400-408 – Dr. Christine Whelan (christinewhelan.com) is a sociologist at the University of Pittsburgh, and author of the new book Generation WTF: From What the #$%&! to a Wise, Tenacious, and Fearless You: Advice on How to Get There from Experts and WTFers Just Like You (generationwtf.com). Her previous two books were Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to True Love, and Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. Christine is Catholic, and she writes a relationship & dating column at bustedhalo.com. She and her husband, Peter, live and work in Pittsburgh with their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purrron – and she is wonderfully pregnant with twins! Today we talk about her new book, and rebranding WTF to stand for "Wise, Tenacious, and Fearless," and teaching the classic virtues of perseverance, honesty, self-control, and thrift.
• Kathryn Jean Lopez (NRO, 6/21/2011) Learning Values in a Tough Time WTF?!: A sociologist's untraditional traditional approach (Interview with Christine Whelan). (Excerpted below).
CHRISTINE WHELAN: For two decades, Americans believed the only direction was up: Housing prices rose, the stock market climbed ever higher, and individual spending soared. Popular wisdom lauded those who took risks, not those who saved their pennies: Materialism beat out thrift, instant gratification was cooler than self-control, and the runaway self-help bestseller of 2006, The Secret, told us that all we had to do was think about success hard enough and it would magically find its way to us.
Into this optimistic bull market a generation of children were born and raised and came of age. They were given many names — the Millennials, the DotNet kids, the Trophy Generation, or Generation Me — and were raised to expect a future of limitless possibilities. As children of the youngest Baby Boomers, this group of more than 40 million young Americans born between 1979 and 1993 were reared on self-esteem, materialism, and technology. The result? An optimistic, entitled, impatient, multitasking group. In study after study, Millennials reported that their major life goals were to be rich and famous — and that they believed it was likely this would happen.
Their parents, on the whole, tended to encourage these attitudes. Born in the 1950s and '60s, these young Boomers maxed out their credit cards to pay for the latest gadgets, eagerly accepted no-money-down loans for homes and cars they couldn't afford, and, especially among the better educated and more affluent of this cohort, invested nearly limitless energy in molding their children into the perfect applicants for top universities, whatever the cost.
Then, in the fall of 2008, the zeitgeist changed: The stock market plummeted, jobless rates rose — and the era of seemingly never-ending prosperity came to a screeching halt. Restaurants replaced their $150 tasting menus with $30 prix fixe options, companies "downsized," eliminating jobs in nearly every sector of the economy, and families canceled holiday-travel plans as they searched for fun on a limited budget. By the end of the year, some 60 percent of Americans reported they were "struggling," according to the Gallup well-being index. Time didn't heal all wounds: 2009 wasn't much better, with unemployment topping 10 percent and disillusionment about the after-effects of big-ticket corporate bailouts. As a nation, we felt out of control. As individuals, we tried to figure out how we'd stay afloat if times got tougher.
And our trophy kids were in a state of shock. For those looking toward college, there was new panic about how to afford such costly education. For those in college, job prospects after graduation were bleak. As one young man said to me, "It was like, WTF. I mean, what just happened here? The rug just got pulled out from under us and suddenly you want us to become these resilient, frugal people? How?"
"WTF" is a crass exclamation of frustration commonly heard among a generation of young adults raised with expectations of affluence — only to come of age in an economic recession. Yet this is also an optimistic generation headed for a bright future — if they learn the timeless, virtue-based self-management and interpersonal skills needed to succeed. The idea was to rebrand this crass expression into one of virtue-based empowerment for a wise, tenacious, and fearless future.
I wanted to make the book approachable and relatable from the start. I didn't want to be the schoolmarm telling them to sit up straight. Talking in language that young adults understand, without talking down to them — or dumbing it down — is what's important.
// WHELAN: Nearly all my students struggled with self-regulation now that they were on their own — procrastination, going out the night before a test, finding the balance between work and play. The vast majority had financial pressures, including student loans, credit-card debt, finding money to pay for textbooks — not to mention searching for jobs in school and after graduation. Health issues, from drinking and drugs to weight, body image, and sexuality, were common, and tense personal interactions — dramas with roommates, significant others, family, friends, and the quest to be cool — were nearly universal.
// In this new financial climate, young adults are struggling with four common core virtues that we didn't teach them — perseverance, thrift, honesty, and self-control. Core values are best taught by example, and for the last two decades, few of us have been very good role models of these time-honored, but challenging, classic virtues.
// First, young adults believe that their challenges are unique to their generation. My students seemed initially incredulous that previous generations might have struggled — and overcome — difficulties with money, self-control, procrastination, and honesty.
// Second, and most concerning, my students didn't know where to turn for help. Perhaps more so than previous generations, Millennials lack the psychological resources and behavioral skills to make the best choices.
Millennials have been left feeling unmoored because their parents, their primary socializers, spent more time focusing on self-esteem than on self-control.
// so I tried a new approach to virtue-based learning: Rather than recommending a philosophy class focusing on Aristotle and Aquinas, I created a virtue-based self-help course featuring Carnegie and Covey.
// I wrote a doctoral dissertation on the core principles and arguments of self-help books.
