Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3 Reasons Why the Cowboys won’t be in the Super Bowl

1) Wade Phillips: Phillips has a pretty good lifetime coaching record, but his teams do not do well in the playoffs. During six trips to the play-offs, his teams have only won one game. In addition, the Cowboys have more talent than any team in the league yet consistently underachieve. That my friend spells bad coaching.

2) Tony Romo: As much talent as he appears to possess, I have come to the conclusion that Romo is not a leader. Romo appears to be too lackadaisical and undisciplined to lead a team on a consistent basis. He smiles and laughs after losses. He goes on vacation with famous chippies before big games. I’ve never seen him show any passion or fire. Romo wants to live the life of a star without first producing the results. Statistics are great but winning big games matters.

3) Jerry Jones: The biggest reason the Cowboys won’t win the Super Bowl is Jerry Jones. Jones may be a smart businessman but he’s not a smart football man. He’d rather have a coach that kisses his behind than one who can control and motivate his talented team of superstars. The Cowboys used to stand for duty, honor, and tradition under men like Laundry, Brandt, and Schramm. Now they epitomize everything that’s wrong with America; image over substance.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Talking to Boys--Simple is Better

Every year, our Better Dads ministry hosts an annual Single Mom’s Family Camp. We bring about 25 single mothers and their children to a free, three-day camp. During the camp our male volunteers play with the children during the day while myself and other speakers provide education, insight, and spiritual development during classes for the moms.

At our most recent single mom’s family camp, we had many more teenage boys attend than was usual in past years. One of our male mentor volunteers, Jon, was in charge of the teen boys group and related on a deep level with them. In fact, by the time camp was over they were hanging on every word he spoke, seeking to gain wisdom from a man on how to be a man. They listened enamored as he told them secrets from a lifetime of experience as a man. He taught them how to use a pocketknife, catch and clean a fish, and build a birdhouse with their own two hands.

Jon’s wife, Susan, also helped at camp. Susan (who with Jon has raised three lovely daughters) told a story of how the camp had impacted her. She told about seeing Jon at the river with the group of teen boys. As they started to leave, two of the teen boys said they did not want to go and weren’t leaving. Jon slowly drawled, “Well, that’s your choice. But it is against the rules of the camp for you to be here by yourself. If you choose to stay you and your mom will probably have to leave.”
With that Jon turned and calmly started walking up the trail away from the river with the rest of the group. The boys looked at one another, shrugged, and followed him up the trail.

Susan said what was stunning to her was that if a woman (a mom) had been in Jon’s situation she would have spent 20 minutes discussing the boys’ feelings as to why he didn’t want to leave and still would have never resolved the issue. She was shocked that Jon’s communication method worked so well with the boys.

Jon was so successful because he did two very important things when communicating with teenage boys. He kept his sentences short and to the point. And he gave them options. Teen boys need to feel like they have decision-making capabilities and some control over their life. If you back them in a corner with no choices they will likely rebel. If Jon had ordered them to leave they might have challenged him just to see what would happen. They might have eventually complied but would have been angry and resentful for the rest of the camp. Giving them the option to choose allowed them to feel like an adult and in control of their circumstances.

Now it is important to understand that the choices we give teenagers are all choices we want to happen. I noticed many times when my kids were teenagers that if I just gave them two or three choices in a situation, even if they were choices that favored my desired outcome, they were much more willing to acquiesce and settle for a solution that was positive. You’ll notice one of Jon’s choices for them was not to stay at the river with no consequences. He gave them choices which guaranteed to lead to a solution that he wanted to end up with, while still allowing them the final say.

Excerpted from Rick's upcoming book, That's My Teenage Son, due for release in Jan. 2011.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Get More Sex from Your Marriage!

I was recently asked to speak at a large men’s conference. Besides speaking from the main stage I was scheduled to give two breakout sessions as well. One of the breakout sessions was on the topic of my newest book, Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half. Upon arriving at the venue I looked at the participant guide and discovered that the event producers had promoted this workshop as a “how to get more sex in your marriage” event. Needless to say about 580 out of the 600 men in attendance showed up at the workshop. The twenty who didn’t come were the teenage boys who were forced (somewhat reluctantly) to attend the workshop on sexual purity.

However, rather than discuss sex during the workshop, I talked mostly about a woman’s true needs and how best to fulfill them. For instance I talked about how romance is a key factor in having an enjoyable sex life for women--that women are physically stimulated through romance because it meets their key needs of feeling cherished and loved. To be romanced is to feel special and of value. To be romanced is to be pursued. It makes a woman feel loved and attractive. When a woman’s need for non-sexual affection is met she is programmed to respond with physical affection. Nearly all women derive at least some self-esteem or self-value from being desired and wanted by a man.

