Helping Homeless Youth 1 Bar of Soap at a Time in San Diego

Eric Lovett

 ~ Founder and Executive Director of Urban Street Angels and 8 West, helping homeless youth from around the country, who inhabit the streets of San Diego's seemingly idyllic Ocean Beach

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A Sweet-Smelling Old Building? 

When you walk into the old building behind the church on Polk Street, yes, it looks like any community center building that could use a face lift.  But then, when you notice the cots in the back corner, and the tables of folded clothes, the welcome signing signs, and the few young smiling faces you know something more happens here.  And then there is the smell of the soap......what? Well, we are at the 8West headquarters.  It may not look like much, but they are doing thing for homeless youth that reaches much farther than the beautiful smell of the soap they make there. 

The 8 West company was born out of the Urban Street Angels organization here in San Diego.  The Urban Street Angels have been serving the homeless community here in San Diego.  They go out 8 times per month delivering both food and hygiene kits to people in need.  That's great, right?  Well, they felt they could do more, especially when they were finding that so many of the people in need of their assistance were young adults.  In San Diego, there are over 3,000 homeless young people aged 18-26.  Over 3,000 - just here in San Diego!!! That's tragic!  There are so many paths to homelessness at that age.  It can range from having escaped an abusive household when they were younger, to having lost a job and not being able to support themselves, to having the parents abandon them, to having been raised by a homeless parent, to having "aged out" of the foster care system without knowledge or access to transitional aged youth (TAY) services.  

When Eric Lovett, the Founder and Executive Director of Urban Street Angels started noticing this trend of young people living on the streets, he wanted to do more......but what?

8West is born

It started with him opening up his own home to a few of the young men to give them shelter and a place to call home.  Then he would try to connect them to jobs in the community.  This task, however beneficial to those few he could personally assist, was overwhelming when he thought of the need of all the other young people living on the streets.  He wanted to help solve the problem, not patch it with a band-aid.  He knew he needed to help find a way for these young people to not only have a place to call home, but he wanted to be able to provide them with job skills that would be not only practical but would also give them a sense of pride.   He ran through a few different actual business ideas with his colleagues and eventually decided on forming a company that would make beautiful soaps and be contained within a sustainable business model.  Out of this idea, the 8West company was born. The youth would get housing and food and would work at the soap company to learn the trade skills and the business skills they could use in their future life.  

8 west retail
8 West team members showing off their fabulous retail items: soaps, baseball caps and canvas totes.

 

What does the 8 West company look like now? 

Through the sales of their soap and some generous donations, they now have 2 homes for the 18-26 year old young people in need.  They can now house 12 young adults- 6 female and 6 male.  Eric also found that there were not a lot of TAY programs that were universally accepting of all people.  He found that there was a strong need for a program that would be welcoming to the LGBT (& all other identifiers) community.  He made sure that 8West was that place.  Once a week, there is an open shelter night where those in need who they just don't have the capacity to house can come and sleep, get some hygiene products, clothing, and dog food (a high percentage of the transitional age youth on the streets have dogs - sometimes for protection, other times for companionship) among other things.  

this isa homeless youth shelter in san diego
People are getting hat they need during the weekly shelter night.

 

Who makes the soap?

8 west residents making soap
8 West team members creating my favorite of their soaps: Flower Fields
8 west making displays
A few 8 West team members creating the custom soap displays from reclaimed lumber.

The house residents make the soap a few days a week.  Many of them also hold other community-based jobs as they work on saving money to try to make the most of their 9 month stay in the house.  Each bar of soap is beautifully wrapped with a custom label.  Each soap has a distinct name that is reflective of a San Diego landmark: The Kissing Statue, Sunset Cliffs, Pirates Cove, The Pier, Orchard Avenue, and my personal favorite, Flower Fields.   These young people learn about making the soap, marketing, cost pricing, ordering supplies, distribution and all other aspects that go into this business.  

8 West soap display
This is the 8 West soap display in the Coaching Through Chaos waiting room

 

Ending the Problem of Homeless Youth

faces of 8 west
Just some of the many volunteer team members at 8 West and Urban Street Angels

Eric and his team are on track to continue to open new houses in San Diego, but this progress does not come easy.  He has plans to double the amount of residential beds in the next year.  After that, well, he's love to one day be able to provide housing and skills to ANY homeless youth that needs it.  But it can only happen with community support.  That's where you can come in.  This business survives and grows only through it's soap sales or through direct donations. The shelter is in the same building as where the soap is made.  For now, they are making very good use of the space they have, but as they grow, they will eventually need a larger working facility in which to make the soap.  You can even buy the soap online.  Their online retail shop even includes baseball caps and fashionable canvas tote bags. From a bar of soap to a large contribution, every bit of support helps.  

What if your not in San Diego?

In my interview with Eric, he's quick to point out that they are not talking with me only to promote and help 8 West's efforts to end youth homelessness in San Diego.  No, he wants to help raise awareness of the overall problem of the homeless youth in our country.  You may not see them everyday, but know that there are homeless people ages 18-26 in most metropolitan communities.  Eric wants you to become aware of who is living on the streets in your community and what organizations can you connect with in your own community to help end this staggering problem. 

8west interview
Me, Eric Lovett (center) and 8 West resident Nick- you can hear his story in my podcast interview.

 

This one's personal for me...

