Ep 117: The Warrior Challenge For Kinder, More Courageous Teens

Episode Summary

John Beede, author of The Warrior Challenge, sheds light on how to help instill values of kindness, courage, and grit in our young people. Plus, how to approach masculinity in a healthy way that benefits everyone.

Topics covered: topics1

Show NotesParenting ScriptsInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

When your kids have moved out and are facing the world every day on their own, you won’t be there to tell them how to act–they’ll have to rely on their values. As a parent, leaving your kid with principles to live by can be a critical part of raising decent, self sufficient individuals!  If we can help kids prioritize kindness, respect, responsibility and honesty, we give them the key to a bright future.

But how do we teach values to our kids in a way that sticks? Even when we know what exactly  we want to teach to them, how can we get them to listen? Teens might not want to hear your opinion, and even if they do, it can be difficult to really show them how positive values create a better life. When it really comes down to it, imparting the right principles on kids feels just about as hard as making it to the top of Mount Everest!

Luckily, today we’re talking to somebody who has made it to the top of Everest. He’s also been struck by lightning, swam with great white sharks, survived an attack from a five foot iguana…and has a lot of insight when it comes to raising resilient teens with strong values. His name is John Beede, and he’s the author of The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up With Kindness, Courage and Grit.  

John speaks to share how his character and values have allowed him to accomplish amazing things–and teach how teens that they can do the same. In our interview we’re talking about how teenagers can be  more comfortable being vulnerable, shed toxic friendships in favor of healthy ones, and harness the power of grit to accomplish anything they set their minds to.

The Value of Vulnerability

It can be tough for anyone to talk about their feelings, especially young people and especially young men. In our society, there’s often a pervading mentality that we need to power through hard times on our own without accepting help. However, if we want to raise kids who can be happy and healthy on their own, John stresses how important it is to encourage kids to be vulnerable about their feelings–and value their own mental health

To demonstrate what he means, John shares a story in our interview about a deeply disturbing encounter he had while climbing  Mount Everest. The incident left him with trauma, which he buried deep down in order to be “strong”. Over time, however, he began to feel haunted by the experience despite his repeated attempts to suppress it.  In the episode, he shares the powerful moment that made him realize that it was time for him to seek some therapy.

Once he was able to get the help he needed, John realized how important it was to incorporate the value of vulnerability to his teachings.  It takes  a lot of courage, he says, but it can do wonders for teens to speak about how they feel. This can include sharing more of their emotions with  friends and family or in a more serious case,  speaking to a trained professional. 

This idea can bleed into things like conflict resolution; if teens are able to express their feelings, they’ll be better off when it comes to things like setting boundaries. In the episode, John and I talk more about how teens can learn to express when they’re feeling sad, mad, or scared to create healthier relationships.  

This isn’t all John has to say about how practicing the right values can lead to more fulfilling relationships, however. There’s lots more in the episode about ditching toxic friendships to make room for positive, gainful ones.

Cutting Ties to Toxic People

When it comes to helping your kid develop strong values, there’s a lot of power in who they align themselves with. If they surround themselves with those who lift them up and help them become their best selves, they’ll be able to take on the world with confidence in who they are and what they believe in.

In our interview, John shares the three part checklist every teen should use when deciding whether or not to allow someone into their inner circle. This includes picking people who push them to reach their full potential, making sure friends have their back through thick and thin, and rejecting anyone who doesn’t respect whatever boundaries your teen chooses to set. 

John also speaks extensively on how teens can detect and eject toxic individuals from their lives to create a happier existence. To do this, John suggests teens embark on some personal reflection to consider how friends or significant others make them feel. Does your teen feel like they’ve changed for the worse as a result of being friends with this person? Is your teen no longer interested in things they used to love since they began allowing this person to take up significant amounts of time in their life?

When teens are able to ask these questions, they can make progress towards surrounding themselves only with people who make them feel great. And when they feel great, they’ll become stronger, more capable people–people who embody John’s definition of grit.

What “Grit” Really Means

The word “grit” appears in the title of John’s book, so it’s clearly an important value he hopes to impart on the youth. However, when it comes to defining what grit actually means, John’s opinion differs from some. While others might see it as continuously (and stubbornly) pursuing the same method until they succeed at the task at hand, John believes grit comes down thinking outside the box and stepping outside of what’s comfortable.

As Einstein once said, repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity! Instead, John says grit comes down to knowing when it’s time to switch things up and try something new. If you’ve been trying to confront your teen about a specific topic to no avail, it might be time to go to a teacher, therapist, or other mentor. If your teen is struggling to pass their history class, don’t give up! Maybe there’s a tutor or an online resource out there for them you may not be considering.

