Saturday, October 31, 2009

Top Athletes Show Up for Practice

Michael Jordan and Practice

Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the best basketball player to ever play the game. But it wasn’t all just raw talent. He trained relentlessly. Even at the top of his career, when everyone saw him as the best, most valuable player on his team, he didn’t use his fame as an excuse to get sloppy in practice. According to Stacy King, one of his teammates with the Chicago Bulls:

“He came to work every day. He didn’t use his superstar status to skip practice. MJ was always at practice. For someone like myself, I couldn’t call in sick with a toe injury. If Michael Jordan could get pounded on every night and then come to practice to run sprints and go through a full practice the next day, guys like myself and B.J. Armstrong couldn’t think about missing practice. He had tremendous talent, but he was ultra competitive and had a great work ethic.”

Tom Brady and Matt Ryan at Practice

In football, you see this work ethic in successful players like Quarterbacks Tom Brady for New England and Matt Ryan for the Atlanta Falcons. They show up for all the optional, off-season conditioning. They keep practicing plays after the regular practice. Ryan has the game plan sent to him before the first day of practice, so that he can start studying it early.
A part of success is simply showing up. That goes for school too. I know that you have those days when you can think of a million things you’d rather do than hop on that bus. But I challenge you to do it anyway. Keep showing up. For successful people, that’s a huge part of their success.

For more character stories, visit Legacy Educational Resources at .

Led Zeppelin and Jack Welch Show Up On Time

Led Zeppelin took the 1970’s by storm, rising quickly to become, not only one of the most popular bands of their time, but of all time. Their song, Stairway to Heaven, remains one of the most played songs on radio. They’ve sold over 200 million albums worldwide. VH1 ranks them #1 on their chart of “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.”

Although they got into their fair share of craziness along the way, they were professional when it came to their music. They determined that they would let nothing come before their music. Here’s an example: according to their manager, during their twelve years of performing, they never missed a performance. Never. Neither were they ever late.

Think of it this way, had they been performing throughout your school career of 12 grades, they would have never been late for a performance. Not once.

You’ll find this as a characteristic of many highly successful people. They show up. On time. Every time.

Jack Welch lead one the largest, most successful companies in the world – General Electric. GE is worth more than the total domestic product of entire countries. Because of Welch’s performance there, he’s considered one of the greatest business leaders of his time.

But before he became president, while he was working his way up through the company, he found ways to separate himself out from the pack. Here’s one thing he did: if he had a business meeting scheduled the next day in another city, but he was afraid that bad weather might delay his flight, he’d fly in the day before.

That attention to showing up, on time and prepared, was a part of what made people know that he could one day lead the company.

From Led Zeppelin to Jack Welch, success people find ways to make their meetings on time. Do you want to get a good education? Now’s a great time to overcome whatever hurdles keep you from showing up from school. Hey, it’s not always easy. But find ways to make it happen and it just might make you successful, whether you want to be a rock star or a business leader.

(Sources: Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin, Uncensored, by Richard Cole, with Richard Trubo, HarperCollinsPublishers, 1992, p. 377.)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When Character Seems Inconsistent

Does a person's character permeate his life, flowing consistently from work to leisure to family? Not necessarily, say Psychologists. A NY Times op ed piece reports that Psychologists often find students being honest at school, but dishonest at home. A jock may be bold on the playing field, but a wimp at verbally presenting a project to a small group. In other words, for many, character isn't something that people tend to have, regardless of their situation or activity. It may shift when given different contexts.

This makes sense from my observations. People who would otherwise be considered incredibly virtuous feel no remorse at misleading a potential car buyer about the imminent demise of your clunker's transmission.

If we feel (and I do) that good character traits should to be applied consistently in all aspects of life, we may need to take a closer look at areas of life we've tended to ignore. After all, when a child sees a parent bragging about cheating the government out of a bit of taxes, the child concludes, not that merely that the parent cheats on taxes, but that cheating can be OK. Don't believe me? Warn your child about cheating at school and see if the tax thing comes up.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Teaching Millennials More Effectively

Are you passionate about teaching, but often distraught with the lack of student motivation and engagement? Perhaps, by failing to understand your students, you've either failed to push the right buttons, or are pushing the wrong buttons.

Yesterday I attended a thought-provoking, yet practical seminar at Kennesaw State University. It was lead by Dr. Christy Price, professor of Psychology at Dalton State College, and researcher in the area of understanding and teaching millennials. (If you'd like to read her essay on this subject, click HERE.)

