Interview with Roger Leslie
Success Express for Teens: 50 Activities That Will Change Your Life
It’s a real pleasure to have with us Roger Leslie as he speaks about how teens, if they really want something in their lives, their dreams can become reality if they follow the step-by-step plan. Welcome to Reader Views.
Irene: Hi Roger. Sounds like you have a real winner in “Success Express for Teens: 50 Activities that will change your life.” Wow, 50 things that teens can actually do without getting bored? Convince us.
Roger: Each activity in the book is no more than two or three pages long and covers everything from finding your personal strengths and setting a goal to watching a cartoon or picking a dream theme song. Although the activities work independently, readers are actually building toward something big, exciting and self-revealing by activity #50.
Irene: What are the first few activities that you propose to get the teens excited about continuing. They must be something great to have them hooked to continue.
Roger: Before people can move forward, they have to assess where they are right now. The first activities are quick reviews of what has brought them joy in the past. Activity #1 invites them to reminisce about happy childhood memories. #2 lets them recap what kinds of activities and projects they do now that bring them satisfaction. From there, they can then figure out what tools will help them most in creating the most fulfilling future.
Irene: What inspired you to write this book?
Roger: When I was teaching high school students, I realized that I could give them all the tools to be successful no matter that they wanted to pursue in life. I built these activities into my curriculum and worked on them daily honed them with my students until it turned into a polished plan to help all readers find their passion and realize even their most far-reaching dreams.
Irene: Your writing style appeals to teens. Tell us how you capture their attention through your writing, as well as your speaking with them.
Roger: I’ve been working with teens for twenty years and I really relate to them. They may be new to adulthood, but they are young adults. I talk to them as I would any adult—I assume up front that they have intelligence and that their opinions matter. I don’t want them to live their life the way it works for me. I want to help them figure out what works best for them.
Irene: Does being a teen at heart help to communicate with them?
Roger: I believe seeing everyone as an individual, no matter what their age, brings out the best in both of us. But, yes, feeling some youthful enthusiasm for life is essential to reaching young people. They, more than anyone, need to have their hopes affirmed. Being a teen at heart supports that effort soundly.
Irene: “Success Express for Teens” is also a workbook. Explain to us what type of assignments you give.
Roger: I wanted the book to be action-oriented so readers could start making progress immediately. Some activities invite teens to reflect on their past to figure out what stirs their passion. Others require taking a specific action, such as doing something kind for themselves, or creating a Life Board to make a visual image of who they are and what they want. I made sure I included activities for all learning styles and personalities.
Irene: When you speak of learning styles, would you please explain to us what that means.
Roger: Some of us learn by observing, some by listening and some by doing. I encourage all types of learning in the activities so those who see, hear and do can all make progress as they use the activities to create success.
Irene: Since you incorporate the various learning styles into your workbook, there obviously are styles that don’t work for all. How do you make the activities fun, exciting, and enticing to those that don’t learn in that particular style?
Roger: Teens build momentum toward the climactic Activity #50 by rating each activity. Inviting readers to decide how much they enjoyed doing each activity gives them the freedom to start realizing that not every strategy has to work for everyone. In other self-help books for teens, I noticed that the authors often assume that what works for one person should work for everyone. In Success Express, teens do the activities in part to sample what works for them so they can continue doing more of what moves them toward their goals and less of what holds them back.
Irene: You advocate having fun. How do you convince a teenager, who at any given moment changes their view, perspective, and attitude, that being a student can be fun.
Roger: By honoring their individuality. No matter what their responsibilities or interests, they can have fun with what they’re doing once they understand that they alone have the power to create joy and excitement in any situation. It’s not what they’re doing but the attitude they create about what they’re doing that makes any moment fun.
Irene: That’s a pretty big “understanding” for a teen that is fluctuating between blaming the establishment one minute, and taking the responsibility for their own power the next. How do you convince the teens that they alone have the power over their own attitude?
