An Expert’s 5 Tips On Acing College Apps This Fall

A guide for the parents of Class of 2021 amid this “new normal”

Dr. Kat Cohen, Founder and CEO of IvyWise, offers some advice for parents on how to prepare their kids for applying for college amid this “new normal.”

I have been asked a lot lately; “It will be easier to get into college this fall, right?” Yes, many colleges are still scrambling to fill seats for the incoming freshman class because students have changed their plans due to Covid-19. This pandemic has wreaked financial havoc on colleges and universities. And with many colleges going test-optional and the hope they will bump up enrollment for this fall’s applicants to make up lost tuition, it’s tempting to infer that — my chance at an Ivy just increased tenfold!

But no, I don’t believe that, at least for more competitive colleges, it will be significantly easier to get in for rising seniors. I read applications at Yale and I know first-hand that these prestigious schools could fill their first-year class two or three times over with applicants from the “deny” pile. There is only so much space on campus and raising admission rates would significantly impact college rankings, which arguably could be more financially adverse for colleges.

So the better question, in my opinion, is: “Will it be easier to apply?” Even before Covid-19, applying to college was a murky process. Yes, colleges have made a concerted effort to assure students that the circumstances they’re facing now will not be held against them when applying. But the reality is the college admissions process is slow to change, and the metrics that students were previously able to gauge their “chances” against, are blurrier than ever. So how do you prepare for an uncertain college admissions process? Alleviate as much stress as possible through thoughtful prep.

Make a Game Plan That Focuses on Academics First

It’s going to be hard to plan for college applications in the fall if you’re not even sure what the fall itself is going to look like. Decisions about in-person/virtual instruction vary from state to state and even school to school. Stay informed on what your student’s school plans to do this fall and adjust accordingly. What resources do you need in order to ensure your child is successful in an online environment? If the instruction is in-person, are you comfortable with it? If not, are there alternatives? What resources do you need to ensure your child is safe at school? On top of that, how will your student mentally handle this year? These are all questions that need to be considered as part of this “new normal,” while also addressing common roadblocks like “senioritis” that can still persist — and even be exacerbated — during these times. Students need a solid foundation for senior year before they can really find success in the college admissions process.

Reexamine the College List

Covid-19 dramatically altered plans for tens of thousands of students who applied to college last fall. And it will significantly impact this year’s applicants. Generally, it will be harder for students across the country (and the globe!) to apply with all the information that classes before have benefitted from.

Draw up a game plan for applying this fall and make adjustments. How does your student’s academic profile align with the school’s standards? Will their SAT or ACT score matter? And look at how your other needs have changed. In some ways, location is becoming more important than ever — is the school in an area where the virus is under control? If the virus persists and a vaccine isn’t ready by next fall, do you feel comfortable with the precautions that the school and city have taken? College isn’t one-size-fits-all. Figure out what will work best for your student and put together a plan of action.

Start College Apps Early

You want to make sure that your student isn’t overwhelmed with college applications. Senior year already puts immense pressure on students. And with the possibility of another virtual year, coupled with the loss of “typical” high school experiences, students will be more stressed than ever. Some of that pressure can be eliminated by starting early on the basics of college applications. Set up a Common App account and fill out the easy, biographical info. Then move on to meatier sections like activities. Getting these simple tasks out of the way early clears the way for students to spend more time crafting their essays and refining their college lists. It lifts a small yet significant burden, freeing up some mental space for students to emotionally deal with the reality of another atypical school year and to creatively address more complex parts of the application.

Rethink Testing

It’s simple: not every student applying to college this fall will have the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT. While the ACT has chosen to power through and offer test dates this summer, it has been a mess and most test centers have stayed closed. The College Board hasn’t offered the SAT at all testing centers since December 2019. Most colleges have responded by going “test-optional” for this admissions cycle — meaning they will allow students to apply without these test scores. But test-optional isn’t “test blind.” They will still consider scores if you send them.

Others have said they will accept applications without SAT or ACT scores but will expect students to supply them before enrolling. Families need to ask themselves: What is best for my child considering all of our unique circumstances? Sit down and look at your student’s college list and determine the testing policy for each school and whether it’s realistic (or safe!) for your student to test this fall. If not, and your student has already taken the SAT or ACT, they need to determine if they want to apply with that score or not. If testing just isn’t possible, or you don’t feel safe, then don’t. But understand it may affect your college list if schools are still expecting those scores at some point.

