Ep 191: Pushing Teens to Their Full Potential

Episode Summary

Anthony Lynch, author of No Limits, comes on the show to explain how the right mindset can help teens reach their full potential. Plus, how teens can find their purpose and passion.

Show NotesInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

Kids tend to have big dreams…but are constantly told to be more “realistic.” When they say they want to be an astronaut, pop star, or professional athlete, we might lightly suggest they pick a safer option. Have they thought about accounting? What about coding? Maybe they should just stick with something stable and consistent, and stop trying to disrupt the status quo.

But what if we could step outside of our limited way of thinking to see infinite possibilities for our teens? What if, by striving for the seemingly impossible, our teens may just exceed everyone’s wildest expectations? If they’re dedicated, persistent, and hardworking enough, they may be able to accomplish something extraordinary. This week, we’re discussing how letting go of limits might be the key to truly successful teens.

Joining us is Anthony Lynch, author of No Limits: How to Build an Unstoppable Mindset. Anthony is a certified fitness professional who focuses on youth athletic performance training, as well as a bestselling lifestyle and fitness author. In his work he helps both kids and adults reach mental, physical and financial prosperity. In our interview, he’s helping parents see how a strong mindset can propel teens into the life of their dreams!

In the episode, Anthony explains why it’s critical for your teen to have a “high-agency mindset.” Plus, we discuss why physical health is a jumping-off point for success in all areas, and how we can help teens grapple with big dreams and find their life’s purpose.

Why Mindset Matters

When teens have big, wild ambitions, people tend to try and talk them out of it…parents included! Of course we want to see our teens successful, but we’re also scared to see them fail–so we encourage them to stick to safe and small goals, for fear that they’ll bite off more than they can chew. But Anthony says that it’s the teens who can strive for what they want despite naysayers that will truly find success.

 He calls this a “high-agency mindset”– the idea teens might trust their dreams more than their critics. When someone tells these teens their ideas are impossible, they don’t just give up and go for something simpler, they continue to work towards their goal in spite of others’ opinions! The teens who choose to persevere are the ones who’ll really find success, says Anthony. While most people allow fear of failure to hold them back, those with a high agency mindset rise to the challenge.

However, some teens have the confidence to defy critics…but lack the clarity, Anthony explains. They want to aim for greatness in something, but they’re just not sure what they’re passionate about yet! Without passion, people tend to get bored, disengaged or frustrated with their goals, leading them to give up at the first sign of trouble. But if teens are working towards something they truly care about, they’ll have a reason to show up everyday to do the work!

If teens want to cultivate a strong mental capacity, Anthony believes that they’ll have to simultaneously build up their physical strength! In the episode, we’re talking about how we can get teens off their phones and out the door to get some exercise.

How Physical Wellness Creates Mental Stability

When we watch olympic athletes dominate the competition, we know that it’s more than just brute strength that makes them such good players. It’s also mental power–how they use strategic information and determination to masterfully defeat their opponents. Anthony explains that life works the same way. Being mentally strong helps us strategize and conquer life’s challenges, but being physically active helps us stay happy, confident and focused. By combining the power of both, we can reach our full potential.

For some teens, physical activity isn’t exactly the top priority. They’re more concerned with scrolling on Instagram or playing games on Discord than they are with their physical health! With the pandemic forcing us all to stay inside, teens have become a bit more inclined to lie in bed on the weekends when they could be out in the world, riding a skateboard or hitting the gym. In the episode, Anthony and I discuss how annoying it can be for parents to constantly beg teens over and over to get out and get some exercise.

Anthony recommends helping teens find some kind of physical activity that gets them excited! For some teens, it could be hiking, for others, it might be playing basketball with friends down the street. These activities won’t just help teens be physically healthier, but also encourage them to set new goals, like winning a weekend pickup game or setting a personal best! When they put in the hard work to achieve these goals, they’ll learn an important lesson about what it takes to go above and beyond in the quest for greatness.

So your teen has cultivated the physical and mental strength that’s necessary for success…but do they know how to set a goal or what steps to take to reach the top?  Anthony and I are talking about how we can help teens orient themselves by asking the right questions and setting concrete goals.

Setting Their Goals in Motion

To help teens define their goals, Anthony recommends asking them some big questions. Questions like: if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? Or: if you had all the money, time and resources possible, what would you do? These questions help teens begin thinking about who they are and what they want to accomplish in their life. Anthony encourages you to sit down and do this with your teen, asking yourself the same questions! It might bring the two of you together–and help teens see that they’re not the only ones still figuring it all out.

