Life Strategies for Teens Workbook

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Overview

From Jay McGraw, the New York Times bestselling author of Life Strategies for Teens, comes a workbook chock-full of quizzes, tests, and questions to help you figure out who you are and where you are going.

Are you the Teacher’s Pet? The Slacker? The Jock? Do you let yourself be labeled by terms like these because it’s easy, because you dress a certain way or listen to a certain rock band? Do you act the way you think others expect you to? ...

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Overview

From Jay McGraw, the New York Times bestselling author of Life Strategies for Teens, comes a workbook chock-full of quizzes, tests, and questions to help you figure out who you are and where you are going.

Are you the Teacher’s Pet? The Slacker? The Jock? Do you let yourself be labeled by terms like these because it’s easy, because you dress a certain way or listen to a certain rock band? Do you act the way you think others expect you to? Here’s a more important question: Who are you really?

Jay McGraw’s New York Times bestseller Life Strategies for Teens shows teens that Life Strategies are not just something for their parents, but that teens can use them to take over the driver’s seat and steer their own lives as well. Jay speaks to teens as equals, and gives them the straight story he knows and has been through himself.

Now with the Life Strategies for Teens Workbook, Jay McGraw has created a fun-filled companion book to help teens work their way through the Life Strategies, and, in turn, through those tumultuous years between playing like a kid and acting as an adult. In the Workbook, Jay introduces a variety of entertaining quizzes, activities, and questions to help teens better answer the question of who they are. From figuring out the roles they play to determining the things they want to change about their lives, this is the perfect guide to showing teens the power of the Life Strategies, as well as the power of their own lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The success of Jay McGraw's Life Strategies for Teens evoked the need for a matching workbook. This hands-on tutorial is comparable to those of those of Jay's dad, full-time relationship rescuer Dr. Phil McGraw.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743224703
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Edition description: Workbook
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 194,373
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jay McGraw is executive producer of The Doctors, as well as president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Stage 29 Productions. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Ultimate Weight Solution for Teens: The 7 Keys to Weight Freedom; Life Strategies for Teens; and Closing the Gap: A Strategy for Bringing Parents and Teens Together. McGraw is a regular contributor on the Dr. Phil show and has also been featured as a teen expert on Larry King Live and the Today show. McGraw earned his law degree from Southern Methodist University and is a graduate of the University of Texas, where he received a BS in psychology. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Erica.

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Read an Excerpt

Life Law One: You Either Get It, Or You Don't
I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
-- Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM (1943)
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS LIFE LAW

To discover and use the huge power you have to change your life. Learn how the game is played so you can get unstuck and have more of what you want and need. Stop being pissed off and start winning. Become one who gets it.


Kim, a friend of mine in high school, hated our cafeteria food, and at least once a week she would sneak off campus and go to one of the nearby fast-food places. The problem was that our principal caught her every time she came back and gave her a detention.

Kim hated detention but always thought she would get away with leaving "this time." She never did. By Christmas break Kim had served twenty-one detentions.


WHY IS THAT?

Next time your math teacher is droning on and on, why don't you let your mind wander a bit. Think about this: Why do some people seem to do so well while others, like Kim, seem lost and confused and don't appear to have a clue how to do any better?

Take it a step further. How is it, for instance, that Tom and Dave can score the same on an IQ test, yet Tom is a total waste at school while Dave makes straight As? Why is it that Meghan can maintain a great relationship with a guy while Laura, who's much better looking and more vivacious than Meghan, can't get a guy to take her out for more than two weeks? Why is it that Robert has been able to rise up from his abusive childhood and Amy has been able to succeed despite growing up poor while William, who comes from one of the most prominent and richest families in the city, is a total loser?

Why is it that the most popular girl in school is, in fact, the most popular girl in school? Why is it that the star athlete is so determined to succeed? Why is it that the school's class president is so good at organizing and presenting information? Why is it that some kids are so good-natured and so friendly you always want to sit with them at lunch?

Is it because they are more gifted than you? They've got genes that you don't?


Get real. Not a chance.

I hate to be blunt, but there's no better way to say this: These are people who have pulled their heads out of the clouds and decided to learn how the world works. They have stopped stumbling along, they have eliminated the types of behavior that just don't benefit them in the long run, and they have figured out what it's going to take to get the results they want. They don't stew over their problems, they don't look for excuses about why they can't get things done, and they don't get angry and pout about how life can be so unfair. Instead, they have made the effort to change their lives by accumulating certain information, putting together a plan, and applying the right skills.

In short, they "get it." They know that it isn't the luck of the draw that determines who gets to be successful. They know there isn't much guesswork involved in getting the results that matter -- whether those results be good grades, starring roles in anything from a sports team to the drama club, more freedom and independence after school, or even happiness and a deeper sense of peace.

They know there is a kind of "system," or process, that can be used to get ahead of the pack. They have taken the time to study that system. For them, learning that system is no different than learning to drive a car or fly an airplane. They know there is work required to learn how to navigate through life. For them it's never been enough just to become aware that there is a system. They learn how to make that system work for them.


It's no different for you. All you have to do is learn that system and then work it, and you, too, will get what you want.

Sounds sort of cut-and-dried, doesn't it? All you have to do is follow a few rules. Learn a "system." You're thinking, "Come on, Jay, you don't know what you're talking about. Life is very anxiety-ridden, full of problems and weirdness, crazy parents, backstabbing friends, bossy teachers. How can that be?"

Trust me, all you have to do is work the system.