Get on Board with Virtual Tours

I get it. Kids and parents alike are Zoom’d out. One of the most exciting parts of this process is actually visiting schools. Nothing beats getting to see a campus first-hand. For many, that’s how they knew that a particular university is where they belonged. The reality right now is that for a lot of students, those visits just won’t be possible. “Visiting” a school virtually can be deeply frustrating and demotivating.

There is every reason to think most, if not all, college visits will still be online through 2021. Set those expectations now. How can you make the most of them? Can you wait to visit after acceptances come in? Now is the time to have these conversations so students can make peace internally.

The only certainty this fall is the simple fact that kids are resilient. There will be setbacks despite your best efforts, but teens will adapt. Trust in their resilience, help and guide them when you can, and keep an open mind.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium. 

How To Cope With Big Life Changes — And Living A ‘Nonlinear’ Life

Bruce Feiler on advice from his new book ‘Life Is In the Transitions’

Bruce Feiler lived a pretty “linear” life…until it was upended by a series of tragedies. He now lives by a new maxim, also the title of his new book: Life Is In the Transitions. For the book, he crossed all fifty states, talking to people who have gone through profound life changes — some by choice, some not. And from those interviews, he culled advice for anyone going through anything similar.

As the pandemic upturns many peoples’ worlds, Bruce offers advice on coping with job loss, and other major life changes. And he weighs in on how to handle these transitions as they happen all at once.

Wake-Up Call: Life Is In the Transitions is all about navigating life transitions, meaning, and purpose. Can you tell us briefly what inspired you to write this book and set you on this five-year journey?

Bruce Feiler: I had a back-to-back set of hugely disruptive life experiences. Before those, I had what you might call a kind of a linear life. I discovered what I wanted to do early in my life. I had some success, got married, and had children. But in my forties, I just was walloped by life. First, I was diagnosed with a rare aggressive life-threatening cancer. Then I almost went bankrupt in the Great Recession. And then, my father, who suffers from Parkinson’s, got very depressed and tried to kill himself, six times in 12 weeks. So suddenly my very stable life was just really thrown off course.

But I’m the storytelling guy. And I got very interested in how, when our lives get upturned, we have to rethink and rewrite the story of our lives. And so I set out on this journey where I crisscrossed the country, collecting what became hundreds of life stories from Americans of all ages, all walks of life, in all 50 States. I talked to people who lost homes or children, changed careers or religions, got out of bad marriages, got sober. And with a team of 12 people, I combed through those stories for a year, trying to find takeaways and tips to help any of us when we go through disruptive life experiences.

Wake-Up Call: Can you tell me one of the most memorable stories you came across? What is one of the biggest takeaways that you have from all of your research?

One of my favorite stories was a woman named Christy Moore, who hated school when she was younger, and grew up in Savannah, Georgia. She got pregnant when she was 16, dropped out of school, had three children in the next eight years, worked in fast food, and hit a wall because her husband got sick and they couldn’t afford insurance. Come Monday, she takes a toddler to the local library. She’s pregnant. She reaches over and grabs the first book she can find. It’s Wuthering Heights. She has to read it twice to understand it and decides she’s going to go back to school. She gets an undergraduate degree in health, then a Master’s Degree, and then a Ph.D. She went from GED to Ph.D., and now she helps nontraditional students get an education. I love that story because we think our lives are going to be linear. But in fact, we have nonlinear lives. We all get kind of buffeted at least three to five times in our lives, by these huge disruptive experiences. I call them life quakes. And we have to adjust our lives in response.

I talked to people who got out of cults, who got out of hate groups, who lost their legs, who lost children, who just transformed themselves in ways that are so inspiring. You or someone you know, is going through a life quake right now. My book is designed to help people when they get stuck. So I’d say the biggest takeaway that I have is that life transitions are a choice. The life quake that happens to you, it may be voluntary. You may choose to get married. You may choose to change religions. You may choose to change jobs. Or it may be involuntary. Your spouse cheats on you, you get fired, you get hit by a pandemic. So life quake may be voluntary or involuntary, but the life transition is voluntary. You have to choose to go through the process of trying to grow and change as a result of the experience.

You mentioned earlier about life kind of hitting you. And so many of us feel like that right now. We’re experiencing huge changes, whether it’s losing a loved one, not being able to see our families or changes with our jobs or housing. So what advice would you have for someone who’s going through so many transitions at the same time?

The advice that I have is that transitions work. And that there’s a process we can go through to help us turn a period of chaos and upheaval into one of growth and renewal.