Sometimes we never know how or when we will be struck by emotional lightning.  I was struck the day I discovered the 8West.  I had recently begin talking about some hard times in my young life that caused me to leave home at 17, just before high school graduation (you can listen to that interview here on the School of Psych Podcast).  Due to unfortunate circumstances and no where to turn that felt safe, I ended up homeless and living in my car for about 3 weeks. I was ashamed. I was depressed.  I thought I was worthless.  And that was only my experience of 3 weeks on the street! Imagine the young people who are on the street for months, or even years.  With my own past at the forefront of my recent thoughts, I wanted to find out what was close to me here in San Diego.  I discovered the 8West video on YouTube.  I knew, that moment, that I needed to get involved with this organization.  I emailed them through their website at about 6:30am.  Eric responded almost immediately.  When we met, I couldn't help but feel choked up for the girl I was at 17 with no one to turn to.  I wished there was a place I could've escaped to. Knowing that 8 West exists here in my own community is healing for me personally - to know that our culture has evolved enough to recognize that these types of programs are necessary.  They are problem solving in ways not thought of before.  Here at Coaching Through Chaos, I've made it my personal mission to help support them in any way I can - to give them a voice through the podcast interview, to help fund raise through sales of the soaps in my office, and to enlist my team of clinicians to donate time and services as needed to the young adults in the program.  I feel compelled to help.  

I hope this interview inspires you to help in your own way in your community.  

 

Resources:

1.   8West website

2.  The 8West YouTube video that inspired me to contact them.

3.  Urban Street Angels Website

4.  An Article by the government research agency SAMHSA discussing the pervasive problem of homeless Youth in the United States: The Hidden Homeless


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He Feeds his Good Wolf

 

Eric Zimmer
The One You Feed

 Do you know the Cherokee parable about “The Two Wolves”?

A grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The grandfather simply replied “The one you feed.”

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My guest today  is Eric Zimmer.  Eric and his best buddy, Chris Frobes started The One You Feed podcast in early 2014 and it has quickly risen in popularity.  The One You Feed  features guests each week who educate the audience through their conversation with Eric.  The conversations always start with a question about how the guest's internal good and bad wolf influences them.  He's had experts in the fields of neurosciences, mindfulness, spirituality, wellness and personal fitness on.  They are 96 episodes in an counting with close to 2 million downloads.  That being said, maybe you don't need to be told any of this because you're already a fan.

"The One You Feed" podcast was rated #1 by iTunes in 2014.  That's great and all , but why is Eric on The Coaching Through Chaos Podcast? Don't I feature people who will "inspire, motivate and empower you"? Well, in fact, this episode marks the first in what will be a recurring series of episodes in which I bring a story of resiliency and triumph over life's hardships, losses or mishaps.  Eric has a story to tell that I think is worth hearing.  Eric's life took him from the depths of despair and homeless in his addiction to entrepreneurship and now to a place of bringing help, and hope, to others.

In this episode you will hear Eric and I discuss:

  • What helped him save himself from addiction
  • What keeps him clean and sober today
  • How he took a risk at a critical time in his life and how it paid off for him
  • Where he first heard the parable of The 2 Wolves and how the podcast came to fruition
  • What 2 lessons he learned from his guests that he applies to his own life
  • How he fights self-doubt when it comes creeping up on him
  • What he hopes his audience takes away from listening to The One You Feed
  • What's in the future for The One You Feed
  • How he takes care of himself in the midst of doing so much for others

Eric has come a long way in his life and he demonstrates a resiliency and self-awareness that seems to keep him in check.  He won't forget where he came from and he can appreciate how far he's come. 
It was my pleasure to converse with  him on The Coaching Through Chaos Podcast.

 

Wolf Awareness Week 2015

wolf awareness weekFew species are as historically vilified, as ecologically valued, and as continually controversial as wolves. Despite the vital role they play in many of our native ecosystems, wolves were nearly eliminated in the U.S. by relentless hunting and predator control programs determined to wipe them out. This interview was released to coincide with National Wolf Awareness Week (the third week in October), a time set aside to celebrate these important animals, highlight the threats to their survival, and spread the word about what can be done to help wolves stay protected and help humans learn to live alongside them. Find out more at Defenders of Wildlife.

Christian Moore – podcast transcript




This is the audio transcript of Coaching Through Chaos Podcast episode 13

featuring Dr. Colleen Mullen and  Christian Moore

0:00 introduction

3:08 Mullen: have you known someone who no matter what life throws at them they just seem to be able to roll with the punches? maybe you know someone who has overcome some big emotional obstacles  like the unexpected loss of a love one with grace. when someone bounces back from life's unexpected occurrences - we call that RESILIENCY.
My guest today is an expert in resiliency  CHRISTIAN MOORE  is a licensed clinical social worker who has dedicated his life's work to helping both kids and adults understand and increase their resiliency.
Christian is very open about the obstacles he has had to overcome in his life - the primary one was figuring out how to get the education he wanted while having whats considered a moderate to severe learning disability. Christian will tell you all about his struggle in our interview. I want to tell you why you should listen  and what Christian has to say and about his expertise.
3:59  Christian is a foremost authority on the subject of resiliency. He is the author of  THE RESILIENCE BREAKTHROUGH  - 27 TOOLS FOR TURNING ADVERSITY INTO ACTION.
This book is for adults who want to figure out their resilience strengths and learn how to build on them. The book can be used by individuals and even corporate organizations looking to build resiliency within their companies. But that's just for the adults.
4:22  If you've got kids you may have already heard of Christian's school based program. He is the founder of the WHY TRY program - Why Try brings resilience skills training to kids and teens all over the US and abroad. When i say you may have already heard of it, that's because it is in 22000 schools  across the US and the evidence based Why Try program is cited in textbooks as a formidable way to build resiliency skills.
4:48 But why do we need to be more resilient? According to the Mayo Clinic, a person who is resilient may be protected from various mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Resiliency can help offset factors that increase the risk of mental health conditions such as being bullied or having previous trauma. And if you have an existing mental health condition, being resilient can improve your ability to cope.
5:12 Resilience wont make your problems go away, but it will give you the ability to see past them, find enjoyment in life and better handle stress.
Being resilient doesn't make you not feel stress,adversity or trauma, and when these things do happen you will still have the normal responses like anger grief and pain. But if you're resilient you'll be able to continue functioning both physically and psychologically.
5:33 and when kids are more resilient they are more apt to get better grades, they deal with the drama of teenage life less dramatically, and they learn innate coping skills for stress management and problem solving.  now that's a fact that can make anybody want to take an inventory of their resilient strengths and build on them.
5:53  we're about to get into the interview with Christian. I want to say that for me it was a privilege to talk with him. He has been known to be booked up to 260 days a year for speaking engagements, and you'll understand why  when you hear the interview - he's quite dynamic.  But the Coaching Through Chaos podcast is his first podcast interview - i was thrilled to have him join me - he really is a dynamo in his energy and passion for what he is doing.