WORKING THE SYSTEM

Are you wondering just what in the heck I am talking about? Think back on the other people you know who are successful. The reason they "get it" is because they refuse to choose behaviors that they know will put them at a disadvantage with the rules of the world. What they do choose are behaviors that they know will get them the things that they want.

Here's an example of how the system works.

Grades: The guys and girls who "get it" in this world know that if they make poor grades, they get a poor level of respect. They know that if they make mediocre grades, they get only mediocre respect. They know that good grades create a level of respect and trust from parents and teachers that they cannot get any other way. They know that good grades lead to more freedom and more responsibility in life.

Here's the important thing: Those who "get it" know that the world's response to good grades is a fact of life that just isn't going to change. They accept that fact and they utilize it. When I was cruising (or so I thought) through my teens, I hopelessly did not "get it" about grades. Whenever the report card came out every six weeks my dad would sit me down for the big talk. He'd say, over and over, "How can you not want to study? How do you not have a thirst for knowledge? How can you not discipline yourself to do this? Don't you hate showing up at school and everybody thinks you're the guy who knows nothing?"

I think I heard the "thirst-for-knowledge" speech a thousand times. I'd tell my dad that I would really do better and study harder the next six weeks. But as soon as I was back in my room, I'd go back to staring at the ceiling. Apparently, I just didn't want to work the system. I'd rather have fun with my friends, concentrate on things like basketball -- you know the story.

But did my refusal to work the system make me any happier? Was I more fulfilled living the carefree existence because I wasn't studying? I'm afraid not. I was always feeling slightly guilty, and slightly worried. Thank God I finally had my moment of epiphany, where I woke up and realized, "Hey, you male bimbo, who are you kidding here? This is your future that you're letting slip away from you." But if I had just "gotten it" when I was fifteen, my life would have been so much better, so much calmer, so much more rewarding.

Many of you are probably like me. You haven't spent much time learning and working the system. Some of you have just drifted along, thinking you can't really affect your destiny until you become an adult. Others of you are out there saying things like you shouldn't have to be judged on such things as your grades. You're saying, "I don't have to conform to the ways of the world."

Maybe you're right, but you're missing the point entirely. I'm not talking about right or wrong; I'm just talking about getting the results you want in your life, period. When you are one of those who "gets it," it's as if you are the star in the movie of your own life, and you are making things happen, rather than waiting for them to happen. You write your own script, you choose who is in the film, and you even direct the action that leads you to the ending you want. Instead of just reacting to whatever comes along in life, you get to live a life you have designed.

Sounds pretty fancy, but think about it. To get anywhere in life, to achieve any of your goals (even the most nonconformist ones), you have to figure out the best way to do it, and that requires you to figure out the rules you must follow and the roles you must play. You want to be a sports star in school? There is a system you have to work to get there. You want to be the most popular kid in school? There is a system you have to work to get there. You want to be in the chess club? There is a system you have to work to get there. You want to live with some passion in your life? There is a system you have to work to get there.

THOSE WHO DON'T GET IT

Please understand, this is not a Life Law aimed only at those of you who want to be the super-great performers. It's also for all of you who know, deep down, that the time has come to put your life together. It's a Life Law for those of you who know you "should" do something about your life and who'd like to change, but who just aren't sure how to change. It's for those of you who blame circumstances for your place in life, but who don't know exactly how to find the circumstances you want. It's for those of you who feel so bored that you don't even like hanging out with yourself.

Think about how much time you've put into some aspects of your life. You've spent hours mastering video games, or sports, or memorizing songs. But you spend little or no time learning the system of life and then working it.

I'm not saying that your goal should be to become fanatically driven and so determined to be successful that you sacrifice all the other parts of your life. I'm not saying that at all. But there's a big difference between just going from day to day barely getting by, versus understanding who you are, how your life works, and how you can take the initiative to design your life. It's only when you finally "get it" that you can beat back all those lingering feelings of anxiety and confusion that you often have at night when you're sitting up in your bedroom alone wondering why no one seems to understand you. It's only when you finally "get it" that you can get to a place where you are no longer ignored, unfairly targeted, or flat-out run over. We know how easy it is for that to happen.

Think of what "getting it" will do for you. If you're in the game of life, whether you're currently playing the game at school for grades, or socially for popularity, or trying to land a certain girlfriend or boyfriend, or competing for a part-time after-school job, think of the incredible edge you will have over everybody else if you understand how the game works.

You will have an advantage because knowledge is definitely power. I see it all the time when I sucker my dad into playing video games with me. He doesn't have a clue how to score, he doesn't know where the trap doors are, he doesn't know how to generate extra points -- so he fumbles along with a ham-fisted approach to a game he just doesn't understand. I slaughter him every single time. I don't mean some of the time; I mean every time. My dad is as smart as me and as quick as me and even has eyes as good as I do, but he just doesn't get it. Half the time he's holding the controller upside down.

No matter how highly you think of yourself, if you don't understand the rules of this world, you are not even a threat when you find yourself in competition with those who do get it, those who have the skills and know the rules. Let me tell you:


  • It's not uncool to know how the world works and to know how to get the things that you want.
  • It's not uncool to figure out a way to get along with your parents.
  • It's not uncool to find a way to get along with your teachers.
  • It's not uncool to say "No, that bothers me," when talking about behavior you don't want or you're not ready for, like drugs, alcohol, or sex.
  • It's not uncool to have a diversity of friends.
  • It's not uncool to get excited about something in your life, to find a passion, and to live with passion.
GETTING IT WITH OTHER PEOPLE

One of the best things about those who get it is that they realize that they have to interact with others. I know a lot of you believe that you can make your own way, march to your own drummer, and set your own agenda. Fine. You still have to interact with other people, and if you want to get anywhere at all, you must understand people, if for no other reason, so that you can get them to do what you want them to do. When you "get it" about other people -- when you realize what drives their behavior -- then you can use this knowledge for yourself and your own strategy to be successful.