Transitions involve three stages. There’s the long goodbye where we have to bid farewell to the person and the life that’s left behind. Then there’s the messy middle, where you shed certain habits and you build new ones. And then there’s the new beginning where you unveil your new self to the world. Don’t try to push too quickly into the new beginning. It’s okay to feel stuck. It’s okay to mourn the past. In fact, I’d even say it’s necessary.

People tend to use rituals to kind of officially close the door on that old past. They have farewell parties. They get a tattoo, or they write a letter to a friend or a loved one that may be gone. Don’t try to rush too quickly into the new, remember to accept and say goodbye to the past.

Those are wise words. And so we know that you’re hunkered down in Brooklyn right now. How are you holding up amid all of this? You’re in a bit of a transition yourself. You went from writing this book to now, this book is out in the world.

I was a wounded, scared, fearful person when I went into this process, and meeting the people that I met filled me with hope and a sense of possibility. And that’s what I really think can happen to you. If you come on this journey, if you meet the people that I’ve met, they’re going to inspire you to go through the changes that you know you want, you know you need, but you don’t know how. Meeting these people is going to give you concrete steps that you can take to get yourself through whatever you’re dealing with right now.

But my last question for you is, you know, you spent five years on this and all of your books seem to be these wonderful, huge projects. So what’s next for you?

I think that the emotional, maybe bittersweet reality of publishing a book. It’s a life transition, right? The short answer is I’m developing this as a television series. So I’m hoping that that will get off the ground.

For the first time in my life, having met so many people who went through huge, enormous life transitions, some much more mind-blowing than I have ever experienced before, I can honestly say I don’t know what’s coming next. And I’m okay with that because I feel I’ve got the tools to handle whatever it will be.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.

How to Handle Social Situations in a Socially Distant World

Former Obama Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall provides insight into what etiquette looks like in the midst of a pandemic.

Social distancing from loved ones, friends, and colleagues has become our new normal over the last few months. Until the Covid-19 pandemic is under control, what were formerly considered common polite gestures — like hugging or shaking hands — are now not only off-limits, but also dangerous in the spread of the illness.

This drastic change in social behavior sparks a number of questions, including how to perform simple greetings or what to say to friends or family who aren’t necessarily practicing social distancing. To help us address these concerns, we spoke to Capricia Penavic Marshall, the former Chief of Protocol under the Obama administration and author of the new book Protocol: The Power of Diplomacy and How to Make It Work for You. Ahead, she shares how we can mind our manners as we try our best to keep each other safe.

Assume kindness in others.

Marshall believes one should always assume kindness and be vigilant in practicing civility — because we’re all in this together. “The virus has no enemies and it has no friends. You have no idea when and how it will affect you or your loved ones,” she said. “So, just keeping that mindset of, ‘we are all in this together,’ is really, really important.”

Use more verbal cues to make your point.

Now that more and more people are wearing masks, Marshall emphasized that it can be difficult to pick up on someone’s emotions, much less hear what they say. “Use your language — communicate your joy, be a more verbal person,” Marshall said. And remember that your mask can muffle your voice, so speak louder, raise your voice a pitch and enunciate as clearly as you possibly can as well.”

Be upfront and clear about your rules.

If you’re worried about meeting up with someone who may not be practicing social distancing, Marshall recommends setting the ground rules before they arrive. “Make no assumptions that your guests or your clients are going to know what exactly they’re supposed to do — send notifications in advance,” she said.

If they aren’t open to abiding by your rules, Marshall said to not be afraid of backing out of the engagement. “If they decide that they cannot conform to that behavior then, you just have to sort of say ‘at another time’ or ‘we’ll do this by video,’” she said.

Practice having a flexible mindset when making plans.

While Marshall acknowledges that all of the uncertainties can feel immobilizing, she believes having a flexible mindset and being adaptable can make all the difference. “Set a plan, make the plan — don’t be held up by the what-ifs,” she said. “You can be confounded by the what-ifs.”

When in doubt, reach out and help others.

“Sometimes just a quick note to let people know that you are here to help them gives someone that burst of support and joy that they needed,” she said. Marshall shared that both she and her son have both joined an email Listserv to help those in their community who need additional support. She said several people have pitched in to deliver groceries or offered to mow each other’s lawns.

“When you are blessed and you have the opportunity to help those who are less fortunate, you just should step forward — you have to step forward,” she said.

