Angry Student Interrupts Assembly

Story of a Boy who Interrupted the Whole Assembly

The whole room was silent when he stood up.

It felt as if everyone’s breath had stopped.

He lashed out in anger towards the speaker at the front of the room…

“Everyone goes through this. Why are you even here? You’re no different than the people who have talked to us before. Why are you here? Why do you even care?”

He’s on his feet now… staring at the man at the front of the room straight in the eyes.

When a student breaks in the new millennium it can make national news. This student was breaking — and he was reaching that breaking point in a safe environment…

The man at the front of the room paused his talk and looked back at the student who had stood.

Something powerful was taking place inside of this student, this young man.
The man at the front of the room answered back confidently, with words no one expected to hear…

“Can I come give you a hug?”

Without hesitation, the student replied, “yes.”

How does an auditorium of students respond to anger? How do they respond to breaking corporate decorum? How do they respond to a moment when no one knows how to respond?

The entire auditorium erupted in celebration and cheers.

The man at the front of the room concluded his talk and then sought out this student after the program ended. He asked the young man’s story and discovered what teachers always sense but are never told. The young man has a story filled with scenes of drug addiction and poor choices.

I was in the audience that day, a teacher seeing a Hollywood scene play out in real life. I knew we had just experienced a special moment as an entire school.

Peru High School feels like a safer place since that day. Instead of being one of those breaking points that are reported on the news, this was a story that the country would never hear but everyone in the room would never forget.

When Bobby spoke it opened up our eyes to see the world differently. To change our choices in life and make better decisions. To live every day with intention and awareness of how we treat others.

This was an event where we experienced what we had only hoped for over the years: A guest speaker who ACTUALLY relates to the students and talks with them.

Educators and youth workers anticipate students being on their phones or zoning out during a guest speaker.

That day, all eyes were locked and loaded to hear Bobby’s story. It took hold. It has had a lasting impact on our campus.

The atmosphere was palpable and you knew that something had changed that day. Something that we have all carried with us ever since.

— Teacher, Peru High School, Indiana

Not All Stories Are Created Equal

Educators hope for a moment as Peru High School experienced. You have probably filtered through dozens of ‘acts’ or ‘speakers’ who promise to entertain… but you don’t want entertainment for your students.

You want impact.

Wherever I go my number one hope isn’t whether or not the message will connect — it will.

My top hope is that educators will be ready and willing to take the conversation back to the classroom and allow the impact to last beyond the day…

The story your students need to hear is there to be told.

The question is, are you ready for the impact it will have?

The Next Step

My name is Bobby Jones and as mentioned in the story, I am the man at the front of the stage who had the privilege of being a part of the Peru High School story that day.

If you would like to bring this kind of impact to your student body, I have prepared a short blog of what you need to look for when booking a school assembly.

5 Things to Look For When Booking a School Assembly

I would love the privilege of coming alongside and helping you bring in special programs that will make an impact and if you think my program would be a good fit, I would love to discuss that as well.

Thank you for your time — but more importantly — thank you for caring enough about your students that you continue to find new ways to reach them and help them experience their breaking moments and breakthrough moments in an environment that is safe.

They may never provide the thanks you deserve, so I want to thank you on their behalf.

— Bobby Jones

5 Things to Look For When Booking a School Assembly

School administrators have plenty of people asking for their time, attention, and budget money. There are school assembly programing emails you open up and you think, “I don’t have time for this,” or, “Ugh, this just isn’t for us.”

It is important for you to:

  • Spend your money well.
  • Further advance the education and development of your students.
  • Create an experience that enhances what you do all year long.

For the last five years I have worked with administrators like you and in that time I’ve discovered the good, the bad, and the ugly of school assembly programming.

I have seen it all.

Ideally, administrators want to identify the best assemblies to book, know which ones to stay away from, and stay on the cutting edge of what will connect with students.

Fortunately for you, this is exactly what I will be covering in this article using my experience from speaking across the country and help you identify what I have discovered makes for the best school assemblies that leave a lasting impact on students’ lives.

Assemblies for the 21st Century (And Beyond)

We are not living in 1999. We are not living in 2009. Soon, we will not be living in 2019… what’s more, the world our students live in has changed more in the last 5 years than it has in the last 15.

The obstacles and distractions you are facing everyday pose a threat to the learning process, jeopardize funding, and most importantly put our next generation at risk of falling decades behind their peers around the world.

Your school assemblies matter — the speakers, presenters, entertainers, and educators you bring in have the potential to ‘pop’ the bubble of individual students and help them see there is a bigger world out there.

If you want to enrich their lives, pop their bubbles, and reclaim their attention, you must reach them WHERE THEY ARE. You know this — but knowing it and practicing it are two different things.

