In our latest podcast, John Evans, Ed.D., Head Strategist of Knowledge LabsTM, interviews Dr. Julie Wei, Division Chief, Division of Otolaryngology and Department of Surgery at Nemours Children’s Health System, on addressing the rising stress in our youth.
3 Ways to Address the Rising Stress in our Youth Podcast - John Evans, Jr, EdD
- To raise support and teach well-being to overtasked, overstressed, overperforming children begins with being fully engaged and not simply managing our time.
- If we don’t gain awareness, accountability and take action for ourselves and share, teach and be a model to the next generation then children today become pre-teens and teens who can be at risk of high degree of burnout even before they get to college.
- When you put energy toward others, you create higher quality and quantity for yourself.
- The first way to address rising stress in our youth is to hold each other accountable. The second way is to not to establish expectations of children to perform all the time. And lastly, provide children with the message and words that will support their growth and develop a right, positive, healthy inner voice.
John Evans: Hi, I’m Dr. J. Welcome. I’ve been so looking forward to this podcast. We have a distinguished guest today. We’re here to talk about a problem that hurts my heart, and that is this idea of our youth and stress. The numbers are alarming. They’re very alarming. Since about 2007 we’ve seen a real uptick in depression and anxiety with our youth. You know what folks? That just won’t do. That won’t do. So at Knowledge Labs we’ve reached out to a world-renowned expert on the topic. Dr. Julie Wei. W-E-I. Dr. Wei attended Northwestern University. She was head of surgery at Nemours Children's Hospital. She’s now in charge of otolaryngology unit at Nemours. She has an unbelievably tenacious view on this matter with children and stress and depression. She and I are co-presenters at the Human Performance Institute, Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, where there is tremendous data, tremendous science on the efficacy here of creating resilience and emotional resolve with our youth. Dr. Julie Wei, thank you so much for being with us today.
Julie Wei: Thank you, Dr. J. I’m usually known as Dr. J, but now we have two Dr. J’s, right. Thank you so much John for having me and the introduction. I too am incredibly excited about sharing my experience and my observations with your audience.
Evans: You have a story for us, as I understand. You wanted to start off with a narrative?
Wei: I do. This story is called the “9 o’clock Daddy.”
Evans: The “9 o’clock Daddy.”
Wei: Yes. A top corporate executive who’s very busy, but he made a commitment to make it home at 6 o’clock every day, because he wants to show himself and the world that his family’s important to him. Most of us say that, right? He would make it home by 6 o’clock every day. He makes it clear that there’s no exceptions usually, but when he gets home the truth is, he has his laptop open, his cellphone open, sometimes a couple of cellphones, right, and he actually is working all the way up to bedtime. He has two young boys. There was a week when because of whether it’s clients in a different time zone, that was going to be a tough week. He could not make it home at 6 o’clock. In fact, every night that week he had a commitment and could not come home till later. Monday goes by, Tuesday, Wednesday. Come Thursday, he’s really missing his family. His two young boys who are 5 and maybe 8. He calls his wife that morning and says, “Honey, please keep the boys up, okay, because tonight I’m going to be home about 9 o’clock. I want to be the one to put them to bed. He walks in at 9 o’clock and immediately puts down his briefcase, run upstairs to the bedroom. He’s wrestling with the boys. He's reading books to them, tucking them in, and as he's turning off the light and walking out the 5-year-old says, Hey Daddy, can you come home at 9 o’clock every night?” We know it’s not just physically being present in the same space, right? We talk about full engagement.
Evans: Full engagement. Not just managing our time well but managing our time plus our energy. Is that right, Dr. Wei?
Wei: Yes, energy, awareness, full commitment to being in the moment, to really have authentic relationships, and experience our loved ones, our colleagues, everybody that’s in your being in this universe.
Evans: Now listen, we have financial intermediaries worldwide that are listening in right now, Julie. What I request is for all of them to share that story with their spouses. Tell him tonight. Tell her tonight. Talk about that story with your children. The straightest line between two people, as Abraham Lincoln said, is a well-told story. There’s so much information in that story that I think can allow for the unlocking of value for a higher-quality experience. Listen, the topic of our discussion today is how to raise support and teach well-being to overtasked, overstressed, overperforming children.