This originally appeared on Medium

How to Prepare If You’re Worried About Job Loss

An investment expert breaks it all down

We’re living in uncertain times — and on top of it all, the U.S. unemployment rate has soared to at least 14.7 percent. So what steps should we take if we are afraid of job loss during this time— or if we’re already experiencing it? Our Wake-Up Call newsletter spoke with Lule Demmissie, president of Ally Invest, to find out. Read on, but be sure to consult with a financial professional for specifics about your own situation.

Wake-Up Call: In recent weeks, unemployment claims have reached record highs. First things first, can you tell us what these numbers mean right now for the economy?

Lule Demmissie: The spike in unemployment claims during the current pandemic crisis, while unnerving, is not surprising. In the last month, more than 22 million workers have sought unemployment benefits due to coronavirus-related shutdowns. There are now more suddenly jobless Americans than during the Great Recession. But here’s the real challenge: the Great Recession revealed systemic issues with our economy. In today’s scenario, the economy was healthy prior to the pandemic crisis, so the lasting economic impact is tougher to model while things are effectively on “pause” as more than 90% of Americans follow stay-at-home guidelines.

For an economy that overwhelmingly relies on consumers to drive our Gross Domestic Product (consumer spending represents approximately 70% of GDP), these conditions were bound to slow down revenue for many businesses. Extending unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term unemployed boosts spending and creates jobs, which helps us keep the economy strong.

In March, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus package. The act expands states’ ability to provide unemployment insurance to many workers affected by Covid-19, including people who aren’t ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits. The questions now are how long these conditions will last, what will the near-term economic impact be until a vaccine is found, and what will the long-term impact on the economy be once the pandemic is contained. The impact could be deep, but it is also impossible to know what potential “pent-up demand” may do to buoy the economy once we are all out of this crisis.

For anyone who has already lost their job: What steps should they take to prepare for this period of uncertainty?

The answer very much depends on your financial and personal situation. Generally speaking, the first step is to see if you are eligible for unemployment insurance and, if you are, be sure to file for it.

Next, determine if you have a savings buffer and calculate how many months of your core expenses it will cover. Call your debtors to ask for some forbearance accommodation — many institutions are trying to help consumers who find themselves in financial straits as a result of this pandemic. Review your monthly budget and look at which expenses you can either freeze or cut out — the key is to drastically reduce your expense footprint during this time.

Research how you can secure health insurance for you and your family should you lose it — www.healthcare.gov is one place to start your search.

One last tip — if there is a small expense that gives you pleasure, consider keeping it. Keep an open mind and research free activities that you and your family or friends can partake in to find valves for happiness and togetherness. Many small businesses in our local communities are now offering virtual activities for free or for a small donation. We are more likely to keep to our budgets when we also recognize that happiness, even in small amounts, helps fuel our resilience.

What sort of budgeting or savings tips would you have for someone in this position?

In addition to the tips already mentioned, it’s good to categorize your expenses and then add a “MUST HAVE” and a “NICE TO HAVE” bucket for each category. Common categories include housing, utilities, food, insurance and debt repayment. Again, the key is to drastically reduce your expense footprint during this time. Try to tap into checking and savings before touching qualified accounts like your 401(k) and IRA — there may be taxes, penalties, and interest associated with early withdrawal and you want to avoid taking money away from your “future self” if at all possible.

Similarly, for anyone who might be afraid of losing their job — or seeing a reduction in their income: How could they prepare for this possibility, while still being cognizant of the fact that they do have income coming in?

Many of the tips discussed are valuable to adopt even if you haven’t lost your job. It’s always a good idea to grow your savings buffer for emergencies. In addition, you may want to explore taking advantage of low interest rates to refinance your mortgage or other debt while you are employed. Refinancing your current loans with lower interest rates can save money over time and help you achieve your financial goals more quickly.

Should anyone be worried about losing a job make any changes to their savings or investment?

Research and confirm that your bank and/or investment firm provide you the best rates, free transaction costs when investing, and waive “nuisance” fees (especially during this pandemic). One option is to engage with an institution that offers most of its services via digital means. Given you cannot go to a bank office in the current environment, you can access your bank and investment services digitally.

What other tips would you have for anyone struggling with job loss right now?

We are feeling beings and our emotions can range from feeling blue to suffering from depression. It is important that we respect and listen to our emotions. If you suffer from clinical depression, make sure you follow up with your health and/or mental care providers. If you are feeling blue, it is helpful to seek and/or form a community.

The worst thing to do is to turn inward and suffer in silence. Even the introverts among us (and I am one) need to remember that forming community (even digital ones) cannot only help us ride through the blues, but they can also be a major source of information and “know how” as we all learn to navigate financial strains. For example, you may learn about digital job opportunities that can help supplement your income. This may also be a good time to “skill up” through digital learning tools for areas of the economy that may have more job opportunities.