When administrators are considering my program for their assemblies, I am often asked, “Can you tell the students how important doing their school work is?”

The heart behind the question is right but the more important question is, “Regarding the issues you deal with on a daily basis, how many of them are related explicitly to academics?”

“Wow, we really don’t have any.”

In many cases, the problems are not academic. That’s the good news.

You thrive at growing students from the angle of academic studies — people like me thrive at helping to develop the person these students will become and we approach it from a relational, storytelling angle.

Five Traits of Dynamic and High-Transformative Assembly Programming

Since 2014 I have traveled to hundreds of cities, spoken to thousands of students, interacted with dozens of administrators, and met many speakers, entertainers, motivators, and educators.

In that time, I have discovered the 5 things you MUST consider when trying to get maximum return on your assembly programming.

The Program Must Make Impact

Will this assembly penetrate the hearts of young people? Will students walk away, thinking about the program for the next several hours… next several days… years to come?

The students who remember my presentation are the ones who make life change. I am contacted, months, even years after interacting with students and told how it changed their life… and they have a vivid story to share.

If your speaker can pair a vivid example of life change in their presentation, students can visualize their own lives changing and that will be the catalyst for allowing the message to change their own life.

The Presenter MUST Speak the Language of Your Students

Your responsibility as an educator is to connect the hearts and minds of students with the basics of life — both academic and relational.

That responsibility means that anyone you put in front of them must speak their language. Your best staff and faculty are those who can speak the language of the students while simultaneously commanding respect.

You want the same in a presenter.

Is their message relevant to the culture today? Does their story translate to the lives students find themselves living?

This is vital.

You and I both know that when you stand in front of students you have a few short seconds to connect — they must sense that you care about them and they must care about what you are saying.

If you fail in those first moments, the entire program is for not. You will never get them back.

Speaking their language ensures they will understand from the second the presenter steps on the gym floor.

Grab Their Attention. Immediately!

When you are examining programming choices, ask yourself the question, “Will this capture the students and leave them wanting more?”

It is vital for an assembly presenter to grab attention. We’re not talking shock jocks… we’re talking quality communication.

Keeping an entire auditorium or gymnasium of students organized and in line is difficult — an attention grabbing program is your best weapon against distractions, disruptive students, and restlessness.

In fact, a presentation that grabs their attention will turn your students into peace keepers and your staff can sit back and watch as students put a wanna-be disrupture in their place, “Shut up, man. I’m trying to listen.”

When the speaker grabs their attention, you and your staff actually get a break from policing and you will return to the classroom with students who have just had their hearts and minds engaged — and they are ready for more.

Allocate the Proper Amount of Time

Nothing can be too long — only too boring. Some of Hollywood’s most successful movies run as long as 3 hours and they are successful because they engage the viewer every step of the way.

That said, it is important for your assembly presenter to know exactly what type of attention span they are speaking to and be ready to adapt and adjust their content to ensure maximum absorption.

Unfortunately, you will encounter some programming that does not take into consideration the maturity level of the audience and unless it is just a perfect fit for their content, the assembly is a lost cause before it begins.

I don’t want this for you. You don’t want this for you.

As you interview programming options, I would encourage you to make sure that no program extends the timing of your assembly longer than 60 minutes. For younger children you will want to adjust that number accordingly.

Ensure that the presenter can adjust his or her content to the time you have allotted to prevent pushing the assembly overtime. This will help you preserve the overall impact of the event.

The Message Must Be Clear Before Assembly Time

If you are unclear about what the presenter will be doing during the assembly, your students will be unclear about what they are actually supposed to take away.

Actually, worse… they won’t even pay attention.

You MUST KNOW right off the bat exactly what the point of the presentation is and how it will be relayed to the listeners.

Know ahead of time what students will be challenged to take away — this will help you prepare your teachers for meaningful conversations… both planned and spontaneous. They will be ready to ask questions that are meaningful and guiding to the student.

If everyone is clear on the message and the presenter delivers, you now have a window into the student’s life to build rapport that can be leveraged over the course of the coming days, weeks, and months.

Bring In Allys Who Reinforce Your Values and Systems

A final word is to bring in presenters who are curious to know about you and your school, anxious to learn about what makes your campus ‘tick’ and has a willingness to cater his or her message to connect in a more meaningful way.

When the speaker makes a connection with the students there is no better time to then reinforce values that you want to instill in your students during their time in your care.

I see myself as an addition to every school I visit. My job is to compliment the learning that is already happening. This ensures my message will resonate more deeply in the moment and that it can have a longer lasting impact after I’ve departed.

You and I want students to see a better path and a brighter future than what is currently in front of them.

You and I want students to know they have people in their lives who care about them enough, and love them enough to say, “Hey, I am walking this journey with you. You are not alone. You don’t have to struggle by yourself. We can get through this together.”

