own autonomous life. They take with them what they gained from the Mentor, add in their own learning and make their own life.

The goal isn’t to make the apprentice a carbon copy of the Mentor, rather it is to equip the apprentice to the live the quality and calibre of life that becomes available when they integrate the value they gain.

Unlike “Life Coaches” whose role is to help their client set goals and think clearly and perform better but who can be an asshole outside of it,  who the Mentor is, how the Mentor lives and what the Mentor offers as a model, all matters. In some ways, it’s the greatest leverage of this model and the greatest challenge.

The famous parable about Ghandi and the mother who wanted him to tell her son to stop being addicted to chocolate illustrates this. 

Ghandi sends her away and tells her to come back in a few weeks. When she does he turns to the boy and says “Young man, STOP eating so much chocolate!” The woman asks “If that is all you are going to say, why didn’t you just say that two weeks ago?” To which Ghandi famously replied “Because two weeks ago, I was addicted to chocolate!”

Relationship vs Technique

Because who the Mentor is and internal congruence matters so much, the most effective work of Mentoring is often conveyed and leveraged through the relationship. This is one of the reasons that my Clients often so value the relationship we form because it feels “so real” to them… because it is. It’s not just because they can call or text any time, though that helps.

While I have select boundaries at all times, when they ask me “How are you?” I actually tell them… even if I am having a shitty day and going through a challenging time. 

What follows then is also demonstrating, discussing or modeling how to be going through a lot of external challenges, but doing it in a way where I don’t become the victim, where I stay composed under pressure and learn how to get through things even when it isn’t easy or pleasant. 

This self-honesty and sharing may sound insignificant, but it is actually profound.There is no pretense towards a false image of perfection, rather an embracing of what it is to be human but handled in a different more empowering way. 

It was these interactions I had in the world that helped me to design this model and develop this lifestyle. Often these things I learned from these people I’ve modeled my life after, came from observations of how they lived, not through conversation… just by noticing and modeling people who engaged in the world in a way that I admired, envied and wanted to adopt.

These people shared a number of qualities in common… Here are 22 of the most essential and universal:
  1. Excitatory Possibilities Bias: They always prioritize finding solutions and staying positively oriented.  They avoid getting negative, dwelling in cynicism and feeling hopeless – including not engaging in conversations with people who want to do this. Misery loves company. People who subscribe to the Way of Life I am teaching, don’t want that company. 
  1. Never a Victim: They always take responsibility for their role in what has happened in their life…they own the decisions they made that allowed for things to happen. This gives them personal power and also the possibility to learn and to minimize or eliminate the chances of these things happening to them again. Even if their role was only 5% of what happened, they own it.   Just yesterday I walked a 17 year old through this mindset regarding an accident he was in which he claimed was not at all his fault… by the end of the talk he could see how there were things he could do differently going forward that would minimize the risk of this kind of thing happening again… things he never saw when he felt he had no responsibility in what happened. It will make him a better safer driver… more importantly it will make him a more powerful human being. 
  1. Life is an Adventure: Many many people, especially Get Z’s who I work with now (22 and under) approach the future with fear or hesitation. They choose career paths that are “safer” even though the work involved holds no personal interest to them … they choose to move where they already know people, instead of go out there and meet the friends they haven’t made yet… they only go to an event if someone they know is going, rather then go on their own and have the experience, etc etc etc. (“I’m not being cynical” they argue, “I am just being realistic!”)              The Way Of Life I teach instead embraces a mindset that Life is an Adventure, and an adventure Always demands at points, the Courage to go into the unknown. So they must embrace the Adventure and build their capacity to live with the experience and feeling of “not knowing”… and develop the ability to have the “5 seconds of Courage” they will need to get what they most want in life. 
  1. True Respect & Humility & Gratitude. The people I modeled this work after treat everyone in their world with Respect. They have a genuine Humility that stems from knowing that their experience and their kids may matter immeasurably to themselves, but it doesn’t mean that they are any more special or important in the world than anyone else.   Thus they are gracious, kind and polite towards everyone, until there becomes a reason not to be. So often people in the service industry or blue collar workers get used to being treated as disposable, and the difference it makes when they are treated as humans who matter is profound. Kids who get set aside at the kids table light up when an adult engages them and treats them like their opinions matter, etc etc etc… This attitude also better prepares them for the realities of the world when they find that their membership in an elite school means nothing to their bosses who want them to be able to actually produce results in the real world. Better to get that” you may be talented but you aren’t special” now, then to be destroyed later when you learn you sense of specialness was built on flawed narrow thinking. 
  1. Make their own rules: They do things their way and are not restricted in their actions and choices by all the rules of social norms that most people subscribe to out of ignorance, naivety or fear. From making bold choices to start businesses without degrees  to talking their way into amazing opportunities (I have one colleague who got into a PhD program without ever having earned a BA) to things as simple as breaking all the standard dating rules (like “I can’t open his message yet or I will seem desperate” or “she’s out of my league”), the examples are endless as are the possibilities that open up when a person decides to stop being inhibited by arbitrary social rules disguised as truths. 
  1. Playfulness and healthy positive sense of humor: I often tell my clients that I believe I would go insane in this current world if I didn’t have a sense of humor and I have often been ribbed because of my propensity to “laugh at your own jokes”… But I don’t do this by default, rather by design. I wasn’t born this way!