Any last thoughts?

Crises are tough to navigate. They will punch us in the gut and worry us. It can also be a source of learning and transformation. As we all struggle through this pandemic, it is important to give back where we can (if we can afford it), support our local economies, lean on extended family when we need help, strengthen our communities/families and build resilience. The wisdom crisis affords us is the ability to become even more adaptive, focus on the things we can change, and live in the “now” when we can — even if that is a simple “walking trip” between our living room, bathroom and kitchen, listening to the sounds of nature on our device, or practicing our deep breathing. #LivingInTheTimeOfCovid


Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed are SOLELY those of the individuals involved and DO NOT represent those of Ally Invest Group Inc. (“Ally Invest”) or its Affiliates. Supporting documentation for any claims, comparison, statistics, or other technical data, will be provided upon request. Securities products and services offered through Ally Invest Securities LLC, member FINRA and SIPC, are NOT FDIC INSURED, NOT BANK GUARANTEED and MAY LOSE VALUE.


This originally appeared on Medium.com

How to Avoid Fighting With Your Significant Other During Quarantine

And other important advice from a marriage therapist

Many couples — or roommates, family members and even friends — are quarantining together during the Covid-19 pandemic and learning the hard way that spending 24/7 with one another isn’t always easy. Thankfully, Kati Morton — a licensed marriage and family therapist — is here to share some vital tips with our Wake-Up Call newsletter (subscribe here!).

So, how can a couple avoid fighting right now? What’s the best way to take some “personal space” in close quarters? And how can we split chores… while keeping the peace? Read on for Kati’s helpful advice.

Wake-Up Call: First of all, if someone is quarantining with a significant other, whether they’ve been married for a really long time or they’re just dating, what do they need to keep in mind during this time?

Kati Morton: Personal space is key — because the difference between now and prior to the quarantine is maybe many of us had a job we went to. Although I normally work from home with my husband, I usually go out to dinner with friends or to a yoga class. So we usually have that personal space, that time apart, where we can each just enjoy the alone time. We all actually do need some alone time. Finding time and space to have that alone is still vitally important.

So I’d encourage everybody to create a time that works. I know a lot of people have kids, too, which can get really complicated. But if you just slot out a 30-minute or one-hour window where you take turns. “Okay, I’ll watch the kids. You go in the back and read your book or call your mom or whatever it is that makes you feel good. Do something on your own.”

Communicating that need for personal space is important, whether we’re married, dating, roommates, whatever. Talk about what’s going on and what you need. People can’t read our minds.

You could just say, “You know, this has been super stressful. So at 4:00 p.m. every day, I’m just going to go in my room and read for an hour. I’ll come out if you need me. But otherwise, consider that I’m not here.” Having that conversation will prevent a lot of arguments and a lot of upsets.

In that same vein, what advice would you give to somebody who might potentially take that need for space personally?

Understand that normally we have that space, so it actually has nothing to do with you. It’s just a change of environment. Normally we can walk out and go grab a coffee and sit — or go get lunch with friends or anything like that — and we wouldn’t take offense to that.

No one is expected to be with another person, 24/7. It’s okay to take an hour or a half hour out of your day to be alone and be quiet sometimes. That’s just part of what we need. If anybody thinks that that’s like a personal attack on them, just consider how much time they used to spend together and compare that with now. You’re actually probably getting more attention and more time together than before by a long shot.

What advice would you have for anyone quarantining together for avoiding arguments and confrontations? It’s a very difficult time. It’s stressful. It’s scary. And on top of that, we don’t have much space. So how can we actually avoid arguing?

Taking personal space hopefully will separate that and prevent it a little bit. But anger is a secondary emotion. It usually is hiding fear, hurt, worry, upset. Those are all normal things that we’re all feeling during this time. We’re in a constant stress response because they don’t really know what’s to come. So instead of acting out in anger, I’ve been trying to identify the real feeling.

That takes a little time, but for instance, I sometimes find myself feeling irritated towards my husband — where I’m like,” Oh, you left the dishes in the sink again and you made a mess. You didn’t pick up your clothes.” I’m just annoyed. So I always think, what’s really happening? Oh, I’m just worried because my grandma’s home alone. Just acknowledging what’s really going on is validating as to why I’m feeling that way. It actually has nothing to do with my husband; it’s just things that are out of my control.