Wei: And the adults in their lives who are doing the same.
Evans: The adults in their lives. That’s right. Now I want to start off with that word overperforming, because performance matters Dr. Julie Wei. We have to perform, right?
Wei: I agree. Especially in my career in health care, right? It’s critical. Lives are at stake.
Evans: Lives are at stake.
Wei: But I will tell you that I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be on this podcast today because I have learned over the years what is missed in many ways when we react and live our lives to the usual definition and implications of performance. John, my personal model for life is awareness, accountability and action. Everything I’m going to share today on this topic ...
Evans: That's our framework?
Evans: I want to say this again for our listeners. Awareness, accountability and action. Again, we are pursuing what? Mental and emotional resilience in our children, who are overperforming, generally speaking.
Wei: Yes, and you and I both are very familiar with our training from Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute on Energy Management. I would say that the well-being, it’s the four dimensions, right? Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. We’re going to get to that and we’re definitely going to talk about storytelling and how that shapes our lives. This topic is so meaningful to me, John.
Evans: There’s a lot of talk in our industry, Dr. Wei, about why we do what we do. We all know what we do. We all know how we do it. Why are you so fervent? You’re internationally recognized as a speaker on this topic. Your website is getting tremendous attention. There is a problem out there in our world and it's emerging. It’s worsening. Why are you doing this, Julie?
Wei: Thank you for asking. You are absolutely correct. Understanding the why is the most critical question each of us have. John, I am the immigrant that won the lottery. I immigrated here at the age of 10. I am born in Taipei, Taiwan. I lost my mother early in life. That’s very traumatic. As an adult who, I will be 50 next year, I have spent my entire life performing, achieving and overachieving because of culturally and my own parents who did the best they could. I was raised to believe that who I am and my worth as a person was based on my “performance,” very externally based. Now as a parent of our only child, our daughter's 13, over the years with my own experience of high degree of burnout that occurred nine years ago. Understanding how this, the way I was raised and the stories that have made me who I am has led to conscious and subconscious messages to my own child, because I am an adult who’s raising a young achiever. Instead of being grateful or having her experience her worth is not because of her performance, like financial portfolio and mutual funds. What’s important to me as I share this knowledge with not just my own colleagues is because folks, there’s an epidemic of physician suicide. Each year up to 400 physicians will commit suicide because of high degree of burnout. Burnout, you hear that word, it’s across every industry. That is the condition. If we don’t gain awareness, accountability, and take action for ourselves and share that, and teach that, and model that to the next generation, children today become preteens and teens who then can be at risk of high degree of burnout even before they get to college. It's not okay.
Evans: You said the word modeling that. Modeling that. I think what is just incumbent for us, for me coming from the financial services industry and how incredibly busy we are, is to establish the new habits. Socrates said we are the sum of our habits. It seems to me that what’s gone on is that we are so performance oriented that we are neglecting the activities that really allow for rejuvenation, replenishment. We like to use the word oscillation, right? Oscillation is such a critical word. When you turn the screens off, the handheld device off with the family, and you play charades.
Wei: Or Clue.
Wei: Or Clue.
Evans: Or Clue, you wrestle in the lawn, or you go catch a trout, or you catch a bass, or you play tennis, and you get in motion. You are literally healing the souls. You’re literally healing those emotional and mental buckets within the Human Performance Institute, the energy grid, right? The energy pyramid. Clearly as parents we need to be modeling for our children the engagement and lovingness with our children on a regular basis. You said to me as we were prepping for this podcast Dr. Julie Wei, you said, “Our kids want to see lightness and love in the faces of their parents.” I’ll turn it. Don’t we want to see that from our parents? Don’t you and I want to see our parents with lightness and love?
Wei: Yes, but I’m so glad we’re talking about this because my parents were not raised in our culture, right? We don’t even say the words I love you. Can you imagine growing up not hearing those words? Not because they don’t love us. That’s just not in our culture to actually express those words. I want to come back to what I’ve been thinking about and the reason I’m so honored to be here is because even though we're in different industries, we are aligned in our mission and commitment. What I’ve observed is we as adults are sacrificing well-being for productivity, performance, without learning and understanding that well-being is the most essential factor to have, not just increase, but high-quality productivity and performance. Before we go on into our rich content, or more of it, let me say that how impressed I am that Janus Henderson Investors, and somebody like you, has an actual curriculum, right? First of all, congratulations, because I heard of your firm’s recent award. The War on Stress. This is really impressive. I would not have guessed that a financial company would focus on that.