Let me tell you about something that happened to my father. This story taught me a lot about "getting it." Here's how he tells it:


When I was in high school in Kansas City, I worked the night shift down at Hallmark Cards. When you get off work at two or three o'clock in the morning, it's a different world than what people see during the day. We were night owls looking for trouble, and we usually found some. A buddy of mine, who also worked at the plant, owned a Chevy Chevelle muscle car with over four hundred horsepower. After work, we liked to race around the deserted streets at ridiculous speeds, looking for a drag race with some other late-night moron with a hundred dollars to bet.

One night, during the Christmas holiday, we had two passengers on our late-night prowls: a longtime friend visiting me from a small town, and a friend of the driver's whom I had not met before. Under my then-theory that stupidity was a virtue, we were doing well over a hundred miles an hour on Main Street, right on the fringe of downtown Kansas City, when an unmarked patrol car appeared out of nowhere, clinging to our bumper. His car was apparently pretty fast, too. He didn't seem to want to race; I was pretty sure he didn't have any beer to share, and boy, did he look mad.

Skipping the usual practice of flooding us with spotlights and calling for backup, the patrolman pulled us over and leaped out of his car, slamming his door so hard we could feel it. I don't know if this cop was truly a giant or just looked that way that night, but he looked big enough to have his own weather systems, and it definitely looked like a storm was brewing.

As the officer stomped up to the car, my buddy's friend panicked. Wriggling and sliding out the rear window, he dropped headfirst to the sidewalk and took off running. If that cop wasn't mad enough before, he was now. It was bad enough that we had violated his turf; now, because one of us had run away, we had further insulted him and defied his authority.

The policeman yanked the driver's door open, grabbed my buddy by the collar, dragged him out, and ordered us to follow suit. Holding my friend by the collar, he said, "I'm going to ask you one @!&Z$ time: Who is that boy that ran off?"

In his most surly and sarcastic tone, my buddy snarled, "Well, his name is...Sam Sausage! What of it?" I remember thinking, "Buddy, you just don't get it." That cop hit him so hard it almost broke my nose.

Up to that point, I had been worried about getting a ticket or an impounded car. Given the turn of events, that would have been a godsend. Apparently, this particular officer was not real big on paperwork. My small-town friend was, unfortunately for him, next in line. His problem was, he really didn't know the runner's name, and neither did I, so my prospects were not looking too good, either. Now the cop ran the same drill. Grabbing the collar of my friend (who was now wishing he could "beam" back to "Nowhere, USA"), he looked him in the eye and said, "I'm gonna ask you one @!&Z$ time: Who is that boy that ran off?"

Well, as I said, my friend may not have known his name, but he did know what probably wasn't going to be the best answer. With absolutely no surliness and no attitude, and with all the sincerity that a petrified, cottonmouthed kid could muster, he said, "Sir, I swear to you on my mother's grave (she was of course alive and well back in "Nowhere"), I don't know his name, but, sir, I can promise you this: I am absolutely certain it is not Sam Sausage."

As scared as I was, I instantly thought, "Now he gets it. We may live through this yet." I said not a word, figuring this cop needed a really good leaving alone. My dad had taught me there are times in life when you just don't want to miss a good chance to shut up. This was clearly one of those times. One guy did not get it, and he was kissing the pavement and would sport two black eyes for the next several weeks. One guy did get it, and he was still vertical and could see out of both of his eyes. A stark contrast. I can assure you that we never traveled over twenty-five miles an hour on that cop's beat again, ever. Life just goes better when you are one of those who gets it.

Now to avoid "kissing the pavement" yourself, you have to be willing to learn the Life Laws and how things work so that you can fold all of that into your life.

WHAT MAKES EVERYONE TICK

To give you a running start in building a strategy for the way you deal with others, I want to share with you some of the most common characteristics of all people. If you understand these common things it can help you know how to deal with people and be more effective.

I'm no Dave Letterman, but let me give you my Top 10 list straight from Dorm 66 at the University of Texas. This Top 10 list is made up of things that are almost always present in all people. If you know these things, you have a great understanding about your teachers, friends, parents, brothers and sisters, and anyone else you encounter in your life. Already, right now, when you finish reading this list, you will know things that 99.9 percent of the people in the world don't know. Here are the ten most significant common characteristics:


Top 10 List from Dorm 66 at the University of Texas

10. Even when it's not Halloween, everybody wears a mask. You must look beyond the mask to see the person.

9. Even good people have bad days.

8. People often do things for other than the

apparent reasons.

7. People like, trust, and believe those who like them.

6. People hear only what they understand.

5. Everybody prefers to talk about things that are important to him or her.

4. Everybody, including my sweet old Grandma Jerry, approaches every situation with at least some concern about. "What's in it for me?"

3. People are easier to manage if you are friendly instead of bossy.

2. Everyone's number-one need is acceptance.

1. Everyone's number-one fear is rejection.


Think about why knowing just these ten things about people can start moving you in the direction of becoming one of those who gets it. Take trait four: Everybody approaches every situation with at least some concern about "what's in it for me?" If you come to appreciate that, then you are going to understand that if you want to persuade someone to do something, to think a certain way, or allow you to do a certain thing, you are going to have to figure out some way that there is something in it for them.