6:19   interlude

6:40  Mullen: Christian, you're a licensed clinical social worker, who founded WhyTry.org to help teach kids and teens about resiliency, and you've written the wonderfully helpful book for adults called the resilience breakthrough - 27 tools for turning adversity into action.
Resiliency has been one of my favorite subjects to teach to my clients and students, so lets get right into this... How do you define resiliency?

 7:03 Moore: in the book, we define resilience as the ability to bounce back when you have every reason to shut down, but you fight on. Resilient people have both tapped and untapped  reserves, enabling them to overcome and thrive if they face the setbacks, challenges and fears of daily life. People often ask me when I'm out speaking - what do i mean by untapped reserves?   Growing up i had basically two talents: i could talk non stop and i could draw really good. So as a student, they sent  me to the principals office all the time for non stop speaking.  And in Maryland they have corporal punishment,  and they would literally beat me with a paddle for talking non stop, and now that i have focused on and dedicated my life to resilience,  I realize that the principal, instead of beating me with a paddle should have said "Hey, the skill to speak non stop could be something that could really increase your resilience as you get older" - you know the number one fear in this world is public speaking  - so he should have been celebrating my non stop speaking instead of beating me with a paddle ...

 8:05 Mullen:  right - so you started looking at your own ways of bouncing back at a young age. You have a personal story later on in life about how you came to learn that your lowest point could also be your best friend - and it has to do with your graduation story. Could you tell us that story and what you mean by making your lowest point your best friend ?

8:25 Moore: probably the best way to explain my graduation story is to start a little bit with my wife .  I met this beautiful girl and i thought "man, I'd love to marry her". But i had learning disabilities. When i was 28 years old I had never made over six dollars an hour - the average income for people with my background of moderate to severe learning disability is about $12,000 a year. And I thought "man, i love this girl so much, i had better break up with her"
I said: "Wendy, you need to marry someone who works in the high tech industry, that can make some good money- you know, i might be fun on a date but you do not want to marry me"
So I broke up with Wendy, and she came to me a couple of days later, and she said to me:
"Look Christian, i know you are learning disabled, dumb, lazy, rebellious, attitude problem"
She gave me all my labels and she literally proposed to me : "Christian, if you marry me, you never have to worry about employment, I'll support you, I'll take care of you for the rest of your life".
9:10  And I thought to myself: " I may be learning disabled but this homeboy ain't stupid - that's the woman for me ". And so I married her because I really did love her, not because I never had to work another day in my life.
Well she tells me to apply to the local community college, but i thought there's no way they're going to let me into this community college, because of my learning disabilities and my background....
9:29  So I applied to the local community college - and got ACCEPTED. And I'm jumping up and down on the couch and my wife says: "Christian, look, it's open enrollment, they let everybody in " ... (laughter)  ..
So I'm wondering why didn't they tell me that the real requirements to go to college is a GED or all D minuses - i had no clue what the real requirements were to go to college ...
9:48  So my wife worked two jobs, I worked two jobs,  she read all my papers, read all my textbooks to me, helping me with my papers. I'd hand write my papers and she would type them up. I came up with something called THE NO F GAME PLAN - I went to every class, sat in the front row, i did all the homework assignments, and i did enough extra credit to get a  D minus... I realized  you get just as much credit with a D or D- as you do with an A+.
And so i thought, I'll just go as far as i can through college. I was at a community college and then transferred to a university, i was working my way through the university and was doing this No F Gameplan trying to get through - but i couldn't graduate because i couldn't do the maths or foreign language.  And so i was about to give up, i was really frustrated but i kept hanging in there. I would study some 30 hours to pass the tests, i asked my peers in college how many hours they were studying - and they would study 3 to 5 hours. And I had gotten right up to the point where i could graduate and they approved for me to do so.  And then I get a phone call from the dean of the college of home and family sciences, who says to me " You cant graduate".
 10:54 He had my transcripts in front of him and was saying "There's is no way you should be on this college campus with your background and stuff." He basically told me I could not graduate, i was devastated..."

11:01  Mullen: yes pulling the rug out from underneath you right there ...

11:04  Moore: so I'm a grown man and my legs literally came out from underneath me - I remember hitting the floor and i was curled up in the fetal position crying - i could not believe that i had put in so much work, i had spent 60 thousand dollars - no one gave me a dollar for college, i had put all this work in and wasn't going to be able to graduate.
And what happened was, i said to the gentleman "can i please come to your office and talk to you" to which he agreed, but i had to go there right away.
And it's an emotional thing that took place, if you don't mind, its just two paragraphs out of my book ... and it will literally summarize what happened there.

