Every Story Needs a Hero

Smiling students standing outdoors

(This article is from my other website, wwwJustSayNo.org.) Across the table, with coffee in hand, the police sargeant patiently answered all of my questions. As a Notre Dame grad, involved in thousands of drug arrests during an exceptional career that spanned three decades with the Columbus Division of Police, he was the perfect person to shed light on the growing problem of drug use among high school students. I wanted to learn as much as possible from him for my book, Seeing Past Friday Night.

The fundamental question

After a lengthy conversation, I asked a final question that he was uniquely qualified to answer. “You’ve witnessed it all,” I said. “You’ve seen the destruction, the incredible cost. You’re the one who explains to the parents why their child was arrested. The question is, why do some kids try drugs for the first time?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “They don’t know. They just say they weren’t thinking.”

“Okay, I get that,” I responded. “But, think about it … what is the real reason?”

This time he took longer and said, “It’s really hard to say. I can tell you what the parent’s reaction is, every single time.”

“What’s that?”

“Absolute shock. When I tell them that their 16 or 17 year old son or daughter was just arrested for selling drugs to support their own habit, they are absolutely shocked. They cannot believe it, which, of course, is understandable.”

(His words made me recall how many times parents say, “I gotta tell you, I would be absolutely shocked to find out that my kids were doing drugs.” The sargeant’s sobering words made me realize that just because parents would be absolutely shocked does not necessarily eliminate the possiblity that they will be one day.)

I pressed on with the question …

Apologizing for being stuck on this one question, I asked a third time. “Think about it. You’ve seen so many great kids from wonderful families go down a dangerous path during their high school years. In many cases, if they could only go back in time and make a better decision that first time they try drugs, their whole life might be so different.”

He pondered one more time, and after a long moment, shook his head and said, “Young or old, they all say the same thing. They just weren’t thinking.”

It finally struck me … 

Simple Isn’t Easy … Only Better!

Einstein often commented that unlocking the greatest mysteries of the universe would be useless unless you could make them be understandable to a young student.

math

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com

Don’t mistake simple for easy

It takes a lot of effort and creativity to reduce things to their most simple form.

The genius of Albert Einstein was not that he could comprehend so many of the complexities of space, time, gravity, and light. All scientists can do that. His genius was in his ability to simplify those complexities into an understandable theory of relativity.

Your Single Page Life Plan Should Not Be P.O.S.H.

Image of a white-gloved hand holding a wooden frame with the words Single Page Life Plan

The brilliance of a Single Page Life Plan© lies in its simplicity. It must never be P.O.S.H. – Perfect, Overloaded, Set in stone, or Hidden.

Photo courtesy of @iStockphoto.com

Perfect

Your life plan is not the Magna Carta! It is an important document—but it’s different. Your life plan is a blueprint of how you want to live your life. It forces you to identify your goals and strategies, and it makes it easier for you to gauge results and to stay accountable. However, it is not meant to be all-inclusive or perfect.

Mark Twain once said, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” So, don’t get mired down searching for a grand epiphany here. Just get things going in the right direction.

“I Wish I Had Smoked More Cigarettes!”

When I volunteer-speak to 7th and 8th graders, or to high school students, I make them this promise:

Cover of Seeing Past Friday Night

Nobody ever looks back on their high school years and says

“I wish I had smoked more cigarettes. I’d be up to a pack-a-day smoker by now!”

“I wish I had stayed out more often, drinking until  2:00 am in the morning.”

“I wish I had bought a bunch of drugs while in school.”

They don’t. And you won’t either.

Dodging Meteors While Creating Your Mission Statement

If you knew 10 years from now that you’d be hit by a meteorite , how would you spend those 10 years? Building an anti-meteor device, of course!

Photo of the Hoba Meteorite
Hoba Meteorite (this 60 ton meteorite, in the Otjozondjupa Region of Namibia, is the largest meteorite in a single piece, known on the earth’s surface) Courtesy iStockphoto.com

Your Mission (or Vision) Statement

Pretending that we might not live forever can be a motivation for creating a Single Page Life Plan©; for adding some intentionality to our lives. A good question to ask ourselves is this: A decade from now, how would I want somebody to describe that period of my life?  What must I focus on for this to happen?