My hope is that your year is filled with amazing experiences and your kids are a joy to work with. Ultimately, I want to help educators be a bridge to the success in students lives that lead them to a brighter life. Not coincidentally, I cherish opportunities to help build that bridge along side you.

Making Little Commitments

Making the decision to change can be hard. But what trips people up most is knowing how to go about making changes that will have a big impact but will also last.

I remember that feeling.

Coming out of treatment I felt like I’d been struggling for so long. I’d been doing the same thing for at least 10 years and didn’t have a pot to pee in or a window to through it out of. I recall thinking, “I don’t know what to do. I know that God has a plan and that He’s with me… But I have no idea where to start.”

One thing was clear, though. I could either lay down and die, and let my addiction, and my life choices get the better of me… Or, I could rise up and decide I was not going to let this moment define me. So, I made a decision. I chose to fight.

At that moment, I knew I had to do whatever I had to do, for as long as I had to do it if I wanted to get to the other side of the pain and mess I was in.

From that point on I made this my mission statement.

“If I want to go someplace I’ve never gone, I’d have to do something I’ve never done.”

Seems simple enough, but you wouldn’t believe how many people stay right where they are because they aren’t willing to do the work to get to a better place. It happens all the time. And I’m not just talking about addiction… Anyone who wants to improve their lives or their circumstances will face this same challenge.

There is always a moment of reckoning where you decide to give up or stand up and push forward. And the thing is no one can do that for you. It’s something you alone have to decide and that you alone have to set in motion.

So, I decided the best way to get where I wanted to go was make little commitments. To me, it made sense because many times we get overwhelmed by all the changes that need to be made. By making smaller achievable commitments, I knew I would be able to make progress and see change.

What I learned is that small goals and commitments are more achievable. A lot of times people set huge goals and end up failing because they don’t see progress. They end up losing motivation and becoming discouraged. In fact, sometimes the goal is so big it keeps them from ever getting started because it seems too overwhelming.

But I was able to keep smaller, more achievable commitments. As I began making progress, it made me feel good. And that made me want to keep going even more.

Meeting my commitments also made me feel confident. And that made me think my goals were possible and that I could actually keep going. I became even more consistent which is what brings success.

There’s a saying that goes something like this, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” That means you need to know where you want to go so you know the right steps to take.

For me, I knew I didn’t want to live the way I had been. Plain and simple – I wanted a better life. So, I set goals to get me to the life I wanted.

Here are some things I committed to:

  • Don’t go around the friends who encouraged me to make the same bad choices.
  • Find better, more healthy places to hang out.
  • Practice keeping my word by doing what I said I’d do.
  • Go to church every Wednesday & Sunday for one month.
  • Seek out a mentor who would speak the truth and hold me accountable.

As I kept each one of these commitments, my life changed. I’ve kept those commitments, and my life today is completely different.

So, what about you? Are you going to sit in the same place day after day complaining about your life? Or, are you going to do what you need to do to make it different?

If you are looking to make changes in your life, I encourage you to take time to write down five or six small commitments that will move you towards your goal. Look at them every day, and honestly decide if you’re keeping your goals.

The thing about making and keeping little commitments is that they become habit. Little changes over a long period give big results. It worked for me, and it can work for you.

Go get it!

Identity Problem

What we think about ourselves can – and does – play a large part in everything we do. Identity is important because in a lot of ways it influences how we live.

Identity is who we were created to be. It’s what sets us apart from others and includes the qualities, beliefs, personality, and expressions that make us unique.

Football was such a huge part of my life. So, when it was gone, I really believed my life was over. I clearly remember thinking “It’s never going to be as good as Michigan State.” Emotions like embarrassment and shame, made me feel like I was not good enough, and not worthy of anything good. I truly thought nothing good would ever work out for me.

I believed that because I’d made mistakes it somehow meant I was disqualified for the rest of my life. It made me feel hopeless too. And what’s worse, I felt like I was helpless to change my circumstances.

In reality, none of that was true! But our emotions are sometimes driven by how we feel about ourselves inside. In my journey of pain into purpose, I’ve learned that my emotions can fool me into thinking things about myself that are just not true. And, what I now know is that a lot of other folks have the same experience.

Life can be tough, and sometimes what we go through, and the choices we make can make us feel like we aren’t worth much. The thing is, our value isn’t based on how we feel. And, it doesn’t matter if our difficult circumstances are because of something we did, or because of things completely out of our control… The fact is, regardless of what’s going on in our lives, how we feel about ourselves should not change.

Having a strong identity is a big factor in success. Here’s why.

