Ep 45: Troublesome Teenage Boys

Episode Summary

Bill Beausay, the author of Teenage Boys!, talks about how to build a strong connection with a tough teen and how to challenge teens to step up and handle their own problems. He also reveals how to teach manners to teens.

Show NotesParenting ScriptsWorkbook ExercisesInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

When it comes to parenting today’s teens, our goal is to raise our kids to be able to survive without us. We want to imbue our teens with the ability to adapt to whatever life throws at them. If we can give them the skills to make it as independent individuals, we can relax knowing that they’re well-adjusted, functional members of society.

The trick is finding the right techniques for parenting today’s teens to set them up for a life of adult decision making. We want to guide them and offer a helping hand, but we don’t want to shelter them too much. We want to inform them of the harsh realities of the world, but not expose them too much or too soon. How can we find the right approach to parenting today’s teens that allows us to be nurturing without coddling?

Our guest today is Bill Beausay, author of over 20 books on topics spanning from parenting troubled teenage boys to self-empowerment in the workplace. He’s here to talk about the process of parenting today’s teens, drawing on his parenting knowledge and his experiences as a clinical psychotherapist and counselor. Bill’s tactics provide unique and innovative ideas about parenting today’s teens can guide you as a parent to help teens navigate their transition to adulthood.

The Importance of Vulnerability

Bill takes the stance that teenagers are really adults, just without adult-levels of experience. They have the same needs, wants, and goals, but they’re not always wise or informed when it comes to decision making. They procrastinate, act without thinking, and are overall just messy! That doesn’t mean they’re not trying or not intelligent, they just haven’t learned yet.

When parenting today’s teens, try stepping into their shoes–after all, you were a teenager once too! Let them know that adult life may seem overwhelming, but it’s only a matter of learning and adapting. Share teenage memories of when you messed up or felt that there was something you’d never figure out. This helps your teen relate to you, understand your lesson, and feel at ease with their own decision making trials.

In fact, Bill says being vulnerable with your kids is one of the most beneficial things you can do when parenting today’s teens. Bill emphasizes that a lot of kids today aren’t used to having kind, truthful adults in their lives. He discusses that those parenting today’s teens have certain expectations to be emotionally removed from their children and to set boundaries. This ends up being problematic for both parties, however, because it keeps them from communicating effectively and finding common ground.

Reaching your Teen

Approaching your kids and talking to them with vulnerability can be hard, especially because teens often reject advice from adults. Bill suggests bringing up important topics in casual settings and situations. Instead of sitting them down and creating a lot of nervousness around the discussion, find an activity that the two of you can do together and bring up tricky topics while the two of you bond. If you can, spend some time with your teenager doing something you both enjoy, you’ll be able to find ways to talk about serious concepts without either of you becoming too overwhelmed or intimidated.

Similarly, Bill talks about how, when parenting today’s teens, we often resort to default modes of communication. Some default modes might look like saying no, using the same wording over and over, or repeating modes of communication or discipline to the point where kids just aren’t fazed anymore.

When parenting today’s teens, Bill encourages you to challenge those defaults and find new ways to communicate with your teen in order to really get your ideas through. Maybe you can try writing them a letter when the two of you argue, as a way to express your true feelings. Perhaps you can try texting them regularly as a new way to reach them. Try something new and change the way you communicate in order to remind them that you’re still there for them or to surprise them into really listening to what you have to say.

“You’ll Be Sorry” Technique

Bill emphasizes the importance of ensuring your children know that there are consequences for their actions. He shares a certain technique for parenting today’s teens in which you remind kids that certain decisions will result in feeling sorry about the consequences.

Here’s how it works. Say, for example, your son is refusing to clean the garage, even though he knows it’s his responsibility. Instead of tearing your hair out trying to get him to do it, just let him know that if he doesn’t, he’ll probably be sorry later. Then, later that day, when he asks for a favor or permission to do something, just tell him no. Remind of earlier, when you warned him that he’d be sorry.

This might sound mean, but Bill swears by its effectiveness for parenting today’s teens. It helps kids learn that when they don’t take care of their responsibilities, they miss out on the rewards. Life is unrelenting and requires you to take care of things when they need to be taken care of. Bill wants to teach teens that neglecting to do what is necessary can land you in a bad spot.