Another tool: If you find yourself getting really, really agitated, acknowledge what you don’t have control over and then choose to focus on what you do have control over.

How can we be supportive partners? It’s tough to be there for our partner’s needs emotionally… when you’re going through a hard time as well.

When I keep saying is that “fight, flight, freeze,” is what our body does to protect ourselves. So if we feel a threat, we’re in a stress response. The real antidote to it is connection. And that doesn’t mean that we have to solve their problem or support them… We can just share in the experience. That connection around feeling the pain, the worry, the stress, the grief together is enough.

Don’t think that you can’t just call a friend and be like, “Yeah, today’s been terrible. This has been really stressful.” They’ll likely say, “Yeah, me too.” It’s just that shared experience. No one has to have any answers. No one has to have the right words to say. As long as we just connect. I think we’ll all feel a lot better.

What are some activities you suggest for couples, as a bit of stress relief and bonding during this time?

There’s a lot of resources now. There are games, card games, board games, and there are games through Jackbox TV people can play. Any way that you can lighten the mood and play a game is great. I also think it’s great to FaceTime or Skype or Zoom with other friends and family — just as you would normally go out to dinner or go grab drinks.

Also, my husband and I have been setting shared goals. So in the house, we want to do X, Y or Z, and then we reward ourselves with, for instance, making a meal that we really like. Or what are we going to do when this is over? Planning out your next adventure or vacation can lighten the mood and bring a little levity. Also… dance parties. My friends have Zoom dance parties — even just dancing with their roommates or their dogs, goofing around, putting music on and boogying through the house.

Not to get too nerdy about it, but there’s this type of therapy called somatic experiencing — which is like following animals. Let’s say, a deer runs away from a bear that could kill it. When it gets away and it gets to safety, it does a full-body shake. That’s its way of soothing its system, calming it down, and shaking off that fight, flight, freeze response.

Humans need that too. Our bodies actually need to exert that stress energy. But we don’t really have an outlet for it here — there’s no action… we can’t run from the coronavirus. So dancing is kind of like shaking it off. It does actually make us feel better, like calms our nervous system down.

Oh, that’s such a great idea. And when it comes to chores, what advice would you have for dividing up a workload or talking about what you need done?

How you’re communicating about chores and the expectations is key. If that’s chore wheels, that’s great. My husband and I talk every Friday about what we’re going to do in the house that weekend. We divvy it up and then we both agreed to it.

The worst thing we can do is have expectations for someone — and not communicate them. If we expect them to clean up the bathroom or it’s bothering us, but they’re leaving their towel on the floor or dishes in the sink, when you’re not upset is the time to say, “Hey, I’ve been noticing you doing this. And I would just appreciate it if you (would insert the way that you’d want them to deal with it and be open to compromise).”


See more of Kati Morton’s work here. Subscribe to her YouTube channel, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

This originally appeared on Medium.com

How To Cope With Having Your Adult Kids Back Home

The pandemic is bringing families back together. Here’s some expert advice for parents.

The coronavirus crisis has upended all of our lives in unthinkable ways, and for many of us, that means a rearrangement of our living situation. To help our Wake-Up Call newsletter adjust to this unique situation, our good friends Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa Heffernan of Grown and Flown spoke with us about the surprising number of adult children they’ve seen moving back in with their parents.

Together, they offered some advice on how to make the most of this transition — plus psychologist Lisa Damour jumped in to explain why some adult children may tend to act a bit less like adults and more like children when they first move home…


Wake Up Call: You both have adult children. Have any of them moved back in?

Mary Dell: I have two young adults who have moved back home with us, and my nephew, who’s in college and who we are guardians for, is also with us. It’s five people… so that means it’s 15 meals a day. It’s shocking! I don’t actually have to cook 15 meals a day but I am cooking a big huge dinner every night, and it’s something I am so out of practice with. It’s a really full house.

Lisa Heffernan: We’ve actually done the reverse. I had my mother move in, because I was so worried about where she was living, and the chance of infection. Since older people are much more susceptible to this, our kids have had to stay away. But they will come over and sit at the end of the garden, about 20 feet from us, to say hello.

What advice do you have for parents hoping to set boundaries and establish rules with their adult children?

Lisa Heffernan: Our natural inclination as parents may be to go back to “our house our rules,” because last time your child lived with you they were a child, both in maturity and in the eyes of the law. It’s really important in this moment that we come to agreements with our kids about what the rules are going to be and how we’re going to do things, as opposed to flipping back in time to the moment when we made the rules.