// Indeed, historically the message of self-help is one that advises individuals to build their character through virtuous behavior, build a career through hard work and delayed gratification, build relationships through commitment, and build a nest egg through thrift.
// I created a course to expose students to the best of classic self-help — and give them an opportunity to remix, update, and personalize it. The idea was to help students get from that WTF of frustration to a Wise, Tenacious, and Fearless place of empowerment — and after watching more than 300 students road-test the advice in my book, the results are impressive.
// The best of self-help reminds us of core virtues much as a good Sunday sermon might. But self-help is a very individualistic genre — it's about how you can better yourself, rather than what you can do to serve others.
// LOPEZ: I'm in my 20s and unemployed. Have been for a few years. How can WTF help me?
WHELAN: Get wise: Figure out your purpose and where you want to go in life.
Get tenacious: Set goals and break the procrastination-stress cycle.
Get fearless: Become empowered to make smart choices about money; learn how to avoid arguments and ace interviews.
// Working through the book — setting and achieving goals, figuring out where your money goes, making more meaningful relationships through boosting your interpersonal skills — will give you a competitive advantage in the job market, and help you get back on your feet both professionally and personally.
// Values are different from goals: Goals are what you want to do, while values are who you want to be. Having a million dollars is a goal, not a value. Becoming famous is a goal, not a value. But to accomplish either of those goals means understanding what's important to you as an individual.
// LOPEZ: In light of recent news, should you really be encouraging people to meet online?
WHELAN: Sure. Just get offline and meet in person — in a public place — as soon as possible. Technology isn't the problem. It's power-hungry, deviant people lacking in self-control and honesty who create the problem.
// WHELAN: By my definition, getting "fearless" means thinking about someone other than yourself. It means improving your relationships, improving your interactions with others, and making more meaningful connections to your community.
// WHELAN: Very few people know the real definition of thrift: It's not about hoarding money, but about the "right use" of everything from time to resources. Thrift is the virtue of making smart choices and understanding the psychology of decision-making. Thrift is about generosity, and conservation, and thrift is a learned skill.
// LOPEZ: What's your most important advice?
WHELAN: Figure out who you are by determining your core values — and then keeping those core values front-and-center to guide all your decisions, from spending your money to spending your time. [I.e., "worldview." – FP]
// WHELAN: We all need to be reminded of these core virtues of perseverance, honesty, self-control, and thrift — and fortunately, there's a growing body of research to show that positive behavioral change is possible, if you go about it in a systematic fashion.
You can change, but quick-fix advice doesn't work. You will get a job, but you may have to brush up on your interpersonal skills first. For those young adults who want the best nuggets of timeless wisdom and personal-improvement strategies geared specifically toward their generation, Generation WTF is your go-to summer read.
413-423 – Dr. Christine Whelan
428-438 – Dr. Christine Whelan
443-452 – Christine Whelan, and calls.
458-508 – Christine Whelan, and calls.
512-523 – Calls –
523 – Don Rohde @ Galpin Ford (818) 262-2092 (galpin.com) For the past 39 years, Don's been sales manager at Galpin, the #1 volume Ford dealer in the world for the past 21 years.
528-539 – Calls –
544-554 – Dr. William Baugh, is the Medical Director at Full Spectrum Dermatology in Fullerton (fullspectrumdermatology.com, 877-794-7546), and he teaches at the Western School of Medicine, regularly volunteers with Children's Network International to serve underprivileged kids around the world. Today we talk about the importance of using the correct sun screen – it must say that it blocks UV-A as well as UV-B.
558-608 – Lynn Edgington founder-president of Eagle Research Associates warns us of the latest scams and rip-offs (eagleresearchassociates.org, 949-837-6078). His new book is out, entitled Robbing You With a Keyboard Instead of a Gun.
612-623 – Lynn Edgington.
628-639 – Lynn Edgington. Lynn explains the huge "Mystery Shopper Scam" that is already a multi-billion dollar scam worldwide. Here's how it works. You're invited via email to become a mystery shopper to earn some extra money, and all you have to do is check out a store and report on your experience. You sign up and wait for instructions. Then one day, you get a Fed-Ex or UPS-ed postal-money order for $950 with instructions to deposit it immediately into your own bank account, and the following morning, to withdraw all but $100 that you get to keep as your fee. You're then to go to the store and buy something for $50 and then wire transfer the Mystery Shopper Company the balance of $800, in order to test their wire transfer experience. You do it. A few days later, your bank notifies you that the money order was NSF, and you're on the hook for the whole amount or they will press charges.
644-654 – Lynn Edgington. Lynn explains the "Bank Customer Service Survey Scam." You get an email that your bank is testing their customer service through a third party. You agree to participate. You're sent to a third party site with a legitimate sounding name like "JB or JP Powers" rather than the legit "JD Powers". You fill out the information, but it's all a scam. The bad guys have your log in info and account numbers and they clean you out. If you think a company is doing a survey, call them, don't fill out anything online.
• USA Today (6/21/2011) Happy solstice, happy summer! Today at 1:16pm is the official solstice, marking the longest day of the year (10 hours of sunlight in Washington, DC), and the official start of summer.