Unlike other, more punitive approaches of parenting today’s teens , this approach doesn’t require excessive punishment. It does not require raising your voice, and it doesn’t encourage nagging. Instead, it’s a simple and quick way to make your point and make sure your child understands. 

Helping Your Teenager Find Their Purpose

Growing up is hard. Part of that difficulty is considering what you are going to spend your life doing. Many teenagers think they know what they want one minute, yet change their mind as soon as they arrive at a conclusion. Others are entirely lost and unsure, seeing no path forward. As Mark Twain famously said, “I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.”

Bill says the important thing is just to start this journey somewhere. For example, he asked his daughter, who was having trouble deciding what to do with her future, to just name one thing––anything––that she wanted out of life. She responded by saying that she wanted to meet Brad Pitt. 

Although this isn’t necessarily a concrete life plan by any means, it’s an idea, a push in some direction. In order to meet Brad Pitt, said Bill, his daughter might have to move to California. She then had to consider if that’s something she’d like to do. Regardless of her subsequent choices, Bill got his daughter thinking about her future by asking simple but effective questions.

Bill also had an interesting experience with his son when it came time to help him decide what to do with his future. One day, he and his son were out in the front yard together, doing yard work. They saw a plane overhead, and his son was captivated by its presence. Bill asked his son if they wanted to follow it, so they did, chasing it all the way to the airport. When they got there, Bill’s son was interested in the mechanics of how airports run and how planes get into the air. His son ended up becoming a pilot, a job he still has to this day.

By recognizing your teen’s interests and encouraging them to think about what they want out of life, you can help them discover their true purpose. Even if they seem to have no direction, remind them to ask themselves critical questions about what they enjoy and what makes them curious.

But Wait, There’s More!

All these ideas about parenting today’s teens and more are discussed in this episode. Bill’s got a lot of valuable insight when it comes to raising teens, and listening to his advice can teach us how to get our kids going on successful adult lives!

We cover:

  • The five motivators for young men
  • Why some kids are eager to leave home, while others stick around
  • How you can find a “Nugget of Agreement” in every argument
  • How to help you children find mentors
  • Why it’s harmful to tell kids what they need

Enjoy listening!

Parenting Scripts

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

1.  Say something vulnerable so your teen will feel comfortable talking to you:

“Does Anything out there make you afraid? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night just terrified something is going to happen? What is it? I woke up at 4AM the other day and I couldn’t go back to sleep because I was afraid I was going to lose my business and go broke.”

-Bill Beausay

2.  When your teen is stubbornly using the wrong strategy and not making progress:

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3.  Get a teenager talking about something real:

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4.  When your teen doesn’t want to clean out the garage:

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5.  When your teen wants something from you but they haven’t done their chores:

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6.  What to say when your teen calls you mean:

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7.  How to teach manners to your teenager:

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8.  Train your teen to see adults as an opportunity:

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9.  Challenge your teen to handle their own problems:

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Workbook Exercises

Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview

1.  Tell Your Teen Something Jaw-Dropping to Make Yourself Real:

Bill is an expert on handling troublesome teenage boys and during our interview he recommended me a strategy to connect with teens and get them to open up. Teenagers are not used to having adults be really honest with them and reveal their own weaknesses. So when you say something vulnerable and a little “jaw-dropping”, it gets your teen’s attention and makes them see you as someone “real” who they can talk to. The way to find these jaw droppers, Bill told me, is to think about what the “turning point” stories were in your past. What happened in your life that was so bad or so sudden or so jarring that it changed the way you looked at the world? When you share these stories with teens they listen carefully. Grab a piece of paper and sketch out three turning point stories from your own life. Start with a one-sentence summary of what happened. Next, Joy down how the experience changed your view of the world or of yourself. Finally, write down a time this week when you can tell this story to your teenager.

2.  Get Your Teen Talking About Their Fears:

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3.  Use the 1% Overlap Principle:

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4.  Change the Medium of Communication:

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5.  Join in with Your Teen to Build a Deeper Connection:

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Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: I’m really interested in just where this kind of all began, because it says in here that you started as a psychotherapist for a while. So did these books come out of your background as a psychotherapist and practicing that, or is it life experience, or what?