You may be surprised to hear me say that I believe all people are selfish. But I am just telling you how it is. I am just saying that if you understand these characteristics about the way we all act -- and if you understand the universal needs of another human being -- then you know how to make things happen. To ignore these "givens" about people would be the same as sealing your fate before you even begin. Failure is not an accident. You either set yourself up for it or you don't.

ARE YOU READY TO GET IT?

If you stay focused, and if you start applying the rest of the Life Laws, you will "get it." You will set yourself up for success.

You do not have to be the brightest person in the crowd, but you do have to be eager and tenacious. You have to decide that you will become one who gets it no matter what. You have to develop a quality of pushing through when the going is tough. You get it by working and trying harder, inch by inch.

You also must resolve to find out how you work from the inside out. I am talking here about making yourself a project. You have other proj0.ects at school, at home, or at your church or temple. What I want you to do is make yourself a project.

If you want to "get it," then it's time for you to begin. You become the jump start for altering your life and increasing its quality. I want to stress that these are learned skills. This is knowledge that must be acquired. Maya Angelou has eloquently said, "You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." This and the next nine Life Laws will help you know better so that you can do better.

Congratulations! Whether you know it or not, you are already moving into the driver's seat of life. You are already setting the wheels of change into motion, which is one of the hardest parts of the process.

Now let's get you up to speed.

Copyright © 2000 by Jay McGraw

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Table of Contents

About This Workbook ix
Part I Wake Up!-Get Real With Yourself: Based on the Introduction and Powering Up Sections in Life Strategies for Teens
A Quick Self-Check 3
The Story of My Life 4
Why. Oh, Why? 6
Start Thinking About What You Want in Life 7
Be Willing to Take Positive Risks 10
Behaviors and Consequences 14
What's Really Not Working? 17
What Is Working? 18
Part II Wisen Up!-Understanding The Ten Life Laws: Based on Life Law 1 Through Life Law 10 in Life Strategies for Teens
Life Law #1 You Either Get It. Or You Don't 26
Working the System 27
What Makes Us Tick? 34
Spy for a Week 38
Do Something Different! 42
Life Law #2 You Create Your Own Experience 45
Owning Up to My Feelings 45
But What Did I Do? 47
Stop Saying That About Yourself! 49
"If You Look and Act Like a Dumb-Ass..." 51
The Roles We Play 52
What's My Style? 53
Life Law #3 People Do What Works 59
Unfulfilled Promises 60
Payoffs 61
What's Got to Go? 62
Cash In Negative Payoffs for Positive Payoffs 66
Do I Fear Risk? 68
Life Law #4 You Cannot Change What You Do Not Acknowledge 71
The Webs We Weave... 72
Rewrite History a Little 73
Fessing Up 73
"If You Don't Stand for Something, You Will Fall for Anything" 74
Know What to Say Next Time 76
Am I Stuck in My Comfort Zone? 77
Baggage? 79
Happy Days 81
Life Law #5 Life Rewards Action 83
Go Have Some Fun 84
"I Had Every Good Intention..." 86
"I Just Called to Say..." 88
But Wait! There's More! 89
Ten Times I've Dropped the Ball 90
Here's What I Have Done 92
Get Out There! 94
Life Law #6 There Is No Reality, Only Perception 95
The Lenses We Use 95
I Hear Voices 96
My Tapes About Myself 98
Did Your Perceptions Fool You? 99
Beliefs That Have Become Blinders 101
Debate Yourself and Lose 103
Life Law #7 Life Is Managed; It Is Not Cured 107
How Is Your Life Manager Doing? 108
What Are You Doing with All That Time? 109
Your Life Is Now on Project Status 112
What Are Priorities Made Of? 113
Turning Dreams into Goals 115
Life Law #8 We Teach People How To Treat Us 117
You and Your Parents 118
Renegotiating with Your Parents 120
Renegotiating with Your Peers 123
My Social World 126
Who, Me? 127
Life Law #9 There Is Power In Forgiveness 129
Turning Forgiveness into Action: The "I'm Out of Here" Response 130
Let Yourself Off the Hook 133
What Are You Proud Of? 135
Life Law #10 You Have To Name It Before You Can Claim It 137
Out, Out! 138
So, What Is It You Really Want? 140
What Stands in My Way Right Now? 144
Marching Orders for Success 146
Part III Get Ready-The Ten Life Laws Made Simple: A Reference 149
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First Chapter

Life Law One: You Either Get It, Or You Don't

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
— Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM (1943)
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS LIFE LAW

To discover and use the huge power you have to change your life. Learn how the game is played so you can get unstuck and have more of what you want and need. Stop being pissed off and start winning. Become one who gets it.


Kim, a friend of mine in high school, hated our cafeteria food, and at least once a week she would sneak off campus and go to one of the nearby fast-food places. The problem was that our principal caught her every time she came back and gave her a detention.

Kim hated detention but always thought she would get away with leaving "this time." She never did. By Christmas break Kim had served twenty-one detentions.


WHY IS THAT?

Next time your math teacher is droning on and on, why don't you let your mind wander a bit. Think about this: Why do some people seem to do so well while others, like Kim, seem lost and confused and don't appear to have a clue how to do any better?