Identity issues can cause us to make poor choices. There are many times when the decisions you make are based on how you see yourself. If you don’t think you’re worth much, you’re probably going to assume what you do doesn’t matter. That can cause you to do things you shouldn’t. And the trouble with that is, the more mistakes you make, the worse you’re going to feel.

Identity issues can also cause you to have unhealthy relationships. If you are struggling with who you are, it will usually show up in the people you connect with. Sometimes it’s because the people you hang around are even more insecure than you are. Other times it’s because they put their mess on you. That’s because they feel bad about themselves and they want to make you feel bad, too.

Even romantic relationships can be affected. Usually, if there’s emotional, mental, or verbal abuse, one or both people have issues with their identity.

So, what do you do? First, you need to take a long hard look in the mirror. Here’s a few ways you can know if your identity is compromised:

  • You are not keeping your word.
  • You are making poor choices.
  • You say things you don’t mean.
  • Your relationships are not working.
  • You people please.
  • You have a wall up.

So, here’s the good news. Once you clearly see the problem, you can begin to make changes to improve how you see yourself. There are many ways to take steps to become your true, authentic self.

The important thing to know is that you alone will have to make the choice to change. Many times, there are people who think they can save you or change you, but they can’t. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – who you hang around with matters! Look for people that will raise you up and hold you accountable.

This is important stuff! You need a strong identity in order to make the right kind of choices. And having a healthy view of who you are will go a long way to helping you have positive relationships.

I know this was true for me. As my life changed, I eventually came into a healthier identity. I began to realize who I was created to be and to understand my value as a person. My life doesn’t have to be a wreck. I don’t have to treat others badly or let people walk all over me. Now I know I do deserve to have good things in my life.

It’s up to you, but I encourage you to make a commitment to change. When you know who you are, your life will change dramatically.

Don’t Lose Your Voice

Everyone has a voice. Technically, our voice is the sound that comes out when we open our mouths to speak or sing.

But, what do people mean when they say we all “have a voice?”

“Having a voice” may mean different things to different people. For some people, it can mean being true to what you believe. There’s some truth to that, but for me, it also means standing my ground and saying no to unhealthy relationships and shady things.

That concept was especially true for me as I began to move away from a life of alcohol addiction. It was during that time I understood there were people and places I no longer wanted to (or needed to) be around. I also realized I was the only one who could remove myself from those relationships.

That’s when having a voice became really important to me. I knew I had to tell those people I could no longer hang around with them – and that’s what I did. In the end, my life shifted in a positive way because I made a stand and said “no” to bad relationships.

During my journey, I realized I had a voice. Still, I’ll admit that in the last year or so I haven’t always been the best at using it. Looking back I see that I began to let things slip by. And because I didn’t always stand my ground, I began to find myself in stressful situations with little, or no, peace.

More and more, though, I’ve been re-learning how to use my voice. And, more than that, I’m learning how to use it to make sure I stay on track in my day-to-day life.

The thing about using your voice is that sometimes it can mean not being very popular among some people. Usually, it happens with individuals that don’t want you to speak up.

There’s a problem with worrying about how others think of you, though. The fear of others opinions, or how you are perceived, can cause you to avoid speaking up about what’s important. In other words, it can cause you to let people disregard your feelings and run over your boundaries.

The thing I want you to know is that you don’t have to let fear of hurting someone’s feelings stop you from using your voice. Now let me be clear, I don’t mean you should carelessly or deliberately hurt someone with your words. Not at all!

I’m simply saying if the situation you’re in with someone does not line up with who you are and what you stand for, don’t be afraid to say “NO. I’m sorry, I can’t do that!” You are not responsible for their like or dislike of that statement. You are just using your voice to state your boundary. And trust me being clear about where you stand will save you – and sometimes them – a lot of hurt or stress in the long run.

This is important in every relationship. But it’s extremely significant when it comes to unhealthy relationships. Sometimes, unhealthy people will often push your boundaries because they don’t respect where you stand, or they don’t have boundaries of their own.

The thing is though, if you let them influence you to move on what you stand for, soon enough, you can end up in not so good situations. You may even find yourself acting in ways you normally wouldn’t. When that happens, you can be sure you’ve lost your power.

Your voice matters! In any relationship, it’s important that both people hold a place of equal value. Every relationship has give and take, but one voice should never ‘always’ dominant or get their way. There has to be balance.

So how do you make sure your boundaries are respected? There are a lot of ways to get your point across, but here are three things you can do to make sure your voice is heard in a way that is personal to you and helpful to others:

  • Be unwavering in your voice – It sets a clear tone that you will not compromise what you believe.
  • Let your yes be yes and your no be no – It clearly tells others what you will, or will not do.
  • Don’t be afraid of an ending because it can also be a beginning. – If you cannot say “no” then the relationship is probably not healthy, and it may be time to move on.