11:40  Moore (reading):
I sat down across from him. He leaned over his desk and shouted "How did you pull this off ?" He then slammed his fist on the table, the condemning papers jumped with force. I took a deep breath... My extra credit hustle, i was just going to class every day, turning my homework in, doing all of the extra credit; my childhood grocery store exploits and my years of fighting for this degree had all prepared me for this moment of truth. I was not going back to the fetal position. I was not going back down. I was going to be resilient. I looked the Dean in the eye and said:12:18 "When I asked other students how many hours a day they studied for a test, they said three to five. Sir, I studied 20 hours for the same test. I did ten times more work than any other student in the history of this university. I am the hardest working student who has ever showed up on this college campus. I didn't miss one day of school. I didn't miss any homework assignments. I worked as hard as i possibly could. I learned everything there was to learn about my profession that I could possibly study. 12:45 If you let me graduate, I'm going to impact millions of lives ...I will make sure everybody has access to the kind of hope i discovered being here on this campus. Going to school has been like winning the Superbowl for me.  I know that I shouldn't have been accepted... but i was. And i deserve every credit. Sir, you can't stop me from getting this degree - I earned it "13:07 As I explained my dreams and goals to him, i began to see a visible change in the Deans demeanor. He leaned back in his chair, his face was more relaxed now. Wow - i wasn't expecting that...He said: " i can see that you are here under very unique circumstances..."He looked up  at the ceiling, then back at me:"Christian,you're going to graduate this week. Good luck in graduate school, son"
13:31  Moore: And that's how it shook out, it went from being one of the worst moments in my life to being one of the best moments - so i was able to graduate from college, with a 6th grade maths level and a 7th grade reading  and writing level.
Millions of kids go to college with mild to moderate learning disabilities, but less than 2 percent with moderate to severe learning disabilities get a degree, and 0.5 percent, not even 1% percent get a Masters degree. So statistically I had a better chance of playing the NBA and becoming Lebron James than having this interview with you right now Colleen

13:59  Mullen: Right - isn't it that something ! I know that you know that you were pulling from all sorts of resilient traits to even go to the Deans office that day. I just think its wonderful that you have that experience, and you've turned it into teaching everybody about resiliency....
Which leads me to ask you - if somebody is out there thinking "Yeah, but I'm not that strong" -
can they learn to stand up for themselves, can they learn to bounce back more easily ?
What's your belief on resiliency, can you teach this ?

14:28  Moore: It's interesting, in college, they told me you have resilience or you don't. You cant give someone a prescription for resilience. Now 16 years later, I beg to differ.
YES - ABSOLUTELY.  RESILIENCE CAN BE LEARNED.
I believe that resilience is already inside all of us, its a human trait. For example what the sperm and egg have to overcome just for us to be born is resilience,  our life starts with resilience.  Over the past 16 years, we have taught resilience to thousands of students in all 50 states ....

15:01  Mullen: You really are making that impact that you told the Dean in your speech.

15:07  Moore: Yeah, for example you see people like Robert Downy Jr, who was arrested multiple times, somewhere learned how to be resilient - and become this great mega star. Oprah overcame abuse and impacted the world ..
Stanford professor Carol Deweck has illustrated through research that most people with a growth mindset can increase their capacity in any area. Its that effort effect. Further research on resilience shows most people have a capacity for resilience - so i have dedicated my life to pulling that resiliency out of them.

15:38  Mullen: and so much of resiliency is being able to turn pain into power - even the story of your graduation speaks of what you mention in the book  - which is trending now -
is Post Traumatic Growth .. so you talk specifically about turning pain into power - why do you think that is so important for moving forward in life.

15:55 Moore: again, the reality of life is, we are all going to have opposition and pain. And out of pain, emotions are born. I have become fascinated in how we can take our negative emotions and the energy from them as fuel to create productive outcomes.
For example, i was told many times that i couldn't go to college, that it wants an option for me because of my learning differences. I used that disrespect and rage as fuel to get a masters degree.. I had a professor who came to me in college and said "Christian, if you get a college degree, my degree is worth less"
16:27   I just found out that professor is going to be teaching this year out of a college textbook that my WhyTry program is in as evidence based social and emotional education...
So that became a fuel source for me, now he has to lecture ON MY THEORY..

16:38 Mullen: laughs

16:39  Moore: America is the greatest country in the world!!.  Another example just the other day, I travel a lot and i was in a restaurant, and i was being totally ignored by the waiter - getting horrible service. I literally live in restaurants, so I'm oversensitive sometimes to bad service - and i was feeling rage inside, i was feeling anger inside - i just started laughing, i thought to myself: :OK, Christian, how can you take this anger and rage and do something productive with it? And i decided that when he comes back i would increase my kindness- so i asked him about himself a little bit, he told me about his son who was going through a hard time - and the whole dynamic of the service changed.
So one thing I'm excited about now is when we have these negative emotions we can use them as a fuel source to create a productive outcome...

17:20  Mullen: absolutely...with this waiter you flipped the switch  - and that's something you detail in your book. I don't know if you want to walk us through all the four steps to flipping the switch, but can you talk about the concept behind it

17:33   Moore: When you flip the switch, you stop for a moment and you realize you can turn your pain into power. Flipping the Switch is an awareness that you have a choice on how you respond to a situation - its like putting on a new pair of glasses - you're seeing the issue from a little bit of a different perspective.
Let me give you one of my most recent situations where i had to flip the switch

17:53 Moore: a few weeks ago i was speaking in Texas, and about an hour away from giving my speech I'm driving into this town and i get a call from my son Cooper, and he says "Hey Dad!" ... and he is in crisis mode, "Mom just went to the hospital in an ambulance"
And I'm like "Oh my goodness.  What is going on ?" .. And I didn't respond well, I'm driving down the road, and the road is going blurry - I'm looking for a place to pull over but where i was driving there was no place to  pull over, and I'm doing everything i can just to keep my composure.. and my son cant really explain to me what's happening with mom, and so it's a highly stressful situation. And I pull into the place where I'm going to give the speech and there's an audience waiting for me to talk.
The person who was traveling with me said "Christian, there's no way you can the speech "
18:37 I replied: "Look, let me call and see if I can get on the next flight". I checked the next flight and it's the flight I'm already on, so there is nothing more that I can do. But the guy traveling with me is insistent  that i still don't have to give the speech.
18:48 I said: "You know what, I'm trying to teach millions of people how to flip the switch, this is a very emotional tough situation - I'm going to flip the switch right now and give the greatest speech I've ever given"  And I just tried to maximize that situation, I was feeling intense fear, knowing my wife was in the hospital I felt loneliness and all these emotions - and I just said OK, how can I use this as my best friend ?
19:11  And I'm excited about it, it has taken me 45 years to realize how to flip that switch. The first step of flipping the switch is just knowing you have a switch. For the first 35 years of my life,  I was like a puppet basically - if someone yelled at me or I dealt with a difficulty,  I would yell back, I would use the difficulty as a reason to hurt myself, hurt other people, give up...

