Speaking at: Wauconda High School

On January 9th I was invited to speak at Wauconda High School, which is in a northwest suburb of Chicago, IL. The speech was a jam packed 30 minutes about group leadership, in relation to a new program they did at the school where they divided the school in half to compete for points, and also a bit of research in the world of positive psychology.

Of particular note was that after the speech a student, Isaac, came up to me and asked me a very “adult” question regarding jobs and income. His reference point was that the “good jobs” must be the higher paying ones since your family makes you happy and you want to be able to pay the bills to take care of your family. Right? His questions basically was, “How can you be a janitor and be happy when you are struggling to pay the bills and are having a hard time to support the family?”

I told him that it does not matter what job you have, money problems can exist whether you make 50k or 500k per year.

I told him to be happy in whatever your job is first, then when it comes to money, it is merely a math problem. “It is not about what you make, but what you net,” I told him.

There are two problems one can have with money: One is not having enough, and the other is having too much. This seemed to resonant with Isaac, and he responded, “so live within your means,” and I replied, “Absolutely!”

This was a great teaching moment. His question was in response to a study I had shared during my speech about how we perceive our jobs is more important than the type of job or the salary/description/details of it. It is easy to blame the industry in which we work, or the specific job itself, but the truth is that any job can be horrible and any job can be fantastic… a physician can look at their work as a chore and a janitor can look at their work as a calling.

I hope the students at Wauconda, like Isaac, can at least take that tidbit away from my talk, as the jobs we do in life SHOULD be ones we enjoy doing, for the sake of the activity itself, and not just because of money, power, prestige, etc.

I’m looking forward to the next school, thanks again Wauconda for having me!


Focus on 1 of 9 things — The Martin Short Method

Famed comic actor Martin Short writes about “The Nine Categories” or how he chooses to work on aspects of his life in course-load terms, the goal being that you might not be high in one category (like your career) but you can get a higher grade in a different category (like your family) to boost up your average. This is an incredibly easy way to split your life into easily digestible worlds in which to provide some focus.  Here are his nine categories:

The Self

How is your health? Do you do a yearly physical? Do you ever go to the gym? How is your diet? Do you like who you are? Why or why not? Give yourself a grade and perhaps choose this as a focus for a week or two.

The Immediate Family

Can your family relationships be made stronger? When was the last time you told your significant other/children that you loved them? Perhaps you would like to know more about family members (including your children) so you might want to ask them more questions. Maybe you rarely do something your significant other wants to do, and you decide to actually surprise them and do it!

Original Family

How is your relationship with those you grew up with…parents and/or siblings?


Are you keeping in touch with your good friends (and maybe even some not-so good friends) at all these days? Maybe give someone a call and just say hi.


Many of us go through periods of financial ups and downs in life, we need to set goals for where we want to be and what we can do to get there. Can we pay the bills and cover the essentials? Do we have any savings? Any investments?  Can we balance fun and work?


What grade do your give your working life? Some of us can plan out our whole career on paper, from entry-level all the way to the pension. Some of us take a more zig-zag route of occupational existence…getting ahead, then a step back, but then getting ahead–and so on.


Are you doing hobbies adequately, if your work isn’t serving a creative purpose? Make sure you take some dance lessons, learn how to scuba dive, write a novel, or cook some gourmet meals etc…  if your dayjob is not giving you the right opportunity to get out and do creative projects.


Have the self-control to actually implement your goals. This is a tough one.


Are you actually enjoying life? Are you doing anything to make the world a better place?

Look at these and assign yourself a grade in each category. One category can have subcategories (like your weight can be a subcategory of category 1). Just pick a time every week (like a specific time such as Monday morning) and go over this. Choose a category to focus on and get the grade up, rinse and repeat.

Thank you, Martin Short, for a cool way to improve!