Bill: Here’s what happened. I always wanted to write books. And I was a therapist, but I always thought that I wanted to be a writer, but I couldn’t get publishers interested. I wanted to do life success kind of stuff, and motivational books, and stuff like that. But publish … this is back in the late ’80s, early ’90s, and nobody was interested in any of that stuff at the time. And so a real good friend of mine was a professional writer and he said, “Billy, what do you know the most about in the world? What do you know the very most about?” Andy, I said, “You know, I know a lot about being a boy. I mean, I feel like an overgrown boy. And I had a great childhood and a lot of ups and downs like everybody does.”

Bill: He says, “Well, why don’t you write a book about boys?” And it was kind of a strange thing at first because I thought, well, that’s an interesting thought. So I went out and looked. At that time, Andy, nobody had ever written a book about raising boys. Just boys. So I pitched the book in the worst possible way. I just started sending out query letters to publishers. A publisher jumped up and said, “Hey, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it.” And so I did that. I followed it up with a book on girls and the one on teenage boys. Then I did a couple of things that we got to the greatness topics. And before you know it, I’m a writer. That’s where it all came from.

Bill: And in addition to that, Andy, I had kids, of course. I had a boy and a daughter. And so I could watch this stuff happen right before my eyes, them grow up. So that’s really that was where it all came from, Andy. It was really from just a lot of real life stuff. And I realized at that point, the parents didn’t really didn’t want to know a lot about facts, and figures, and studies, and stuff. They wanted just some real world advice about how to do stuff. So that was the beginning of it all.

Andy: Ah, okay. But so an expert on boys, but not necessarily on girls. So how then did you make the jump?

Bill: Well, actually what I did is my doctoral work was in educational psychology. So I knew a lot about boy and girl developments, so to speak. So that was all kind of natural. And then the teenager thing. And then of course, they wanted me to do a book on teenage girls and I said, “I have no clue about-“

Andy: I am not going to touch that.

Bill: I [inaudible 00:02:34] touch that. But so that’s kind of how that happened. Then of course, I ended up getting back to where I began in the beginning with writing more motivationally-oriented books. And so that was good. But still, I have now of course, all the kids are grown up, and we have grandkids now and a bunch of them, and they’re all coming up through [inaudible 00:02:57] so funny to see this stuff happen, generation after generation. Is there a change? I mean, everything, society changes and the demands on them, but the chassis is still the same. And that’s really kind of the good news because then you can come up with some rules that kind of work for everybody. So …

Andy: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, some things are timeless. And you see some things that just keep getting repeated over and over and over again by all the wise people in history. And you kind of tell yourself, “You know, there might be something here.” So OK. You make it sound so easy. You’re like, “Oh, hey, I just kind of knew about boys. So I just decided to write a book about that. No problem.” But I’ve read this teenage boys book and this is not just like, oh, common sense. Like, “Oh, hey, I just know a lot about boy stuff.” I mean, this is deep. You really thought this through. And there’s methods and all kinds of cool tactics in here. And I’m curious where some of this stuff came from. So there’s this idea in here that I really like where there’s these five pain pleasure combinations that dominate young men. Pain in the present, pain in the future, pleasure in the present, pleasure in the future, and curiosity now. Is this based on research or you’re just kind of philosophizing here, what?

Bill: That’s a really good question, Andy. Let’s put it this way. Most of the stuff that’s in that book just came out of my observations in real life. Then I went back and I said, does this square up with what they’re doing research-wise and where some of the real leading thinkers in this area of teenage development? And then it turns out it all squared up because it all kind of makes sense. And the thing that I enjoyed about writing that book is it gave me a chance, for whatever reason, Andy, I don’t understand this, but I’ve always found teenagers to be very easy to deal with. And what I discovered was it’s not that teenagers are easy. It’s just that my approach to them was these are young, inexperienced adults that are just like me. They just don’t have as much experience.