Take it a step further. How is it, for instance, that Tom and Dave can score the same on an IQ test, yet Tom is a total waste at school while Dave makes straight As? Why is it that Meghan can maintain a great relationship with a guy while Laura, who's much better looking and more vivacious than Meghan, can't get a guy to take her out for more than two weeks? Why is it that Robert has been able to rise up from his abusive childhood and Amy has been able to succeed despite growing up poor while William, who comes from one of the most prominent and richest families in the city, is a total loser?

Why is it that the most popular girl in school is, in fact, the most popular girl in school? Why is it that the star athlete is so determined to succeed? Why is it that the school's class president is so good at organizing and presenting information? Why is it that some kids are so good-natured and so friendly you always want to sit with them at lunch?

Is it because they are more gifted than you? They've got genes that you don't?


Get real. Not a chance.

I hate to be blunt, but there's no better way to say this: These are people who have pulled their heads out of the clouds and decided to learn how the world works. They have stopped stumbling along, they have eliminated the types of behavior that just don't benefit them in the long run, and they have figured out what it's going to take to get the results they want. They don't stew over their problems, they don't look for excuses about why they can't get things done, and they don't get angry and pout about how life can be so unfair. Instead, they have made the effort to change their lives by accumulating certain information, putting together a plan, and applying the right skills.

In short, they "get it." They know that it isn't the luck of the draw that determines who gets to be successful. They know there isn't much guesswork involved in getting the results that matter — whether those results be good grades, starring roles in anything from a sports team to the drama club, more freedom and independence after school, or even happiness and a deeper sense of peace.

They know there is a kind of "system," or process, that can be used to get ahead of the pack. They have taken the time to study that system. For them, learning that system is no different than learning to drive a car or fly an airplane. They know there is work required to learn how to navigate through life. For them it's never been enough just to become aware that there is a system. They learn how to make that system work for them.


It's no different for you. All you have to do is learn that system and then work it, and you, too, will get what you want.

Sounds sort of cut-and-dried, doesn't it? All you have to do is follow a few rules. Learn a "system." You're thinking, "Come on, Jay, you don't know what you're talking about. Life is very anxiety-ridden, full of problems and weirdness, crazy parents, backstabbing friends, bossy teachers. How can that be?"

Trust me, all you have to do is work the system.

WORKING THE SYSTEM

Are you wondering just what in the heck I am talking about? Think back on the other people you know who are successful. The reason they "get it" is because they refuse to choose behaviors that they know will put them at a disadvantage with the rules of the world. What they do choose are behaviors that they know will get them the things that they want.

Here's an example of how the system works.

Grades: The guys and girls who "get it" in this world know that if they make poor grades, they get a poor level of respect. They know that if they make mediocre grades, they get only mediocre respect. They know that good grades create a level of respect and trust from parents and teachers that they cannot get any other way. They know that good grades lead to more freedom and more responsibility in life.

Here's the important thing: Those who "get it" know that the world's response to good grades is a fact of life that just isn't going to change. They accept that fact and they utilize it. When I was cruising (or so I thought) through my teens, I hopelessly did not "get it" about grades. Whenever the report card came out every six weeks my dad would sit me down for the big talk. He'd say, over and over, "How can you not want to study? How do you not have a thirst for knowledge? How can you not discipline yourself to do this? Don't you hate showing up at school and everybody thinks you're the guy who knows nothing?"

I think I heard the "thirst-for-knowledge" speech a thousand times. I'd tell my dad that I would really do better and study harder the next six weeks. But as soon as I was back in my room, I'd go back to staring at the ceiling. Apparently, I just didn't want to work the system. I'd rather have fun with my friends, concentrate on things like basketball — you know the story.

But did my refusal to work the system make me any happier? Was I more fulfilled living the carefree existence because I wasn't studying? I'm afraid not. I was always feeling slightly guilty, and slightly worried. Thank God I finally had my moment of epiphany, where I woke up and realized, "Hey, you male bimbo, who are you kidding here? This is your future that you're letting slip away from you." But if I had just "gotten it" when I was fifteen, my life would have been so much better, so much calmer, so much more rewarding.

Many of you are probably like me. You haven't spent much time learning and working the system. Some of you have just drifted along, thinking you can't really affect your destiny until you become an adult. Others of you are out there saying things like you shouldn't have to be judged on such things as your grades. You're saying, "I don't have to conform to the ways of the world."

Maybe you're right, but you're missing the point entirely. I'm not talking about right or wrong; I'm just talking about getting the results you want in your life, period. When you are one of those who "gets it," it's as if you are the star in the movie of your own life, and you are making things happen, rather than waiting for them to happen. You write your own script, you choose who is in the film, and you even direct the action that leads you to the ending you want. Instead of just reacting to whatever comes along in life, you get to live a life you have designed.

Sounds pretty fancy, but think about it. To get anywhere in life, to achieve any of your goals (even the most nonconformist ones), you have to figure out the best way to do it, and that requires you to figure out the rules you must follow and the roles you must play. You want to be a sports star in school? There is a system you have to work to get there. You want to be the most popular kid in school? There is a system you have to work to get there. You want to be in the chess club? There is a system you have to work to get there. You want to live with some passion in your life? There is a system you have to work to get there.

THOSE WHO DON'T GET IT

Please understand, this is not a Life Law aimed only at those of you who want to be the super-great performers. It's also for all of you who know, deep down, that the time has come to put your life together. It's a Life Law for those of you who know you "should" do something about your life and who'd like to change, but who just aren't sure how to change. It's for those of you who blame circumstances for your place in life, but who don't know exactly how to find the circumstances you want. It's for those of you who feel so bored that you don't even like hanging out with yourself.