John explains that another valuable component of grit is remaining present. It’s so easy to backtrack and waste energy thinking about the past or analyzing the future, but if your teen really wants to battle their demons and accomplish their wildest dreams, they’ll have to first take on what’s right in front of them.

In our interview, John shares some stories from real life heroes who exemplified the true meaning of grit to embrace seemingly insurmountable odds and come out on top. When it comes to values, teens might not know who they are yet. By listening to positive voices like John’s (and their parents, of course), they can become stronger individuals who live by their own principles.

In the episode…

John’s brilliant, adventurous spirit shines through this week as he shares his advice for imparting values on teens. On top of the ideas mentioned above, we discuss

  • Why it’s important to talk to teens about pornography
  • How you can help your teen develop “infinity muscles”
  • What to do when teens express toxic masculinity
  • Why it’s valuable for teens to have role models

While it can be tricky to get teens to adopt the right principles for living life, John is here to help. And what better time to start than the coming new year! We’ll see you next week…

Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen

1. Instead of telling your kid to ‘toughen up’, try:

“Hey, what would [your teen’s hero] do right now?”

-John Beede

2. Make sure to use emotions instead of accusations:

(Members Only)

3. Make sure to use emotions instead of accusations:

(Members Only)

4. Preface a request for behavior change with the current effect on your emotions:

(Members Only)

5. Use emotions to ask for a behavior change:

(Members Only)

Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: The book is The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit. There’s eight amazing stories in here from really cool guys throughout history, doing some really awesome stuff. Also, there are lessons that you can learn, but also tactics that you can apply to really start to think about who you want to be, what being a man means to you and how you can navigate through childhood and adolescence to develop a healthy sense of masculinity.

Andy: So I’m super excited to hear about how this came about. This is not your first book. You’ve been doing this before. So how did you get into doing this and what inspired this particular book?

John: Yeah, those are great questions. Thanks for having me on. I’ll say right off the bat, that if anybody’s listening who’s not a guy, this is just as important as a conversation so that you can understand the guys who are in your life and understand what they’re up to and what they’re dealing with in the world.

John: So why did this book come about? There were two stories that collided. I wanted to write a book that was here’s how to basically be a bad-ass as a guy. Here’s how to crush it at everything you do in life, which is what we call a really masculine energy. Right? Well, the publisher Penguin Random House, their intention was they didn’t want essentially a MeToo 2.0 to happen in the future.

John: So their angle was how do we raise a generation of young men who appreciate understand and respect others who aren’t the same as them and navigate through the world with a healthy understanding of women and people who are not at the same sexuality or race. That was their primary motivation.

John: The more I understood that and researched and grasped what they were coming from, I was like, “Yes, this is so needed and important.” And the more that they understood and took time to listen to why I think that guys still need to have the sense of getting stuff done, the more we understood that the stronger book it became. So it doesn’t say just eliminate everything that makes a guy classically, but it says how do you use this strength and power that you have to improve the lives of others and to look after yourself in a great way and to look after those who in your world with all these natural strengths that guys are born with.

Andy: What would you say are those natural strengths?

John: I think that guys grow up with a sense of power that they need to act, they needed to do something and we all have it within us to protect. I guess when I say natural strengths, I more mean like these energies that we have or these inclinations. Previously in cultures we had these rites of passages where go hunt a lion and that’ll prove that you’re a man.

Andy: Yeah. Go tie yourself to a palm tree and jumped down. You have some great examples in here, I thought of some really interesting kind of rites of passage from different cultures.

John: Those were the training wheels for here’s what to do with these natural strengths or these energies that guys are born with. We have this thing that we want to do. We want to have a task, a mission, a mountain to climb or something to hunt.

Andy: Conquer something.

John: Conquer it.

Andy: You just got to do it.

John: We threw out the baby with the bath water because we got rid of these rites of passages, but we also threw out the point of them, because now like jumping out of a tree with a vine tighter on your leg, that doesn’t serve any purpose. You’re just kind of like silly. Well, then it was like, “Can you hunt animals and bring back food for the people? And if not, you’re not good here. You’re dead weight.”

John: Well, what are the challenges that are facing our culture today and how do we raise young men so that they can handle themselves against these challenges and still look after others? So that’s what these eight quests are all about. This book teaches how do you step up as a man? How do you be self-aware to understand what’s really going on in yourself and also to understand how you’re impacting others.