Too many things happen that can lead to overwhelm of stress, rage at the system or become justification for cynicism, and being able to laugh at things or at the absurdity in life or even at one’s self, is a game changer, maybe even a life saver. It is a quality I find consistent in everyone I encounter who leads the kind of extraordinary lives that I built this model to emulate.

It takes some getting used to – especially for clients I work with who have been heavily therapized and taught to take identify by their issues, but if they stick around this work long enough, sooner or later they come to appreciate the ability to find some lightness even amidst very real challenges and hard times. One of my favorite examples of this was a guy who came to one of our programs in England and when asked what he wanted replied “To laugh!” His was the best answer of all and his story from who he was then to who he is now, is an amazing one. I spoke about him in my TED Talk.

  1. Commitment To Self-Education and Life Long Learning: They read and invest in learning, often a lot. They take in multiple perspectives and are open to opinions and world views that differ from their own. Its not that there isn’t a time to unwind with mindless entertainment media, it’s that learning, being knowledgeable and intellectually engaged is an ongoing priority. “I never let school get in the way of my education” Samual Clemons…and I would add in “never let the responsibilities of life or the temptations of instant gratification get in the way of staying awake, current and knowledgeable” and never let the lack of easy access to information become an excuse to not go out there and get it anyway. 
  1. Decisive – Wise Decision Makers: Being a person who can make decisions based on quick calculations and appropriate assessments of contextually relevant criteria is a vital skill to get results in life. Being a person who can recognize when they don’t know enough and can assertively seek out relevant information to enable them to responsibly make decisions is an equally important one.  
  1. Don’t Take Things Personally That Aren’t: The ability to mentally separate what’s about self and what’s about other is requisite for maturity. Few people do it well which makes them far too susceptible to being impacted by the opinions of others and dependent upon approval from the world around them for their own sense of self-worth and well-being. One of the benchmarks of success in my model is when a client goes from calling me in tears about the comments or actions some classmate did towards them to calling me laughing saying “You are not going to believe what they did today…!! “ and then we share a laugh over the pettiness that consumes so many people’s lives. 
  1. Have Uncompromising Boundaries: To become abundantly clear about where people fit in their lives and haveappropriate boundaries based on what relationship they have. This way they do not overshare or place trust in people they shouldn’t be sharing things with or trusting so much. It also means they become the kind of person who can truly be trusted.

One of the exercises I do with every client is “Circles of Relationship” where I help them visualize the different types of relationships they have in life and clarify for themselves what boundaries to have based on these. This includes becoming clear what signs and evidence needs to be present to inform them when to move someone into a different circle. Many adolescents suck at this and surprisingly a number adults still do as well.

  1. Minimize Self-Medicating Mind Altering Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, LSD, etc are all substances that make you less present, more impaired and in most cases, are bad for your health. While there exists the outlier cases of people who use these to excess regularly and still function at their peak, for most people it has the opposite effect – especially marijuana. Moderation is often the excuse that leads to mediocrity. Almost everyone I know who leads the calibre of life that I built this model on, reaches a point where they either quit these all together, or use them scarcely. Living in a “bottle of wine a night”culture may be the norm, but is not indicative of a healthy life affirming life style. 
  1. Make and Keep Commitments: In a culture that has become more and more “out of sight out of mind” people who keep their commitments stand out. They send a signal to the world that they are trustworthy, they respect others and are reliable. I urge my clients to be people who avoid making excuses and deal with the inconveniences to always show up for others regardless of other factors. No one believes that you “aren’t feeling well”… so don’t be another one of the untrustworthy unreliable masses. 
  1. Fight Like Hell When Needed: Don’t be a pushover. Stand up for yourself and the people and issues that matter to you. Learn how to ensure people receive and respect the Message, without dismissing it because of the messenger.  Be physical when necessity demands it. Own your space in the world. Don’t play it small when playing it small will keep you from having have your life.You must master the art of keeping your focus and poise, even when you are surrounded by those who have mastered the art of intimidation and persuasion. 
  1. Manage Your State – Emotionally Regulate: Build the capacity to stay composed under pressure to perform under pressure… to stay calm in crisis and compartmentalize distractions to focus on the urgency of the task at hand. This is living from the inside out. “My boyfriend just broke up with me” is not an excuse to do poorly on an exam.
  1. Surround Yourself With Vibrant, Healthy, Life-Affirming People: We are deeply impacted by the people we surround ourselves with. Their attitudes, energy, beliefs and lifestyle influences us. Surround yourself with people who are thoughtful, moral, loyal, lively, positive, engaged… Better to be home with a good book than spending your time dwelling with people who suck the air out of the room. 