I also explained how many women are unable to separate sex from the context of their daily lives and relationships. That might sound strange to us men, but know that if you have been arguing with your wife or if the kids are sick, she is not likely to be in the mood for sex. And while men use sex to heal the problems of life, women are just the opposite. In fact many women report that if the house is messy or the dishes dirty they are unable to relax and concentrate on having sexual relations.
I also told the men the importance of speaking words that their wives need to hear such as “I love you” and “You’re beautiful.” When a woman feels beautiful she is more likely to be sexually responsive. A wife needs to hear several things daily. She needs confirmation that her man loves her, and she needs to know he finds her beautiful. She needs to hear those things frequently to allay her fears and insecurities. Most women are very insecure about their appearance. She magnifies in her mind any perceived imperfections or flaws in her physical appearance. I use the word perceived because they are usually just that—figments of her imagination. The great mystery is that even the world’s most beautiful women think they are ugly or have features they are insecure about. These negative whispers in her ear are strategies by the evil one to strike her where she is most vulnerable and where it hurts most.

As we discussed the need to actually “talk” to their wives you could see an almost pained expression come over the faces of the men. I reassured them by talking about the importance of just listening to a woman and not trying to solve her problems.

Frankly, the men were pretty stoic during the entire presentation. I had not given this workshop before so I did not know what to expect. But surprisingly to me were how many men came up to me afterwards, many with tears in their eyes, and expressed genuine thanks at the epiphanies they had received regarding their wives’ needs. I have since received half-dozen emails from men at the conference commenting on, according to their wives, how much the information I shared has already improved their marriages.

I believe the average guy is sincerely confused about his wife’s needs and how to fulfill them. Women are complex creatures to most men. Every man I know wants to make his wife happy, and most guys would be willing to do whatever it takes—provided they knew what to do! Rather than advice from a Lothario’s perspective (which is what most books in our culture promote), we need to teach men (young and old) down to earth, practical, common sense advice on how to fulfill their wives’ deepest needs, thus creating harmony, joy, and contentment in the lives of their spouses. And if they happen to get a more fulfilling sex life because of it—so be it!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Worm in the Apple of Eden

Suzanne and I recently returned from an incredible week-long speaking tour of the US Virgin Islands. With a very high fatherless rate, the Virgin Islands are experiencing problems with gangs and young men killing each other nightly. I was brought to the islands to do a series of workshops on Why Men Matter, The Importance of Fathers, and Raising Boys to Become Good Men. In preparation of our trip I did a weeks worth of radio interviews as well as several newspaper article interviews beforehand. Since the people of the Virgin Islands are steeped in a “radio culture” it was decided to broadcast all of the workshops over the airwaves. Apparently, everybody listens to talk radio all the time. This allowed tremendous coverage over all three islands producing a saturation of my message to a huge percentage of the population (one radio show had a caller from the British Virgin Islands wanting us to come there as well—alas our schedule did not permit). The radio waves covered as far away as parts of Puerto Rico. Numerous people came up and excitedly told us they had heard me on the radio. In fact, at the airport while we were leaving, the Customs agent asked what our business was on the islands. When I told her I had been doing a series of Better Dads workshops she said, “Oh, you’re that guy! I heard you—thank you, we needed that very much!” As our visionary and most wonderful host, Stephanie Scott-Williams said, “Rick Johnson and Better Dads are now household names in the territories.” Stephanie is a former senator and very influential throughout the islands—she worked incredibly hard to make this trip a success. She is a 62 year old grandmother who saw my Better Dads Stronger Sons book in the Atlanta airport last year. She started reading it and was so taken with it that she bought 10 copies and gave them to 10 men, telling them to read it and meet with her three weeks later. They decided at that meeting to have Stephanie contact me and find out my availability and cost to come to the islands.

I was initially concerned about potential racial, cultural, or communication barriers, but God’s hand was clearly in place (thanks to many people’s prayers). None of those barriers impeded transmission of the message one bit. If anything, people all appeared very, very grateful for my presence. The following is a brief day–by-day outline of our journey and adventures:

Day 1 – After traveling all night we arrived in St. Thomas at noon the next day. We were taken to our hotel on Emerald Bay and immediately jumped into the ocean. Every hotel we stayed at had gorgeous views of the ocean from our balconies. We then attended a welcome dinner with all of the members of the team who had been instrumental in bringing us to the islands. One lady shared with us that her husband had not gotten along with his father his entire life. One day he was eves dropping while she was listening to my audio CD about the importance of reconciling with your father. She said he disappeared and returned later that evening. She asked where he had been and he said he felt like visiting his father—they had talked all day long. She said he had never done that before.