John: What are the values that you’re going to live by? Are you courageous enough to be vulnerable with the right people when things are actually hurting? Can you set boundaries for yourself to improve your relationships and to protect your own needs? Are you able to be gritty and tough and get through it? Can you stop toxic relationships and not be a toxic human being? Those are the messages of the book that as you mentioned, they’re paired with role models. guys who exemplified these traits in the craziest most awesome ways.

John: I mean, you’ve seen it. You read this book and you’re jumping over the Great Wall of China. You’re off-road racing in Mexico. You’re climbing in Yosemite up a 3,000 foot rock face. You’re in Antarctica hunting seals. You’re an NFL player. You’re like in the civil war. I mean, it is some crazy cool stories that these guys had to live by these traits in order to succeed at their quests. And I put the reader in their shoes as a rite of passage.

Andy: And you write that, it boils down to three qualities, mastery of your mind, mastery of your heart, and mastery of your guts.

John: Yeah. So there’s three training phases and that’s what they are. Training phase one is weapons mastery. That’s like how do you master yourself? And that’s master your mind in this example. Next is your defensive upgrades is what I call them in the warrior language and that’s mastery of your heart or how do interact with other people? Then mastery of your guts, that’s battleground selection. How do you choose a purpose and a mission in your life that is significant and meaningful and will improve the existence of everybody around you because of this purpose that you’ve determined is yours.

Andy: Talk to me about growing infinity muscles. What are they and why do we need them?

John: Great question. So growing infinity muscles is this idea that whatever challenge comes your way, you can see that it’s happened apart from reactivity. And what I mean by that is usually something happens and we instantly react. Somebody-

Andy: React before you even think about it, yeah.

John: Before you even think about it. It’s like you press a button and it hits a lever and you just start doing whatever it is that your mental programming has to do.So infinity muscles are when you’re able to take that split second pause and choose the best method to respond by choice versus reaction. And by doing that, you become a better person with intentionality. So you grow each time that you do that and you’re able to more easily choose that intentional response versus reacting, and that’s how you essentially become a superhero over time.

Andy: So are there any ways that we can as parents help our kids learn or grow their own infinity muscles?

John: First thing I would say is give them this book and read chapter two with them. Read challenge two. And I don’t mean that as a sales pitch as much as it might sound like that, like just saying that, but this chapter shows here’s how to do a body scan. Here’s how to quickly scan over your physicality in order to see what’s going on in your emotions. This chapter shows here’s how to do breath work, to calm yourself down and how to energize yourself.

John: It gives a professional skateboarder as an example, who launched himself over the Great Wall of China and he was self-aware in this moment because he had a broken ankle. His ankle was broken. And he then launches down the biggest skate ramp ever created on the first one.

Andy: Not just once too.

John: Yeah, wipes out. And then he’s like, “No, I’m better than that,” because he was self-aware. He does a 360 over the skate ramp, sticks the landing, hits the quarter pipe that follows, goes 70 feet in the air, and it’s just this insane story of this guy who had to calm his breathing, not react to these messages he was getting of, “You can’t do this. You got to stop.” Everybody around him saying like, “You don’t have to do this.” And he made that intentional choice.

John: So how can parents help the young men in their life or their children, girls too to do this? You can say, “I’m going to learn this stuff myself first, and when my kid me off, I’m not going to react, but I’m going to learn to find that space where I respond.” And if you do that first as an example, your kids are going to pick up on it and you can talk them through what’s going on even in your own struggles in the moment like, “Here’s what mom’s going through. Here’s what dad’s going through right now. Here’s how I’m choosing to respond to this. I’m really pissed this is what I would normally react and how I wanted to act, but this is the better way to act.” That’s how as a parent, you can help kids to become self-aware.

Andy: I like this book because you bring in all these other role models who are really easy to look up to as a guy because they’re super manly and they’re doing this awesome stuff, but they also have these higher level skills that are the next level of masculinity, I think. Sometimes it’s hard to hear things from mom and dad and sometimes we don’t actually have the skills to be able to teach them. So being able to look at these people who exemplify these traits, like you say, is really helpful.

John: I’ve heard stories from parents who read this with their kids. Instead of saying like, “Hey, it’s time to toughen up,” they ask instead, “Hey, what would Ernest Shackleton do right now?” Because they’ve read the book, kids read the book. “Oh yeah, that’s my hero. What would he do?” Then they process it and then they remember the lesson. Or what would Danny Way do right now? Any of these stories of these guys, it’s like an easy example to point to and just ask that question of your son or your student. If you’re a teacher just like, “What would these examples do?” And it anchors these values to real life people.