Here are some of my take-aways:

1. Be relevant. Show students how what you're teaching will help them be successful in the areas they want to be successful. Don't teach knowledge for knowledge's sake.

2. Be relational. Millennials are all about relationships. Within sane limits (you can't be their parent or best buddy!) communicate with them via e-mail, one-on-one, etc. One of my sons communicates much better via e-mail than face-to-face. Use whatever means is most comfortable to them. Take an interest in their world, and they may take in interest in your subject matter and your world.

When teaching a one-time seminar or class, I like to start by asking students about their interests and where they're headed vocationally. Then, as I teach, I keep referring to how my content could help several of the class members with their specific goals. [After all, their primary motivation for being at school isn't to become wise (shocking), but to get a good job. So it makes sense to engage them by appealing to their felt needs.] Dr. Price used this technique in her seminar, talking to individuals before the seminar about what they do and referring back to them during the seminar.

3. Care. Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Although this is so often said as to be trite, it's so seldom applied that students are wowed when they sense a professor really cares. One poll found students putting "knowledgable" last on their list of what they look for in a professor. Perhaps it's because they expect that any teacher should know her subject. Whatever the case, don't think you can impress them or hook them by knowing all the dates of important historical events. If you're simply dispensing facts that they can look up on the internet, you're irrelevant.

4. Chill. They live in an informal world. They wear flip-flops and pants that hang off their butts. Is it surprising that they're uncomfortable around uptight, immaculately dressed, formal types? Perhaps because they're more buddy-buddy with their parents than former generations, they come across less respectful when addressing other adults. They'll often treat you more as an equal than is comfortable to you.

Rather than bemoan their sloppiness and sometimes irritating remarks, harness that openness to get them discussing and thinking. Whereas former generations might have been too scared of their authorities to routinely challenge opinions or add to discussions, this generation will often dive right in.

One professor commented after the seminar, "I think the reason that most history professors lecture the entire hour is that they're afraid that if they allow for questions, students will ask them things they can't answer, especially when they're covering areas outside of their dissertation." I'd respond, "Get over it. They know you're not omniscient - why not admit it?"

So, chill.

I remember one of my college philosophy professors saying, "The older I get, the more comfortable I get with that little phrase, 'I don't know.'" I respected him for that. Still do. Get used to that phrase, followed by this comment, "but that's a great question! Maybe we can figure that out together!"

If you come across approachable, you'll learn so much together with your students.

5. Be open minded and flexible - not rigid. One teacher wanted students to not wear hats. Perhaps he felt it was important for his students to get used to a professional environment or whatever. One student approached him privately about his hat making him feel more comfortable. Additionally, (and probably the real issue) his hair was thinning, which was an embarrassment. The teacher bent and let the class wear hats. When it makes sense to change, change.

6. Don't talk down to them.
Many millennials are overconfident (a condition shared by most Americans, for that matter), leading them to think they're smarter and more knowledgeable than they are. When you're looking at your class, realize that most of them think they're above average. If your mission in life is to take them down a notch by showing them how dumb they really are, it probably won't work. They'll simply conclude, "That teacher thinks he knows so much - but he doesn't know anything that I can't find with a Google search. He's so full of himself!"

Instead, harness that audacity by getting their input. Ask them if they agree or disagree. Ask them how the principle applies to real life. Back in the late 70's one of my colleges scheduled a session for students to give their input into the curriculum. Lots of students showed up and gave valuable input. That's called respecting students. But how many teachers are humble enough learners to listen to students' ideas?

Use informal, rather than technical language. Don't try to impress them with big words.

7. Minimize lecture - 20 minutes max at a time. They don't hate lecture - just exclusive lecture. Inject discussions, video clips, etc. - anything to give them time to digest important concepts and appeal to the students who don't learn best by lecture.

8. Allow yourself to be fun and use humor. If you're not funny, find funny stuff (u-tube, etc.) that relates to your subject. Your students could help you to find it!

9. Enhance your teaching with new technology. Dr. Price gave us all hand-held devices (i clickers) at the first of the seminar, by which we could anonymously answer questions throughout the presentation. We quickly learned how many age-groups were represented, what attendees thought of certain concepts, etc., by choosing A) B) C) or D) in response to her questions. Her students each buy one to use in class.