  1. Develop Mature, Sophisticated Communication and Relationship Skills:  Of all the skills that matter most in life success, nothing comes close to financial, communication and relationship skills.. and yet these subjects are three of the least attended to in our schooling. The vast majority of what I do with my clients includes teaching them everything I possibly can about relationship and communication. It is not uncommon for me to even include others in these discussions… many of my clients have sat with me while I put the phone on speaker and call someone with more knowledge than me on a relationship or communication issue relating to their age group to get additional opinions and options. It’s learning and modeling for them how to learn.
  1. Master The Skills To Navigate and Manage Bureaucracies  From banking to registering for classes to airlines to the DMV… to cyber security to getting a plumber to fix a toilet in the middle the night, our lives are filled with needing to navigate systems and bureaucracies. The more skilled and adept we become at knowing how things work and working the system, the more likely we are to get results in life. I often espouse “You can’t beat the system. But you can be smarter than it.” 
  1. Embrace Asking For Help: Never be too proud or too weak in character to ask for help. I had a colleague once who said “A great teacher can offer you more in an hour than you would figure out in 20 on your own.”  This attitude of “I just need to figure this out on my own” is fine in some circumstances, but often in life when it is done out of foolish pride, it is just that: Foolish and a waste of time. Learn to be bold enough to ask questions in a crowd, pursue experts to get their opinions and to appear foolish long enough to stop being a fool. 
  1. Be Spontaneous: One of the most universal qualities I have admired and teach to my clients, is the ability and willingness to be spontaneous. To just go for it… to go to a movie by yourself because you feel like it… to do a road trip just because… to be creative about how to spend your time or with what to do on a date.. Let your life be less scripted and leave more room for wonders that emerge when you blend openness, creativity and a willingness to just go with the flow in a moment. Decades ago the orange industry launched a campaign to try and get people to consume more oranges: “Orange juice… it isn’t just for breakfast anymore”… apply it to all aspects of life and live a much more joyful life.
  1. Live A Life That Is Rich, Where Enough Is Enough: Many people pursue money because of what they think it will bring them… it may or may not, and typically doesn’t because of the “Never Enough” pitfall.  Instead seek to live a life that is rich in satisfaction and deep fulfillment.. pursue your interests… build careers doing things you actually want to wake up and do…surround yourself with people you actually want to be with because of how you feel when you are with them, not just because of how you look to others when they are with you…Go to a school that you feel is most compatible with you and your needs and lifestyle wants, not just because of the status of how it sounds to tell others you went there…  Live a life that is intrinsically rich to you, and its okay to make a lot of money along the way!

  1. Don’t Seek To Feel Happy. Seek Instead To Live A Life You Can Be Happy To Have Lived: We are living in a happiness feel-good obsessed culture. It makes sense. People have become masters of making themselves feel like shit both because they endlessly compare themselves to others and because they are addicted to immediate gratification moments that offer no long term deep satisfaction and lead instead to addiction, depression, isolation and even despair.   We get one life. Looking back we can either see a string of choices we made to pursue pleasure, or we can see a life that we are deeply fulfilled by that we accomplished because we were willing to take the hard steps, be bold, be courageous and even go it alone long enough to get the deeper rewards that only go to those who are willing to walk the walk, take the steps and earn their stripes. Much of that life path may be fun and enjoyable, but certainly much of won’t be. It’s a choice that determines everything. Choose wisely. 


The Difference Between What and How

So those are the “Whats” that make up the fundamentals of this Way Of Life that I built Evolution Mentoring to teach to others and help them integrate and embody, and that I have spent decades training myself to live.

The big question that follows is “Okay, I get what you want to offer and why it would make a difference… but HOW do you do it?”

Of course no one asks a surgeon how they are going to do what they do… no one asks an elite athlete how they do it… but this question is common and it is typically not what they are really asking. 

What they are really asking is “Will it work for me?”

My answer is “If you are a bright, thoughtful, sensitive more intense person who is prone to over-thinking and who feels things strongly, then most likely Yes!”… 

I can say that because it worked for me and I have yet to meet anyone who was as big a pain in the ass self-protecting over-identified with inhibiting self narrative as I was when I launched on this journey…

What made the difference with my own journey were two things: 

1) I was Ready to have my entire life belief system be dismantled (My Mentor once said to me “You didn’t realize you hired an assassin!”) Thank G-d I did. 

2) I was willing to put in the time and effort, and it takes time and often a lot of repetition. 

How I do this has been developed and honed over 25 years and about 65,000 hours of experience… in with this is a ton of very highly specific training particularly in Somatics, Semantics and Mythology. 

It takes whatever time it takes, but through repetition and intense desire and readiness on their part and a never ending pursuit to expand skills and learning on my part, the people I work with regularly get results. 

Thats how I have been in business for 25 years and built an international practice almost entirely on word of mouth and typically with many people with whom conventional treatment oriented methodologies failed. 

My clients regularly become more confident, secure and healthily connected. They stay far more composed under pressure and make high quality decisions… They build mature loving relationships, great careers and become the kind of charismatic positive people I think the world needs more of… And they regularly speak to me about how different aspects of learning this Way Of Life has benefited them on their journey to putting their own pieces together to make it their own.

The greatest obstacles many of my clients face are:

1: The overwhelming time they spend in their own heads

2: Unlearning behaviors that have become habituated and reinforced 

3: Impatience with the process and with themselves

4: Clinging to the Secondary Gain they get from keeping their “issues”

5: The briefs they have adopted by submitting to a flawed eduction system and cultural values

But in spite of that, the greatest thing they have going for them:

Everyone has moments – albeit sometimes brief and few and far between, where without the aid of any substance, they feel liberated from their inhibitions, where they feel next to unstoppable, where they feel calm and quiet inside, and where this way of life I have described becomes not just possible, but deeply appealing. Everyone has them… even if just for a flicker of a second.