One last word of advice… Withholding your voice sets both parties up for failure. Your voice is necessary to let others know where you stand and allows others to make educated decisions. If you withhold your opinion or thoughts then you are giving up your voice.

Remember, we train people how to treat us. If you can learn to say no, and clearly state what you need, your voice will be heard. I encourage all of you to use your voice more. It will empower you and keep the things you want to be established in your life intact!

Right Relationships

Words are powerful.

What the world says about who you are can impact how you see yourself. Even the way you talk to yourself can make a difference in how you see yourself – and that can influence the choices you make in life.

It’s like this… Over time, if someone continually calls you a “loser,” those words are going to take root because it’s a quick trip from “Maybe I am a loser.” to “I am a loser.” It’s the way our minds work – thoughts become our reality if repeated over time.

Negative words and thoughts repeated over and over, are going make you think that’s who you are. And if you believe that’s who you are, you’re going to start making choices based on that belief.

The good news is, the same process happens when positive or uplifting words are said.

That’s why it matters who you allow to speak into your life. The people you’re around can impact you in positive or negative ways. One of the most powerful things you can do to make sure you succeed, is to have the right people around you. It also determines what you will and won’t allow in your life. Nothing will pull you down faster than hanging around people that tear you down and encourage you to make wrong decisions.

You’ve got to find people who speak life to you – even when you make mistakes. It’s not that you need them to condone your failures. You need them to hold you accountable but still lift you up. True friends will encourage you even when you mess up.

Sometimes you need someone to believe in you, before you can believe in yourself. We all need people around us who build us up – we can’t do life alone.

We need the kind of people who look at our mess and can still say, “That doesn’t define you. You’re still awesome. You’re still going to do great things.”

I learned this lesson early in my journey. One big step I made was committing to meeting with a mentor every week. He was encouraging but honest. Those meetings taught me a lot about being a man, making good choices, and staying strong in my faith.

Those meetings made a huge difference in my life. Having a mentor is one of the best practices I can recommend to you. When the right people speak into your life, and give you other perspectives, it can help you see things differently and make better choices.

The advice and feedback you get from the right person can be a gift – it certainly was to me! Even today I have mentors and accountability people in my life. These people have challenged me to become the person I am today.

It’s all about who you’re keeping around you. I don’t want people in my life who are going to tell me what I want to hear. That’s not helpful because it’s not what I need – or want for that matter. In order to grow, I need to be willing to have hard conversations – the kind that challenge my thinking.

You need that too. It may make you uncomfortable, but when you dig deep like that you walk away with something that can elevate your life.

So how do you know who the right people are? Here are a few things to look for:

  • People who are nice and supportive – but still willing to challenge you or call out bad behavior.
  • People who respect themselves. If someone doesn’t respect themselves, how are they going to respect you?
  • People who don’t tear others down. If someone is constantly tearing other people down, it’s likely they’re going to do that to you at some point.
  • People who support your dreams and purpose. You want someone who can encourage you on your journey, and it helps if the person believes in what you are doing.

One of the biggest and most powerful things you can do is find the right people to walk through life with. I owe good part of my recovery and success to the people I surrounded myself with. I make sure the people I associate with are the ones who support me and help me grow.

You have that opportunity too. Take time to look around you. Who are you letting speak into your life? Make a decision today to eliminate the wrong people, and replace them with the right ones.

Randy Savage – Official Audio

I’m off the top rope/ you can call it Randy savage/ I’m off the top rope/ you can call me Randy savage/ I’m of the top/ I’m off the top/ I’m off the top, like macho man/ I’m off the top rope/ you can call it Randy savage/

I’m off the top, call it macho man/ this here ain’t for the average man/ my message got em flippin like an acrobat/ my god callin plays he the quarterback/ hear it, see it, record all that/ i plan to stay, private Ryan maaaaaaaan/ this is not a game/ stop playing wit me/ alive city tray, time to live it up/ they shootin, we movin/ call it blessin up/ quit wit all that extra stuff/ we know God is the message bruh/ just confess it cuz/ when he cracks the sky/ won’t matter how you think you fly/ you’ll be outta time/ can’t buy it back/ I hear all the hatin, roger thaaaaaaat/

They ask, why I go so hard/ I tell em I don’t have a choice/ time is runnin out/ so I’ll be the one to pay the price/ off the top rope elbow drops, winnin souls for Christ/

Where were you, when I was down and out/ that’s right, nowhere to be found/ so don’t act like, I’m not where I’m posed to be/ and don’t act like now you know me/ I have all these kids and lookin to me/ not kosher to you/ it’s important to me/ I’m not fixin to leave/ rolled up my sleeves/ put em all on my back/ now we runnin like meets/ can’t change, if you don’t change bruh/ we ain’t cut from the same cloth/ now pick up yo dang cross/ only for today/ cuz, tomorrow we take off/ that’s what it is/ no secret mission/ just know Imma praise God/ this just isn’t for me / you can get free/ so leap out with an elbow drop/