Bill: So [crosstalk 00:05:04] their lack of experience, they rebel, they act out, they fight, they drag their feet, they procrastinate, just like me. And as soon as I got it through my head that these kids are really just like me, they just don’t have as much experience to them what works and what doesn’t, suddenly, working with them became really easy. And it’s like, “Look, I know you want to keep banging on this, but you can bang on this all day. It’s not going to work.” Or, “If I was in your shoes, I understand. I was where you are at and even though it was a long time ago, what you’re trying to solve here is not that complicated. It really isn’t.”

Bill: And so when I took that approach, Andy, that was not really from a research base. It was much more from a perspective of looking at kids and saying, “What’s working here, what’s not working. What works, what doesn’t work.” And what always works with these kids is just to shut up and listen most of the time. If they’re doing dumb things, instead of saying, “You’re such an idiot,” saying, “You know, I did that too, and this is what I found out. And you may find that this works a little bit better over here.” And so just approach them with much more of an adult attitude. And so honestly, Andy, it’s kind of a combination of both observation and kind of a background that the psychology background didn’t hurt at all. But the most important thing was kind of a fearlessness and an openness with them that look, we’re not that different. You think we are, but the only reason you think we’re different is because you’re young and I’m not.

Andy: Okay. But you do have one thing in here about kind of purposely saying something different or surprising. A jaw dropper. So I love that. Can you tell me where that came from and how you do that?

Bill: Yeah. I think it came from actually probably for my own personal experience. At the time that I wrote the teenage boys book, I had teenage boys. And my boys and my boys’ friends were always fascinated with me because I would just tell them the truth about stuff. I wasn’t going out of my way to shock them, but it’s like, “Look guys, I can tell you that I’m all that.” And then I tell them some story about trying to be meet a girl and how I tripped over myself and said stupid stuff. And it’s like suddenly, I was real to these guys. I wasn’t like Jake or Zach’s dad. I was Bill that you could talk to and you could share stuff. And I found that when I made myself vulnerable to these guys, instead of beating on my chest and saying, “Hey, look, you meatheads,” when I approached them like, “Look, this is what happened to me,” usually they found some of those stories to be jaw dropping.

Bill: But one of the things that’s most amazing to me, Andy, is I think that these kids, kids today are not used to having adults just be really honest with them and reveal their own weaknesses and their mistakes. And when you do that, boy, it really catches their attention because most parents come off as I know everything and you don’t, and I’m here to tell you what to do. Instead of saying, “You know what, as an adult, what were the turning point stories? What happened in your life that was so bad, or so sudden, or so jarring that have changed the way you looked at the world?” And when you share those turning point stories with kids, they listen, man. They listen carefully because that’s kind of the world they’re living. Every day is a turning point for a lot of them.

Andy: I think there’s a moment with a teenager where they look at you like you actually exist all of a sudden. Like, yeah, after you say something, right? I think they just are so used to dealing with adults that just kind of treat them in this superficial way and they couldn’t possibly have anything to contribute that’s valuable or something that when you just for a second, just say something real to them or just say something like, “Oh man, I don’t know about what’s happening,” rather than just what you’re supposed to say, I find that they just immediately, their whole demeanor towards you changes. And they realize, like, “Oh, this is a person I can talk to. Oh, I get it.”

Bill: Absolutely. Oh, Andy, in fact, you’re making a flood of memories come back to me. Because I’d ask these kids, I’d say, “Well, what do you wish someone would ask you that they never asked you?” Or, “Does anything out there make you afraid? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night just terrified that something’s going to happen? What is it?” And I’d say, “I woke up at four o’clock in the morning the other day and I couldn’t go back to sleep because I was afraid that I was going to lose my business and go broke.” And that’s exactly what you said, Andy. It’s just, it’s real, it’s now, it’s unexpected.

Andy: It’s like, “Wait, what? Dad worries about things and has vulnerabilities?” “Wait, huh? Well then, I guess I could talk to him about my problems too then. Oh, right.”