What they want is in them… what they want to know how to do can be learned… it’s a matter of getting out of their own way (which its my job to help them do) and them putting in the time and effort.

Wax on. Wax off. 

All for now.


Jeffrey Leiken

October 12, 2019

Annihilating Modern Adolescent Anxiety

If you are the parent of a teen who over-thinks, over-worries and makes themselves anxious, this is for you! 

Does this describe your adolescent son or daughter? If so, consider what I am offering here both as insights and to directly help.

Anxious adolescents are often difficult to effectively help. Often the most they get is help coping with their anxiety so they can manage living with it. Many are already managing it “on their own” by self-medicating (like with weed or Netflix binges or video games) or just avoiding risks all together. 

Just living with them can be challenging as they drag everyone in the home down with them as they go through their emotional tornadoes.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I am having remarkable success now helping teens overcome their anxiety, by attacking it at the source and adding in essential missing pieces. 

NOTE: This is not about those who suffer from severe Clinical Anxiety which 
is a mental illness medical condition that a small percentage of humans 
suffer from. That often needs clinical treatment and medication to help 
them stabilize. 

Rather this is about those who suffer from what I call Modern Adolescent Anxiety™: 

This is the kind of anxiety fundamentally brought on by living in a culture that sends constant fear based messages about how due to scarcity and competition, survival and future success depends on being the best or near the top at everything they do or must do in almost every aspect of life, and teaches very little about how real personal and professional happiness, satisfaction and success is actually obtained. 

Our competitive schooling instills this message.. . Social media makes it look like everyone else has more of it than them… Well intentioned parents inadvertently reinforce this every time they compare their kids to someone else or some ideal standard that is out there… The media contributes every time it talks about how bad things are or how amazing things are but only for those who have status and tons of money… and I can go on. 

These fear and scarcity messages are so pervasive that they have become ubiquitous.

Few people seem to fully appreciate the link between those inhibiting messages, and the magnitude of anxiety it is generating in our youth.

There is little attention paid to the over-stimulated imbalanced impact this has on the sympathetic nervous system, essentially leaving these kids to be living a disproportionate amount of their lives in “fight or flight mode” even when no real danger is present. 

The toll this takes is immense – and it is not sustainable without great consequence. 

 I hope this blog helps change that. 

Every adolescent I’ve worked with who struggles with this Modern Adolescent Anxiety™, shares three things in common:

1: They are “Over Thinkers” – Often their minds are racing so fast with thoughts about what could go wrong, that it is nearly impossible for them to quiet their minds or think rationally.

2: They feel inordinate pressure to get everything right or perfect or successful the first time, thus they are terrified of even partial failure. This is because they often believe there is little to no margin for error in life.

3: They orient from Fear, instead of towards Adventure: i.e. They think their future beyond childhood is something to be scared of versus believing the future is an adventure to look forward to. 

This anxiety can generalize across many areas of their lives or be context specific: e.g. It only happens about test taking in school or it only happens in social settings with new people where they are worried that they won’t be entertaining or interesting enough (as if meeting a new potential friend is an audition or performance where they only get one chance) or where they are so sensitive to failing that they will only do things they know they can be “good” at and “look good” in doing, etc. 

Either way, it is anywhere from annoying to psychologically paralyzing for the teen. 

25 years and over 50,000+ hours of experience helping adolescents grow into thriving adults, has taught me three more things about this current trend:

1: Those who suffer from Modern Adolescent Anxiety, rarely respond well to just rationalizing and logic. 

2: Modern Anxious teens, tend to also become cynical about many things. Cynicism is seductive and a bottomless pit.

3: They often become either frustrated or angry at the world/system for being so messed up, and/or frustrated with themselves for not being able to easily do what seems to come easier to others. 

For some this is motivating. For most though it feeds their stress and makes things worse.

The combination of these things makes it challenging to help them “un-anxious” themselves! 

As I stated earlier, conventional interventions tend to focus at best on offering “coping strategies” so they can at least “manage” it. Something is better than nothing, for sure. 

I have developed a very different way of addressing modern anxiety in youth, and it is working and accomplishing far more than that! 

I am both aggressively attacking the very root causes of it and very subtly, artfully destabilizing the grounds upon which it is built, replacing this with a much richer, more compelling mindset and narrative. 

The results are pretty amazing!

 When hesitation, fear and doubt get replaced with confidence, courage, direction and trust in themselves and life, they come back to life and finally really start living. 

It’s magical to watch and a privilege to be part of their journey.

Earlier today I had a skype call with a 22 year old college senior who, when I met him a year and half ago, was mired in insecurity and anxiety. 

He felt lost. He compared himself constantly to others who seemed better off than him. He was having trouble sleeping. He had broken out in acne and hives. He was calling home multiple times per week, sometimes in tears.

A year later he is thriving. 

He has a fantastic girlfriend, soaring confidence and is completely okay with doing the work to venture into the unknown as he finds his way into a career track that he is fascinated by, even though it is a career he must create, not a job he can secure.