Purchase ‘Randy Savage’ on iTunes

Speaking to Over 2000 Middle and High School Students In Minnesota

I love what I do! I get to impact the lives of students across our country, giving them hope and empowering them. Do you know that sensation when a moment arrives when you feel you’ve been given an all-access pass into the life of a young adult? The moment when a student looks at you, really looks at you, and wants to hear what you have to say and is ready to respond, it is priceless and it is a blessing. Maybe you could say that this is a season of my life where I have some sort of “cool factor” (Lol) allowing me to operate within this all-access role.

My Time with Over 2,000 Students in Minnesota

Recently, a fantastic non-profit organization in Minnesota brought me to The Gopher State to speak to Discovery Middle School and Alexandria Area High School. My days of playing football put me in front of some large audiences, but speaking to a group of students this large was a great opportunity to reach a lot of ears – an opportunity that I don’t take for granted. I have been hyped for this trip for weeks.

As excited as I might have been about speaking at a middle school of 1,000 students and a high school of over 1,250, we all have fear that will creep in. Moments when little voices inside try to psych you out and tell you all sorts of garbage. Even as adults we may be ‘over’ some of the fears we had as students – asking someone out, running for student council, trying out for a sports team, standing on stage for a solo – but that doesn’t mean that fear goes away. It just looks different.

Bobby Jones Speaking at Alexandria Area High School

During my recent trip to Alexandria, Minnesota I spent time at Discovery Middle School and Alexandria Area High School.

I don’t get nervous sharing my story anymore. Yeah, the audience is large, yeah, there’s a lot that could go ‘wrong’ but when you stand where I stand, you receive life from the energy each student brings to the moment. In Alexandria, I experienced that life during all three talks I gave.

The Basic Message I’ve Discovered Teens Need and Want to Hear

I have a basic message I usually share, about choices and consequences, and talent will take you where character won’t keep you. That’s the message I brought with me to Minnesota. Young adults resonate with the word “talent” – they understand what talent is. When I talk about the power of talent, it gives me a runway to start talking about character, and by the time I get to character, the students are typically hooked.

During this talk, I also stressed being aware of the friends you hang out with because you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Inside that room with those students, it was clear that I really needed to emphasize to them that they need to be watching who they’re hanging out with.

Another thing I shared during my time in Alexandria is a message I have been delivering each speaking opportunity: What can make or break the path that each student will go down. Parents, teachers, and leaders are really interested in this part. It’s incredibly tangible and gives adults real tools for connecting with their youth.

I say that there are five things that have the ability to keep you on a path or take you down a different path.

  • Self-identity, knowing who you are
  • Owning your choices, your responsibilities, putting your past behind you
  • Your friends, watching the company you keep
  • Find people that know more than you, that can help you and pour into you
  • Share your experience with others so you can help them grow

If you were to ask me, I believe these are the five things that changed my life – them along with my encounter with faith brought major change. Look over the list and then turn and look at the lives of people who you know who have succeeded, you’ll see these game changers have a place in their lives. I’m so grateful they transformed mine.

Bobby Jones speaking at Discovery Middle School in Alexandria, Minnesota

Five things teens must recon with: Self-identity, owning your choices, your friends, mentors, and sharing their life experience.


Because Students Look at Me Like “Whatever Dude!”

When I’m standing in front of students, I know they’re probably thinking, “okay, whatever, dude, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” I would have thought the same thing back when I was their ages, haha.

That’s when I tell them that I am not in front of them because I read a story in a book, I’m not up here because somebody told me some story and now I’m telling them, I’m up here because I experienced it.

“I was in your shoes at one point in time, I tested the waters and I was drowning. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made, learn from my experience.”

One of the best ways to connect with students and let them know that you’re for real is to let them ask questions – real questions. After each talk, when possible, I open up the floor for them to ask real questions. That’s what I did for Discovery and Alexandria Area.

Students wind up always asking great questions and I’ve usually heard them all. This event put a brand new question in front of me that no student has ever asked: “Do you regret anything from your journey and if you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?”

Great question!

There are a lot of adults who think about this question, I suppose. There is shame, embarrassment, and even a sense of missed opportunity attached to our past. Relationships, jobs, school – all sorts of things that we could regret.

I thought about it for a second and then I said that I wouldn’t change a thing.

However, the thing that I regret is the way that I hurt people along my journey. Sometimes on purpose and sometimes without ever knowing. That’s who I may have been and it is 100% part of the story of how I became who I am today.