Evans: Well on behalf of the whole team, thank you so much, Dr. Wei. I appreciate that.
Wei: It’s clear to me that Janus Henderson has a culture and commitment to sharing knowledge on stress management and well-being, and that's why we’re here today. Your curriculum, it’s called “Energy for Performance,” I mean honestly, is there another financial firm that does that? Not that I’ve ever heard.
Evans: Not that I’m aware.
Wei: What’s wealth without health? For all the incredible listeners in your audience out there who do tremendous work to support families and their children, this is the kind of disruptive, innovative content that will make that difference.
Evans: Thank you, Dr. Wei.
Wei: Back to our goal is awareness. This podcast is to increase awareness, to call out accountability. Once you’re aware you can’t pretend you don’t know, and then inspire actions, right?
Evans: Heck, yeah.
Wei: For me, I’ve been really thinking I can just share from my own experience. Oftentimes even if it’s a weekend or a weeknight, you’re finally out of the office, you’re out of the hospital. You’re out of wherever you were that you were separated from your children, your spouse, the people you say you love the most. Well you’re tired too, right? We’re human. But you get home in that space and I have learned that I'll keep working on how to really listen. Instead of listening, having authentic conversations. That means being willing to be vulnerable and uncomfortable, which this year Brene Brown has changed my perspective and my life, right? My husband, if you asked him, he would say that oftentimes I’m not really listening. Listening requires this attention. That’s all of you. In this world where you’re getting text and messages and emails and just bombarded with so many tasks, I just don’t think that that comes natural. We have to really train.
Evans: That’s ritual No. 1, perhaps, Dr. Wei. When we’re coming home at night, we’re turning off the handheld device, turning off the laptop, turning off the TV, and we’re fully engaged with our spouse and our children, and we are curious. We are open and we are curious. We are not judgmental or condemnational. Our eyebrows are up, like you and I’s are right now, because we’re curious, we’re engaged, and we want to know what's going on. How was your day. Habit No. 1. That’s going to go a long way in relieving stress. Is it not?
Wei: Yes. I’ll tell you a great story. I’m humbled to have to share this out loud. I would come home after 11, 12 days at the hospital, and Claire is our only child. You can say she’s high performing because I’m a tiger mom on steroids, right? Actually, I’ve come a long way from that after experiencing my own high degree of burnout. Even having suicidal ideation, when my life looked beautiful from the outside. I just share. I don’t just have a chip on my shoulder. I have an iceberg that sank the Titanic on my shoulder. But as an adult, having had coaching, therapy, I own it, right? I understand where I am.
Evans: This is your “why.”
Wei: This is my “why.”
Evans: You’re sharing your story right now for the world to say don’t go that route on exclusively performance orientation. Is that fair to say?
Wei: That’s fair to say. I would be the mom that come home, right? My husband is an incredible father and he certainly gets to spend more time with her as he made sacrifices so he can do that. I will come home and the first things out of my mouth are, “Hi, sweetie. Did you practice the piano? Did you finish the homework? Did you, did you, did you, did you on my checklist.” One day they both called it out, right? My husband says, “Julie, when was the last time you heard the answer no? Why do you keep asking the same questions?” My own daughter at a young age was able to say, “Yes, mom. Stop talking about stuff. Is that really what you care about the most about me?”
Evans: You were the “did you” mom.
Wei: Yeah, and “did you” honey.
Evans: “Did you” honey, please.
Wei: “Did you” honey. Over the years, we’ve been married 15 years, and just now I’m beginning to understand and more grateful every day that it took that long to really understand each other. We’re learning how to communicate where we’re willing to be vulnerable and uncomfortable. Because when you’re not, guess what you spend all your waking hours talking about? Who’s going to pick up the kids. “Honey, we have a thing this Saturday. Are we going?” Logistics. Operational logistics of every household.