In the episode, Anthony and I talk all about creating vision boards, and how you can do it with your kids at home! This involves taking a piece of cork board or poster board and putting pictures, quotes, inspirational people and more on the front. These boards are a way for your teen  to visualize and materialize their wildest ambitions, and then have a physical reminder of them everyday! 

But how can teens take these general ambitions and turn them into reality? Anthony suggests starting with a mission statement. This is a direct statement of what exactly your teens’ plan is and how they intend to go through with it! For example, if your teen plans to lose weight, their mission statement might state how many pounds they aim to lose and in what time frame. They could add specific actions they’ll take to do it, like running twice a week or eating less junk food. This propels teens from just dreaming to actually doing!

In the Episode….

Anthony’s perspective on motivation is fascinating, and can be helpful to both teens and parents! On top of the topics discussed above, we also talk about:

  • Why we should reject conventional wisdom
  • How we can encourage teens to dream in a realistic way
  • Why it’s important for teens to fail
  • How we can ditch negative self-talk

If you enjoyed listening to this week’s episode, you can find him on his website anthonyjlynch.com, or on Instagram @anthonyjlynch. Don’t forget to share and subscribe and we’ll see you next week!


Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: And the book is called, No Limits: How To Build An Unstoppable Mindset. Can you explain to me what inspired the book? And it’s not your first book, so this is a thing you do. Where did this idea come from, and what led to the creation of this book?

Anthony: I’ve always been the type that’s wanted to challenge myself and find new ways to get things done, not be content to say no to things, or run from challenges. And the thing that struck me, I was reading a book, maybe two or so years back, about the legal battle that went on between Peter Thiel and-

Andy: Peter Thiel, yeah.

Anthony: Gawker, the media behemoth that was dominating at the time. And one thing that struck me in the book was, the insight into Thiel’s mind about how he had what he considered a high-agency mindset. One that, I guess when somebody tells you something’s impossible, how do you react? Are you the type that says, “You’re right, that can’t be done,” or are you the type that resists that, fights it, wants to prove that it is possible?

Anthony: I think having that kind of mindset is what separates a lot of people that are really successful, from the people that ultimately don’t want to try very hard. And, I’ve always had that kind of mindset. And I guess the way I approached this book was, what are some of the things that I’ve learned or utilized in my lifetime that have helped me develop that light, that mindset that I can use to approach challenges and new opportunities to succeed?

Andy: So, you have a similar high-agency mindset?

Anthony: I believe so, and when they keyed in on that, I mean, that really struck me as something that I feel like I’ve had. It’s been a big part in the reason I’ve been successful, in business and life, and those type of things. So, I think it’s really important that if people develop this, especially children, teenagers, young adults, getting that kind of mindset is what really is going to be important as they move forward in life, because we all face different challenges, right? And, the type of people that stand up to those and overcome those, that develop that mental toughness to push through difficult situations, they ultimately go farther than ones that give up, or make excuses, or just don’t want try very hard.

Andy: So, what’s hard about this? How come we so often get stuck in the opposite, or a low-agency mindset? What kind of holds us back from this way of thinking and approaching challenges, that Peter Thiel’s exemplifying?

Anthony: There’s several things. I mean, the first being fear. It’s very natural to fear the unknown, fear things that look intimidating, things that scare all of us. Right? I mean, even, I was telling you, this is the first time I’ve done something like this. So, I go into this with a little trepidation of, how do I best get my ideas out there? And it’s something, if you don’t put yourself up to that challenge, you’re never going to know how you get through it. So, I think fear is a main driver of these type of things.

Anthony: But there’s also people that just don’t have clarity about the kind of things that they want to do or accomplish, or maybe they are just not passionate about those type of things. So, finding the right things you’re passionate about is going to be able to push you, to be able to get through more difficult situations. But, maybe somebody that is not really engaged or passionate about something, is going to give up much easier in those cases.

Andy: Well, I definitely think these are things that a lot of teenagers are dealing with. Feeling bored, disengaged, frustrated, not sure where you’re going, not motivated. And, a lot of what you talk about in the book is kind of developing clarity and getting a more solid idea of where you’re heading. And, I think that’s helpful, because it’s easy to say, “Oh, well, hey, we need more grit. We need more perseverance.” But, well, what is beneath that? And what are you persevering towards? What are you pushing yourself, in what direction, I think is really important and is kind of the first step.