Think about how much time you've put into some aspects of your life. You've spent hours mastering video games, or sports, or memorizing songs. But you spend little or no time learning the system of life and then working it.

I'm not saying that your goal should be to become fanatically driven and so determined to be successful that you sacrifice all the other parts of your life. I'm not saying that at all. But there's a big difference between just going from day to day barely getting by, versus understanding who you are, how your life works, and how you can take the initiative to design your life. It's only when you finally "get it" that you can beat back all those lingering feelings of anxiety and confusion that you often have at night when you're sitting up in your bedroom alone wondering why no one seems to understand you. It's only when you finally "get it" that you can get to a place where you are no longer ignored, unfairly targeted, or flat-out run over. We know how easy it is for that to happen.

Think of what "getting it" will do for you. If you're in the game of life, whether you're currently playing the game at school for grades, or socially for popularity, or trying to land a certain girlfriend or boyfriend, or competing for a part-time after-school job, think of the incredible edge you will have over everybody else if you understand how the game works.

You will have an advantage because knowledge is definitely power. I see it all the time when I sucker my dad into playing video games with me. He doesn't have a clue how to score, he doesn't know where the trap doors are, he doesn't know how to generate extra points — so he fumbles along with a ham-fisted approach to a game he just doesn't understand. I slaughter him every single time. I don't mean some of the time; I mean every time. My dad is as smart as me and as quick as me and even has eyes as good as I do, but he just doesn't get it. Half the time he's holding the controller upside down.

No matter how highly you think of yourself, if you don't understand the rules of this world, you are not even a threat when you find yourself in competition with those who do get it, those who have the skills and know the rules. Let me tell you:


  • It's not uncool to know how the world works and to know how to get the things that you want.
  • It's not uncool to figure out a way to get along with your parents.
  • It's not uncool to find a way to get along with your teachers.
  • It's not uncool to say "No, that bothers me," when talking about behavior you don't want or you're not ready for, like drugs, alcohol, or sex.
  • It's not uncool to have a diversity of friends.
  • It's not uncool to get excited about something in your life, to find a passion, and to live with passion.
GETTING IT WITH OTHER PEOPLE

One of the best things about those who get it is that they realize that they have to interact with others. I know a lot of you believe that you can make your own way, march to your own drummer, and set your own agenda. Fine. You still have to interact with other people, and if you want to get anywhere at all, you must understand people, if for no other reason, so that you can get them to do what you want them to do. When you "get it" about other people — when you realize what drives their behavior — then you can use this knowledge for yourself and your own strategy to be successful.

Let me tell you about something that happened to my father. This story taught me a lot about "getting it." Here's how he tells it:


When I was in high school in Kansas City, I worked the night shift down at Hallmark Cards. When you get off work at two or three o'clock in the morning, it's a different world than what people see during the day. We were night owls looking for trouble, and we usually found some. A buddy of mine, who also worked at the plant, owned a Chevy Chevelle muscle car with over four hundred horsepower. After work, we liked to race around the deserted streets at ridiculous speeds, looking for a drag race with some other late-night moron with a hundred dollars to bet.

One night, during the Christmas holiday, we had two passengers on our late-night prowls: a longtime friend visiting me from a small town, and a friend of the driver's whom I had not met before. Under my then-theory that stupidity was a virtue, we were doing well over a hundred miles an hour on Main Street, right on the fringe of downtown Kansas City, when an unmarked patrol car appeared out of nowhere, clinging to our bumper. His car was apparently pretty fast, too. He didn't seem to want to race; I was pretty sure he didn't have any beer to share, and boy, did he look mad.

Skipping the usual practice of flooding us with spotlights and calling for backup, the patrolman pulled us over and leaped out of his car, slamming his door so hard we could feel it. I don't know if this cop was truly a giant or just looked that way that night, but he looked big enough to have his own weather systems, and it definitely looked like a storm was brewing.

As the officer stomped up to the car, my buddy's friend panicked. Wriggling and sliding out the rear window, he dropped headfirst to the sidewalk and took off running. If that cop wasn't mad enough before, he was now. It was bad enough that we had violated his turf; now, because one of us had run away, we had further insulted him and defied his authority.

The policeman yanked the driver's door open, grabbed my buddy by the collar, dragged him out, and ordered us to follow suit. Holding my friend by the collar, he said, "I'm going to ask you one @!&Z$ time: Who is that boy that ran off?"

In his most surly and sarcastic tone, my buddy snarled, "Well, his name is...Sam Sausage! What of it?" I remember thinking, "Buddy, you just don't get it." That cop hit him so hard it almost broke my nose.

Up to that point, I had been worried about getting a ticket or an impounded car. Given the turn of events, that would have been a godsend. Apparently, this particular officer was not real big on paperwork. My small-town friend was, unfortunately for him, next in line. His problem was, he really didn't know the runner's name, and neither did I, so my prospects were not looking too good, either. Now the cop ran the same drill. Grabbing the collar of my friend (who was now wishing he could "beam" back to "Nowhere, USA"), he looked him in the eye and said, "I'm gonna ask you one @!&Z$ time: Who is that boy that ran off?"

Well, as I said, my friend may not have known his name, but he did know what probably wasn't going to be the best answer. With absolutely no surliness and no attitude, and with all the sincerity that a petrified, cottonmouthed kid could muster, he said, "Sir, I swear to you on my mother's grave (she was of course alive and well back in "Nowhere"), I don't know his name, but, sir, I can promise you this: I am absolutely certain it is not Sam Sausage."