Evans: The discussion of the logistics is sucking energy out of the mental and emotional reserves in the energy pyramid.
Wei: It’s not only that. It’s sucking love, life, beauty, gratitude out of daily living. My marriage is incredible. It’s a gift. This man. I won the lottery so many times. Claire’s a miracle pregnancy for us. I became a much better doctor and surgeon. Everything that we’re going to get to about nutrition, physical activity. Like what it means to be aware, accountable, and take action to make sure the people we love the most, including ourselves, are healthy and are well. We’re just not taught how to do that. We’re not taught how to have uncomfortable conversations when we don’t agree. Instead we bury ourselves in the logistics.
Evans: We want to unlock loving value within these families. Get this stress thing under control.
Wei: Things don’t just happen by chance. You have to create, right, and take action, and make your life how you want it to be. It’s so great that you called out the statistics. I mean I’m a physician. The depression, and suicide, and anxiety rates in our teens is staggering. It’s an epidemic, teenage suicide, and it’s because of the isolation despite social media, right? When we talk about modeling, right, we aren’t perfect. Please. I mean my job depends on having my cellphone near me. But at mealtime, a long time ago we decided we’re a family that eats breakfast and dinner together, just about every night. It may not be possible for everyone, but one nights better than none. Three nights is better than none, right? That is something that I am so proud my eighth-grade daughter comes home, and this is how our relationship is fueled by this time intentional investment.
Evans: That’s a familial habit. You’re going to break bread every night. That’s the intention, and we have busyness, we have logistics with which we have to contend, and damn the torpedoes. We’re doing it. We’re putting the stake in the ground and we’re going to have dinner every night. One other statistic that’s so sad, Julie, is this idea that Washington Journal just reported that 37% of teens don’t have a best friend right now. 37% of teens report not having a best friend. That is troubling.
Wei: Of course it is, but you and I see it. We’re not surprised, right? The things we’re talking about are human connections. Humans have been on earth, what, 5,000 years? We didn’t always have electronic devices, and we rely on them. I love the ability to find my friend and know where my kid is. I love being able to send a text when she’s not next to me. We rely on them. Your children are probably a bit older, but when we have playdates, we’re busy people. For me it’s sacrificing family time. I balance it. I say, “Okay, your friend can come over.” You know what drives me bonkers? They come together and instead of doing what we did growing up, wondering around outside, playing ball, right. We even have a ping-pong table. They’re looking at a device and watching YouTube videos, right? That’s not okay for me. That’s why they don’t have a best friend. I mean in my opinion it’s because it’s the superficial interaction as opposed to conversations, even at a young age.
Evans: Boundaries are a solution here, Dr. Wei. Boundaries have to be reinforced. We have to set up the mission. Okay, what are the rituals we’re going to put in place with respect to managing this thing, this handheld device, which brings so much value, right. It brings tremendous value. And we have to set guidelines in place to ensure that our kids are getting out and they’re oscillating, they’re playing outside. They’re getting their fingers dirty. Any time I drive by a home and I see kids out playing baseball, or football, or kicking a soccer ball, I hit the horn and I do a thumbs up. It’s my little way to say, let’s keep that moving. Let’s move over to nutrition now and the energy pyramid. Again, energy’s the most important asset you and I will ever enjoy. Our energy. It’s time plus energy. The great news is we can create more energy and we can create a higher-quality energy. We just need to have the right habits in place. Let’s think about our youth here. Take us up the pyramid here, Dr. Julie Wei.
Wei: You and I both learn that physical dimension is the most important. That’s the quantity of energy. Right, John? You have to be physically well. You have to have physicality in activity, right? Physical movement. It’s not just exercise. Most adults and busy professionals hear that and go, “Yeah, right.” My reality is I can’t go to Orange Theory and spin class five days a week. That's not possible. Don’t you know how busy I am? I have a very important job and I’m busy.
Evans: That’s the narrative that’s bouncing around in between his or her ears.