Andy: Yeah, right. We remember things in stories, I think so much better than we remember just facts. So to have these lessons paired with the stories makes them really memorable and impactful. One of the themes that comes up a lot on this podcast is values, and I like where you talk about values, you have a whole list of values and you say talk about picking the values that feel most authentic to you. You say your top values are presence, radical honesty, compassion, courage, and environmental consciousness. How can we help our teenagers to figure out what values are most authentic to them?

John: I like the idea of creating a warrior creed with your teenager. I grew up as a boy scout and we had this motto that we set at every meeting. And I can still repeat it today. We had the scout oath and law, and these are still things that stick with me. If you look at special forces, each branch of the military has a creed that they memorize and repeat and know with the fullness of who they are, they embody that creed.

John: So to create that warrior creed with your son is an incredibly powerful exercise because it creates your own family’s way of approaching the world. So there’s a template for this in the book in challenge three. And going through that exercise of saying first picking out what your top five values are and then plugging them into a statement that is your family’s way of being warriors in the world is such an incredibly powerful exercise.

Andy: And it puts you just in the mindset of thinking about what’s important to me and how do I want to live? Looking as I’ve been reading this book, it’s gotten me thinking about that. Then I saw something just the other day that was like a Native American saying that was the saying that every time the sun sets, it takes a piece of your life with it and we should make the most of every day because you can’t get it back. That just really struck me after reading this book and thinking about my values, that that’s an important value for me.

Andy: But I think getting in the mindset of thinking about values like that especially as a family where you start just noticing things like that and collecting them and adding them to your creed or however you want to do it is cool.

John: If somebody is listening right now and thinking like, “Who’s this crazy mountain climber guy who is going to tell my family how to think and believe?” That’s not at all what it is. This is me asking you to choose what your own values are and that’s up to you completely. So I’m not being prescriptive here of these are the values you have to live by, instead I’m saying determine what they are for yourself and in your family and in your people, your tribe so to speak. Figure out what protects and looks after those who are there and how you want to show up for each other and make that your creed, make that your statement of how we will live.

Andy: You write about a TED Talk that you gave, that you had a little bit of an interesting experience that happened during this TED Talk. Can you talk about that?

John: Of course. It was a TEDx Talk and little bit is an understatement of an interesting experience. It was a pretty life-changing moment for me. I had just finished climbing Everest and I thought that I was going to give this speech like showing how much of a bad-ass I was on top of the mountain and conquered this peak. What happened while I was climbing was I came across a climber who was on his last breath and he passed away. As far as I know, I was the last person to see him take a breath, but his team had left him for dead and I did everything I could to try and revive him.

John: After successfully climbing the mountain and getting back down, I never took the time to really process this. When I walked on stage, the stage lights reminded me of the headlamps and I just had this incredible flashback moment of like a headlamp in my eyes, there’s the lights in my eyes on the stage and I was like in this other worldly moment where I thought that I was back on the mountain while I was still delivering this speech.

John: This was what I now recognize is post-traumatic stress disorder. I was experiencing all the symptoms and denying that I had anything going on. I was just going to keep toughing it out and going through it. A friend of mine, her name is Sandra, she noticed that something was up when I was giving the speech and I got through it to where I don’t think you would really know that anything was wrong if you didn’t know me. But those who did know me were like, “Yeah, something is up with John right now.”

John: She said something that has stuck with me forever. She said, “John, if you saw somebody who broke their leg and they kept trying to just walk around and pushing off that leg day after day, what would you tell them?” I said, “I would tell them they were being a fool like they’re just hurting themselves and doctors know how to put that back together. So why don’t they just go to a doctor and get the cast and fix it?”

John: She goes, “Exactly. There are doctors who know how to put hearts back together and get minds back in the place that they should be and are meant to function in, and you’re walking around with this broken leg, so to speak heart and you don’t need to be toughing it out like this because you can be good again.” There’s this thing in our society that we think that if somebody has some mental health condition that it’s permanent like they’re always going to be experiencing that. And is just not the case. Some need to be managed, yeah, but others are completely curable.

John: And that was my experience with posttraumatic stress where now I look at it as that was my time of post-traumatic growth and I became a better person as a result of that. And the courage that it took to go sit down on the couch at the therapist’s office and talk through these incorrect mental messages that I was having, that work built me into a better person than I ever would have otherwise been.