This one device would be invaluable for getting helpful student input. In Math: "The concept we just presented - do you a) now fully understand it b) kind of get it or c) don't get it at all? If 90% don't understand it, you back up and discover what they missed.

10. Emphasize group work and allow students to get to know one another. After all, isn't one of the most important things you can come out of college with is the ability to network through your connections?

11. Let them know exactly what they need to do to succeed in your class. A rubric is a great idea. Make sure they thoroughly understand it.

12. Give them options. Some would do better with a long-term project, others with weekly tests. As long as they meet your objectives by the end of the term, who cares how they got there, as long as it's fair to all?

13. Consider giving earlier tests that count less, in order for them to get acclimated. Some students will wait until after to first test to see if they can get by without buying the text. Basing an entire grade on a midterm and a final can be devastating.

14. Allow them time to process information. You might use games, exercises, or application activities.

15. Use illustrations and jokes from their world. Not only are these more interesting to your students, but using them shows that you're interested in their world.

16. Use case studies - either shared by you, on video, or with a panel of experts.

17. Grade stuff. Remember, most aren't primarily after the knowledge; they're after grades. So if you ask them to do something and they do it, but they don't get a grade for it, they feel cheated. They're used to little rewards (like a few points here and a few points there) for completing tasks. Give points for participating in class, perfect attendance, etc. Make it clear from the start what behaviors will be rewarded.

18. Treat them as individuals. The millennial profile probably fits none of your students completely, and some of your students not at all. This informative and thought-provoking article warns us to not put millennials, or any other generation, in a tidy box -

Is this helpful? Are these workable ideas, or are some of them taking the millennial thing too far?

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Eric Clapton Makes Good Use of Time

Character/Life Skills Traits: Work Ethic, Time Management

Eric Clapton is heralded by many as one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. In fact, he's the only person to be inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. How did he become so successful? Well, one thing was that he spent a lot of time with his guitar. I'll give you an example.

One evening Clapton was getting a bit frustrated. He'd been ready to go out to dinner for some time, but his girlfriend, Patty, was making him late. It wasn't the first time. She typically had a hard time getting ready for outings.

So he played his guitar for awhile to kill time, then checked back to find her still trying to decide what to wear. He told her, "Look, you look wonderful, okay? Please don't change again. We must go or we'll be late."

Now, many men at this point would have proceeded to stomp around - frustrated, hungry and steaming. But Clapton returned to his guitar and within about 10 minutes had composed a song about his predicament entitled "Wonderful Tonight." Good thing he used his time wisely. The song became one of his all-time most famous hits.

The point? Most successful people seem to carve out time for what matters, where the unsuccessful waste it. As Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor, once said, "Good things come to those who hustle while they wait."

(Source: Clapton: The Autobiography, by Eric Clapton, pp. 173, 174.)


1. How did Eric Clapton make good use of his time?

2. How do you think prioritizing his time with the guitar contributed to his success?

3. What are some things you could do to get more out of your time?

4. What's something you could do this week to make more of your time?

Share your ideas below. How do you use your time wisely? How can we get that across to our students?

Find more character stories at Legacy Educational Resources: .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Quarterback Tom Brady Teaches Us About Work

Work Can Be Fun – Even Hard Work

Imagine that you’re set financially – you’ve achieved financial independence beyond 99% of the world’s dreams. I mean, you’ve got multiple millions of dollars – plenty of money to buy lots of cool things and still live on the beach and chill for the rest of your life.

Now imagine that someone offers you a job – a hard job. A job that requires you to work-out to the point of exhaustion each day. When you fail, no matter how hard you tried, you’ll probably get yelled at. And besides the physical challenge of the job, you’ll have to digest tons of new information every week. Besides all that, it’s dangerous. There’s a high possibility of serious injuries, some of which could plague you the rest of your life.

Now, would you take the job?

Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, does that each year. He’s already wealthy beyond most people’s imagination. Yet, each year that he chooses to endure grueling practices, study film of the opposing teams, memorize thick, complicated playbooks, and risk injury. (Last year he had to undergo serious knee surgery, followed up with two surgeries to flush out staph infection.)

Why does he keep playing? Because he loves his job.

According to Brady,
  • "I want to play another 10 years."
  • “ I want to play until I'm 41. And if I get to that point and still feel good, I'll keep playing. I mean, what …else am I going to do? I don't like anything else.”
  • “Why would I ever want to do anything else?”
My point? Work isn’t so bad, as long as you can find fulfilling work that matches your strengths and interests. Believe it or not, lots of accountants, professors, builders and small business owners love their jobs so much that, even when they’ve made plenty of money, they choose not to retire.