No anxiety whatsoever, just discipline, patience, direction and readiness. 

These results are typical. That’s why I can be so bold as to write this. 

And it never gets old to witness the transformation from Modern Anxious Adolescent to thriving young adult. 

Do you have a teen or young adult in your life who fits the profile I described above? Bright but often over-thinking things… feeling overwhelmed by fear of failing (or of rejection) … hesitant, even fearful, about the future… 

If so, what I offer may be the game-changer you have been searching for.

If you want to discuss this further, contact me. 

I will schedule a no-cost 30 minute phone consultation with you.

As always, I hope you find these insights helpful. 


1: This is NOT treatment for a serious mental illness. There are cases where medication and/or clinical psychological treatment is necessary. What I am referring to as “Modern Adolescent Anxiety” is something very different. We can discuss and determine if this is appropriate for you

2: This is NOT a ‘quick fix” but it is an effective one that works and sustains. It is likely a 6 to 12 month engagement.


The New College Relationship Phenomena & Why You Should Be Paying Attention

Why Are So Many College Freshman Trying To Keep Their High School Relationship Going?

As a parent, you probably knew people who dated in high school back when we came of age in the 70s and 80s,  then tried to make it work when they went off to college. It typically lasted until Thanksgiving Break. By that point, the distance, difficulty and sheer desire to just be somewhere new would intervene and most of these relationships would end. Those that lasted beyond that at most made it to spring time.

After all, how many people do you know who wound up marrying their high school sweetheart? Very very few…!

My wife’s Grandparents met in high school, married and stayed together for 70 years… of course they met in 1920 and back then every one was getting married and settling down by the time they were in the 20s. They met in Chicago, married in Chicago and stayed in Chicago their whole lives. It’s what people did back then.

Not too deep down, we all knew when we were teens that while young love and first love was intense, it was also not going to last forever. 

Something has shifted amongst today’s teens. An astounding number of them are desperately  trying to stay together in long distance relationships when they go off to college. They do this in spite of all the discouragement and advice they are receiving not to do it.

Why then are such as astounding number of today’s high school graduates trying to defy the odds and make their high school relationship work even though it is long distance and even though the odds are stacked against it?

In the last year or two,  this has literally become one of the most common topics of discussion I am having with high school  graduates turned college freshman… I had two more such conversations just this week!

It was always something that might come up in my work with this age group, but not with the frequency and intensity that it does now… nowhere near!

As my mentor and colleague Joseph Riggio said “See it once, you notice it. See it twice, pay attention. See it a third time, it’s a pattern.”  And I would add in now that I am hearing this for more like the 30th time:


And it sucks.

  • It sucks tons of time and attention away from just being able to be in this new place. The daily FaceTime and texting alone can literally take hours a day of their time and attention away from being present in this new place.
  • It sucks tons of emotional energy out as they go on this intense roller coaster of what happens when they are apart and from seeing each other’s Instagram and snapchat stories, wondering who they are with, jealously wondering if other guys or girls are flirting with them, insecurely worried their partner will find someone new or is having so much fun at their new school that they’d rather be free from a relationship.
  • It makes the contrast of the challenge of leaving home even more intense because they go back and forth between the comfort of the familiar and known vs the discomfort of the unfamiliar. Many times now I hear stories of this leading to scheduling weekend trips to leave their school and go see their girlfriend or boyfriend, and even wanting to leave their college all together to go transfer there or be closer.
  • They are typically making the biggest mistake people make: Making the journey of life about staying in the comfortable familiar, rather than stepping fully into the journey of their lives,  even it when it demands they leave behind what is comfortable and known.
Why Are They Holding On Even Though Long Distance Sucks?

I’ve thought a lot about this and have come to several conclusions:

  1. The pervasive ease of staying in contact that modern technology offers, gives a false sense of being together. Back in our day, we waited for the payphone to be available. It made long distance 10000 times harder. Now they can tech each other all day even if they can’t actually touch.
  2. INSTEAD OF HOOKING UP, TO SUDDENLY TRULY CONNECT… In this age of thousands of electronic friend counters (like Instagram and Facebook) and in this era where there is a pervasive casualness even cavalierness about sex, the moment these kids actually experience and feel what it is like to have the REAL THING… REAL INTIMACY… REAL CONNECTION..  they are overwhelmed by how enriching it is and feels compared to the shallow, hollow and falseness of what they had been doing prior.
  3. They work so hard to get the glory of grades and coveted college admissions and all the external markers of success, yet feeling satisfied on the inside in the way they do in a relationship is so overwhelming that everything else pales in comparison…
Such is young love.. always has been, always will be.

And there is a much deeper part to this… one that they are finally able to begin to process… that life is impermanent and there are things that matter and make it worth living, and things that don’t… and yet we live in a society that values far more all that doesn’t and they have been subscribing to it and caught up in it.

When they find this love connection, they also  suddenly come to know the deep loneliness and emptiness they had been living with but had been unaware they were feeling… they know it because what had been so familiar and normal, is now absent. And what is now suddenly – and finally – present, feels so “REAL”…

The pursuit of attention, like the pursuit of material goods, provides at best fleeting satisfaction… it is never what people wish they’d had spent more time pursuing and obsessing about when they look back on their lives, and this offers Wisdom.