Bill: Sure, sure. Absolutely. And it could be literally anything. And to be very candid with you, Andy, when you start having kids, as a parent, you get into this mindset that you can’t show your weaknesses, and you can’t bear your soul to these young people because you’ll wreck them or they’ll get whatever. Shoot, man. It’s the truth that they’re dying to find out because they’re trying to figure it out, and they can’t figure it out with an adult that’s just telling them what to do all the time. They can figure it out with adult that’ll share what they’re going through and how they’re dealing with it. And maybe that’s the reason I still just have a great relationship with my kids. And I think I honestly, this is not research, Andy, it’s just my observation. I think it’s because we’ve always just been able to talk just really straight, and honest, and unvarnished sometimes. Sometimes, it’s pretty crude too. But hey, that’s okay too.

Andy: Okay. So I got to ask you about this discipline technique that you kind of have in here that’s, I don’t know, I think it’s called the “you’ll be sorry” system. When your teenager is doing something that you are not agreeing with, you recommend saying something along the lines of, “You’ll wish you hadn’t done that,” or, “Well, you’ll wish you had,” if it’s something that they’re supposed to do. Okay. So then how do you follow up on that?

Bill: Well, that came from a guy, and I can’t think of his name now, but he was a pretty famous … Oh, shoot. I’ll think of his name here in a minute. But I got that technique from him, and I used it, and it works like a charm. [Rosement 00:11:23] is his name. Anyway, at the time, he was considered to be kind of a radical guy because that was back when the self-esteem movement was really getting going. And the idea was to be nice to your kids at all costs because you damage their self-esteem if you weren’t nice to them all the time, and tell them how great they were and all that kind of stuff.

Andy: Give them a trophy. Right, right.

Bill: Exactly. And his approach, I thought was brilliant. It was simply based on the idea that you really control a lot more as a parent, you control a lot more than you think you do. You pay for everything. You make everything happen. Actually, you own everything. And the technique is very simple. That you don’t pull your hair out and scream if your kids don’t comply with what you’re asking them to do. You simply say, “You can do that if you want to, but you’re probably going to be sorry at some point.” And I’ll tell you, by the way, when I first wrote about this stuff, I took a lot of heat from people. They were saying, “Well, it’s so mean.” Well, it’s not mean, it’s real life. So I’d say, I asked my son, Jake, to clean up the garage. And he’d say, “No, I haven’t got time, Dad.”

Bill: And I’ll say, “Well, you can skip it if you want to, but you’re probably going to wish you had.” And not getting mad. I mean, it’s no threat or anything. So it’s like, “Look, you’re probably going to be sad.” So later on that night, he wants to borrow the car. And I said, you’d reply with, “You know, when I told you you’d be sad you didn’t clean the garage. Well, the sadness is probably going to settle on you right now. No, you can’t have the car.”

Bill: And even parents who are going to hear this are probably going to say, “Geez, that’s terrible. How could you do that to your kid?” Well, it’s actually really easy because it’s important that your kids learn to understand, first of all, to value what they have, what you’ve provided for them. I mean, to really value that and understand it’s just not free. Having a car to drive around just doesn’t fall out of the sky, somebody had to earn it. And that they are a participant. This is a team sport, this whole teenage parenting thing. It’s game we play together. You help me, I help you. And it’s just a real simple thing. And what I discovered, Andy, real fast is that you don’t have to do that very many times. And they believe you. You become believable.

Andy: Yeah. Oh, man. Three times is probably, within a course of a month, they’ll get it instantly. [crosstalk 00:13:45].

Bill: They’ll get it instantly.

Andy: … happens so quickly.

Bill: It can happen. And then when you ask them to do stuff, you say, “Look, I need you to clean your room.” And they say, “No, I can’t do it. I haven’t got time.” And say, “Well, you might be …” When the sorry, the s comes out of your word, they just jump and take 30 seconds to clean their room. “Yeah. Right. I got you. I’ll do it.” And it’s not mean, and you don’t scream it at them. You just say, “Well, okay.” And you know what? It leads to a lot lower blood pressure in terms of disciplining your kids. And it actually just sets the boundary solidly. And by the way, you don’t have to do it within hours of them refusing. You can wait if you want it to.

Andy: Well, that’s the beauty of kind of reminding them by putting the “you’ll be sorry” trigger in there-

Bill: Yeah, it is.

Andy: … then you say, “Remember when I said that?” And then it creates a link in their brain between the behavior and the consequence. Yeah. So it’s really nice from a psychological standpoint.