Roger: Teens are hungry for that power. After all, discovering it gives them the independence they desire but may not yet know how to handle. The key for adults is not to convince teens that they have the power, as they already sense it even if they’re not fully expressing it, but to model for them how to use their power responsibly. When we’re responsible for ourselves and respectful of others’ needs and wants as well, we can make sound decisions that keep us out of the dangers come teens sometimes meet by making reckless choices.
Irene: We all know that goals are import and that we need to have them to move forward in life. What suggestion do you have for teens that is different from adult goal setting?
Roger: Take your lifelong dream and slice it into small pieces that you can start working on immediately. The biggest mistake that teens make is to imagine starting on the goal on some unspecified time in the future. Fulfillment doesn’t start in the future. It begins now.
Irene: Your book is about self-exploration. Many teens may not respond to your suggestions due to various reasons. What would be some of the main reasons that they may not be interested in your book?
Roger: Working with teens over the years I’ve found that the biggest obstacle to self-exploration is a sad or difficult past. But realizing that your past neither determines who you are nor restricts you from being or having what you want will open up all kinds of possibilities for the future. Other teens may find the book a roadblock if they have a limited understanding of the term work. That’s why one of the first activities in Success Express is to redefine “work.” Once teens realize that “work” is merely use of energy, they can be open to all the opportunities it invites.
Irene: Of course, we as adults often need to redefine “work” also. How difficult is it for teens to redefine when the core belief in the home is that work is difficult, work is necessary, work is hard, you have to work long hours, basically all those clichés that are centered around “work” ?
Roger: One beautiful aspect of books is that they open our minds to new ideas. If teens live in a household where work is drudgery, then reading the redefine “work” activity might invite them to realize that they can choose to look at the entire idea of work another way. In each activity, I emphasize a section called “What’s in it for me?” In that area, I go beyond suggesting the activity and explain why it’s worth trying. In Redefine “Work,” I share with readers how everything, from playing ball to getting up in the morning, is a form of work. Choosing the work we do and how much excellence we strive for in it makes the difference between someone who loves work and meets with success and someone who feels drained by it and consistently encounters failure.
Irene: How do you propose that parents or educators take on the task of getting the teens interested?
Roger: The book, which uses an analogy of an express train to build momentum and speed toward your dreams, is a self-directed journey. Giving teens the space and time to pursue their dreams independently appeals to many. For those that need more support and direction, I’ve included an appendix to help parents, teachers, counselors and other group leaders guide teens through many of the activities.
Irene: It seems to me that parents also need to take responsibility in encouraging and teaching their teens with long term planning. What pointers do you give to parents that would help them teach the teens?
Roger: Model success strategies. I have many adults who buy this book for themselves and do the activities to fulfill their own dreams. Telling teens to do something or even giving them convincing reasons why they should is never as powerful a motivator as showing by example the strengths and benefits derived from going after what you believe will make you happy. Consistently strive to be successful and happy yourself and teens will learn by what you model.
Irene: When it comes to giving direction in life-skills or life-goals, do the teens respond better to an educator, or a speaker like you, rather than their parents? And, why?
Roger: Teens will respond to anyone they believe is genuine. A do-what-I-say-and-not-what-I-do adult holds no credibility. Teens are very perceptive. They know which adults genuinely have their best interest in mind. When adults come from a position of respecting teens and striving to give them tools so that they can help themselves succeed, then teens will respond, whether that adult is an educator, a speaker or a parent.
Irene: I can see that you have found what works for teens – bottom like is “respect” for them. Thank you very much Roger, this has been a very interesting interview. Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about your book or yourself?
Roger: I’m thankful that Bayou Publishing has been as committed to helping teens as I am. They’ve supported my efforts to travel to schools, churches and organizations to share my message with teens and children everywhere. Anyone can contact them at www.bayoupublishing.com to order books or email me about speaking via my website, www.rogerleslie.com. For me, one of the greatest joys of journeying through life is connecting with people along the way. So thanks, Irene, for a great interview. It’s been a joy.