Ep 208: Motivation, Dedication and the Warrior Mentality

D.J. Vanas, author of The Warrior Within, reveals how teens can find purpose, develop resilience, and maintain motivation by adopting the community-focused mentality of a Native American Warrior.

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Full show notes

What comes to your mind when you think of a warrior? A sweaty, grizzled hunk swinging a sword around? A brave air force pilot in aviator sunglasses? 

Although we might think warriors are battle-hungry and reckless, some traditional Native American cultures have a completely different view. Instead, Warriors are pillars of the community: service-oriented, passionate, and hard-workers who are always ready to give back to those they love. No matter our cultural background, this version of a warrior is something our teens can take inspiration from. 

To help us pass on this new warrior mentality to our kids, we’re speaking with D.J. Vanas, member of the Ottawa Tribe of Michigan and author of The Warrior Within: Own Your Power to Serve, Fight, Protect, and Heal. D.J. is a powerhouse speaker for Fortune 500 companies, hundreds of tribal nations, and audiences nationwide. His ideas have been adopted by companies like Disney, P&G, Intel, and even NASA!

This week, D.J. explains how teens can embody a warrior mentality and define their values, vision, passions, and purpose in the process. We’re also highlighting the difference between good and bad growing pains, and discussing how teens can stay focused in a world full of distractions.

Values and Vision

To give back to their communities, kids first need to figure out what exactly it is they want to contribute! The first step is for teens to define their values, says D.J. 

Some teens want a life that incorporates love and compassion. Others may be driven by curiosity or the need for intellectual discovery. Whatever their values are, teens will benefit from deciding which principles to live their life by! This can help them pick and choose what people, places and things they want to welcome into their life–and which  ones can be respectfully removed. When we know what our values are, we can eliminate the things that don’t align with them!

D.J. also encourages teens to ask themselves the big questions: What do I want to create in this world? What do I want to leave behind? How do I want to be remembered? Although these questions can feel intimidating or scary, D.J. reminds us that warriors are courageous! If teens are brave enough to ask these questions, they’ll be one step closer to uncovering their purpose.

Some teens do know what they want to do with themselves… but don’t have the confidence to believe in their dreams. D.J. and I talk about how this lack of confidence often comes from being criticized or put down by others. Young kids are so certain that they’ll become an astronaut or the president of the United States, but are dissuaded as they grow up, leading them to feel incapable or lost by their teen years. In our interview, D.J. reveals how we can help teens push past this criticism and believe in themselves!

For teens still figuring it all out, there’s bound  to be some growing pains involved. Some pain is healthier than others, however! D.J. and I are discussing what healthy growing pain looks like, and how teens can work through it and come out on top.

Persevering Through Growing Pains

Good growing pain is the kind that helps teens learn. It pushes them to become stronger, more resilient people, says D.J. Disappointment, embarrassment and failure are all painful experiences, but they're necessary for growth. 

But when teens focus too much on these painful experiences and allow the hurt to take over their lives, they can shut down, lose their creativity and find themselves at a dead end. This is the bad pain, says D.J., and it’s characterized by rumination and fear. 

D.J. explains that fear plays a big role in our lives as we’re growing up, and it’s up to teens to face it with courage. He explains that fear can sometimes cause teens to rewrite reality and believe they’re doomed! When a classmate or teacher criticizes  teens' work, they might let their fear of failure overwhelm them, and get stuck in a pattern of believing they’re not good enough. But if they have the courage to be resilient in the face of rejection, they’ll pick up their pen and start again, leading them to grow instead of getting stuck. Warriors are persistent enough to power through painful experiences–and your teen can too!

If we want to help teens face their negative emotions, D.J. recommends that we bring some positivity into the picture. He suggests we point out their strong qualities, applaud their hard work and praise their dedication, even when they’re facing failure! This reminds them just how capable they really are. In the episode, D.J. and I discuss more ways you can help a teen who’s feeling bogged down by negativity.

For teens in today’s world, focus can be a challenge as well. D.J. is helping us see how a warrior mentality can help teens cut out distractions and stay motivated.

Maintaining Motivation

Between school, SAT prep, soccer practice and student government, It’s easy for teens to overbook themselves. It’s hard to focus on any one thing…and having 24/7 access to the distracting internet doesn't help. D.J. suggests that kids learn how to say no to things that aren’t aligned with their values and purpose, like a true warrior! This keeps teens from getting overwhelmed and allows them to focus on what’s really important to them. When we focus on the right thing, we can create something incredible…but when we try to focus on everything, we often end up with nothing, says D.J.

D.J. and I talk a lot about motivation in our interview–and how it has to come from within. Friends, bosses and teachers won’t give teens the motivation they need; they have to create it themselves. Intentionally developing the right habits and surrounding themselves with the other motivated people will help teens keep their motivation going! In our interview, D.J. and I discuss how parents’ praise can be helpful to a teen who’s struggling to stay motivated or focused.

When someone is expecting us to deliver, we often work harder and achieve more than we ever would on our own, says D.J. This is called accountability, and it has a pretty powerful effect on our productivity! D.J. proposes that parents hold teens accountable for achieving their goals…and ask teens to hold parents accountable as well! This two-way system helps teens learn responsibility and creates a bond of accountability between parent and child, says D.J. 

In the Episode…

D.J is such an intelligent and powerful individual, and his brilliance shines through in today’s episode! On top of the topics mentioned above, we also talk about:
  • How we can benefit from mentoring others
  • What questions we can ask besides “how was school?”
  • How teens can find their tribe
  • Why self care is essential when caring for others
If you enjoy this week’s episode, you can find more from D.J. at nativediscovery.com. Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to share and subscribe and we’ll see you next week!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
D.J. Vanas
D.J. Vanas
Speaker, best-selling author, enrolled member of the Ottawa Tribe who inspires people and organizations to practically apply the warrior spirit at work.
Ep 208: Motivation, Dedication and the Warrior Mentality
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