People always look back and wish only for these kinds of things: To have had and held meaningful relationships  even more closely. . . to have taken more risks to go after their dreams. . .  and to have had more gratitude for the privilege it was to be alive.

No one ever lays on their death bed and says “My only regret is that I didn’t have more casual meaningless sex with people who didn’t care about me and who I didn’t care for… or I wish that i had spent more time finding ways to give me ‘likes’ and ‘thumbs up’ on my  instatwitterfacechat…. or I wish I’d spent more time watching porn or playing video games…”

It is this deep profound human truth:

That coming-of-age and growing old depends in part on having growingly complex and deepening relationships, developing them, working through conflicts, finding ways to make it work, and yes, moving on from them when it is time. This is work. It is not always easy. And it takes PRACTICE…

In the old days, before a few years ago, boys and girls had crushes, they fell head over heals in love.. then they broke up and moved on… and so by the time they were having a serious girlfriend or boyfriend senior year, it not the first time they had experienced the rush of hormones and shifts in brain chemistry that happens when we deeply connect… They knew by this point that each such relationship enriches our lives and offers us invaluable learning…

They also had experienced what its like for them to end and to realize that they get over it and move on and everything turns out fine! They experienced what its like to have learned from previous relationships and not make the same mistake again.

In other words realizing that not only can they live without this person, but they needed to go through that to learn the invaluable lessons that allows them to grow into the person they want to be and who one day can actually have a healthy life long committed relationship.

Perhaps most importantly they learn that while these early relationships  add to our lives and growth and learning, they are not what makes our lives.

What makes our lives is to have the courage and boldness to fully go on the journey … to find out who we are and what we are capable of in the best ways possible… and when relationships help move that forward, than these are the relationships we keep and invest in and never take for granted…and when one finally comes along that becomes our life journey, then we drop everything and marry that person and do whatever the work is necessary to help one another continue to grow.

But when relationships actually impede us from growing, then we must let go and move on. And most of these long distance ones they cling to impede them – and they either know it or soon find out.

They keep them from being able to be fully present where they are.

As I often describe it to students:

“You are going to be spontaneously hanging out with a group of kids in the dorm, having a great time and someone will suggest you go out to listen to music as their friends band is playing at some local club… You will be all excited to go when all of a sudden RING RING RING you look down and your boyfriend wants to FaceTime… now you have to step out to a quiet place and have whatever talk he wants to have because he misses you and has been thinking about you and wants to tell you about his day…and while you FaceTime away with him, your potential new friends go on their way to the club, without you…

But Friendships are formed in the’10,000 you had to be there moments’ and when you are on that FaceTime call or in that two hour textathon on your phone, you are not There with the people you could be building bonds with… and the hours add up while they bond and build friendships without you… So when you look up and it seems like every one around you seems to have more friends and is happier there than you, to the extent it is true, realize that it is because they did what it took to make this happen, while you have done what it takes to ensure you are stuck in the past.”

Often these relationships drag them down as well  because they are often driven by the fear that “I don’t know that I will be okay without you” or a belief that “this is the best there will ever be so I can’t let go of it”…

And they become a drug that wards off the awful – yet profoundly useful and critically important feeling – of being homesick, disconnected from the comfortable and familiar and forced to venture outwards towards new people and new adventures… the kind that necessarily precedes and feeds a quantum growth in self-confidence and self-reliance.

“But Our Relationship Is Different…”

If it is, then it is the 1 in a 1,000,000.  Again, how many people marry their high school sweetheart and stay together for life?

What I tell my clients is that if you are 100% sure that this is the person you want to marry and spend your life with and you are fully ready to make that commitment and act on it now, then by all means, go for it.

If on the other hand you have any hesitation about either this being the right person or your own readiness (or theirs), then let go and move on.

Thus the reality is, no, most likely yours isn’t the exception.

It is the norm. It won’t be the love of your life. It won’t last forever.

And even if it has the potential to be that relationship, you must let him or her go have the experiences they need to have to grow into that person you can one day marry, just as there is so much more growing up you have to do.

So What Is My Advice To A Student Contemplating “Staying Together”?

It won’t surprise you. As hard as it may be, let it go. End it before you go off to college. Then cut off ALL SOCIAL MEDIA and all contact whatsoever. Treat these next few months like Basic Training… no contact, just being where you are with whomever you are with… go through whatever withdrawal and loneliness and discomfort and homesickness… and go forward BEING WHERE YOU ARE… BEING PRESENT AS BEST YOU CAN.

There will be times – maybe many – that it will royally suck. Go through it anyway.

When everyone else around you is running to the phone to call their safety net who will tell them what they want to hear, BE THE EXCEPTION… only call people who will tell you what you NEED to hear… as I am doing right now.

If you do this, what awaits you on the other side will elevate your self-confidence, your sense of security will soar, you will develop tremendous clarity about who you are, what you want and what matters to you to make your life a success – your own personal definition of success, not anyone else’s…

And you will not wind up alone as you fear. You will instead move to a kind of peace and connectedness that few people ever attain.

If you think you are mature enough to make a long distance relationship last, then you first must be mature enough to let one go.