Anthony: Absolutely. And I think from a parent’s perspective, I mean, you can give your children a lot of things growing up. Love and attention, and all those kind of things. But I think also giving them just more challenges, or things that help grow them and help build up resiliency. Right? I mean, I think one of the quotes I have in the book talks about the famous rock climber, Tommy Caldwell, who overcame all these personal challenges and physical challenges, to be the first one that climbed the Dawn Wall in Yosemite. And he had talked about a big part of his upbringing was his father. As a child, put him through very progressively, more difficult physical adventures, and camping, and taking him out in the wilderness, and things like that to toughen him up. But also, at the same time, to help him learn to deal with difficult situations, adversity.

Anthony: And those things grow you, right? I mean, we don’t want to cuddle our kids, to the point where they never face those challenges once they’re off on their own. So, I think, the important thing for parents is to find ways to continually challenge your child. But at the same time, you want to support them through those things and encourage them, but also push them. Help them to grow so that they have those life skills as they go off into the wilderness themselves, that they are equipped to deal with those kind of things.

Andy: Yeah. Finding some challenges that inspire your teenager, I think are so important. And, I really feel like it doesn’t matter that much what they are. It’s like, we look back on our teenage years and it was so, you’re so motivated to win some athletic tournament, or the battle of the bands, or whatever it was that you were into. That we set these kind of goals for ourself that inspire us. And in a lot of sense, it’s not necessarily you’re going to be doing that same thing 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, but just that there’s something so important about creating those challenges for yourself and going for it. And, so much learning and self-growth that happens, as you actually set out to do something like that.

Anthony: If you think about things in your life, that maybe that you haven’t done or failed to step up and try, I mean, when you live with these kind of regrets, I mean those are things, you don’t get those opportunities back sometimes. And, I think taking action, and at least attempting something, whether you succeed or fail at it, I think the value comes from the experience of it. Right? And, learning is not just about being successful. Right? I mean oftentimes, I know for myself that the biggest lessons I’ve learned have come from failure. So, when you fail at something, you try to learn those lessons that failure taught you, right? So you can apply things differently in the future.

Andy: Even when we do have a goal, you point out, it’s still uncertainty can lead to excuses. If we don’t have the experience to be able to give us confidence that we’re going to be able to do something, then we can kind of jump to conclusions or make faulty assumptions that sort of stop us. Or we talk ourselves out of pushing onwards sometimes.

Anthony: I think if you listen to that voice inside you that tells you can’t, it’s often right if you listen to that voice. You have to reinforce the belief in yourself that anything is possible if you apply yourself to it. And, sometimes it’s a matter of, if it’s a really daunting challenge, it’s not just looking at it as that overwhelming thing to take on, but maybe try to break it down into a series of smaller problems to solve one at a time, so that you can work your way up to that bigger challenge. Right? So, maybe taking something that’s big, and breaking it apart into pieces helps.

Andy: You write about how actually, there’s this link between mental and physical toughness, and that we can develop a lot of mental toughness by working on physical toughness. What makes you say that? Why do you think that, and how does that look?

Anthony: I think when you look at things like the Navy Seals, for example, they’re renowned for being the best of the best, in terms of military soldiers, high performers, that type of thing.

Andy: Yeah, some toughness. Yeah.

Anthony: A big part of that is developing that mental toughness that they go through. It’s putting themselves through an increasingly difficult set of physical endurance tests, that really push them to a limit where those that can’t hang, they break. Right? And, they don’t stand it. And so, it’s the ones that ultimately continue to work through those challenges, get to the point of being successful. I mean, the tests they use are way to weed out the ones that are not mentally strong, right? The ones that you’re not going to be able to depend on, in a battle or in a difficult situation.

Anthony: And I think the different kind of things they do, whether it’s a multitude of sit-ups, push-ups, running, swimming, all these things that they put people through, works to strengthen you. And I think the stronger your body gets, the more confident you become inside. Right? I mean, you feel like you’re capable of taking on more challenges. So, I think with every challenge you get, you level up in a way that you’re ready for the next one. And you feel like, “Hey, I’ve already conquered these three steps behind me. What’s another three or four steps ahead going to look like?” And you gain confidence as you gain strength. Studying like Navy Seals.