19:32 Mullen: right, just react

19:33 Moore: yeah, and now that  i have realized i have this switch, it makes life really fun when you know you have it. We're teaching this switch from kindergarten to high school students, and a lot of adults don't even know they have this switch they can flip. So that's the first step, just the awareness you have this switch.
19:52 The second step of flipping the switch is you have to acknowledge, assess and accept  that you have a problem. My reality is I have learning differences, I have severe ADHD. I grew up in a home where both my parents had some mental health issues. That's the reality of my situation - so   today at 45 years old I say to myself how can i maximize my ADHD - how can I maximize this energy, how can i use the energy as my best friend.
20:18 For example now as a therapist when i diagnose a child with ADHD, I'll bring a cake into my office, I'll pass out party hats, those things that blow out and I'll say " Look, we're going to have a party !"  And the parents all look at me as if I'm crazy - why are we having a party ?
Because the first couple of years i was a therapist, the family would come in depressed, i would diagnose something and they would leave more depressed. No. No more. I'm not going to spend the next 30 years depressing youth and families - so I would literally bring this cake in, light the candles and say "You have one of the greatest gifts - people would kill to have this energy. I'm going to show you step by step how to use this energy as your best friend"
And I would show the parents data that the vast majority of CEOs and entrepreneurs have ADHD - they work hundred hour work weeks - so its just re-framing the ADHD.
21:01  But first you have to accept that there is a problem. The question is how do we use that problem as a fuel source to make better decisions ...

21:07 Mullen: I have to say I love the cake idea, i f I had ever seen anybody do that at all of the meetings over the years with kids - that's just brilliant - what an amazing re-frame.

21:19 Moore: I love it, the parents are literally walking out of my office with a hop in their step, their arm around their child because we've just explained how this can be their best friend.  Even if i diagnose a child with conduct disorder, I would even do that.
I had a kid in my office a few years ago who stole 3 cars and the police officer was saying this kid is a genius - they couldn't figure out how he did it in one hour. And so I re-framed it by saying: "Look, you're creative, you're bold, you're a risk taker". I broke out the cake and showed him how to take those same attributes he used to steal those cars to become a great entrepreneur one day - to make better decisions.
21:52 To be really frank with you i really haven't seen a situation that cannot be re-framed.

21:57 Mullen: I agree with you on that, and I'll just say I think your re-frames are brilliant

22:00 Moore: I appreciate that, thank you, thank you. 
The third step is to ask the flip the swithc question - and that question is just: How can I use this challenge to better my circumstances or create a productive outcome right now ?
And one thing i encourage people to do, when they're in a situation like this, is do the opposite of what other people would normally do in a similar situation.
As an example, a couple of years ago, when i was going through college, my wife had lost her job, I didn't have a job at the time, and we were pretty rock bottom financially.  What are we going to do ?  Wendy was applying to many different jobs, she'd go in  and come back out depressed and frustrated. In front of one business, i finally said to her after a couple of weeks "Look, lets just try something crazy, just go in there and tell them you'll work the first two weeks for free".   So she sits down and does just that, and it caught the employers attention, and he said " You really stood out, of all the people i interviewed"
And a couple of days later, she got the job.
So sometimes i think we've got to do something out of the box, where we really do the opposite of what people would normally do. I think being resilient we have to have humor, we have to shake things up and NOT TAKE OURSELVES SO SERIOUSLY.
23:16 And then the last step is: Pay attention to how you feel as you flip the switch. Now I almost have to give a warning with this, and I've heard this from thousands of people - that as they start to do these 4 steps, it becomes  very addictive. I'll see people in their 60s, they're just learning how to flip the switch and they're having so much fun. Now when I have a crisis or I have a challenge in my life, I literally get excited that I have an opportunity to approach this differently. And they ask "Why did it take me 60 years to learn how to flip the switch?"
23:45 I really believe resiliency is a major social justice issue, and in the 20 years it's going to become a bigger and bigger issue. Millions and millions of people will understand resiliency and where it comes from, and millions of people won't.  I really believe that resiliency is the great equalizer..It transcends socio-economic status, culture, race, the neighborhood you grew up in, age -  you know, all these different issues. It is the most powerful thing i have come across that  really levels the playing field.
24:11  One of the funnest things for me is I love sharing with kids who are growing up in the most difficult of circumstances - how to use the poverty, the divorce, the discrimination, the anger, the emotions that come from those issues - as the reason to turn in their homework, to stay in school, to make better decisions. We are literally showing kindergartners how to flip the switch. And then we're sharing this K through twelfth grade, we're even teaching this on death row. From the playpen to the State Pen, literally...

24:43 Mullen: wow, that brings us`right to the meat of it, so we  know what resiliency  is.  You've defined four sources of resilience:
= street resilience
= relational resilience
= resource resilience
= rock bottom resilience
Can you tell us a little bit about each one of these ?