Wei: Yes. You can’t be someone who does not go outdoors, doesn’t exercise, doesn’t do anything while yelling at your kid, right? Yes, in our Western culture we emphasize so much athletics. I think the flipside of that is I don’t see enough oscillation and recovery, right? When your child is going to games, practices, and God forbid they have an off season, right, and we’re getting home late, and so this spills over. I want to talk about the physical dimension of energy is both, it’s tied. It’s nutrition and it’s physical activity. Young toddlers. If you have young toddlers, I remember, we went to the park. It wasn’t a fight. But nowadays it’s scary in a doctor’s office that to keep a kid quiet even before they can speak sentences, somebody hands them an iPad and an iPhone and their little thumbs and fingers are swiping, right? That digital addiction is something we have to be aware of. Nutrition. This is where I get super excited. You know that’s my entire career, epiphany. The medical school, fellowship, never taught physicians. It’s my eighteenth year on this journey. I started wondering how we can have thousands of children who are “sick” all the time. They don’t feel good, but by the time they meet me they’re on multiple medications. Everything is an allergy and an infection, and they see a lot of doctors. That’s when I started asking every parent what your child is eating and drinking and your life habits. Let’s talk about nutrition. As busy adults let’s go to the accountability part. If you’re too busy to cook, too busy to, it’s Uber Eats, it’s takeout. We no longer cook, ourselves, as a family. We don’t teach our teens how to take care of themselves, how to even feed themselves. Then what’s convenient is not only supportive nutritionally. If it’s fast food, etcetera. The big thing for me is not being willing to fight with and fight for your children’s health. Look, we want to make our kids happy. Do you know what I’m talking about,John? When you and I were growing up, was that a focus for our parents? Not at all, right? Now I see a lot of guilt from working, not being with them. Frankly, who wants to fight with their kid when you only have two hours with them? The enabling, allowing them to indulge in sugar and create habits early on in life, to have soda, to get Frappuccinos at Starbucks any time they want, to enable by grocery shopping and putting things in the cart without reading the nutrition food label and not teaching them how to do it. We don’t teach it in the public school system or any school system. We are not teaching humans the information and knowledge sharing that impacts the rest of their life. Then, as a physician, as a parent, my heart aches when I see kids on four medications, seven medications. By the way, they don’t work. Their runny nose, and their cough, and they’re tired all the time. That’s because by teenage years they stop eating breakfast. For all the listeners out there, if you have a preteen or a teen, I’m here to tell you over and over when I ask them, they stop eating breakfast because they need their sleep, they’re tired, they’re not hungry, they’re not eating for health, performance. Studies show that those who provide fuel to the brain, it’s not about the IQ, your performance in school is higher just by the fact that you put in energy within 60 minutes of waking up. Then they’re hungry at school. Then when I ask what do you eat for lunch, teenagers will tell me, there’s two groups. One is old pizza and the soda from the vending machine. The other group is, “Nothing. It's disgusting.” Then they come home. They’re famished. Their blood sugar’s low. They just binge and then they crash. Then they’re coming to see doctors because they’re tired all the time. What are we going to do when you’re 15 and tired all the time for the rest of your life?
Evans: Question, Dr. Wei. How do we effect behavioral change? How do we get the parents to take earnestly this whole concept of nutrition? Hey, they’re busy. They’re running around. They’ve got work to do. Logistics, like you say. What’s your best piece of advice for the parents out there to change this pattern?
Wei: I’m so glad you’re asking, and I want to be realistic and honest. Let’s talk about your audience. Not everybody has enough wealth to manage formally by financial advisors. Everybody needs to learn how to protect their assets, whatever that looks like and plan for the future. But this is not about money, because I see this problem across all socioeconomic levels. If you want to talk about what do we need to do, the first and foremost is back to the accountability on the adults. Every listener today needs to just look in the mirror and say, “What am I not doing that I know I should be doing.” Back to the inner voice. I have colleagues. I have physicians who always, when I see them, have a soda in their hand. They’ll say to me, “Look, this is my only vice. I don’t gamble. I don’t smoke.” That's because their inner voice tells them, “Come on. I’m entitled. Don’t you know I work hard enough? Don’t I save lives? My inner voice says that’s okay.” Let me disclose to the audience, I suffer from the same issue. I am a recovering Cheetos addict. My fingers are not orange today. For me, after a long day, I too sometimes don’t have time for breakfast, lunch, and 9 o’clock comes around, 9:30 I finally sit down. Even though I’m giving this knowledge, preaching it, guess who goes to the pantry compulsively, sometimes 12 times? Then the voice inside, I have to fight that urge. The I’m entitled to make decisions and have a behavior and action that doesn’t support what I know is best for me. That’s exercise, nutrition, sleep, whatever it might be.