So instead of laying down the rules like you may have done with a 15 year old, try to present it as: How can we solve this problem together? For example: “I need quiet in the house between 2 and 4 p.m. because I am doing Zoom calls, and no matter where you are, when you’re blaring YouTube, I can hear it. So how are we going to make this work so I can do my work and you can do what you want to do?”

It’s almost like your kids are now your roommates, but more importantly, they’re other adults. It’s hard for a lot of parents to come to grips with this, but it’s also incredibly important to remind kids of how they’re going to fulfill responsibilities as adults in the household. Those can be things like, cleaning, shopping, and cooking. Or with my kids, I’ve said, “Here’s something you need to do for us: Grandpa is quarantined alone, so you each need to call him once a day.”

It’s about figuring out what the most important tasks are, putting those in front of your kids, and talking to them like the adults you want them to be.

Your friend and Grown and Flown contributor, psychologist Lisa Damour, also had some interesting thoughts to share with us on why our adult children might not always act their age when they move back into the house. Let’s check in with her on this…

Lisa Damour: It’s not at all unusual for young adults (and even middle-aged adults!) to regress a bit when they are around their parents. We all have well-worn patterns for how we interact with our parents, and those patterns took the form of a parent-child relationship for a long time. Put simply, it’s pretty easy for high-functioning, self-sufficient young adults to slip into acting like teenagers when they’re with their folks.

The challenge here is for the parent to not regress back to old patterns along with the young adult — especially if doing so takes the form of slipping into unhelpful interactions, such as coming down on an adult child for not helping out around the house. To do this, we should remember that all young people have two sides: a mature, thoughtful, and altruistic side… and an immature, impulsive, and self-preoccupied side.

In my experience, the side the parent addresses will be the side that shows up for the conversation. If the parent launches in with a lecture, they’re likely to get a snarky adolescent response. If the parent says, “I know you were doing a great job of splitting dorm/apartment responsibilities with your roommate before you had to come home. Now I need you to do the same thing here with us,” they’re likely to get a mature and helpful response.

Lisa Heffernan: Exactly! Children will rise to the level that we speak to them. So if you speak to your 23 year old like they’re 13, they will act like they’re 13. If you speak to your 18 year old like they’re 28, they will act like they’re 28. You as the parent can set the tone for the desired outcome.

Although this is obviously a stressful time for all of us, are you seeing any positive relationship changes happening within families?

Lisa Heffernan: The big relationship that is having a shining moment in all of this is the sibling relationship. Most people haven’t spent this amount of time with their siblings since before middle school. Suddenly this relationship is being rekindled, and there are parents talking about the fact that this is one of the most special things about this experience. Kids have become playmates again, in a way they haven’t been since young childhood.

This, in my mind, is the most unprecedented thing — when in early adulthood would you get to live with your sibling, except those rare cases where you room together? Now you’re getting to know each other in a way you wouldn’t normally get to, and that seems pretty special.

Mary Dell: Parents are loving that. My kids are just hanging out with each other, because there’s no other peer in their lives right now besides their sibling. My son and daughter are five years apart, and every Friday they do a workout class together. It’s part of the structure that they’ve created in their lives that they never had before. So that’s really unique.

For siblings that are that far apart in age, anything more than two years or so, your older sibling left while you were still a child. You have not lived with this person since you were a kid. And now here you are, an adult, living with your sibling, and you’re different people. They can see each other on the same plane — as adults — even with the age gap.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about your own families during this time?

Mary Dell: My daughter is working from home, and she’s got a monitor set up in the house and she’s working here, and it gives me a perspective of what life is like her for. I’ve always known she works long hours, but I never really saw how hard she worked, or had more than a basic sense of what her job entails. She can’t even join us for dinner many nights because she’s still working.

We’ve talked with a couple of moms whose kids are in theater in college, and they can hear their kids rehearsing their Shakespeare monologues, or practicing for dance classes, and it’s this fly on the wall moment that parents never have. You don’t really ever get to see your kids in class, or at work. So this is really an eye opening experience for many of us who have never seen our kids doing what they do in an unvarnished way.

Lisa Heffernan: People have also said that about their spouses. That they had an idea of what their spouse’s job was, but not really how they did it, or what their day-to-day life was like at work. So even people who have been married for decades, and even if the spouse has been in the job for decades, they have really come to appreciate what their spouse’s job is.


This interview has been edited and condensed.