Another great question from one of the students was, “How do you know if you need to get rid of your friends?”

This is one question parents and adults know that our students do think about and would never admit it. I responded to the student that, “You know when the things you’re doing with your friends are hurting you. When that happens, when you’re being hurt, you need new friends. When times are tough you find out who your real friends are.”

The question and answer sessions are very eye-opening.

Selfies, Talking and What Happens After the Lights Turn Off

Once the lights turned off, I got to connect with the students afterward and talk with them. Of course, we always gotta do the selfies, you know! I love it – this is real human connection in their world. If you don’t understand the selfie phenomenon, don’t try to – just start doing it with your students because it’s how you can connect with them.

But what happens after I leave? What happens once I’m gone?

I consider myself fortunate to be connected with the founder of REACH, a program that gives kids a safe place to go that allows students to open up about their fears, their failures, their anxieties. Organizations like REACH exist all over the country and while my story starts the conversation and provides students with permission to bring up complicated situations and start dealing with them, organizations like REACH do the long-term heart work.

After the assemblies, I actually went and spent time with the freshman REACH team. They talked about my message, what they took away from it and members asked some good follow up questions. I don’t usually get an opportunity like this and I really enjoyed it.

The real magic usually happens when I leave a school. The students will message me through Snapchat or Instagram and say things like, “Hey, your message really got me to rethink my life and my choices that I’ve been making. Thank you for coming to our school,” “I did not want to come today but I’m glad I did because you’re different than speakers we’ve had,” and “You’re a great role model, I’m going to follow you from here on out.” It’s so amazing and humbling to me, it happens often after I speak to a group of students. Some amazing things have been done for me and through me. Sometimes it’s crazy to think that this is my life… but it is, and I accept it.

What I would say to adults and parents, the biggest thing your kids are looking for is hope. They want to invest themselves in something that matters, that’s bigger than them, something to hang on to. They all want to be validated. They all want to know their worth, they all want to have value in some way. Many of them don’t believe they have any value, so they try to find their worth in a lot of other things that won’t ever bring them validation. The problem is that a lot of us don’t actually know our own value and worth, so we can’t give what we don’t have.

You are valuable. You have worth. You have something to contribute to the students in your life – you are the one that has to tell the student that they have value and worth.

I believe I’m called to do that and so far the evidence shows that my story is able to give them hope and prove to them their own worth.

Now, reflecting back on my time at Discovery Middle School and Alexandria Area High School, I feel that many kids have been reached, I feel a lot of students walked away with an empowerment to want to do the right thing. I really love what I do!

As awesome as it is speaking to a large group of students, the magic happens after the auditorium lights turn off and I get to talk one-on-one with them before I leave.

Looking Past Your Past

We have all done things in our lifetime that we are not proud of. I know I have my fair share of regrets. In fact, this is true of most people I know that have struggled with addiction. If you would have told many of us that we’d be remembered by some of our bad choices, I would hope that many of us wouldn’t have made the choices we did.. I believe our lives have defining moments. I describe these as things that happen to us which have the ability to shape the course of our lives and alter the paths we continue toward. Often when I talk to people I say, “don’t let the moments define you, define the moments.” It pains me to see when those defining moments have claimed a person and that’s how they are remembered. It’s almost like we become our choices for people. And it’s hard for people to move forward and make the best out of a once bad situation. Or in some cases, it’s many bad situations. At one point in time, I thought my defining moment was my reality and I almost accepted it. I have found that we let people put labels on us, then we spend most of our lives trying to defend those labels, instead of trying to change our labels. There’s one thing I couldn’t quite understand. Now, it’s a question I pose to people.

Why can’t our past be a launching pad into a brighter future?
Why can’t we take our pain and turn it into purpose?

Just because we have made mistakes and things didn’t quite work out the way we’d thought, why can’t those experiences shape us and grow us? Why can’t they add value and shed light on life. I have taken all the past pain, mistakes, and trials and gotten out of it myself. I’ve used all of it to speak into the next generation. I simply don’t look at my past as a failure; I look at it as an opportunity to not go back to it and to help someone else shape the course of their life moving forward. Although this isn’t an easy task, it takes work, self reflection, ownership, and a willingness to change. It takes the desire to grow from our old selves into the new person we have to become. It can be done — trust me on this. Here are three reasons why people struggle to overcome their past. (And how to overcome those struggles.)

1. You haven’t gotten over the guilt or the shame.

This is a big one. And it’s probably one of the things that keeps you the most hindered. We have to be able to forgive ourselves. You messed up. So what. Aren’t we allowed to make mistakes? Can’t we learn from our history and make the most out of it? I believe that people deserve do-overs. I myself have had a few of them. Be able to understand that mistakes are a part of life, that growth is a lifestyle, and that without those experiences you couldn’t move forward.