So as you take part time jobs, reflect on what you like about them and what you hate about them. Get to know yourself. Most people don’t . The more accurately you can pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, your loves and your hates, the better you’ll be at finding work that you love; work that you love so much that you’d never trade it for leisure years at the beach.

(Quotes from Sports Illustrated, June 1, 2009, The Season Can’t Come Soon Enough for a Healthy Tom Brady, interview with Tom Brady by Peter King)


1) What are some of the difficulties Tom Brady faces in his work?

2) If you had Brady’s job and Brady’s money, would you get out now, or keep playing?

3) Why do you think he keeps playing?

4) Do you think that, given the same talent as Brady, that everyone would love his job?

5) Do you think other people can be just as passionate at their jobs, even when their work is difficult?

6) How can we find jobs that we love?

Find more life skills and character stories at Legacy Educational Resources at .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Handling Kids' Mistakes

A recent New York Times article reported studies of children and guilt. In sum, guilt is a good thing, if not taken to an extreme. When a two-year-old is told to be careful with a toy, but she breaks it, she typically experiences "a sinking feeling in the tummy." That reaction is what should continue to effectively motivate a child toward good behavior as she grows. She doesn't want to do bad things because she knows it will give her that sinking feeling.

Psychologists aren't yet sure why some of the children feel more guilt than others. Is it more genetics or upbringing?

Even if a child doesn't have a strong feeling of guilt, he may have a strong ability to self-regulate. In other words, bullying on the playground wouldn't produce a sinking feeling and he'd really like to bully those annoying little punks around, but he chooses not to because it simply doesn't seem like wise behavior (you risk discipline, lose friends, etc.).

The problem comes when a child lacks both the feeling of guilt and the ability to self-regulate.

So how should a parent or teacher deal with guilt feelings in children? Surprisingly, many children, and even adults, don't know how to productively deal with these guilt feelings. Let's say your child was careless and spilled his milk. You find him standing over the milk with that pitiful "I've blown it" look on his face. Just say something like, in a matter of fact way, "Perhaps you need to be more careful next time. Now let's clean it up and make the kitchen look even better than it did before."

It's a good way to acknowledge the mistake, give a way to practically deal with the mistake, without producing the unproductive feeling that "I'm a bad boy."

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Serve Your Way to Success

How important is service to a new company? Jeff was starting a bookstore and needed to learn the industry. So he want to a book industry conference and attended a seminar by Richard Howorth, then president of the American Booksellers Association. Howorth challenged the attendees with an incident at his bookstore. Here's a paraphrased version, from Howorth's perspective:

I was in my upstairs office when the bookstore manager confronted me with a problem. A lady was very upset and he couldn't deal with her. So I walked downstairs to meet the lady, who, sure enough, was steaming.

"What may I do for you?" I asked.

She replied that while her car was parked in front of my store, someone dropped dirt on it from a potted plant on the second story balcony. Her lawyer husband had just washed the car that morning.

"May I wash your car? I offered.

She agreed and I said, "Let's go."

So I hop into the back seat with the irate lady and her friend up front, directing her to a service station that offers car washes. It's out of order. Now she's mad at me for yet another travesty. So I direct her to my house on the other side of town and cheerfully wash her car with a hose and a bucket of soapy water.

Interestingly, it wasn't a nice car. Paint was flaking off. Who knows whether the husband had actually washed it? It was crazy. "But I pretend like I'm washing a late-model Cadillac."

After the wash, we head back to the bookstore, where the lady apologizes and thanks me.

Later that day, she returned to the store and bought a lot of books. The next day one of my workers overheard her telling the story to a group of friends at the local Holiday Inn.

The point? Go over the top with customer service. News travels fast. Treat customers like royalty and they'll spread the word.

By the way, the Jeff at the beginning of the story, the one who attended Howorth's seminar, took his advice to heart and strove to make his new bookstore tops in customer service. His full name is Jeff Bezos, whose bookstore has become the largest in the world - [From Get Big Fast, by Robert Spector (UK: Random House Business Books, 2000), pp. 52,53]

Find more character stories at Legacy Educational Resources at .

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Promoting Character: The Priority of Relationships to Students

As teachers, we're often consumed with our teaching to the neglect of our attitudes/relationships with students. That can be detrimental when we're teaching for life change.