As scared as I was, I instantly thought, "Now he gets it. We may live through this yet." I said not a word, figuring this cop needed a really good leaving alone. My dad had taught me there are times in life when you just don't want to miss a good chance to shut up. This was clearly one of those times. One guy did not get it, and he was kissing the pavement and would sport two black eyes for the next several weeks. One guy did get it, and he was still vertical and could see out of both of his eyes. A stark contrast. I can assure you that we never traveled over twenty-five miles an hour on that cop's beat again, ever. Life just goes better when you are one of those who gets it.

Now to avoid "kissing the pavement" yourself, you have to be willing to learn the Life Laws and how things work so that you can fold all of that into your life.

WHAT MAKES EVERYONE TICK

To give you a running start in building a strategy for the way you deal with others, I want to share with you some of the most common characteristics of all people. If you understand these common things it can help you know how to deal with people and be more effective.

I'm no Dave Letterman, but let me give you my Top 10 list straight from Dorm 66 at the University of Texas. This Top 10 list is made up of things that are almost always present in all people. If you know these things, you have a great understanding about your teachers, friends, parents, brothers and sisters, and anyone else you encounter in your life. Already, right now, when you finish reading this list, you will know things that 99.9 percent of the people in the world don't know. Here are the ten most significant common characteristics:


Top 10 List from Dorm 66 at the University of Texas

10. Even when it's not Halloween, everybody wears a mask. You must look beyond the mask to see the person.

9. Even good people have bad days.

8. People often do things for other than the

apparent reasons.

7. People like, trust, and believe those who like them.

6. People hear only what they understand.

5. Everybody prefers to talk about things that are important to him or her.

4. Everybody, including my sweet old Grandma Jerry, approaches every situation with at least some concern about. "What's in it for me?"

3. People are easier to manage if you are friendly instead of bossy.

2. Everyone's number-one need is acceptance.

1. Everyone's number-one fear is rejection.


Think about why knowing just these ten things about people can start moving you in the direction of becoming one of those who gets it. Take trait four: Everybody approaches every situation with at least some concern about "what's in it for me?" If you come to appreciate that, then you are going to understand that if you want to persuade someone to do something, to think a certain way, or allow you to do a certain thing, you are going to have to figure out some way that there is something in it for them.

You may be surprised to hear me say that I believe all people are selfish. But I am just telling you how it is. I am just saying that if you understand these characteristics about the way we all act — and if you understand the universal needs of another human being — then you know how to make things happen. To ignore these "givens" about people would be the same as sealing your fate before you even begin. Failure is not an accident. You either set yourself up for it or you don't.

ARE YOU READY TO GET IT?

If you stay focused, and if you start applying the rest of the Life Laws, you will "get it." You will set yourself up for success.

You do not have to be the brightest person in the crowd, but you do have to be eager and tenacious. You have to decide that you will become one who gets it no matter what. You have to develop a quality of pushing through when the going is tough. You get it by working and trying harder, inch by inch.

You also must resolve to find out how you work from the inside out. I am talking here about making yourself a project. You have other proj0.ects at school, at home, or at your church or temple. What I want you to do is make yourself a project.

If you want to "get it," then it's time for you to begin. You become the jump start for altering your life and increasing its quality. I want to stress that these are learned skills. This is knowledge that must be acquired. Maya Angelou has eloquently said, "You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." This and the next nine Life Laws will help you know better so that you can do better.

Congratulations! Whether you know it or not, you are already moving into the driver's seat of life. You are already setting the wheels of change into motion, which is one of the hardest parts of the process.

Now let's get you up to speed.

Copyright © 2000 by Jay McGraw

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Interviews & Essays

Interview with Jay McGraw
Barnes & Noble.com: Life Strategies for Teens is modeled on the ideas introduced by your father, Phillip McGraw, in his bestseller, Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters. How do the two books compare?

Jay McGraw: My book is very similar to his in that it teaches the same method. The "Life Laws" are literally the same. They have to be. We didn't come up with these life laws; they were already there. We are just making people aware of them. But my book is very different in that I've kind of taken CNN and made it MTV. For me, it's difficult sometimes just to get through a book. I just sat down with some other teenagers, and we brainstormed on what would make it easier to read -- illustrations, exercises, conversational stories. I just knew that would make it easier for me.

B&N.com: What was fun about writing the book, and what was hard?

JM: I am still facing all the issues I am talking about in Life Strategies. It is a really different perspective than that of someone who is looking back 20 years. That made it really fun. One of the hardest things was that I worried I was leaving something out. Obviously, there are some issues I didn't deal with. But Life Strategies teaches you how to solve problems. It provides you with tools.

B&N.com: In researching your book, you spoke to many teenagers, both friends and focus group participants. What was the most prevalent issue these teens said they needed help with?

JM: The one thing I've noticed in literally every teenager I've talked to in writing this book is that we really want our parents to listen to us. We really want them to be excited about our lives -- but just to be excited about it and not examine it too much. One of the life strategies is that you teach people how to treat you. This really applies to talking to parents. I was told, "I want my parents to treat me like an adult." And my response was, "Why would they? What are you doing to make your parents treat you that way?" They said, "Honestly, not much. I sneak out of the house, I blow up when I'm mad, I don't take their advice...."