2. Other people still remind you of who you used to be — and you believe them. Also, you have not cut out the people that aren’t helping you move forward.

This is something we shouldn’t stand for. Understand that the stuff we do not only affects us but also the ones who care about us. If you are trying to heal now and become a better person, people need to allow you to do that. Most of the time when we make changes in our lives for the better, other people ask themselves what are they doing wrong if we were able to overcome hard times. It’s a reflection on them, not on you. When they remind you of who you used to be, remind them that that’s not who you are anymore. Introduce them to the new you. Also watch the company you keep.We become like the five people we spend the most time with. Look at your life and see who you’re hanging out with; this will tell you a lot. People will help you make a mess than leave you to clean it up. Be the influence on them, not them influencing you.

3. You have not figured out your self-worth and are not walking in who you were created to be.

This is key. Your self-worth shows you what you will and won’t allow in your life. You can’t expect somebody to know your self-worth if you don’t know. What are your values and what do you believe in? Are you okay with standing alone? Leaders are. Walking in who you are created to be is a beautiful thing. There is no better feeling. I want everyone to experience it, because it’s so liberating. We are all created for a purpose and there is only one you. You can’t be duplicated, so understand that your job is one only you can do. I believe that if we all take to this concept we would infect our world around us and all be able to create major positive changes in our society.

I believe in you.

Understand you can and will do major things. Also understand that you have to be able to define the moments. If you can learn to do that, I promise you would impact the world in a way you never thought you could. There is no better teacher than past experiences and they can be used as a great tool to help someone else. All you have to do is start talking about it.You will find out that people will want to listen, and that’s when you start looking past your past.

Why Self-Worth Matters

Sunday, April 27, 2008, is a day I’ll never forget. I remember sitting on an uncomfortable couch in a small income-based apartment in Brookings, South Dakota feeling devastated. The 29th consecutive NFL draft had just ended and taken my dreams of being a professional athlete with it. I was a standout Division I athlete at Michigan State University, but no team had picked me. Not a single one. Even all these years later, I can still hear the pain in my brother’s voice as he quietly told my mom that I hadn’t received the call I’d been working toward for so many years.

It wasn’t until several years later that I finally got it, finally understood why no team had picked me. I was listening to a podcast by a guy named Steven Furtick, and I heard him say “talent will take you where character won’t keep you.” In other words, you can have all the talent in the world, but you won’t be able to sustain the success it gives you if you don’t have the character to match it. (It’s a phrase I often use now when I attend public speaking events to share my story.)

Furtick’s words of wisdom allowed me to realize that I lost out on a career in the NFL because the talent I had wasn’t on par with my character at that point in my life. And why wasn’t my character on my par with my talent? Because I didn’t have high self-worth.

What is self-worth?

What exactly is self-worth and why it is important? Self-worth is how you see your own value or worth as a person. In other words, it’s about understanding who you are, knowing what you believe in or stand for, and living this truth each and every day.

The definition of self-worth seems simple. But as a concept, self-worth is hard for most of us to truly grasp. I’ve came across lots of people who don’t know their self-worth. And I can’t count myself out of this group — it took me almost 10 years to fully understand what self-worth is and why I needed it so badly.

Self-worth can make or break you. Having a high self-worth gives you the confidence to pursue success in any domain of your life. Low self-worth, on the other hand, is damaging (something I’ve experienced personally). It leads to professional hardships, bad relationships, and unhealthy friendships. But more importantly, it creates a losing culture in your life that’s hard to crawl your way back from.

The link between self-worth and identity

What’s one of the secrets to having high self-worth? Understanding your true identity. This is something I struggled with for years.

As a Division I football player, I lived with a false sense of identity. My true identity was lost in stadiums filled with thousands of people on Saturday afternoons and evenings. It was lost among the screaming fans, TV cameras, and millions of dollars that my teammates and I brought in for the university. I saw myself solely and completely as a Michigan State football player. It seemed right at the time, but letting what I did define who I was and what I was worth was a big mistake. It gave me a false sense of identity and created a standard for evaluating myself that I simply couldn’t meet.

What you do may seem important. But it isn’t who you are, and it doesn’t even come close to representing the purpose you have to fulfill in life. To have a high self-worth, you can’t let what you do or what you think you should do define you. You need to understand who you really are, know why your true purpose is important, and make this your guiding principle in life each day.

Self-worth matters

It’s easy to brush off self-worth as something that doesn’t really matter. But having a strong sense of who you are is the key to overcoming obstacles, building strong relationships, and living life with purpose. Remember, talent will take you where character won’t keep you. If you don’t have high self-worth, everything else in your life will take you only so far.