According to an article in The Clinical Psychologist (Empirically Supported Therapy Relationships, by Norcross and Hill, VOL 57 - No 3 - Summer 2004), studies have found that the relationship of the counselor with the patient is more important than the technique used in counseling.

Applying this to promoting character, don't just design riveting discussions of character; pay attention to your relationships with your students. To be specific, be open to feedback, be empathetic, foster a good emotional climate in the classroom.

Carl Rogers' definition of empathy guided much of this research:

"empathy is the therapist's sensitive ability and willingness to understand clients' thoughts, feelings, and struggles from their point of view. In other words, empathy involves entering the private, perceptual world of the other."

Early research indicates that another trait for positive outcomes is "positive regard", defined as:

"warm acceptance of the client's experience without conditions, a prizing, an affirmation, and a deep non possessive caring."

Finally, pay attention to what might work for each individual student. Know your students! One might respond better to one method and another to a very different method.

Want to add to this discussion? Enter it below!

J. Steve Miller writes for Legacy Educational Resources

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Book on Personal Finances is Fun, Informative Read

Reviewing texts for your personal money management classes? Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It is a brand new book (which can be used as a text) that's garnering rave reviews. Teachers of personal finance in both public and private schools (including home schoolers) should take note. (Find it here on Amazon.)

Here's information from the publishers.

Personal Money Management Text bird

Enjoy Your MoneyRecommended text or supplemental reading for those teaching personal finance on a secondary level.

Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It, by J. Steve Miller (May, 2009, Wisdom Creek Press, 254 pp., includes index, documentation, discounts for bulk purchases, chapter reviews, thought questions, assignments, free web-based teacher resources, recommended further reading. Retail price: $15.99, but discounted for multi-volume purchases or for review copies.)


High school principal Dr. Phillip Page (North Cobb High School, Cobb County School System) reported, "Teachers of financial management and life skills will be thrilled to discover this book! Miller uses people stories to breathe life into financial concepts, making lessons both memorable and enjoyable. As an educator, I was impressed that the book:

  1. goes beyond “the same old stuff” that students hate;
  2. expands minds with research-based facts;
  3. engages minds with intriguing angles and creative assignments;
  4. challenges students beyond selfish accumulation to consider service to humanity;
  5. includes multiple cultures;
  6. offers hope to those with learning disabilities.

Robert Martin, Lecturer of Accounting in the prestigious Coles College of Business (one of Princeton Review's best business schools) -- "A fast, fun read with practical and often remarkable insights. Should be required reading for every high school senior and every young adult who has landed his or her first full-time job. I'm incorporating parts of the book into my lectures."

Dr. Dwight "Ike" Reighard, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer of HomeBanc -- "Had I read this book in my 20’s, I’d be financially independent today. It’s a remarkable blend of fabulous research with clear and lively writing. You’d pay an expert quite a sum for this caliber of counsel. That’s why I say that the best investment you make this year just might be this book. Your second best investment will be the copies you buy for your children."

Larry Winter, of Winter & Scoggins, CPA's -- "As a practicing CPA and financial counselor for the past 35 years, I've read scores of books and periodicals on personal finance. Just when you think you've heard it all, something like this comes along. It's rare and refreshing to find a book so enjoyable, so accurate, and so life changing. I’m purchasing 200 copies to give away to graduating seniors."

Financial columnist Cliff Pletschet of the Oakland (California) Tribune -- "Whether you are a beginner or advanced investor, do yourself a favor and absorb Miller's advice, filtered engagingly through rapport between a skillful mentor and her inquisitive followers."

Author Bio


Book Outline


Review in The Oakland (California) Tribune

View Book on

Sample Chapters

Book Ordering Information

Author Bio

J. Steve Miller - educator, investor, entrepreneur, and speaker - has taught audiences from Atlanta to Moscow. He’s known for drawing practical wisdom from serious research and communicating it in accessible, unforgettable ways. In researching and field testing this book, he not only drew from respected books in the field of finance, but received input from business leaders, educational leaders, professors, students, CPA's, financial advisors and parents.

Steve is the founder and president of Legacy Educational Resources, providing global resources for teachers of life skills in public schools and service organizations at A self-styled "wisdom broker," Steve collects wisdom from many fields and packages it for teachers and writers via his published books and the Web. His wife, Cherie, and their seven sons continually remind him what works and what doesn’t. Connect with him at


Q: Steve, what motivated you to write this book?