25:00 Moore: So my goal in coming up with these four sources really was born out of frustration  - I had read hundreds of books on resilience, i studied the topic of resilience, and all i could usually come across was the attributes of resilience - like hard work, determination, perseverance. But i wanted to know where `was it born, where does  resiliency come from. So i started looking at thousands of people, at their lives and what role resiliency played in their life, and i noticed four common attributes kept popping out as i looked at highly resilient people.
25:29 The first thing that popped out was Relational Resilience - and all that means is your greatest motivation to not give up is the knowledge that others need you or depend on you. For example, i have two kids named Cooper and Carson, 8 and 12 year old boys - if i never got invited to speak again, i would go and work at four McDonald's to put food in these kids mouths. I'll do whatever it takes - my resilience is going to kick in because of my relationship with them. For a teacher it could be for their students. My business partner Hans is someone who has an incredible amount of relational resilience.  He makes good decisions, he is the CEO of our company, he has 5 kids ... Now me personally, I've had to really develop my relational resiliency because of my parents mental health issues I didn't really attach to my parents when i was a kid , so RR is something that I am constantly working at.
 I traveled 260 days a year as a speaker which i should never have been traveling that much, but one of the reasons i was able to do that is because I didn't understand the power of RR. 
26:31 So when i was coming up with this, i was comparing me and my business partner - Hans has an incredible amount of RR, but the next one, i realized he didn't have an ounce of Street Resilience. Well i got excited about it - oh my gosh - if i could teach Hans how to tap into Street Resilience, i could double his resilience. So for example, Street Resiliency is, you take the pain of social inequality, disrespect and mistakes and use it as fuel to propel you forward. And it can be any type of disrespect, it can be your ears are too big, your teeth aren't white enough - any type of disrespect or past mistake - there's so many people who feel disrespected, especially as i work in schools across this country, kids will often say to me: "I feel disrespected, I feel that people are judging me"  So I say : how do you take that and use it as a reason to become a greater human being. And  we have a lot of strategies to show them how to do that - a great example of Street Resilience is Nelson Mandela - we know the story of him being in the prison camp for 27 years - the same guy disrespected him, would verbally abuse him and stuff ... When he became the president of South Africa, the first ting he did was to invite that guy to his presidential inauguration - they became great friends - he was like because you disrespected me, I'm going to become a greater human being. So one day it hit me, that if i could develop my relational resilience, and i had street resiliency, i could increase my resilience. If my business partner, who had almost no street resiliency but had a lot of relational resiliency, then I could double his resilience.

28:00 Mullen: yeah, you can tap into and help build each others resilience

28:06 Moore: so the third place I believe resiliency comes from is Resource Resiliency - and that's where you recognize that your resilience can be increased by tapping into the resources available to you. For example, earlier i said i had two talents - i could talk non stop and i could draw really good. One of my contributions to mental health is i took everything in mental health and put it into picture form for kids, i took my art talent and maximized it.  You recognize that your resources include talents, relationships, physical assets, personality traits and work ethic. As I'm out on road speaking, i ran into a guy the other day who blew me out of the water, one of the greatest examples of resource resiliency I've ever seen is KYLE MAINERD, who was born with no arms, no legs except these little stubs. He recently put rubber balls on the end of his stubs and hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. He just maximized the resources that he had. He wrestled in high school and college with no arms, no legs, he just maximized what he had. Helen Keller is  another great example of that.

29:08 Mullen: when you hear stories like that  ( Kyle Mainerd ) you just get a grand picture  of what resilience absolutely is - when you see someone who can take that life circumstance and turn it into such an accomplishment

29:27 Moore: when i was going to college, another example of resource resiliency, when my wife lost her job, we had no money coming in, our rent was 300 dollars. And i couldn't come up with this 300 dollars in a million years,  i remember going out to our car - one of my rock bottom moments - i went out to the car and  i sized it up and thought oh my gosh, we are going to have to move into this car. And i went back into the house and said to my wife: "I told you you should not have married me! I told you your life was going to be hell if you married me. And she got angry, left the house and I'm like "Man, what do i do about this?"
I thought, well, one of the resources i have, i can draw really well, i can paint, i love doing water color paintings - so i went to this place in my community called The River Bottoms - multi-million dollar homes, and i painted a beautiful watercolor of this great big house..And then i would knock on the door and say: "Hey, I'm a local artist in the area, i was admiring your house and I'd like to sell you this painting for 200 dollars. The woman of the house gasped at the painting and said : "Ive spent tens of thousands of dollars on artwork that i don't like as much as this - this is worth way more than 200 dollars, I'm going to give you 600 dollars for this painting."   And i remember floating off that door step, because i had the 300 dollars for the rent, and another 300 dollars left over, and  i know to this day if i never get invited to ever speak again or do what I'm doing - i can go paint rich peoples houses and be able to support my family. And that's just maximizing your resources to be resilient.
30:56 So my goal is, when I'm working with someone, i want them to tap into that relational resilience, i want them to tap into street resilience, that resource resilience.
And my last one is Rock Bottom Resilience.  And that's when you are at your lowest point, you believe in your ability to change your circumstances and combat hopelessness and fight on.
Now everybody has their own personal rock bottom. One of my goals as a therapist when i work with people is i figure out what their rock bottom moment is. And one of the first things i focus on is how they can take that rock bottom moment and use it as a nuclear fuel rod of energy to engage with life, to put more effort into what they're doing with their lives.
For example today, my son Carson, who is 8 years old, was crying all morning, was having a tough morning. He came and hugged me five times because he is getting braces today - and he doesn't want to get these braces - and that's his rock bottom moment - the first 8 years of his life.  I was just saying to him: "OK Carson, how can you use this ? Kids are going to tease you now, you're going to deal with these issues, but this is how you can respond to this". And just showing him how to take something negative and turn it into something positive.  And it hit me one day, i can learn more from a single mom living in a car with 3 kids than i f i studied these gurus.  I just became fascinated - what enables someone to put one foot in front of the other, when they have every reason to give up ?
32:13  Yeah, in the curriculum and in the book, we have 27`boosters we call them to help people access these four sources of resilience...

32:20 Mullen: The book, just to remind everybody, is THE RESILIENCE BREAKTRHOUGH - 27 tools for turning adversity into action.   And I want to really be able to talk about WHYTRY.org also. - so lets look at these boosters in each chapter on building the different residencies. Do you have two that maybe are your personal favorites ?

