Back to Basics

Back to Basics

Anyone else feel overwhelmed right now? Or, just a little whelmed? Bad jokes aside, we find ourselves at a point of history where everything is rushing to come back to “normal.” While spending a lot of time apart, all the sudden our calendars are full and the phone is ringing off the hook.

I know for me and my family, we are feeling the squeeze. After the spring and summer of 2020 and the odd last school year, enough time passed where we got used to the “new normal”. Now the “old normal” comes charging in and wants to be in charge. With these two realities competing for attention, it is hard to adjust.

The last time I wrote for the Teen Life blog, I described a phenomenon called languishing that described so many of us. It wasn’t depression and it wasn’t elation, but something kind of in the middle. We were slogging towards something, but we really didn’t know what it was. Now I think for many of us who are school adjacent, we are experiencing less languishing and more whiplash. It’s like we have been asked to re-join pre-pandemic life, and with no time to waste.

This can feel a bit like going on a long run without stretching first. And I know if I’m feeling this way, our students are as well. In fact, so many of our school-based partners are reporting their students are struggling more than ever. Many kids haven’t been on a school campus in a year and a half, and they are being asked to re-adjust as if nothing ever happened. Talk about overwhelm!

When we feel like this, the world gets really tight. It can be hard to function or even make basic decisions. Overwhelm feels suffocating and it’s hard to achieve academically, let alone have a healthy social/emotional life. We need a different tactic.

Both my boys are baseball players and have recently experienced hitting slumps. It’s so hard to see them swing and miss over and over and feel the frustration of not being able to hit. They have well-meaning coaches who help them adjust or make tweaks, but the more coaching happens, the more they tighten up. It’s a cycle that’s hard to break out of.

But one of the really effective tactics I hear from coaches who work with elite baseball players is quite counterintuitive. They say instead of more adjustments, to go with something much more simple.

The tee.

That’s right. Even elite level hitters find their way back to hitting a ball off the tee to get out of a slump. Can you imagine? When you think of a baseball tee you think about a little four year old learning to hit. But the idea is, we want to get back to what got us here to begin with.

Feeling the ball hit the bat. We swing the bat to hit the ball. It couldn’t be more simple than that. The thing is, a slumping hitter has forgotten what it feels like to do the thing they came to do – hit the ball!

With our teens, and ourselves, we need to find what it is that gets us going. With school. With family. With relationships. All of it. What is the basic joy that comes from the things we do?

When we are overwhelmed, what if we took a moment to ask ourselves: “Why am I even doing this?” or “What do I really love about this thing I’m so stressed out about?”

If we are under constant stress we could ask: “What is one thing simple I could do differently that would help with this stress?” or “What can make things just a little better with my stress?”

This seems overly simplistic, but if we are overwhelmed, adding a lot of other things to figure out the overwhelm likely will just make it worse. But if we go back to the basics, or “back to the tee,” we remember what is really important and that is what we can lean into.

So if you are pressing right now, or if it all just seems like too much, find the places in life where you can “go back to the tee.” There you will find what really matters.

Chris Robey

Chris Robey


Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.

Seeing is Believing…Think Different

Seeing is Believing…Think Different

So earlier this month, I had an amazing opportunity to go to the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience. It was just that – an amazing driving experience.

Part of the event was that they (of course) have a hashtag so people can follow on social media. #DrivingIsBelieving was their hashtag and man is it ever! Getting a chance to drive an x4 on an autocross track and test drive models from the 228i to the 750Li was incredible, but it also got me thinking…

This thinking really started with a book I just finished by Kelly McGonigal called The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good For You and How to Get Good At It. It was amazing and I highly recommend it, I was even able to take one of the principals she talked about and share it with some teen-aged parents we are working with. Here is the idea, if we choose to see stress as positive (because we will always have stress in our life), it literally changes the responses from our bodies and minds. For example, when we get to the end of a day and feel tired (and who doesn’t), we have a choice. Until hearing this, I simply believed I was just always tired and drained. But what Kelly suggested is that being tired indicates you have expended all of the energy you have to accomplish the tasks you needed to today. This is HUGE! If I see being tired as evidence I have worked hard and accomplished much, it changes everything.


So, I have started looking for other things that this can apply to. Here are just a few ideas I have (and I would love to hear yours too):

Rather then being frustrated by detours, traffic or even traffic lights (maybe I’m the only one here), I see this as an extended opportunity to listen to a PodCast, audio book, or nothing – allowing me to learn or focus my thoughts, preparing for what I will encounter when I arrive at my destination.