One of the things that struck me, was one of the commanders who was talking about the fact that when you look at Olympic medal athletes, the difference between the gold medalists and other competitors, I mean it’s a very small field. But, a big part of it is the mental ability of that athlete. And the elite athletes are the ones that know how to use information best, and separate it from the competition that they’re going up against. And, I think it’s the same thing with these Seals, right? The more physical information and mental information you can combine into your hardware and software, the more successful you’re going to be as an individual.

Andy: What do you say to a teenager who really doesn’t seem to be interested in the physical toughness, and is really happy to have their majority of physical activity involve their thumb swiping on a smartphone? And, doesn’t seem super motivated to push their body and mind to a really difficult place.

Anthony: I’m someone that grew up playing a lot of video games myself, so I could definitely relate to that part of it, too. But, I think, when you look at the various types of physical activities out there, find the right one for you. Not everyone has to play football, or baseball, or basketball. You can do something that’s solo gear. Whether it’s swimming or it’s rock climbing, or just taking that time to be active. I think there’s real value that comes in getting up and moving, and just what it does for your brain. The better you feel, the better you’re going to perform. Right? And I think if you’re sitting a lot, if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, that you’re not getting lot of physical activity, you’re just not going to be very healthy overall. And it does contribute to your mood. I think, the more active that you get up and be, not to say everyone has to compete in a certain type of thing. But, just find some form of physical activity that stimulates your body, your mind, and gets those chemicals inside your body working, to gear you towards a better mindset.

Andy: I love that. I think that’s so true and so important. We have, one of my other companies is a ghost writing company. We write books for people, and we just did a book on relationships. And we talk about how, yeah, so people need space. But if you find yourself needing too much space within a relationship, and not wanting to spend that much time with the other person, maybe it’s not the right person for you. I feel the same about physical activity. Sometimes we force ourself to kind of do things that we’re really not enjoying that much. And we’re like, “No, well, why can’t I get to the gym more?” Well, if you find yourself not wanting to do whatever it is that much, maybe it’s not the right thing for you. Maybe you find something else. And, there’s so many cool ways to be active.

Andy: And I’ve been getting into break dancing lately. Man, it’s such a good core workout. There’s just such cool moves that take so long to master. Something you can always be working on. I had a friend who’s really into boxing, and my brother is, just been getting into surfing this year. He’s taking surfing lessons and traveling to cool surf spots. And he’s in Sri Lanka right now, is surfing. And, and I think that we can help our teenagers find that. I just think something so important about the teenage years, is getting exposed to lots of different things. If we find our kids not wanting to be that active, maybe it’s not about pushing them and nagging them to go outside, or to do some certain activity. Maybe it’s more about helping them to find something that does inspire them, or that does light them up.

Anthony: You’re absolutely right. And, we’ve all went through these last few years of lockdowns and pandemic, and all these things have shuttered us inside. And maybe, we get a little too comfortable in those spaces. So, I would think getting back out into the world, getting fresh air, getting out to just do physical activity, feel liberating. We might need to be reminded of all the benefits that come with that, when you get out into the world, explore it a little bit more.

Andy: Something that you talk a lot about in the book is, thinking big. You say that the ability to think big is a key element to extreme success. And, it’s about being able to dream and visualize what you can achieve on an audacious scale. When you choose to focus on easy goals, you sublimate, lower your expectations, not to mention the eventual outcomes. Wow. How can we inspire teenagers to think bigger, to raise their expectations for themselves? What they’re capable of? To just question the limits that they’re placing on themselves, and on their dreams for their life?

Anthony: In training yourself to think big, I mean, you start with important questions. You ask yourself, if you could change one thing in the world, I mean, what would it be? If you had unlimited time or resources, what would you hope to accomplish?

Andy: Yeah.

Anthony: “Is there something uniquely important that I could contribute to the world?” I mean, those are big questions with very open ended type of answers. But, I mean, each of us are going to answer those probably a little bit differently. Right? So I would really think about, for a teenager to really start to figure out, don’t think from a limited mindset of, “This is where I grew up,” or, “This is all I have,” or, “This is the only thing I’m good at.” Think about the things that get them excited. I mean, what are you passionate about? What do you feel like your unique gifts or talents are, that you could utilize in a way that not only makes you happy, but helps other people?