Evans: Self-awareness is where to start. You’re owning it.
Wei: You’re owning it.
Evans: You’re confessing, so that’s a takeaway here. Challenge that inner narrative, take ownership. Let’s aspire to put a new habit in place, and let’s have accountability with two, or three, or four, or five other people.
Wei: That’s right, as a family.
Evans: Have discussion as the family, discussions about vulnerability, and what’s the one new habit you can put in place. Again, when you get the foundation here right, the physical side, Dr. Wei, when you get nutrition right, when you get sleep right, when you get exercise, and I prefer intermittent exercise where we really burn off those cortisol levels, that just creates a cascade, a positive cascade of energy, which is to allow our best selves to emerge. Allow our children’s best selves to emerge. But it starts right here fundamentally by what molecules we’re putting into the system.
Wei: I have one other thing, while I’m being vulnerable let me just let it all out. I share this publicly when I’m honored to be the visiting professor here and speaking at another conference there. For years, before the awareness, I would endure my day, and I’m not here to be self-important as a surgeon, physician. I bear witness to human tragedy. Money and wealth does not protect anybody from accidents, tragedy, illness, and just sad, sad, sad things that happen to all of us. Every one of us. If we take a moment right now and picture, if your child got diagnosed with terminal illness or whatever it might be, no amount of wealth is going to make a difference. Wealth, I’ve never known it to be a magical armor somehow against illness or any of the things that we’re talking about. The thing is, I’ve learned that I used to come home after a long day and I’m frustrated by the system, by the organization, by people. I would walk in the door finally seeing my husband and daughter. No light on my face, John. I would immediately spew off everything that went wrong with my day. As I’m retelling that, I’m releasing more cortisol, because the human brain thinks it’s really happening. It doesn’t realize it’s in the past, because I’m recalling and living in the past. Most of us live in the past. Never in the moment. Because the brain can only make sense of what’s already happened. I’ve just wasted precious time. Do you think my husband, who’s not in medicine, really wants to hear about all that? I mean yes, he’s an incredible sounding board, but most of us adults do not make that discernment for when it’s, “Hey honey, can I run this by you because I really would appreciate your advice or input.” Versus going on about all the crap that didn’t go right, and your poor child sits there listening to this instead of those authentic conversations we talked about earlier that heals us, that energizes us.
Evans: Opposed to cortisol we’re secreting oxytocin, because he or she who secretes the most oxytocin wins. It’s the love drug. It’s the engagement drug. It’s what we make in our bodies when we’re on a mission. We’re on point. I want to be specific though about rituals, because I don’t want this discussion to be theoretical. I want action as what’s coming up here. What did you do? When you come home now, you’ve changed your behavior you’re now going to change your mindset. You’re going to listen to music in the car on the way home from Nemours. You’re going to go for a walk at the end of your meetings. What can our listeners from around the world, what can they do with the buffer, the existential buffer, the oscillation buffer that’s going to help improve the quality of the engagement? Just like going back to that 9 p.m. dad. What should they be doing? What did you do?
Wei: Let me say that we’re not perfect. It’s not 100%. The new awareness as I pull into the garage, I take a deep breath. You can even post a little sign on your dashboard, some place that doesn’t block visibility. You have to call out to yourself. What is tonight going to be like? When I walk in, I have a choice and a conscious decision to make. What’s going to be on my face and what is the first things we do? I always tell my audience, they laugh. Guess who greets you first enthusiastically with all their best energy? Your dog. It’s always the dog. He gets there before the spouse and the kid, because now they’re on their computers and devices. We come in. We really try the human touch is what releases the oxytocin, right, John? Hugging, kissing. My husband is much better at it than I am. He comes to me. That immediate hug and kiss. Things that have worked well, but we don’t do it enough. But as we talk about it, I’m going to go home tonight and do it again. Dancing. Putting on music, everybody dance. You’re maybe in the middle of making dinner. You can never be angry and upset when there’s music and you’re shaking it.