Exercise – this is a tough one. I in no way want to justify my lack of exercise, but I also am at a stage in life where I am using my energy in other ways and getting up early any day (or staying up late enough) to run or Crossfit just isn’t happening. So, hearing Kelly Mcgonigal talk about a study published by Psycological Science on how fit hotel housekeepers are was a huge help. I see the energy I burn chasing my kids, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn as my exercise. But here’s the important part, this belief has as much impact on my physical health as the actual activity itself. Crazy, right?

How I spend my time is huge at work too. This goes beyond belief because I do need to make sure that what I am doing is adding value to the work we do. But one struggle I have had is seeing reading as valuable. Well as Michael Hyatt has often quoted, leaders are readers and readers are leaders. Once I started actually believing this, I have found myself reading more (or in my case listening). I have kept an Audible subscription now for almost a year. The money I have spent on this is way more valuable then a cable bill or just about anything else I can think of, honestly.

I left out one detail about the teen parents I mentioned above. As we ended our group, I asked what they felt the most meaningful part of group was today. They all said it was being introduced to the idea that their beliefs about life matter. Specifically, we had talked about seeing being tired as evidence you have used all your energy for what you needed to do and it is time to rest.

I hope to hear from you about ways you start to use this “believing is meaningful” attitude. Share it with us, but more importantly share it with those right around you.


Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better. 
5 Ways Team Works

5 Ways Team Works

 This past week, our staff headed to a conference. We were looking forward to learning a lot and spending a lot of time together road tripping it to Nashville. This time is invaluable to what we are trying to accomplish but also to building a sense of team. The importance of this cannot be overstated. If we are all focused and in tune, we are much more able to accomplish the goals we have set and ultimately make a difference in the lives of teenagers.

The thing I have realized is that team really can look a lot of different ways. For instance, our family likes to refer to ourselves as a team. You may be a part of a sports team, but you could also view your band, chess club, or just your group of peers as your team. The truth is, your perspective is what makes the difference. Maybe somewhere down the road I will share my ideas on the benefits of team, but for today I have another idea.

I got to thinking about how team works only if I am willing to do my part. So if there are things I can do to contribute to the team, I have to keep those in front of me for the benefit of all of us that are involved.

The important thing for a team to work is that I as a team member am willing do what I can to help the team work. I have seen this get lost in some areas of our society. The idea of individualism and equality interfere with our ability to see our unique traits and skills as ways to benefit, not just ourselves, but a team, our community and ultimately have an influence on the culture we work with or live in.

My hope here is to simply introduce the thought that these seemingly small ideas, if lost, will have a big impact on the way things work in schools, businesses and organizations.


  1. I have to be willing to do the part I am good at for the team. Over the years I have seen and heard a lot of talk about finding the areas in your life that need to be improved, refined and worked on. Thankfully, this mentality has begun to change. I think the idea behind Strengths Finder and similar assessments makes a lot of sense. We should look for the tools we are already skilled at, evaluate how they fit the team and increase their effectiveness by learning how to make them even stronger.
  1. I must be willing to let others do their part. This has been a tough one for me, partly because I was the lone full time employee of our organization for  the first 4 years and partly because I sometimes have a hard time knowing which parts of a task to hand off. Either way, I have learned that there are people that do some things way better then I do. If I can find people that are naturally skilled at things I am struggling with, it will be for the benefit of everyone involved. But it starts with me taking the position of not holding onto too much and never becoming resentful of the fact that someone else is better at something than I am.
  1. I want to be supportive of everyone on the team. Being supportive can look a lot of different ways. The important thing here is that you are supportive in ways that the person feels supported. We often try to support people in ways that we think are helpful and supportive but that don’t communicate to the other person or people that you really are there for them. I know this is something I am working on constantly and probably will be as long as we continue to grow and especially when we add staff.
  1. I want to help the team stay focused on the goal. Boy is the a big deal! I have interacted enough now with other nonprofits, and even with business owners, that I see a disconnect too often for what the overall goal for the organization is. When that gets lost, people become much more easily distracted and eventually loose their motivation to do the job they were probably very excited about at the beginning. Michael Hyatt wrote a great blog of Team Unity that really fleshes out how we can work together to stay focused on the goal.
  1. I commit to helping my team stay grounded. I hope to flesh this out more in the future, but for now the base line idea is this, we do not help our team by just telling people what they want to hear or only affirming what they feel or believe, leaving out a gentle guidance toward truth and reality. In an extreme situation, this would involve a team member who has grandiose ideas or goals that are outside of the vision and mission you are trying to accomplish, but no one says anything because they are passionate about what they are doing. It is not helpful or effective to ignore the necessity of having a tough discussion; in the end it can bring an entire team, objective or even organization down. However, if we are willing to face reality and work through the tough times, it makes all of us stronger.

What ways have you seen team work? It is amazing what we can accomplish when we work together effectively. Let’s do it today!


Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. He desires to bring out the best in teenagers who feel like everyone else has given up on them.