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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Small Gains Make a Big Difference

 I came across this quote this morning. It seemed to be speaking to me specifically.

“You only have to be a little bit better than most in what you do. Just a little smarter, just a little steadier, just a little more energetic, or whatever other prime quality is demanded in your field. If successes admitted this, they would not have cause to feel so conceited; and if the aspirants recognized this, they would not have cause to feel so left behind at the starting line.” Sydney J. Harris “Success is just a little more effort” from his column Strictly Speaking

We don’t have to change the world in order to change the world. Small steps will get us there. I have been working on a new writing project and, frankly, became bogged down. I was overwhelmed with the WHOLE thing, rather than concentrating on just a single part or two.

Following up on Harris’ quote, we are often MORE successful with something that is just a little bit improved over the status quo than something that is totally different and radical. Folks are leary of things that are too radical, but they will consider something that is better, but still familiar. Wendy’s hamburgers still looked and tasted like hamburgers, but the square patty was a refreshing change. Dave Thomas tied in the notion of a “square meal,” and the rest is marketing history.

Never underestimate the value that a small contribution can make to the bigger picture.

James Sutton, Pychologist 

July 30, 2007 Posted by | Inspirational | Leave a comment

A BIG Wake-up Call

While at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association earlier this month in San Diego, I attended an excellent training session put on by Toastmasters Golden Gavel winner (2000), Ed Tate. His session dealt with using real-life stories in a speech or presentation.

Ed shared that an effective story has four parts:

1. An opening thought

2. A “connection” to the audience

3. Humor (this one is not always necessary or appropriate)

4. A closing point or message

Here’s the story I developed in the session. It had to relate to a very recent event, and it had to come together in two minutes or less. That’s a challenge, but it’s not really as difficult as it sounds.


Few things touch us more deeply that our families and our relationships with them. I suppose that’s why Father’s Day, 2007, was so special to me. Everyone was at our house for lunch after church, everyone except our daughter’s husband. He was in the Middle East.

Our daughter slipped into the office after lunch and emailed some new photos of the baby to her husband.

Later that evening, I was checking my email. One line on the Yahoo news briefs caught my attention. I clicked on it. The article reported that a bus full of police instructors had been bombed in Kabul, Afghanistan, about twelve to fourteen  hours earlier. Over five dozen individuals were killed in the blast, most of them American.

Interesting, I thought. My son-in-law was also in Afghanistan.

Interesting, also, he was in Kabul at the time. (He was in transit to another location, but in Kabul at the time of the bombing.)

And he’s a police instructor.

And he’s DEFINITEY an American!

Can you recall ever having that moment of shock and disbelief when a lightning bolt tears a hole in your stomach?

“Oh, he couldn’t have been with that group,” I remembered saying to myself. But it was more than obvious that he could have been.

I remember praying, “Lord, please, please, let it not be him.” But what did that mean? Was God somehow supposed to spare my daughter’s husband at the expense of someone else’s husband? This wasn’t a “spare everyone” situation; men had already died.

What do you do when you feel absolutely and totally helpless?

The article shared how the authorities were having a difficult time identifying the bodies. Since this could take some time, I decided not to say anything to my daughter about it just yet. There was no need to compound her concern anymore than necessary until more information was available.

I was at her house a day later. I asked her if he had gotten the pictures she had emailed. She smiled and shared that he had, and that he was especially fond of the picture that showed off his son’s first tooth.

Well, I had my answer in that moment; he was fine. The effects of the bombing were quite real indeed; lives and families had been affected to the core. But my daughter’s husband had not been involved.

I managed to learn a few things from this whole situation, and I am making effort to act on them. Perhaps you will find them helpful also:

1. We might think otherwise most of our lives, but none of us are ever completely exempt from what happens in this world. Tragedy is not reserved for others only; even the innocent suffer sometimes. That’s just the way it is, and we are not going to change it. If we fail to understand this, our recovery from deep pain and loss can be seriously affected. 

2. We need not be selfish in our empathy. Just because my son-in-law was spared shouldn’t detract from the fact that others were not. An expression of caring and empathy, even toward folks we don’t know, is a good thing.  

3. We should all make it a point to never have any unfinished business with our loved ones. (I think I was alright on this one.) Life is a precious and fragile thing. Opportunities to reconcile, embrace and reaffirm might be more limited than we think.


Have a great week.