Evans: You know I’m so big on storytelling, Julie Wei. It’s so important. It’s how you connect. How you create oxytocin. We are designed to tell stories and to receive stories
Wei: I agree. Two things. One, I want to call out and share that I played tennis in high school. It’s my No. 1 love. You go off to college, you grow up, in training. I don’t have time. It’s hard. You want to have access to a tennis court and somebody to play with. My husband played in high school too. For years my inner voice blamed him for why we don’t play tennis more. He’s more shy. We don’t play with other people. Inside my head I was resentful that because of him we didn’t play more tennis. Sometimes I’d say, “Honey, do you want to go play?” He says, “No.” Two and a half years ago there was an accountability moment when Julie Wei took action and said, “Stop blaming somebody else when you love tennis.” I try spinning, I tried to fake it and I hated it. I used to jog. I don’t like that. If you don’t do what you love, it’s hard to stick with it. I just remember taking my tennis bag, walking out to the courts that you and I play on. I had no one. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew I’m going out and declaring to the universe that I’m going to play. What do you know? Somebody was on a ball machine. I met them, then I met his daughter. Just like that the universe responded. That’s one thing I want to share. For anything you’re not doing just call out your inner voice and put it in the back seat if it's not helpful.
Wei: Create a new story, new inner voice. The second thing is, in preparation for today, John, last night as my daughter who’s now more and more in her room doing homework, I sat in her room and I asked the question. I was afraid of the answer, but I asked it anyway. I said, “Honey, I don’t want you to grow up and ever say if somebody asked you, ‘was your mother there for you. Did you get enough of your mother's time, attention, energy, and love,’ what would you say? You can tell me today because it’s not too late. Before you go to college, I need to give you more of me, not less.” Sorry, if I’m getting choked up. She’s so sweet. She says, “Yes, Mommy, you have been there for me. Of course you have.” She was positive, validating. I want to believe it, and I do believe it. We have enough photos, videos, vacations. It’s not just about vacation. I’m going to ask now because I know too many colleagues who in their mind because they need to provide for their family, “Don’t you know I’m working so hard so we can afford to send you to college, so we can have a nicer house, so we can build more materialistic wealth. That’s why I’m sacrificing my health, my exercise. That’s why I’m not doing this. I’m not doing that. That’s why I travel.” You know what? Then their children grow up and you can’t go back. You just can’t. Then as an adult, and I recently heard about then when you’re aging, and when you now have children and grandchildren and your biggest regret in life is you aren’t closer to your own children. You wish you were the 9 o’clock Daddy at 6 o’clock. I want to be the 9 o’clock parent at 6 o’clock at all times.
Evans: That’s so courageous.
Wei: That’s what she deserves and that'’s what I want to be.
Evans: That’s so courageous, Dr. Julie Wei. I’m blown away. That’s awesome. Maybe as a suggestion our listeners, they ask that question to their children tonight.
Wei: And their spouses too.
Evans: Their spouses too.
Wei: Dave probably has gotten even less of me than Claire. Some days she’s going to go to college. If I don’t invest in my marriage and my relationship with the best human that ever happened to me, then I’m robbing myself.
Evans: I want to start wrapping up here. I’d like to jump up to the top of the energy pyramid where we have physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This is the energy pyramid again. Energy is the most important asset you and I will ever enjoy. How do we make more of it and how do we make a high-quality version of it? You know that we have a program called “The Art of WOW.” Expanding a team’s capacity for meaning making with folks. Well The Art of WOW happens to fit right into that spiritual dimension. By spiritual we mean purpose beyond self.
Wei: Not just religious, right.