Day 2 – Morning was a 3-hour seminar broadcast over the radio. The “discussion” format allowed listeners to call in and the phone lines were jammed. People were even calling the station manager on her cell phone asking her to get them through so they could talk to us. The young man (Ash) who was the engineer and producer was raised by a single mom and was very excited about the conversation. Lunch was at Gladys CafĂ© (a famous local restaurant) and then a private, personal tour of the island. We then swam in Magen’s Bay, one of the top 10 beaches in the world (our personal guide stayed and watched over our stuff while we swam and snorkeled). That evening was a three-hour workshop broadcast over three radio stations.

Day 3 – Morning I spoke to young men at the correctional facilities on St. Thomas. The young men were like dry sponges soaking up my message. They commented, “When are you coming back? We have never heard this before. How come no one ever told us this stuff before?” Volunteers told me that the next morning, the one young man who I thought was the hardest case, showed up early, very eager for whatever programs he could get in to turn his life around. They were amazed at his transformation! We then took a boat to the beautiful island of St. John. We had a private tour of the island with lunch at a mountaintop cafe and swam in Trunk Bay—the most beautiful beach I have ever seen! Pure white sandy beaches, verdant green vegetation, bright blue skies, and crystal clear cerulean water of varying shades ranging from cornflower light blue to Dodger blue to deep velvet azure blue. That evening we did a live workshop at the Julius Sprauve School that was simulcast over three separate radio stations (no commercials on any of the radio broadcasts). The seminar was well attended by educators, social service agencies, parents, a newspaper reporter, and men from many venues and was universally well received. In particular the people who I was most concerned about were the most enthusiastic (seeing a pattern here?). We took the ferry back late that night.

Day 4 – Book signing in morning at local bookstore—well attended and met many people who had heard me on radio. Three hours of shopping then a 2-hour radio workshop on a popular young persons station with several other contributors including hosts Tony T, Dr. Walker, and several teenage boys. It was more of a discussion then a seminar but was very well received by a younger audience. Another young man (Malik) who was an engineer at the station kept running in at the breaks all excited saying, “We never talk about this kind of stuff here!” That night we went to the Bolongo Beach Caribbean Night party. We had a buffet of authentic Caribbean food and planters punch, watched Moko Jumbies (dancers in costumes with masks on stilts), fire dancers, broken glass walkers, and limbo dancing! Great time!

Day 5 – Took seaplane to island of St. Croix. Interviewed with popular radio host and former senator Holland Redfield. Lunch with team of people who were responsible for bringing me to the island. Afternoon was a two-hour talk to 50-60 inmates at the penitentiary. Most men there are incarcerated for 25 years to life. I was concerned as these men are hardened criminals and have nothing to look forward to. They were also all black with a few Latinos. However, they were, to a man, exceptionally respectful, enthusiastic and grateful for my message. My host said race was never an issue even from the start. Many men came up afterwards and thanked me. One young man (very articulate, handsome, polite, and educated) asked me my advice on writing. I asked him how long until he was released. He told me, “57 and ½ years.” It broke my heart—what leads a young man with so much going for him to end up in a circumstance where he spends his entire life behind bars? Interestingly, everywhere we went, the men who were most supportive of my words were the Rastafarians. I apparently struck a cord with them, ya mon.

Afterwards we jumped into the surf at our beautiful ocean front hotel, the Sand Castles, in Fredrickstedt and watched a stunning sunset. Our host then took us to eat dinner at a restaurant straight out of a movie setting. We walked down an alleyway into a courtyard. Beautiful outdoor dining with linen table clothes and sparkling lights under the stars. We had steak and lobster—the medium-sized lobster was bigger than my head! The steak was like butter and the pina coladas were flowing freely (rum is cheap and they don’t skimp). We had a live, six-piece jazz/calypso band of elderly men playing just for us and two other couples. Suzanne and I took our turn dancing under the starlit sky—very romantic, even for a guy.

Day 6 - Early the next morning I watched an old man walk his horse way out into the ocean and swim together for miles. Stephanie told us it is a common way to exercise horses there. Fredrickstedt was very old and rural—no tourists. Farmers sell fresh fruits and fresh fish in stands along the roadway. We loved it best and will go back for a vacation to this city if God blesses us again. It is cheaper and more laid back. We then gave another live/simulcast radio workshop at the Career and Technical Education Center. Another newspaper reporter attended along with many educators, students, social service agencies, parents, and men and women from the community. We then spent several hours shopping in Christianstedt before taking the seaplane back to St. Thomas (if I ever had another dream job it would be a seaplane pilot flying between the Virgin Islands). We swam that evening for the final time in Emerald Bay and left the next morning very early.

