No Ordinary Burger

One of the cool things about my “job” is not only speaking to teens at schools and conferences, but also hanging out with students afterwards for leadership training and awesome conversation. Usually, we’re able to strike up epic discussions about the important things in life: the new season of Glee, the horrible changes that Facebook has made to their homepage (a recurring topic), and when Eclipse is hitting theatres (fellas, Eclipse is the new TWILIGHT movie–take your lady friend to see it).

Recently, I was the featured middle school speaker at a leadership retreat in Idyllwild, California. After I got off the stage, the advisors invited me to a barbeque dinner with the students before we got started with in-depth workshops. I never turn down free food (let alone barbequed deliciousness), so I was completely game to pig out with the students for an hour or so. The coolest part about the night’s dinner was that the leadership students, not the advisors, would be preparing the food for us. Yum!

As group breakout time came to a close, the students sprang to work cutting lettuce, preparing buns, frying French fries, and most importantly, grilling burgers. After about 45 minutes of intense cooking time, I walked into the kitchen to view the students’ progress. Though about 12 leadership members had been cooking for nearly an hour, no cooked food could be found in the kitchen (sadness).

Instead of simply throwing the food on the grill, the groups’ 12 chef burger mafia had gotten together in the kitchen to prepare some special food for the nights meal. In their words, they were preparing “In-N-Out…but BETTER.” This consisted of a bun with the usual toppings (including “special spread”), and what was to be called a ‘deluxe burger’ (that’s right; this was no ordinary beef patty).

After talking to a few of the chefs, I found that the students had begun slicing beef patties in various ways in order to insert cheese in the middle of the burger. Also, the students began finding new and creative ways to include various vegetables into the burger itself.

An hour of preparation later, I was handed a “deluxe burger” with all the proper condiments. Within a second of my first bite, one thing became clear: it was DEFINITELY better than In-N-Out! We’re talking melt in your mouth delicious (ok, now I’m hungry again). As I looked around the room, everyone else shared the same satisfied expression on their faces. Finally, the night was topped off with applause as the 12 year old chefs made their appearance into the eating area. Needless to say, it was a cool site to see.

It’s interesting how a concept as simple as making a burger can bring so much joy and enthusiasm to a group of creative students. Rather than viewing the task of making dinner as a chore or a job, the students saw the night’s meal as an opportunity to be innovative (and have some fun while doing so).

I think that this is an approach that we as leaders need to strive to make within our groups and organizations. Instead of doing the same things year after year and viewing them as chores, we need to look at our action items as chances to innovate, experiment, and create.

Spring can easily become a time of year where we attempt to get back up to speed with everything on our plates. Whether its planning last minute trips for the summer, writing next to a million emails to those we need to contact, or cramming together homework and studying just in time for finals, we are all guilty of doing satisfactory “catch up” work at one time or another.

During these next few weeks, I encourage you to take some time and see where you can implement some creative changes into your yearly routine. Form a new study pattern with friends, think of a different way to go about writing your emails, or simply find new ways to free up a couple minutes to yourself. By constantly innovating the way we do things, we can help to make something far better than the average meal. =]

I hope you take the time to do so. I definitely will (but first, I’m off to eat).


A little over a month ago, we all watched in horror as the country of Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake. Like many other people around the world, I remained constantly glued to my television to view the events as they unfolded in the days and weeks following the quake. Each heroic rescue and survival story brought hope and a smile to my face, while tales of lost family members and killed civilians brought those of sadness and despair. As I looked on, I found myself asking the same question that millions of others held in their hearts- “what can I do to help?”

Sure, donating ten dollars through text helps. Yes, donating unused clothes is a good start… but the question remained– what can I do now?

I watched on as the initial wave of support died down. Benefit concerts came and passed; star-studded telethons raised countless dollars and gained massive support around the US, but the question still lingered–what can I do now?

Mother Nature wasted no time in allowing me to answer that question. A turn to CNN this morning proved that devastation had struck again. For those of you who have been out of the loop for the past day, another massive earthquake struck today in Chile. This time, the quake was nearly 500 times the strength of that in Haiti (and no, that’s not a typo).

In beginning to look around the web for stories covering the event, one thing became clear: things were MUCH different this time around. Instead of cries for help and aid, news stories focused on the possible impact at home. Would there be a tsunami? Not likely. Would WE suffer? Probably not. Finally, was it as bad at Haiti? No.

Teens, I’m officially calling you out and asking for action. I’m not asking for a small, one-time donation. I’m not asking that you simply look on and feel bad for the people of Chile and Haiti. I’m asking you plain and simply to be RELENTLESS.

I believe that there come times when each generation will be judged on their contribution towards humanity. As I continue to travel around the country and speak, I see a desire inside of today’s generation to help others. I see a passion that refuses to die down. I see a hunger for a better world.

Today is the day to help others. Now is the time to literally work to create a better world. NOW is the time to be relentless in your efforts. Start rallying clubs and organizations in your school to bear arms together. Begin forming alliances with students to produce a greater good. Finally, see what YOU can do as a leader to help the situations in Haiti and Chile.

I hope to be a resource for you as you begin your efforts to help others. After writing this, I will begin my own process of deciding just how I can make an impact. As always, I will keep you updated along the way =]


Big News!

So a few days ago I promised you big news via Twitter/Facebook.  I will dispense this jolly news now:

I will be appearing on my FIRST radio interview later this month!!  Yes, ‘A Closer Look Radio’ with Pam Atherton has asked me to come on January 28th to talk to her audience about today’s teens (that’s YOU!).

I’m EXTREMELY excited about this opportunity! Not only will I be able to shed light on some of the hot button issues that parents need to know about, but I will also be able to talk in general about the cool teens that I get to speak to!

Unfortunately, the show will air during school hours (booooo). Not to worry though, I will post a link to the interview immediately after it airs!

Finally, I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from teens who need an extra bit of help dealing with their ASB/Leadership groups in the new year.  Therefore, I’ve decided to change things up a little bit in the coming weeks. If YOU want a question answered for your leadership group or ASB, drop me a line at . I will take a few of the questions and personally answer them on either the blog OR even a specialized YouTube video. Sound bueno? I thought it might.

As we start this new year, I want to make it a point as a youth speaker to better serve YOU as students. You have one semester left of this school year. Let’s make it count!!!