A: First, people are hurting with their finances. Even before the current recession, surveys found that:

  1. Twenty-five percent of American adults live paycheck to paycheck. They fear going under and desperately need to accumulate wealth.
  2. Ninety-eight percent of middle-aged people reported regret at how they spent their money in the light of how much they could have saved.
  3. Today's college students graduate with, on average, over $22,000 in debt. Their first job out of college doesn't pay what they expected. They want to get out of debt and accumulate enough wealth to purchase a house.
  4. Personal debt is reaching record highs as personal savings reach all time lows (under zero percent average savings in 2006). How will people ever get ahead?

Second, to get more personal, Cherie and I are raising seven boys, from 14-year-old twins to a 27-year-old. I don't want them to live their lives experiencing the misery of financial bondage. This book sums up what we're trying to teach them about finding financial freedom.

Q: Bookstores offer shelves of books on personal money management. Why write another one?

A: Some of those books are really good. I read wheelbarrows' full of them in my research and recommend many of them throughout my book and Web-based resources ( But I thought a different approach was in order, something that could help people totally rethink the way our culture has taught them to manage their money. So I wrote a book with these distinctives:

  1. Well researched and documented, ensuring that the advice is solid
  2. Story form to grab and hold attention
  3. Multi-Cultural (Afro-American, Hispanic, Oriental, White Anglo-Saxon)
  4. Multi-Generational, including characters from eighteen to eighty
  5. Defies stereotypes
  6. Likeable characters
  7. Neither talks down to students nor ridicules teachers
  8. Encourages learning from one another and multiple sources
  9. Includes building knowledge, skills and character
  10. Fosters giving as well as getting
  11. Encourages those with learning disabilities
  12. Includes reviews, thought questions and assignments
  13. Practical
  14. Realistic
  15. Broad use of real people stories

Q: The story line reminds me of the movie The Breakfast Club, where high school students from different parts of the school culture broke through the stereotypes to find that they weren't so different after all.

A: Great observation! That movie was a part of my inspiration. So I've got this white cheerleader, an Afro-American muscle car enthusiast, a Hispanic do-gooder and an Asian low achiever. They meet at "In School Suspension" and discover that they've got at least one thing in common: their parents are inept at personal finances and it hurts their families. They desperately want to do better, but they first must overcome their demons.

Four Students
Amy, Antonio, Akashi and James

Akashi suffers from undiagnosed disabilities, making her the black sheep of her high achieving siblings. Can a "C" student get any better than a "C" vocation and a "C" life? Antonio loves outdoor adventures and serving the less fortunate. But can he make enough of a living to support a family while working in a potentially low-paying career? James wants to make a million dollars before age 40, but no matter how much he works, he can't seem to save a cent.

They're introduced to Mrs. Kramer, an eccentric high school teacher who's unusually successful with her finances. She meets with them each Saturday morning for breakfast to discuss money management.

The resulting package includes adventure, romance and fascinating people - everything you'd never expect in a financial book.

Q: This book is more about people than numbers.

A: Yes! And not only about my fictional characters, but about real people who've succeeded marvelously with their money. Kramer introduces them to Oseola McCarty, who washed clothes for a living the old fashioned way - boiling them in a kettle over a fire. After arthritis forced her into retirement, she shocked the world by giving a $150,000 gift to a college to allow deserving students to get the education she never had. How did she save $280,000 dollars while working such a low-paying job?

Young Warren Buffett started making money with lemonade stands, finding and selling golf balls, and running paper routes. With jobs that anybody could do, he ended up making more than his teachers while he was in high school. Then he multiplied that money into billions. What were his secrets?

The answers aren't hard to comprehend; they're just counterintuitive - not what you'd expect. The book introduces the reader to a host of interesting people and their finances, from Thomas Jefferson to Mark Twain to Sam Walton. I think that financial principles are more easily understood and applied when you learn them in the context of people stories. Yet, math weaves its way through the story, as students prepare budgets, figure compound interest, calculate grocery savings, etc.

Q: With the story line, I assume your target audience is high school seniors?

A: My characters range from 18 to 80 years old. Warren Buffett started investing at age 11. My grandmother started saving and investing at age sixty-five. At age 101, with her sharp mind intact, she's accumulated a small fortune. If the interest is there, I'm finding that a wide range of ages enjoy it and reap the benefit.