Besides being paid to speak in paradise, we paid for virtually nothing—including tips--on this trip. I was also given several wonderful gifts. The prison honored me with a beautiful hand-painted ceramic tile of an old sugar cane mill. Additionally, the VI Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Council gave me a desk plaque handcrafted by the world famous sculptor Jan R. Mitchell. Mitchell’s work is in the Smithsonian and the Thompson Museum in Kentucky. Additionally, she has statues outside the US Courthouse and in several parks.

In conclusion—I am exhausted (worked hard and put away wet) but marvelously blessed by how much God used us to touch the lives of the people of the Virgin Islands. Spiritual warfare was taking place around us so often that Suzanne, Stephanie and I eventually had to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I have already forwarded several emails from people who responded to our visit. The Virgin Islands are stunningly gorgeous—beyond description. Everyday we saw something more beautiful than the previous. I found the people of the territories to be beautiful, friendly, loving, and very eager for information. Even their language is lilting and pleasant, ya mon. We were treated like royalty our entire visit and met people who will be our lifelong friends. As I told one man who emailed, Suzanne and I were blessed far beyond any blessing we may have brought to the islands. Just one more example of God’s grace to those who risk stepping out in faith to do His will. I am truly a blessed man. Thanks again for your prayers. I will try and post photos later.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Father-Daughter Summit Brings Tears and Reconciliation

My 21-year-old daughter, Kelsey, and I had the privilege of speaking together at the Third Annual Seattle Father-Daughter Summit this past weekend. It was a powerful event that was attended by about 60 pairs of fathers and daughters with ages ranging from 11-25 years old. The Summit was an all day event sponsored by several fathering and family ministries. The program consisted of seven sessions working with fathers and daughters together, fathers alone, and daughters alone by age group. Each session was designed to build upon the previous ones and included letter writing, trust building exercises, and father-daughter dialogues. But at least one girl was changed more than she bargained for.

Fathers have an incredible influence (positive or negative) on nearly every aspect of their daughter’s lives. Fathers set a huge role model for their daughters regarding the qualities she looks for in men and the standards she maintains. He is the first man in her life and models how a man should treat a woman, how a man should act, and how a man shows healthy love and affection to a woman. He also sets the standard for how a daughter feels she deserves to be treated by men. He even determines how a girl feels about herself. If her father shows his daughter love, respect, and appreciation for who she is, she will believe that about herself as a woman, no matter what anyone else thinks. Girls deprived of this father love and affection make poor choices in an effort to fill that void.

The goal of the weekend was to help the fathers understand how important they are in the lives of their daughters, and how to foster a healthy connection with their daughters as they become young women. We also wanted to help the daughters recognize their need for a healthy relationship with their fathers and the consequences in their lives when that doesn’t happen. Lastly, we wanted to help facilitate reconciliation between fathers and daughters who were struggling or had past wounds.

As the teenage girls arrived their body language suggested that they did not want to be there and many of them were actually cold and distant toward their fathers. The dads of course appeared a bit anxious and nervous. As the day progressed and the speakers and workshops broke down those barriers we began to see fathers and daughters talking, sitting closer to one another, and even laughing and hugging each other.

The event culminated in a “father blessing” of the daughters. I knelt in front of my daughter on stage and prayerfully offered my blessing to her publically, stating that I loved her, I was proud of her, and asking God to bestow his blessings upon her (yes, it was difficult to keep from blubbering). Kelsey then tearfully accepted my blessing and responded with gratitude and thankfulness for me being her father (stupid eyes wouldn’t stop watering). To then watch the fathers kneel and bless each of their daughters was a powerful and emotional experience. One sullen young girl threw her arms around her father, buried her face in his chest and sobbed, “Oh Daddy, I love you so much!” Many fathers and daughters were in tearful embraces as we concluded the day’s activities.

Here was just a sampling of quotes from the day:

"The best thing about today was getting closer and more excited about me and my dad! I'm glad I came today because he made me feel wonderful and more loved."

"I got to see that my Dad isn't that bad. I'm glad I came because he let the communication be open."

"The most helpful insight I received was realizing that me and my dad can do anything if we take one step at a time."

The father-daughter bond is a special one that impacts a young woman for her entire life. We strived to grow and repair some of those bonds this weekend. The reactions of the young women confirmed to me the importance of a father in a girl’s life. Dads--your girl needs you, more than she can ever tell you. Take the time to nurture that relationship and you’ll both be blessed.

To find out more about bringing a father-daughter event to your area contact betterdads@verizon.net.