Bill: Oh my gosh. I remember my daughter. My daughter, Jessie, we had to do this with her early in the week. She refused to do something or just tacitly, passive-aggressively didn’t do something we asked her to do. I said, “Look, you can blow this off if you want it to, but you’re probably going to be sorry.” Well, it wasn’t until that following week, she needed a lift to meet her girlfriends at the movie or something. And I just harken back and said, “You know Monday when you said you wouldn’t clean your room and I said you’d probably be sorry?” And I said, “No, I’m not going to take you. I don’t know what you’re going to do. I hope you get to the movies. I would like for you to go to the movies [crosstalk 00:15:11].” But I’d say, “Well, maybe they can come and get you because I’m not going to take you to the movies. I’m sorry.”

Bill: I remember she was all dressed up. She was ready to roll. And it’s like, “Oh, I know that’s so mean, Bill. You’re so mean. How could you be so mean?” It’s like, “Look, honey, don’t blame me for your problem. This is your problem. How are you going to solve it?” And it went back to this whole thing, Andy, we were always, always with the kids. We always said the first thing we would do when they had a problem, we would say, “So what are you going to do about it?”

Bill: Instead of running to the rescue, we’d always put it back on them. So what are you going to do about it? They got to the point where they hated hearing that because they wanted us, mom and dad, just to fix it. But we treated them like an adult. You want to be an adult? Okay. Well, fix it. There’s no ride to the movies. Wow. That sucks. What are you going to do? And it sounds … Here’s the thing, Andy, it sounds so mean, but it’s just real life. I mean, it’s just treating them like the world’s going to treat them when they get out there.

Andy: Oh yeah. Well, so I like that and I think that it’s really important that the moment when you’re enforcing the consequence and saying, “Hey, remember when you didn’t do the thing,” that you’re not doing it in a vindictive way and that it’s not about getting back at them for not doing it. It’s a natural consequence like you’re saying that just anybody, if you just were mean to them, they wouldn’t do what you asked them to do.

Bill: Yeah. It always seemed to me, and I think it’s a reason my books were popular, that this child-rearing thing is really pretty simple. Your job is to emulate life as much as you can. Emulate life for them so that when they go out there, they’re prepared for what it’s going to give them. Versus going out, and I hate to say this, we’ve got people who live in my neighborhood right here, they’ve got 28 year old kids living in the basement. And I’ve talked to them, of course, at length about it. And they don’t see any reason to go … And I don’t think it’s a millennial thing and all that. I just don’t think so. I just think it’s the parents are shielding them from real life. That’s all. And they get out there, and they just get scared, and they don’t know what to do.

Bill: I know a lot of young people that when 18 comes, man, it’s like you’re opening the gates of the Kentucky Derby and they’re gone. And there are other people that just hang around and don’t want to go. Well, I’ve got this free report you can offer to your people, Andy, it’s called Solving Teenagers. It’s a free thing. They can go to my website and download it. But the whole idea here is that people adapt. Teenagers adapt. All people, everybody’s always adapting to whatever life gives them. So if you really want to raise them up good, well, give them something to adapt to. Make life so that they need to adapt, and step it up, and do whatever they’re going to do because it’s their life, not yours.

Andy: We rise to meet the challenges that are before us. And if there’s no challenges before us, then we never have to rise and we’re going to stay [crosstalk 00:00:18:07].

Bill: No, no, no. Then you just play Fortnite all day long.

Andy: Yeah.

Bill: I mean, that’s true. That’s what happens. If there’s nothing to adapt to, well, you don’t adapt to anything. You just … I don’t know what you do. Goof around, I guess.

About Bill Beausay

The former Director of Research and Development at the Academy of Sports Psychology, Bill Beausay has written 20 books including 3 national best sellers, with combined worldwide circulation over 1 million copies. He is the creator of MindRev™ Labs and Design Life Training. Bill did his Doctoral work at the University of Toledo and spent 10 years in a professional clinical practice before becoming a writer and international speaker on how to do more, make more, and be more. He has spoken for dozens of Fortune 500 firms and has been featured on radio, newspapers, television, and magazines coast-to-coast. Bill is a pilot, scuba diver, skier, adventurer, and grandfather of 9.

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