32:39 Moore: let me share this first one that I really love - i call it BE ILLOGICAL . This means when moving forward doesn't seem logical , you have  a million barriers in front of you, you do so anyway, this opens up potential unforeseen options so you go through the motions, you don't shut down when you basically have every reason to give up.
For example, it was illogical for me to go to college.I couldn't explain to people   who would ask me how i was going to get through - with only a 6th grade maths knowledge and 7th grade reading and writing level - :how are you going to graduate from college?
What i noticed what just by showing up, unforeseen options would happen. Professors took me under their wing, and opened up tremendous doors for me. Getting married, before i ever made a livable wage, before i ever made over 6 dollars per hour.  Being an entrepreneur, when i went to write this book, the resilience breakthrough, people said to me: "Christian, there's no way. Less than 2 percent of books get published,  you may be able to self publish, you're not going to get a book published".
And I just put in 110% of effort, i took over 3 and a half years to write this book, and I'm going to make sure we have something real that were going to be able to show people where resiliency really comes from.
33:45 I applied to one publisher and they published it, now I'm on a national level and GreenLeaf published the book, and that was one of the highlights of my life - so what I've learned is that just by showing up unbelievable things happen.

33:57 Mullen: absolutely - acting illogical, showing up - great traits to be able to do. I think your book publishing story is just amazing. It really is tough to get a book published.
Amazing that you come from the flip side of not even thinking college was something for you and here you are with a published book. That's certainly a story of resiliency right there.

34:20 Moore: i appreciate that. The next booster, and this falls under Rock Bottom resiliency, is something really simple but one of the most powerful things I've ever come across. I call this Discover the Power of a Future Promise.  You know, we all need something to look forward to, for example this morning just knowing i get to wake up and talk to Colleen Mullen and  be on this podcast Coaching Through Chaos, i was excited,  it gave me something to get `out of bed and look forward to. It can be something as simple as a great meal, you know, i 'm a foodie, i travel all the time. I'm always looking for something great to eat, that's probably why I'm in top physical condition...
a hug at the end of the day, a vacation, we all need ...

35:04 Mullen: something to look forward to ..

35:06 Moore: some type of hope, we all need that hope

35:08 Mullen: instilling hope is one of those great things for rock bottom resilience.

35:13 Moore: when i was a little boy, I'd come home from school and there wasn't a lot of food to eat in my house.  So I'd start punching holes in the wall, I was  so angry, I would open up the refrigerator five thousand times hoping something would appear in the refrigerator. After a couple of years of this, my  mum got pretty burned out, so every morning she would give me a couple of extra dollars, and she would say to me:
"Before you come home, I want you to go to Dairy Queen and get the foot long hot dog"
And literally, i call this foot long hot dog a  therapy, just knowing that it was there for me at the end of the day - I was going to walk to Dairy Queen and get this - it would literally help me get through school and through a lot of challenges, and so just having something out there for us is so important to look forward to.

35:53 Mullen: Right. That leads us right into the WhyTry program. Because you're talking about your stories of when you were a kid, you've referenced a lot of things throughout the interview today about  helping kids learn their resiliency. Now the book is for the adults, but WhyTry,org is for the kids.  Can  you tell us about how WhyTry came about - what it is and how a school or a  family would have it implemented.  Is it something for the schools or do people hire someone from WHyTRy to help them out.

36:23  Moore: absolutely. Basically how it started is i went to work as a school social worker at an alternative school. One day the school psychologist showed me that 80 percent of the kids i was working with were visual learners, but 100 percent of what i was doing counseling was verbal cognitive talk therapy. And so when i found out that most of these kids were visual learners i just started taking every thing in mental health and putting it into pictures for kids.  For example, if i was talking to a child about how to deal with peer pressure, getting out of a gang, stop doing drugs .. I would draw a picture - I'm from Maryland the crab state - so i would draw a picture of a bunch of crabs inside of a pot - and i would say to the child if i don't put a lid on this pot, why cant  the crabs get out of the pot ?  And the kids would look at the picture and say "Duh - the other crabs are reaching up and pulling them down"
So I would say "Hey, your friends you're skipping school with, you're` doing drugs with, you're fighting with ... all you're doing is you're pulling each other down and keeping each other in the pot. And then i would write different therapeutic questions written around the visual metaphor - what would your future be like if you got out of this pot? what would your future be like if you stayed in this pot?
37:22  And then we would reinforce these visual pictures with music that they listen to, from rap to pop music to rock to all different kinds of styles of music, so the child visually sees it, they hear it in music they listen to... and then we have discussion questions that tie into the music, and then we have hundreds of physical activities that reinforce it, and art activities. So whether the child is a visual learner, auditory learner, body kinesthetic learner - we just took evidence based mental health practice and started delivering it in a language that  was relevant to the child. Because relevance is such an important thing when working with kids that are struggling, and the purpose of these ten visual metaphors that we have, all reinforced with the music and the physical activities, is to teach the child how to be resilient and to give them the speicfic skills.
38:07 And so, what we  do is we go into a school district and we train everyone from the counselors to the teachers in how to deliver this curriculum to kids, and then , i Oslo spend a lot of time, I'll speak to parenting groups - we want the parents to have these skills, we want the kids to have these skills. The easiest way is just to contact WhyTRy and we do several hundred staff developments all across the country, we work in all 50 states. We do some international work now, from Australia to the UK, Canada.
38:37 Our goal is to just to put social and emotional education in a language that youth and families can really connect with.

38:41 Mullen: That's wonderful that you guys are having such reach now, and it is so needed. You mentioned` that it is research based - or evidence based as we say -  If someone is listening to this and they work in a school district and they know that this could be something that  could be helpful, tell us, what are the benefits that a school district, or that the families will see, for `kids who participate in the WHyTry program ?

39:02 Moore: There are a lot parents who will say to us: "We're talking to our kids all the time about their decisions having consequences, You just put it in a language they can understand "
The schools are worried about GPA and test scores, and one of  the reasons we are in 22, 000 schools is because we have been able to show that when you lower children's anxiety they thrive more academically.  By anxiety, right now i mean social anxiety which is as high as it's ever been - kids are worried about their shoes, their clothes, who is going to sit next to them, who just texted me, who didn't text me - and anxiety causes the brain to down shift which causes learning to be inhibited.
39:38 My main purpose was not to impact GPA and test scores, my main purpose was to help kids stay in school, learn how to have effective relationships and help them to thrive - so it has a huge impact on the school climate - it puts children in a position where they can focus on academics.