You dictate how much freedom you get for yourself. If you come home late and get the standard question from your parents -- "What did you do tonight?" And your response is, "Nuthin'." "Who'd you go out with?" "Nobody." -- then you get the same results the next weekend: You get grounded. But if you come home and share with them, like you want them to do with you, you create a level of trust with your parents that gives you more freedom and them more peace of mind.

B&N.com: You mention the use of drugs and alcohol quite frequently in your book. Is this a pressing concern for teens today?

JM: This is becoming, unfortunately, more common. And it is such a negative influence on our lives. Life Law Three says that there is a payoff for everything that you do. If you realize that the payoff is a peer group, you really have to look at yourself and ask, "Is this really what I want -- these are not really friends, but drug buddies -- or do I work toward something much more beneficial to my life?" You make a more educated decision.

B&N.com: We've seen some tragic events recently, such as the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, that were a reaction, in part, to intense social pressure. Can your ideas apply to such extreme situations?

JM: Events like Columbine are absolutely avoidable. The media says these are bad kids. I think kids just do bad things. And the reason is that they don't know how to be successful and go with the grain. If you understand the life laws and apply them to your life, it is much more fulfilling in the long run.

B&N.com: Can you describe an instance in which you applied the laws to your own life?

JM: One of the things I am most proud of is that I've gotten a pilot's license. And I got it in just 30 days. I made a goal for myself to get a license before graduating from high school. It usually takes six months, but living by the life laws allowed me to achieve that in such a short period of time. Life Law Five says life rewards action. There is a lot of value in making plans, but those plans are worthless if you don't take action on them. I took action immediately; I decided I wanted to do it, and I went out and did it. Life Law Seven -- life is managed, not cured -- is very important, as I had to manage my time, my priorities, and my schedule. And you have to name it before you claim it [Life Law 10]. I said that I wanted the license; I was very specific about what I wanted and when I wanted it. If you don't know what you're working for, how do you know if you're working toward it or away from it?

If you really have a goal in life, you work toward that goal and make better decisions. The book really teaches you how to get excited about something and get a strategy going to get it.

B&N.com: With a book already under your belt at 21, what are your goals for the future?

JM: This is my third year of college, and I am graduating this year. I'm applying to law school right now, which is taking up most of my time. I would certainly be interested in another book. And further on, the idea of working with my dad [who, in addition to being a well-known author, is president of a high-profile litigation-consulting firm] is very exciting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2001

    Superb Workbook to Supplement Life Strategies for Teens

    Please realize that the basic book that this workbook relates to is Life Strategies for Teens, which I have also reviewed in December 2000. Without that book, this workbook will lose much of its ability to be helpful. My suggestion is that adults or teens read Life Strategies for Teens first. If you like that book, then get this workbook as well. If you are buying Life Strategies for Teens as a gift for a teenager, I suggest that you also give the workbook at the same time. The workbook provides lots of questions, ways to develop ideas, and helpful projects that are designed to be done between reading fairly small segments of Life Strategies for Teens. The workbook starts with ¿A Quick Self-Check¿ of 12 revealing questions. You go on to write the story of your life. From there, you list stupid decisions, and consider what directed dreaming inspires you to think about. You self-examine which behaviors are working and not working for you. To help you ¿get it¿ another section focuses you on models, skills you need, relationships, learning about other people, and breaking patterns that don¿t work well for you. The fun really begins when you list experiences you would like to have, and begin tracking when you have those experiences. You go on to learn more about what you stand for, reward yourself for doing what needs to be done, and change the way you think about and talk to yourself. Diving deeper, you will consider how your beliefs may be making you blind to opportunities. When you are ready, you will start making some important life decisions. There¿s plenty of help for improving relationships, if that¿s part of what¿s needed. Having developed that sense of focus, you go on to create your first life plan. . . . And then the excitement really begins! You¿re on your way! The whole project began with, 'Dad, trust me, when it comes to teens, you don't get it!' Thus, Mr. Jay McGraw told his Dad, Dr. Phil McGraw, that Dr. Phil was violating his own first rule for Life Strategies, You Either Get It or You Don't. Mr. Jay had wanted to use Life Strategies to improve his own life, and found that it took him 6 years (from age 13 to age 19) to translate the lessons into a teen perspective that made sense to Mr. Jay. Mr. Jay was naturally appalled when he found that Dr. Phil had a book contract to do a book on Life Strategies for teens. The project was reborn in Mr. Jay's hands. By the time Mr. Jay was done, he was no longer a teen, having reached the ripe old age of 20. But his memory of teenage perspectives is strong and salty. Early in Life Strategies for Teens, he candidly points out that the teen did not buy this book. It was a gift from an adult, usually a parent. That¿s why I suggested that the book and workbook be given together as a gift. I suggest that you read Life Strategies for Teens before giving it to anyone. That may be its greatest benefit. Mr. Jay does a good job of taking on the key psychological, social, and developmental challenges of the teenage years. As you visit these points of view, you can begin to see how your teenager might see you. Life Strategies for Teens follows Dr. Phil's 10 laws. You can also read my reviews of Life Strategies and the Life Strategies Workbook if you want to know more about those resources. Mr. Jay takes the perspective of what the payoff is from the teenage years. For example, he candidly points out that you can decide not to get good grades. But you have to understand that that means that you will get less respect from everyone, and have fewer choices after high school is over. Coming from a parent, that would have sounded preachy. Coming from Mr. Jay, it just sounds matter-of-fact. If you have a pretty good relationship with your teen, a possible approach is to start doing Life Strategies yourself. Ask your teen if he or she would help you with the exercises in that book. As you open up about your issues, hopes,

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2009

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