Evans: Not just religious. What I’m interested in for our listeners is for them to consider expanding their capacity for an otherness orientation. Because what happens when you do that? When the family gets involved and gets engaged on finding ways to surprise and delight another person. Well, oxytocin gets secreted. Joy gets experienced. Meaning gets made. Let’s get away from these handheld devices and let’s get together. As a family let’s get creative about, we call it philanthropy in a sense, how are we going to help Mrs. Jones next store? You’re only limited by your creativity here, by your imagination. I’m requesting for some time for how do we put our energy, not just writing checks. Writing checks are important, but I’m talking about physical engagement. Going and helping Mrs. Murdock. What are we going to do? Let’s get creative on bringing meaning to others as a family unit. Because stress is going to come down, indubitably, Dr. Wei, when we do that. We just need oomph. We need a plan. We need awareness, accountability and action for this idea of delivering WOW experiences or making meaning with others.
Wei: Yes, and I have a story. I’m so excited. In two weeks we will go to Chicago to visit my husband’s grandmother. Tilly is 105 and 7 months. Let me repeat myself, right? 105 and 7 months, and she’s completely with it. Amazing woman. We’ve been blessed to know her in all these years. When we go, she’s living in assisted living, but independently. We go about every three to six months, never longer. Up till two years ago she used to be able to come to us in Kansas City or Orlando and live with us one month at a time, two, three times a year. But you know what I started doing with Claire, the three of us, Dave, Claire and I. When we go, we get there Friday night. Saturday morning we go buy six, seven dozen donuts. Drink breakfast with Tilly. We each have a box and we walk around the dining room at the assisted living and have everybody pick up a donut. Now that may sound small and I’m not telling you the story, kudos to me, how great I am. Do you know, imagine something small. Even these folks can’t just get out and get a donut whenever they want. A little bit of sweet treat just brightens their face and they’re excited. Having Claire experience that small act and something that seems trivial, we don’t do enough of it. Talking to you now makes me admit that we have not given more to, I mean we do neighbors. I’m a great chicken soup maker, but it’s always about contributing to other people’s lives and being and their wellness.
Evans: It’s a wonderful paradox for the energy management. When you put energy toward others you create higher quality and higher quantity for yourself.
Wei: As we wrap up, you had asked me to come up with three takeaways.
Evans: Three takeaways.
Wei: Are we at that point?
Evans: Yeah, I think we’re at that point, Julie Wei.
Wei: I think the first point is calling out to ourselves and to each other. Holding each other accountable is important. We are sacrificing well-being for productivity and performance in the way that we’re taught. Numbers, metrics. But ironically, because we’re not paying attention to our own well-being and our children in every dimension, I think we’re robbing ourselves of the incredible life that we can all experience. That higher-quality performance or whatever we all strive for. The second thing that I have learned, and I’m struggling with it because I already disclosed who I am. It’s very hard to take 40 years and change what’s hardwired in my brain. Children should not be expected to “perform” all the time. Even the best financial advisors can tell us, you can’t control the market. There are times when portfolios and things go up and down, up and down and your oscillation. Human “performance,” come on, we’re just being alive. My child should not, I cannot show on my face. Shaking of the head, facial expression, eye rolling, because we got a 91 on the test or an 87 or whatever. We didn’t make a goal on the soccer game. We blah, blah, blah. I love her, not because she performs. I love her because she’s my oxygen. Finally, for every action we take or don’t take to support our well-being and invest in relationships, with loved ones, colleagues, whatever, today we spend all this time talking about inner voice and story that supports what we do or don’t do. Children are not born with inner voice. It all comes from their parents and other people throughout the formation until their young adulthood. We must provide them with the message and words and beliefs that will support their growth and developing the right, positive, healthy inner voice. For the rest of their life. Hopefully they get to learn a little bit easier maybe and not endure some of the challenges, but they’ll have their own and they’ll learn from that. Those are my three take away points, Dr. J.
Evans: Dr. Julie Wei, thank you so much. Just profoundly on behalf of all my colleagues at Knowledge Labs. Thank you for sharing your incredible knowledge today. For our listeners, go to her site please, DrJulieWei.com. W-E-I.
Wei: Yes, D-R-J-U-L-I-E-W-E-I.com, and I appreciate that. Many of my burned-out to well-being talks are on my YouTube channel as well.
Evans: Fantastic Julie. Also consider reaching out to your Janus Henderson representative, your sales director, about our energy for performance curriculum. Bring this content out to the world. Let’s make a difference. Listen, life’s not about how many breaths you take. Life’s about how many times you take somebody else’s breath away. Bye-bye.
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