Learn more about Mentoring For College Students:


Just One Belief Away -” The Self-Sabotager”

de5768527399a1f25df614dd16c28ea823 year old Mark and I sat across from one another at a cool  alternative cafe near his college campus yesterday. When I walked in he was busy chatting with the manager and two girls who were waiting in line to order.

He’s good looking, outgoing and an extrovert, and though he is about to graduate from one of the more prestigious Universities in the US, he’s a pretty legitimate  underachiever.

If there was an award given out for “self-sabotage” Mark would be a finalist.

The number of times he has slept through a critical exam, forgotten a deadline or left his car parked in a no parking zone just long enough to get ticketed and towed is almost laughable. None of this happened because he was just an irresponsible kid or was so “ADD” that he was incapable. It literally happened as he got lost in stress and worry and insecurity that came from feeling so much pressure to survive as an outsider in ways that were real (financial) and imaginary (social) and just plain wrong (that his GPA & status amongst his classmates alone would make the difference for his career, the way it did in high school). 

His story is not so simple.Though he looked like your typical U____ student, he wasn’t. 

Unlike many of his classmates, he is not at this very prestigious and expensive private school because did well in high school and his parents are wealthy and have the money to pay for it. He is here because he was an academic high achiever in high school and money was left for him in a trust designated only to pay for his college education, Otherwise, he was very much on his own.

When others wanted to join Fraternities, their parents wrote the check. He was excluded from this aspect of campus social life, and it really marginalized him.

 When others needed a new laptop, wanted to go out to eat with friends and or just needed new clothes to dress up for an interview, they used the credit card their parents provided. Not so for Mark.

Everything that was easy for most of the kids around him was never easy for him. He had to work, often two jobs, and had to choose between getting enough hours to pay rent or go to class and lose his job. He had to find ways to study and learn material without the help of tutors. He lived in a closet one year because it was all he could afford.

But the worst thing of all to him was the way he never lived up to his potential academically. His grades were often at best average. He so wanted to be a stand-out student like he was in high school so that his professors would write raving letters of recommendation. He wanted to be the guy who impressed all the Alums and was offered that killer job that everyone else in the Business program yearned to get.

Instead he was just a mediocre student who would get his degree, but not stand out and probably not even be remembered by many of his peers, sadly, because he couldn’t afford to party with them or be their Frat bother.

And while he sat there with me berating himself for having just missed another deadline, and looking discouraged and despondent, my only thought was: AND NONE OF THAT MATTERS.


This is a story about Mark, and the millions of other Marks and Margarets out there. It is a story about every Millennial youth who has had their soul get crushed into anxiety by being CONVINCED that their worth and hope for their future is measured by their GPA, Class Rank, the prestige of the name on their college degree AND their place in the social rankings of their peers.

Any potential employer, investor or business partner only cares about One Thing: YOUR ABILITY TO PRODUCE RESULTS that matter to the business. 


Any potential employer, investor or business partner only cares about One Thing: YOUR ABILITY TO PRODUCE RESULTS that matter to the business. 

They don’t give a damn about your grade point average, where you went to school or what you wrote your Senior thesis about. If you can produce results, they want you. If you can’t, they’ll encourage you to wipe your ass with your pretty diploma or at the least, caution you to not let the door hit you on the way out.

Mark’s task is to convince potential employers that he can Produce Results. Period. 

The most valuable skills he can learn now, are how to go from stranger to hot commodity.

The most valuable skills he can learn now, are how to go from stranger to hot commodity.

All this comparing himself to others, not feeling socially accepted by them and feeling insecure about this, is a 100% complete and utter waste of his time.

And I told him this, in an animated way. 

“I REFUSE  to spend even 10 more seconds listening to you mope about how bad you feel because you didn’t get the grades or the praise you wanted here!  If that’s what you want to do, go hire a therapist who’s happy to take your money and listen to you pout about shit you can’t change and that doesn’t matter in the least!”

At one point the young woman at the table next to us, stopped typing on her laptop and began listening in on our conversation.


And it’s not an easy one to give up, but it is the only one to change to get everything he wants.

It is the belief that how he did in college and who he was socially accepted by in his college peer group matters in any way whatsoever.

The moment he can change that, he is liberated. LIBERATED.


He’s LUCKY TOOSt-Patrick-Minimalist-Clover---1.0.0-2400px
Many of the people I meet are about 9 beliefs away from getting everything they want. He is only ONE. 



My work now is to assassinate that one all-encompassing stupid ass belief and liberate him from the bondage of giving a shit about the opinions of the wrong people and of believing that his GPA in school matters in REAL world out here. 

Stay tuned. This story is just about to get interesting. 

I believe it, just as I believe in him. 

Death By Video Game


  • A) Prone to addiction to TV (every time the screen is on he can’t stop himself from staring at it)
  • B) Socially shy or socially struggling

If you do, it is almost 100% guaranteed he will develop a serious addiction to it. He will slowly withdraw from the world and become socially isolated. iStock_000017411376XSmall

These machines are toxic, soul-sucking and utterly destructive for a boy with one or both of those tendencies. They work much like the slow descent into marijuana dependency… it starts slow, stays slow then one day they are on it morning noon and night, no longer wanting to go out with friends (if they ever did at all) and falling far out of sync with their peers in the productive, contributing world…  They will tell you that they have plenty of “friends online” and even will talk about how they want to “be a professional gamer” or how they want to work in the industry. But nothing they will so will progress towards this becoming a reality.