James Sutton, Psychologist   

July 21, 2007 Posted by | adversity, family, Inspirational, Parents | 2 Comments

A Foot on the Dinner Table

I was addressing a group of adults this morning and happened to throw them this challenge:

“What would you think if you were at a nice dinner with about nine or ten other folks, and one of them puts their bare foot on your table?”

The general consensus was they’d be pretty disgusted. Their facial gestures indicated that, if that happened at their table, dinner would be OVER whether they had finished eating or not.

“But what if that person had no arms?” I asked.

That changes everything, doesn’t it?  It takes our preconceived notions and removes them from the picture.

This describes just one of my experiences last week at the annual convention of the National Speakers Association. One of my tablemates had no arms. He ate with his feet. He also drank with his feet and took conference notes with his feet. He even wrote a book with his feet. Amazing.

This man, a Canadian, is a very successful speaker on the topic of dealing with adversity. People will listen to this man. He walks his talk.

What an inspiration. And I think I’m having a tough day when I have a sore throat.

I’m very clear on the fact that no rational person ASKS to tackle the challenges of this world without his arms. But things happen and life sometimes throws us some huge challenges. What we do with them is a measure of our character, our resolve and our resiliency.

Encourage a young person today. And have a great and blessed week.

James Sutton, Psychologist


July 15, 2007 Posted by | adversity, Inspirational, Self-esteem | 1 Comment

Tolerance Can Be Tough Sometimes

“I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” Charles Schultz

The creator of “Peanuts” probably was smiling when he said this. But there’s still a lot of truth in it. On balance, people are pretty decent, but that description doesn’t apply to everyone.

I attended a meeting once where a speaker shared: “Stay away from negative people; they’ll just drag you down.” So true.

 Unforunately, you can’t stay away from ALL negative people. You might be related to a few of them. But you can tactfully minimize your exposure to them.

Sounds like advice regarding exposure to radiation, doesn’t it? Well, don’t negative people “radiate” us with their negativity? Minimize your exposure, and teach your children to do it also.

Wisdom from the “Peanuts” Man. And pretty good wisdom at that. 

James Sutton, Psychologist

July 9, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | 2 Comments

A Time to Trust?

FlagFlagAs we enjoy a holiday that honors freedom, how do we regard trust?

On a purely personal level most all of us have purchased a new alarm clock or set an alarm on a clock in a hotel room. Then we would ponder as we prepared to sleep if this unfamilar device was REALLY going to wake us up in time to make an important meeting or job interview.

Listen, I’ve set SEVERAL alarms just to be sure ONE of them would work!

I had a similar experience recently on a trip to New York state. I was flying into Burlington, Vermont, there to take a rental car to the New York side of Lake Champlain. The trip to my destination involved working a lot of Vermont back roads. I had a map, but the sponsor had rented a Hertz vehicle with the NeverLost GPS navigation system in it.

I had a choice: tough it out with the map or put some trust in this electronic gizmo. I figured that, since I had a little time to spare, I’d take on the adventure of NeverLost. Programming the thing was easy enough.

I pulled out of the airport. The screen on the NeverLost showed a pink line I was to follow. But I still managed to take a wrong turn. “Please proceed to the designated route,” a voice told me. Well, I managed to get lost within NeverLost; I didn’t get back to the route quickly enough to please the lady in the little green box attached to the dash.

“Reconfiguring.” (That’s a fancy way of saying, “Listen, Dummy, stay where you are and we’ll bring the pink line to YOU.”)

Actually, I got the hang of it pretty quickly. I pulled into my hotel just as the lady in the green box said, “You have arrived at your destination.”

Pretty cool. And it worked even better the next day.

But it took a measure of trust to let the device direct me, and to be reasonably comfortable it would put me close to my night’s lodging rather than to the bottom of a very big lake.

Trust, an interesting concept. Since this is a blog about lifting up young people, how do we teach our children to deal with issues of trust. To blindly trust everyone is dangerous, but to never trust anyone is to wear a blanket of discomfort and misery all the time.

I’ve heard of parents teaching their children that they shouldn’t ever trust anyone. But is that really all that wise? There will be those times when even staying alive involves trust.

Trust, it seems, is not an all or nothing entity. We have to temper it with judgement, and temper judgement with experience that is sometimes learned the hard way. Anyway, it’s something to think about.

Have a safe and blessed Fourth of July and after, and don’t forget:

“Please proceed to the designated route.”

James Sutton, Psychologist

July 4, 2007 Posted by | Counselors, Educators, family, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem | Leave a comment