Q: In the book, you keep referring readers to your Web site for more information. Why didn't you just include everything in the book?

A: Because few people would buy a 1000 page book that's about finances instead of Harry Potter! Even fewer would actually read it once they brought it home. Personal finance is a very broad subject. My copy of Benjamin Graham's classic, The Intelligent Investor, is over 600 pages, and it just covers one slice of personal finances: investing in stocks. The Web gives me unlimited space to offer teacher resources and cover topics that readers want to explore further. I think many will especially find helpful the in depth summaries of other books related to personal finance. If you want to get a snapshot of the advice of several financial writers, or to get the scoop on a book before you buy it, I think you'll find my executive summaries valuable.

Q: How much do the Web resources cost?

A: They're free. You can find them at .

Book Outline

Introduction: Part One – Investing Money

  1. Breakfast 1 – Discover the Basics
    Oseola McCarty cleaned clothes for a living the old fashioned way - boiling them in a pot over a fire. So how did she accumulate over a quarter of a million dollars, when people making multiples of her salary can't seem to get by?
  2. Breakfast 2 – Catch the Vision
    Young Warren Buffet worked paper routes and found and sold golf balls - stuff that anybody can do. But through saving and investing, he out-earned his teachers while he was in high school. How did investing multiply that money into billions?
  3. Breakfast 3 – Don’t Lose Money in Stocks
    "Hash Brown" made all of the mistakes that most investors make, losing tons of money trying to beat the market. He shares his hard-earned lessons with wisdom from Warren Buffett, mutual fund expert John Bogle, Buffett's mentor Benjamin Graham, and Wall Street Journal personal finance columnist Jason Zweig, leading readers safely through the investing minefield.
  4. Breakfast 4 – Make Money in Mutual Funds
    Here's how to choose stock and bond funds for the ultimate in diversity, safety and healthy returns.
  5. Breakfast 5Diversify with Real Estate.
    Travis is a likeable "Dukes of Hazard" type who prefers muscle cars over golf and real estate over stocks. At twenty-eight years of age, his cars and comfortable home in the country are totally paid off. How did he do it?
  6. Breakfast 6 – The Breakfast that Almost Wasn’t
    A kidnapping, a car chase and a life lesson.

Part Two – Saving Money

  1. Breakfast 7 – Live WAY Beneath Your Means
    "Watch your expenses more than your revenue." So says the successful CEO of Wherehouse Music. Since a dollar saved can equal two dollars earned (hint: savings aren't taxed), cutting costs is the most underrated trick to building wealth.
  2. Breakfast 8 – Save on Food and Clothes
    Carmen, a spunky young mother, leads a whirlwind field trip through a grocery store, finding huge savings with "loss leaders," generic drugs, bulk buying and "store blitzes."
  3. Breakfast 9 – Save on Cars
    Kramer asks a hairy, audacious question: "Is it possible to spend almost nothing over a lifetime on purchasing cars?" James's answer tells a lot about how to save a bundle on reliable transportation.
  4. Breakfast 10 – Save on Houses
    Bob and Bud live in identical houses in the same neighborhood. Why is one paying half what the other pays?
  5. Breakfast 11 –Ten Popular Ways to Lose Lots of Money
    Thomas Jefferson was brilliant and famous, but spent his last years fretting over his huge debt. Mark Twain and coach Joe Gibbs lost fortunes in bad investments. How can we avoid their mistakes?

Part Three – Making Money

  1. Breakfast 12 – Find Jobs You Love
    Researchers Stanley and Danko discovered that first-generation millionaires made their money at vocations they loved. How can we find jobs we're passionate about?
  2. Breakfast 13 – Excel at Your Job
    It's more than college degrees and developing skills.
  3. Breakfast 14 – Invest in your Mind
    "In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." (Al Rogers, Global SCHOOLHOUSE Network)

Part Four: Enjoying Money

  • Breakfast 15 – Look for Happiness in the Right Places

  • People want to be financially successful because they think it will contribute to their happiness. What makes people happy? How should scientific studies of human happiness impact the way we use our money?

    Epilogue: Where Are They Now?

    Discover what happened to the main characters later in life.