I’ve seen this too many times now. By the time they are this deep in, radicle intervention similar to heroine addiction is needed.

Save him now by not but allowing that shit in your home, in his room and in his life. 

Growing Up Doesn’t Just Happen Between 9 & 5

This blog posting shows real "screen shots" of text messages 
that were sent to me just in the last few days.  I think this 
gives a real glimpse into the world of today's adolescents. 
This is especially for those who are seeking to better understand 
the model and methodology of work I do with Evolution Mentoring. 

Growing Up Doesn’t Just Happen Between 9 and 5.

 Many life challenges can’t wait until a week from Tuesday at 4:00pm before the therapist or consultant is willing to be available. They need resolution now.

We’ve all been there! Something happens and we need to make a decision, pronto.

We need advice before the 5pm deadline.

We find ourselves in a difficult relationship situation and need to figure out what to do about it or what to say to this person – and they are on their way over right now.

We come home from a night out to find our teen decided to throw “a little kickback” that turned into a full-fledged teen party. Now we need to decide how to handle it.

A promotion offer came in just days before we were ready to accept a new job at a different firm. Should we stay or should we go? How do we handle it with everyone this impacts?


Appt schedule3This one to the right is from a college senior. He just learned that the application deadline for a highly selective government job that he is applying for was moved up by two weeks.

He called seeking two things:

  • Advice about how to best rewrite two of his essay questions. He keeps me on his short list of 5 people he turns to for these things (his father, two Professors, one of his close friends and me).
  • Help keeping his attention in the right place so that he stays calm and focused. He knows how to do this and has built an amazing capacity to do so over the years. This is one of the rare times he has reached out for this and it makes sense given the significance of the circumstances – a true “once in a lifetime” opportunity. (can’t say more given the confidential nature of this)



Appt schedule2This one to the left is from a college freshman. He’s been in a real funk. Thinking of changing his major and questioning whether or not he’s at the right school.

When we spoke that night he told me :

“I went to the Counseling center on campus, figuring they must deal with this kind of thing all the time. They gave me a 20 minute “drop in” appointment then told me I could come back for a full appointment on February 20th – a month from now, which was their next available appointment. I said “no thanks” and that’s when I reached out to you!”


How common is that in today’s world? What a difference it makes to have someone who will answer a message and be available that night.

Appt schedule

This one to the right is from a 19 year old who is needing to make a decision about how to handle a complicated relationship situation. I wrote about it in yesterday’s blog entitled Looking To Play Chess In A Candyland Culture.

Sometimes things come up that can feel too awkward to bring up with parents. Sometimes they just need to hear the words from the right source.

Sometimes they need to speak with someone who they know and trust can really “see” them, will not sugar coat it and who knows enough about the complexities of the world they are living in at their age.



Appt schedule9


This one is from a 17 year old High School Junior. A classmate friend of his has been spreading some very unkind rumors that are negatively effecting relationships in their friend group. 

He wanted to discuss ways he could handle this. Rather than just talk about this girl behind her back, he wanted to step up and directly address her. 




Appt schedule6



This is from a 16 year old high school student at a boarding school, who wound up having to switch out of her dorm after her roommate began having all sorts of disturbing issues. She was forced to deal with and confront some very “grown-up” circumstances, including not being able to openly discuss with others what went on and why things changed. 





Appt schedule7This is from a 22 year old who is dealing with some very difficult changes in her friend group. She wanted some advice and perspective on things she’s observing, and how to have appropriate boundaries given the realities of all involved. 

As she lives in New York, it was possible to just meet up in person a few days later. I travel to the east coast once a month to see clients in person. I worked with her extensively when she was younger. Now she just reaches out a few times a year when things like this come up. 


The Easy Daily Habits 24 Executives Say Give Them an Edge

As a teen counselor the relationship I develop with a young person can carry on through time, and I am now seeing more first and second job twenty something clients who are finding that they need additional input to succeed in demanding social and professional contexts.
My work has been published widely and includes this mention in Inc magazine which is a global monthly aimed at the business and entrepreneurial demographic.
Anyway you might be surprised at the routines some of the high achievers swear by in the article.
Maybe you have recently read Tools for Titans by Tim Ferris and are looking for similar mentors in real life, rather than just in print? I can help guide your search. Contact me to find out more.

The Four Traits Teens Need To Be Successful

According to Laura Padilla-Walker, BYU university professor and associate director of the school of Family Life, there are four main strengths that are needed for a teen to grow into a successful adult. These are based around being more intrinsically motivated and yet also aware of ones impact in and connection with the world.

Family figures like grandparents or parents play a part in developing this awareness and inter-related skill-sets, as may other mentors in a young persons life, like a school guidance counselor, track and field coach or other subject specialist or just someone who lives life well.  Here’s a link to the article below.

Feel free to come back to the blog and let me know what you think of it, ok?

Who Are These College-Aged Creatures?

Who Are These College-Aged Creatures?