John: Now, I don’t qualify for any of the symptoms of PTSD, which is awesome. Now, I don’t have it. But it only is the case because I said, “Yeah, I need to put a cast on this leg. I need to go see that doctor.” Right?

Andy: And there’s something so masculine about just toughing it out and that we’re not supposed to show any weakness. So we should never have to have therapy or need anybody else’s help. So I think it’s really cool that you point out the opposite that it really takes a lot of strength and courage to do that.

John: Thank you. I agree with you entirely. It takes incredible strength and courage. And if anybody out there is going through something right now, and I think a lot of us in this time and in history, a lot of us are reaching out to the right people. Not just anybody. In that example, I went to a therapist who knew how to deal with trauma. You got to find the right people. It’s not like you’re like jumping on a bus and telling the bus driver all your struggles and problems.

Andy: Hey, I got problems. Yeah, right.

John: And sometimes it’s not your friend or it’s not your romantic partner.

Andy: Right, right.

John: Right? You can often create more problems in relationships like those because that person isn’t qualified and you got to find the right people to go to, and I think that the best place to start is a therapist office, and that’s terrifying for a lot of people where they say, “No, no, no. That’s not for me.” If it’s not for you, find the person that is for you, but I think that you’re kind of just putting a callous hard up and you’re just being ego defensive would be the argument I would really give somebody if they say, “I don’t want to talk to a therapist.”

Andy: Okay. I like your discussion of boundaries because boundaries are something that can be hard to set and maintain without kind of being a jerk. A masculine way to maintain your boundaries is to just say, “No, I’m not doing that. This is how it is.” Or to just kind of shut down and not really say anything at all or avoid the topic. It requires a lot of vulnerability and higher level communication skills, I think to be able to firmly set boundaries and maintain the relationship with someone while you still say, “Hey, this is what I’m willing to do and this is what I’m not willing to do.” And talking through it with people. So I guess, can you talk a little bit about how we can help our kids set better boundaries and teach them to enforce them?

John: Of course. And this is why self-awareness comes first because usually and I have this response too, we just want to be like, “No. Don’t do that anymore. Stop.”

Andy: “I don’t want to talk about this. I’m out of here.”

John: “I don’t want to talk about this.” Boom, shut down. And we think that’s setting a boundary, which is not at all what it is because boundaries are meant to reconnect and to open up a conversation. We think of boundaries like a wall and that’s not what they are at all when they’re done effectively. So first becoming self-aware, the objective there is to identify or see with clarity what emotion you’re feeling when somebody does something that you don’t want to have happen anymore.

John: So we really simply do this. Just think: our three primary negative emotions are sad, mad, and scared. And simply by stating that, one of those three, and it doesn’t have to be like, “I have a combination of trepidation with…” It doesn’t have to be like a huge vocabulary. It’s just sad, mad or sad or scared. Hey, when you showed up 25 minutes late I was about to leave because I was super mad. Can you please not do that again? Just by giving that emotion, you’re saying this is a negative feeling that I’m getting from this relationship with you. I would like that not to be the case anymore.

John: You can even say like I didn’t want to feel mad at you, but I ended up feeling upset. Can you make a bigger effort to be on time? Then the last part of it is to give the solution as though they had asked already how can I make it better?

Andy: I like that.

John: It’s like presenting, “Here’s how we can reconnect. Hey, when you don’t check in, when you say you’re going to be back at a certain time and I don’t know where you are, I get really scared because I love you. I care about you. I worry and I don’t want to worry. Would you send me a text if you’re ever going to be late coming home again?” There’s the solution provided. I mean, it’s really that like present the emotion and then present the solution, and being honest about what is the emotion for you? And then really thinking like what would improve this for me? And that’s all that self-awareness that has to come first. You’ve got to learn to be self-aware before you can effectively set boundaries.

About John Beede

John Beede is the author of three books including The Warrior Challenge, Climb On!, and The Mini-Manual for Becoming Super Awesome. John is a mountaineer, global adventurer, environmentalist, and keynote speaker. He has shared his motivational presentations and workshops to nearly one million live audience members in 48 U.S. states and 6 countries. He has given keynote speeches for national teen organizations including 4-H, FCCLA, FBLA, DECA, BPA, SkillsUSA, ScoutsUSA, FFA, Teen Institute, and the National Association of Student Councils.

John has climbed the tallest mountain on all seven continents, including Mount Everest. He’s traveled to more than seventy countries including Antarctica and he’s survived every classification of natural disaster. When he’s not traveling the world, John resides in Nevada.

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