40 Words or Less! Some Examples:

You make all of the choices when creating your life plan. It is unique to you. Your Vision Statement is the overarching purpose you see for your life. There is no right or wrong answer as long as it resonates with where you want to go. But, to create a laser-like focus, keep your Vision Statement short! 40 words or less.

For some brainstorming help, here are some examples …

Every Story Has a Hero

Teenage Rock Climber

Any author, screenwriter, or playwright will tell you that every story has a hero. The hero is on a journey. Then, a crisis occurs; an enormous threat or challenge that the hero must defeat or overcome. Out of a cast of characters, emerges a guide; an ally that comes alongside to help the hero. There are always high stakes and a call to action resulting in a climatic outcome, which always ends in failure or success.

For a story to resonate with us, it must always have these elements. Because, well, that’s life!

  • A Hero
  • A Journey
  • A Crisis
  • A Guide
  • High Stakes
  • A Call to Action
  • A Climactic Outcome

In this true-life story, you are the hero.

You might not think you’re a hero, because heroes do not always feel particularly heroic during their high school years. They haven’t even identified all of their super-powers yet! But, they do have super-powers. You do too. The problem is, those powers don’t always apply to what is important to you right now.

Some of your greatest skills and abilities that will help you become a great novelist, or entrepreneur, or firefighter, or nurse, or teacher, or Army Ranger, or songwriter are usually unrelated to scoring touchdowns or starring in the school play. You probably don’t want anyone telling you, “Don’t worry about that. Your day will come.” But what William Shakespeare wrote is very true: “We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

The Hero: Regardless of any limitations or challenges you have, you are truly designed for greatness. It is your birthright to dream heroic dreams.

The Journey: You are on a crucial journey in high school, with a cast of characters that includes new friends, new teachers, and new coaches. You have to juggle a changing physiology, peer pressure, and the emotional swings that occur when you ace a big test one day and get cut from the soccer team the next.

The Crisis/Threat: A storm is coming. A storm that can leave behind a path of incredible destruction. The single biggest threat to you living a powerful life is you making a bad decision regarding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

The Guides: Your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are your guides! If you are Rocky Balboa, then they are your trusted fight-trainer, Mickey, who prepared him to survive all 15 rounds. Think about it. They are the ones who are truly in your corner, rooting for you to triumph all 4 years!

The High Stakes: At stake is a loss of respect, DWI’s/DUI’s/OWI’s, lawyer fees, suffering grades, loss of car privileges, addiction, and a risk that your siblings will follow suit.

The Call-to-Action: The Just Say No Promise Agreement that spells out the terms and conditions required for you to defeat the threat and receive some added incentives along the way!

This Story’s Climatic Outcome: Rewards begin immediately and victory comes at graduation when you, the hero, shake hands with your guides on a job well done. Like all heroes, you will fulfill the best version of yourself, and your greatest reward will the strong example you give your siblings to follow.

The stakes are high. We root for the hero. We root for you!

Are you up for the challenge?

You are unique! Plan Accordingly with a Single Page Life Plan

An example of a Single Page Life Plan

It has been said by many people, in a variety of ways that people who don’t care where they are going, don’t need a road map. The rest of us, however, recognize the value of adding direction to our lives. Of setting a course that aims us towards our  dreams and aspirations.You are unique! Plan accordingly!

  • CEO’s need a business plan,
  • Coaches need a game plan,
  • Builders need an architectural plan,
  • Pilots need a flight plan,
  • Leaders need a life plan!

You need a Single Page Life Plan!

A Single Page Life Page is fast, simple, and life-changing. It is personal to you.  Choose:

  • A Mission Statement that you want to achieve,
  • Life Categories that give focus,
  • Action Steps that keep you on track
  • Coins you can spend
  • Attitudes you want to maintain,
  • Potholes you need to avoid, and
  • Skills you want to promote.

Avoid the Clutter! Priorities have to earn their way to page one!

Peripheries are not priorities. Peripheries in your life have to earn their way to page one. Until then, they are just distractions; they are clutter.