39:54 Mullen: Christian, i just want to say this has been fantastic, i think we do need to wrap up, so I'm going to repeat the book title: The Resiliency Breaktrough - 27 tools for turning adversity into action; and the program for the kids is WhyTry.org.
Thank you so much Christian Moore for your time ..

40:17 Moore: it was a blast talking to you, if some of your listeners want to get a hold of me  the easiest way is @Resilience_Guy -  we  would love to connect with you and I'll tell you  I admire the work you're doing , love the name Coaching Through Chaos, it's just so important ...

40:31  Mullen: thank you, i really appreciate that feedback ...

40:35 musical interlude // exit comments

43:20 FINIS







































Mental Strength Training with Amy Morin

Amy Morin, LCSW

Life can throw a lot of hardships in our paths, which it seems only the mentally strong can withstand... Following tragic losses in her life, Amy Morin LCSW wrote a list to remind herself how to keep going. Shared on lifehack.org, the list went viral, then flooded Forbes. Like a beacon in the night, Amy's worldwide best-selling book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, gives us all simple lessons in resiliency in a world where adversity can leave us feeling isolated..

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Amy’s life was going along pretty well.  But, when she was 22, her mother died suddenly of a brain aneurism.  Her mother  was only in her early 50’s.  Most people aren’t ready to lost their parents even if they pass away much older, but no one expects their parents to die that young. That’s just not supposed to happen! Amy was healing from that though.  She was young in her career as a clinical social worker, was married and starting her life with her husband.  But then, on the 3rd anniversary of her mother's death, her 26 year old husband died of a heart attack.  What?!? As Amy put the pieces of her life together.  She found a way to honor her young husband’s memory.  Every year on his birthday, she would get together with his family and  participate in life-affirming experiences.  Sometimes they  were adventurous trips, other times, they were more subdued, but they always made it fun and didn’t wallow in his loss.  They found a way to see through the pain of the loss to celebrate life: his and theirs.  

 

Then, a few years later, Amy found love again and got remarried.  She and her new husband were enjoying the early days of this marriage and looking forward to their life together.  But then, tragedy struck yet again.  This time, her new father-in-law was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. She was then faced with the anticipation of the loss of someone else she was close to – as well as the anticipation of having to help her new husband cope with the loss of his parent.  The pain she, of course, knew all too well.  This is when Amy decided she was really going to have to pull from all the mental strength she could find.

 

Amy initially wrote the original list of “13 Things…” for herself.  She speaks of doing it as a reminder to herself of how to successfully cope.  She was working as a therapist and was good at helping others find their mental strength, but she discovered that focusing on what to do worked for a while, but she found “not so healthy” habits creeping in to sabotage her. The list helped her understand that she would/could survive these losses. Then, she realized others might benefit from the list and this is when the list took on a life of its’ own.  She posted the article on Lifehack.org (you can read it here ).  The list went viral within a few hours.  The traffic generated from the article shut the page down!   It was then re-posted on several other sites, including Forbes.com where it set a record at over 10 million views!  To this day, it is still one of their most viral posts.

 

It was after all this web attention, that Amy was approached by Harper Collins publishing house and asked to turn the list into a book.  So, that’s exactly what she did.  The book went on to become a bestseller.  I think many people related to her story of strength and perseverance and found her advice practical and actionable.  

 

Here is the list of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”

 

  1. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves,
  2. They don’t give away their power, 
  3. They don’t shy away from change, 
  4. They don’t waste energy on things they can't control,
  5. They don’t worry about pleasing everyone,
  6. They don’t fear taking calculated risks,
  7. They don’t dwell on the past,
  8. They don’t make the same mistakes over and over,
  9. They don’t resent other people’s success,
  10. They don’t give up after the first failure,
  11. They don’t fear time alone,
  12. They don’t feel the world owes them anything,  and
  13. They don’t expect immediate results.

Amy talks of our mental capabilities as a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened.  I also subscribe to this thinking.  One of my favorite things to work on with my clients is helping them build their mental strengths, or resiliency traits.  We are all born with part of our personality predetermined by our genetics.  How the other part of our personality developed is thought to be determined by how we are nurtured.  As we are growing up, we receive certain messages about how we should or shouldn’t deal with stress, upset, disappointment, as well as love, happiness and all the rest of our emotions.  Those messages are internalized and stored as fact, even if they are not in our best interest.  For instance, I learned as a child that when I am stressed out I should eat to make myself feel better, which led to a struggle with weight as an adult due to my engagement int his self-soothing behavior.  I've had to learn to fight against what fact that although not true, nor in my best interest.  

 

Amy Morin’s “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” takes a refreshing spin on how to overcome struggle and, in her case, multiple losses.  Amy’s list resonates with many of us I believe because collectively we have been focusing on what “to do” or what we “should do”.  When we don’t “do” what we are “supposed to do to be healthy”, we end up feeling like a failure. However, Amy’s list focuses on “what not to do”.  Such a different way of thinking! I say this because when we  twist up, say, #11. “They don’t fear time alone” into the “You should do this” type of list, it becomes “They are comfortable being alone”.  Somehow not fearing something feels much different than “you should be comfortable” with something.   That way of thinking can set many people up for failure.   I believe if we re-wrote the list  from the “what to do” perspective, it would start to sound like “Mentally strong people just do more then you when you are tired of trying”.  Not very empowering.  

 

Strengthening those emotional muscles to help you become stranger and more resilient takes active work.  I’ll leave you with this.   The work can be tough, but if your perspective is accepting and forgiving of yourself, reminding yourself of what not to do can feel achievable.  

Resources

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do Amazon.com

Amy Morin's website

5 Powerful Exercises to Increase your Mental Strength Amy Morin

7 Ways Mentally Strong People Handle Stress More Effectively Amy Morin

http://feeds.soundcloud.com/stream/-coachingthroughchaos-006-amys-list-train-your-brain-for-mental-strength.mp3
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