One day, after speaking at a young women’s camp in southern Utah, I was driving my little pickup truck home, and reflecting on a presentation my mission president had given many years earlier called, “A Good Leader, A Great Leader.” He gave a list of things good leaders do, then he contrasted that with the actions of great leaders. I liked it because the presentation had none of the phrases, “you should,” “you ought to” or “you must.” It was a simple description of what good leaders and great leaders were like, and no one was called out, or put on the spot. Each listener had the opportunity to listen to the ideas and decide inwardly which type of leader he or she would like to be.
During that drive, I came up with the idea for “How to be an Extraordinary Teenager.” I decided I could contrast ordinary and extraordinary, but never use a “you should…” sentence. Although it’s a relatively short book, it’s still in print, and I’m thrilled that it’s one of my most successful. Thanks for the idea, President!
Here’s an excerpt featuring a couple of “ordinary/extraordinary” comparisons:
Ordinary teens can make excuses as fast as McDonald’s makes fries. Billions and billions served. “I’m too tired, it’s too hot, I’m not a morning person, he made me mad, I didn’t have time, I’m an Aquarius.” When something difficult is asked of ordinary teens, they cook up a large order of excuses for why it can’t be done. When a certain father asked his oldest sons to retrieve some plates of brass, he received a rather ordinary response: “It is a hard thing you have required of us” (1Nephi 3:5). Or, in other words, “Behold. We’re ordinary.”
Extraordinary teens don’t make excuses, they just ask if they can be excused. Then they make tracks to accomplish the thing they’ve been asked. Extraordinary teens see stepping stones where ordinary teens see stumbling blocks. They know that success comes in cans, not in can’ts. They’d rather give out than give up. When a certain father asked his youngest son to retrieve some plates of brass, he answered, “I will go and do . . .” (1 Nephi 3:7). Then this extraordinary young man just went and did. He didn’t make excuses; he just made tracks.
have remote control
It’s easy to push the buttons of ordinary teens. That’s because they give away the remote to their feelings. They say things like, “He makes me so mad” or “She drives me crazy.” If someone walking down the hall doesn’t say “hi,” ordinary teens act as if someone just pointed a remote at them and pushed “be depressed.” Ordinary teens ride an emotional roller coaster because other people are always pushing their buttons. Anyone can program an ordinary teen’s feelings—by remote control.
Extraordinary teens control themselves. They understand that “he” and “she” will always be out there doing different things. But extraordinary teens push their own buttons. They’re not controlled by others. Not even remotely. They keep their control inside. They realize that the things others do may influence them but not control them. They can channel their feelings, lower the volume of outside voices, or mute them altogether. They have the power. They hold their own remote.
You’ve been reading an excerpt from How to be an Extraordinary Teenager.