Anthony: And, I think parents have a huge responsibility in directing kids, not to the point of telling them they can or can’t do something, but being realistic in the support. If you have a kid that is maybe not very athletic, but says they’re going to win a gold medal in the Olympics, maybe that’s a little overdoing it. But maybe encourage them more to, as we talked about, try a new sport or activity. See what you’re good at, what your abilities are. Encourage and support their dreams, but also be realistic with them too, in a way that doesn’t set them up for failure, but shows that you’re interested, you care, and you want to do your part to help them achieve those dreams.

Andy: Yeah. And, I also think that it undermines trust when we pump our kids up past what’s realistic. It’s not actually really helpful at all, because sooner or later they’re going to realize that’s not true, that’s not really realistic, and you were just sort of saying that. And then, it really undermines the trust between you. And you have to be mean, but also, I just think trust is so important. And I think that, you want the type of relationship with your teenager where they feel like you will always be open and honest with them. Yeah, this is another opportunity to do that. There’s lots of great, I think, tips on this podcast about how to do that in an effective way, but that could be a hard conversation to have. Where you have to say, “I don’t know if that’s realistic.” How do you think that you might approach something like that?

Anthony: You’re a hundred percent right. I mean, building trust with your teenager, is paramount to having that successful relationship going forward. If you’re, as you mentioned, if you’re telling them things that just aren’t true or they don’t believe, you’re not serving any a value to them. Our role as parents is not to be our child’s best friend. We’re to be the parent. We’re the one that’s supposed to share experience with them, that we have maybe went through before, or haven’t went through, but give our thoughts on things. And sometimes, those conversations are difficult. Right?

Anthony: But I think if you are honest with your kid, they realize that. You’re not just going to spoon feed them the good. That you have to be willing to share the unkind truths, maybe that help them to learn or to grow in ways that are more resilient. And, I think the result is you do get a better relationship with your child, if they know that they can come to you with things where you’re not always going to just say things that make them feel better, or …

Andy: Like tell them what you think they want to hear.

Anthony: Yeah. Yeah. I think they want to hear your true thoughts on things. And the more you share true thoughts, as long as it’s in a supportive, encouraging … No one wants the constant negativity or criticism. I mean, there’s a way to temper those kind of things, in a way that is useful without being cruel or just unkind, I would say.

Andy: How do you think you can do that?

Anthony: Personally, with my own son, he can be pretty stubborn and difficult to get through to at times, but he’s also very smart. And I think he realizes that, when you tell him something, it’s for his benefit. So, sometimes I think when you tell them things, you don’t have to get them to agree with you, right there on the spot. It’s good to give them some of that information, and let them have the time to process it, and let them have that open line of communication where they can come back to you. Maybe they’ve tried something or not listened to you, and have it be one of those things where, “See, I told you,” instead of like, “Well, let’s try it this way.” Or, just have help them process things as they go, instead of expecting there to be an immediate result.

Andy: So often, we all need that. And we need a little time to just think about things, and process things, and approaching conversations or topics like this kind of in phases. Or, instead of thinking about it as one interaction where you’re going to tell them whatever it is, I think, so often we go into, we’re saying, “Okay, I got to sit down with my kid. I got to tell them this, this, this, this, and that.” But often, it’s a lot more effective to sort of break these things up and just get them a little piece, but that’s it for a little while. And give them another little piece and then, but that’s it for a little while. And so, that it becomes more of an ongoing conversation, instead of kind of a one time thing.

Anthony: Yeah. And I think, too, I mean the thing that also resonates with kids is, we always want to think that we know it all and have done it all. But I mean, sharing our failures, too. Sharing the things that we’ve fallen short of, or maybe we regret, or helping them learn from our mistakes is very valuable as well. I mean, we’re not perfect, obviously, as humans or parents, or anything like that. But, letting them know that we’ve been there, too. We didn’t do it all right from the start. So, I think that helps them to have better perspective that we can fail, right?


About Anthony Lynch

Anthony Lynch is the author of  No Limits.

Anthony is a certified fitness professional who focuses on youth athletic performance training. He’s also the founder of the Tri-City Thunder AAU Basketball Program and coach of the nationally-ranked 2018 team.  His other books include  Achieving Peak Performance: How To Develop Mental Toughness In Young Athletes and Raising Youth Champions: How to Prepare My Child For Greatness.

He resides in Incline Village, Nevada.

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