Sunday, January 3, 2010

Winter 2009-2010 Q&A

Q & A
Answering our readers' questions

In our Hero School® programs with the homeless, at-risk youth, business leaders, and educators, we encourage attendees to submit questions when they arise. Below are random questions that we've received recently, conveniently paired with the first answer that popped into our heads.

Q. I was an attendee at one of your Teacher Leadership presentations- just amazing. My question: when you said you didn't drink coffee or alcohol, is this because of your religion? - Las Vegas, Nevada

A. My religion is Heroism, and we really don't have rules regarding what to eat or drink, only when to eat or drink or where to eat or drink. I do admire religions that encourage their followers to not give in to alcohol - and even too much coffee - as long as they are given a good "why."

My last cup of coffee was in June of 1991. I was an addict. Nothing wrong with drinking coffee, but I was a slave to it and I have a problem being a slave to anything - or anyone. And I'm a Pisces. Hazel Dixon-Cooper, in her book Love on a Rotten Day, claims that if you're a Pisces in Hollywood, you're probably an alcoholic. Well, I wasn't in Hollywood, so I became a coffeeholic. The only way to break free from this substance - that I was so dependent on - was to make a quality decision to never have another cup, ever. After "trying" for years, the day I finally "decided" was the last day I was tempted and I never experienced any withdrawl. Realizing that I was "The Decider" over my own life, I stared at the cup of coffee - which had become an extension of my hand - and declared,

"I will never have another cup of coffee as long as I live."

And I didn't...I mean haven't, since I'm still alive.

"There is a real difference between managing and leading...My definition of a leader is someone who helps people succeed." - Carol Bartz, Yahoo! CEO

Q. "I saw the photo on Facebook when you were run over by a drunk driver as a boy. Why don't you speak out more against drunk drivers?" - Seattle, Washington

A. First, I'm not the same person I was in 1968 when I was run over by a drunk driver and his 6000lb car, nor the same person that spent the first 6 months out of the hospital in a body cast. I'm much more bitter. O.K., I'm kidding about being bitter. My sense of humor might have been caused by the impact. Isn't this Journal about moving past the past?

"Happiness appears to him in accord with a sedative." - Friedrich Nietzsche, Superman

The first step I've taken against drunk drivers is I've chosen not to be one. This miraculous feat was accomplished in 1997 when I decided never to drink alcohol. How easy was that? Actually, I quit drinking so that I would have the right to speak about using alcohol as a "sedative," particularly when we don't know how to quiet our inner conflicts through "self-control" and "self-outwitting." Instead of judging those who drink, or those who drink and drive, or those who drink and drive and sing along to Barry Manilow hits from the '70s, I focus on the source of the behavior:

WHY do some people feel they need to drink?
HOW do they justify driving after drinking to themselves and their families? WHAT is the root of the inner conflict whose pain needs to be drown in alcohol?

For me, it would be impossible to be a role model for teens if I felt I needed to drink, but told them not to. And no, I've never tried other drugs. I like how Forrest Gump put it: "Good, one less thing."

"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts." - Proverbs 31:6 KJV

By looking to help people find answers for their pain and lack of self control, perhaps we can offer them alternatives to drinking - and running over people like me with their cars. For those who still sing along to Barry Manilow songs, however, you're on your own. -TT

"A person hears only what they understand." - Goethe

Q. "Has there ever been a question from a teen or homeless person that has stumped you?" - Buffalo, New York

A. Yours, just now.

Actually, Yes, and no. I don’t recall ever not having an answer to question. But even if I don't immediately have an answer to a challenging question, questions often evoke answers from inside me, like something funny will evoke laughter, or like pulling the string of a See ‘n Say®...

"A Tiger says..."

There are some questions, however, that I will leave unanswered.
It took me a long time to learn that it is not always wise to answer
certain questions in the first place. Some people ask questions
not to get answers, but to test, tempt, and entrap.

"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest he turn and end you with it." - The Proverbs of Solomon

About a month ago, a subversive young man in the shelter kept challenging the job strategies I was teaching to the other 40 men in the room. By questioning everything I said, this "devil's advocate" avoided being responsible for “doing” any of the strategies himself. He was also working to undermine what little faith the other men had in themselves to return to the workforce. Rather than answer his questions, I would instead return his words back to him, in the form of a question. When he challenged my instructions to be honest on an application, for example, I replied, “So you really think that lying on an application is the best way to get hired?” With this kind of person, whether he or she is a student in your classroom or an employee in your office, the best response is always a question, not an answer.

Tiger Todd with the homeless at Ethel Pearson Park, Las Vegas (1998)

Q. How much do you get paid for each homeless class?

A. Less than the homeless do.

The truth is, well, that is the truth. For the past 15 years, I've actually paid to perform Hero School classes for the homeless. While I volunteer my time, expenses for vehicles, supplies, insurance, and intellectual property still must be paid. The majority of these expenses I pay from my own income as a business management consultant. Recently we've been receiving donations and investments in Hero School to help with the financial load, and it has helped considerably. I am so grateful for the increasing number of heroes and heroines who are helping fund the cause.

"All I want to do is learn to think like God thinks. The rest is details." -Einstein

Q. "Can you give some examples of your best motivational strategies?" - Las Vegas, Nevada

A. Have you made a donation to Hero School lately?

Seriously, my first rule of motivation is to know who it is I want to motivate. I then reverse-engineer my words or assignments based on what they need to hear. For example, when I am working with homeless and displaced men who are predominantly raised in Christian homes, while they can be motivated to come to class for money or shelter, what motivates them to take action toward their own “Character Change” (my goal for them) might come by framing each practical topic within the context of their “calling.” When these men hear that an old guy named "Abram" was able to change into Abraham - the father of many nations and 4 religions - or that sissy-man Simon bar Jonas changed into Peter - the Rock - or that a “devil’s advocate” named Saul of Tarsus could change into the Apostle Paul – he wasn't even a disciple and he still changed into the one who inked two-thirds of the New Testament – most of them drop their excuses and get moving.

“When the heroes go off the stage, the clowns come on.” - Heinrich Heine, German Poet and Writer, 1797-1856

For you, it’s even easier to get moving. If you keep procrastinating about cleaning up your house or apartment, getting those pictures hung, and sorting your book and DVD libraries, just Invite your boss over - tonight! You will simultaneously clean like there is no tomorrow. If you don’t do it, there might not be a tomorrow. You'll also discover how much you can accomplish before you have to be at work!


1. Put your pride out there. Shame is a great motivator.
2. Set an uncomfortably-near deadline or a fast countdown timer.
3. Make a vow to yourself, your co-laborers, to the people you would never let down, and to God (Whom many of us have let down alot).
4. Decide to Live by Words, not feelings or circumstances.
5. DO what your written goal says do, not what you want or feel like doing.

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