    Web-Based Complementary Resources


    More Testimonies

    1. "By far the most valuable book on finances I've ever read." (Callie C. Brown, author of The Complete Guide to Investing in Gold and Precious Metals)
    2. "Financial responsibility has reached a state of crisis. This book attacks the problem in a common sense, refreshing manner that anyone can understand and apply to real life. It should be required reading for all young people, before they find themselves broke, deeply in debt and miserable." (William C. Lusk, Jr., Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Retired, Shaw Industries, a Fortune 500 company and the world’s largest manufacturer of carpet.)
    3. "A very entertaining, engaging book! The characters are appealing and aid the reader in interacting with the principles taught. All ages will enjoy it and benefit. Meticulously researched and documented. Chock full of financial and lifestyle wisdom. I’ll keep plenty of copies in my office to hand out to clients." (Dr. Ken Walker, Psychologist with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice and Director of Dalton Counseling Service.)
    4. "A comprehensive look at managing your money. For me, the genius of this book is that it gathers wisdom from top financial gurus and uses it to explain clearly and practically how average folks can apply it to everyday living." (Alan Buckler - Allstate Insurance)
    5. "I loved the story and the characters! Read this book and you'll get the practical tools and wisdom to chart your own course toward financial freedom." (Jamie Maddox, former Senior Business Analyst, The Coca Cola Company)
    6. "For me, the section on savings was worth the price of the book, detailing scores of hidden ways to save a fortune over a lifetime. Then, unlike many books, it goes beyond 'having more' to 'doing more with what you have.'" (Bryan McIntosh, Ph.D., Dalyn Corporation)
    7. "I really liked the format! The dramatic layout used a totally different part of my brain when I read's like watching a movie or reading a novel. The story line kept my interest so that I got through it quickly. The content was very inspiring. "Living differently" and "starting a financial counterculture" hits home to me. And it was SO PRACTICAL! I think it will also appeal to most of my generation and the one coming up behind me." (Anthony Daniel, age 28, Chemist, Tiarco Chemical)
    8. "Clever! The movie script format pulled me into the story and endeared me to the characters. Before I knew it, I found myself thinking about money strategies that I'd have never learned from traditional finance books. Teaching finance through people stories works for me. Rather than staring at obscure charts, I just followed the lives of successful people. Finally! A readable book on personal finance for people who don't want to read a book on personal finance...which of course is me and just about everybody else!" (Mark Hannah, Film Producer)
    For ordering information, see the bottom of this page on the publisher site.
  • Friday, May 22, 2009

    Helping Struggling Students: Repeat a Grade, or Socially Promote?

    So you have a student who's flunking. What's the best solution for the student - repeat the grade or promote her anyway? Neither, according to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

    Their well-written and compelling position paper sorts out the evidence from years of study of comparable students who were academically lagging. Some were failing, but promoted anyway ("social promotion"). Others were failing, but were held back. The ones held back may have done better for a few months of the following year, but eventually showed no more academic progress than the promoted students. And in many ways, the ones held back were worse off - they got into more trouble, were more likely to drop out, etc.

    According to the article:

    "Research examining the overall effects of 19 empirical studies conducted during the 1990s compared outcomes for students who were retained and matched comparison students who were promoted. Results indicate that grade retention had a negative impact on all areas of achievement (reading, math and language) and socio-emotional adjustment (peer relationships, self esteem, problem behaviors, and attendance)."

    What does all this have to do with character? Plenty. As noted in the quote above, repeating grades impacts

    "socio-emotional adjustment (peer relationships, self esteem, problem behaviors, and attendance)"

    Spelled out more specifically,

    "Retained students have increased risks of health-compromising behaviors such as emotional distress, cigarette use, alcohol use, drug abuse, driving while drinking, use of alcohol during sexual activity, early onset of sexual activity, suicidal intentions, and violent behaviors. "

    Those are character issues. Why does holding back make such an impact? Perhaps it's because "failing" a grade is much more traumatic than we realize.

    Social scientists once asked to rate "twenty stressful life events." Amazingly, "6th grade students rated grade retention as the most stressful life event, followed by the loss of a parent and going blind."

    So what does the NASP recommend to help failing students? Basically, detect the learning or behavioral problems as early as possible and address these issues in ways that have been proven to work. They may need tutoring, counseling or special classes designed to meet their needs.

    So maybe a child has undiagnosed learning disabilities. Don't just hold her back to try it again, or socially promote her to see if things work themselves out. Rather, deal with the problems in specific ways to help her overcome her weaknesses and keep her moving through the system. The article recommends 13 ways to help these students, rather than holding them back.