This appeared on Medium.com

Getting Angry at Your Kids Doesn’t Make You a Bad Person

We’re all doing the best we can, a leading expert explains

Today, Wake-Up Call (subscribe to our newsletter here!) is featuring helpful advice from Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, MD. He’s a leading child and adolescent psychiatrist, and the founding president of the Child Mind Institute. Read on.


We are in the middle of a pandemic that will have an unknown and staggering effect that touches every person on the globe: lives lost, families disrupted, futures deferred. In this context I am grateful to be safe, healthy and at home with my family. Having two of my three adult sons and their significant others living with us is one of the unexpected “silver linings” of this crisis. Having family dinners and spending lots of time with our 19-month-old grandson is a special bonus.

Still, just like none of us asked to be born, none of us asked to be forced into close quarters with our families with no end in sight. The first message I’d like to impart to anyone reading this is: being frustrated is not the same as being ungrateful. Every one of us is a human being thrust into a “new normal” of uncertainty and extreme circumstances. We are all doing the best we can.

And yet! I still find myself getting angry with my sons — and my wife, my daughter-in-law, even my grandson. And then I get angry at myself for being angry, and then I get angry at the virus, and the world, etc. This is understandable, but it’s not helpful for their mental wellbeing or my own. So, here are some quick tips that I try to employ for myself. Maybe they’ll help other parents calm down, let go of frustration, and be the best help to their kids. Remember — our kids didn’t ask for this, either.


Be reasonable and kind to yourself.

Give yourself permission to ratchet down parenting self-expectations. Choose not to die on any hills today. “We can explain to our kids that this is a unique situation and re-institute boundaries when life returns to normal,” says Dr. Dave Anderson, my colleague at the Child Mind Institute.

Hold your tongue.

You’ll be happier.

Encourage kids to open up.

For many, the most painful part of the crisis will be missing out on their lives. This is a real problem for teens whose main developmental task is to separate from you and go their own way. This is frustrating for you and your teens and also dangerous — so we have to talk about it. Give them room to share their feelings and listen without judgment.

Ask for help — and delegate.

It’s easy as parents to blame kids (particularly teenagers) for not pitching in. But did you ask? Particularly at a time like this, do not expect anyone to read your mind — especially your kids. Everyone who can pitch in, should. Give kids age appropriate jobs. For example, teens might be able to help mind younger siblings when both parents have to work.

Who are you actually angry at?

If you have a partner at home, agree that you’ll trade off when it comes to childcare. Don’t get angry at your kids because your partner isn’t supporting your need for some me time. It may feel good…but it doesn’t make sense. Particularly not to your kids.


If you’re beating yourself up about home life right now, put down the baseball bat and pick up a feather. The same applies to how you treat your kids. Ask for help — and say it out loud, too. And don’t keep your emotions bottled up.

If you need more help, we have tons of resources here, including links to twice daily Facebook Lives where you can ask your questions and get answers from our experts — many of whom are parents in the same boat as you.

Oh, one final tip: Don’t forget that we’re all in this together.


Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and the founder and president of the nonprofit Child Mind Institute.


This originally appeared on Medium.com

How To Cope With The Future… By Laughing

“Stop and smell the roses — but also, stop and make fun of that bumblebee that’s tripping over the roses”

There’s a lot going on right now: We’re in the midst of a contentious election, during a 24/7 news cycle with a lot of troubling developments happening across the world (including climate change). All of these things are incredibly important and worth being focused on, of course. But Elle writer R. Eric Thomas has mastered the art of pausing and finding humor in the minutia (well, the stuff it’s okay to laugh about).

Here, Thomas — whose new memoir Here For It, or How To Save Your Soul In America, is out now — offers some advice for how to stop and laugh every now and then.


Wake-Up Call: At a time when so much is going on — including so many horrible things — how are you able to find the humor in it all?

R. Eric Thomas: Well, I think part of it is having a sense of context. Knowing that this isn’t the end of a story is really helpful. And within that story, being able to look at some things that are going on in the present and saying, “This is absolutely unacceptable, and there’s nothing funny about it.” Then looking at other things and seeing it from a vantage point of drama, farce or comedy.

I have the background of a playwright. You can look at some of these things that go on in the public eye, whether it’s with celebrities or it’s Elizabeth Warren taking Mike Bloomberg apart at a molecular level on the debate stage — those things have huge ramifications politically and nationally, but they’re also deeply interesting, dramatic moments with very vividly drawn characters.

Being able to step outside the headline for a second and examine the weird humans who have incredible power and hold up their behavior to the light can be really refreshing.

You just mentioned Elizabeth Warren and Mike Bloomberg at the last debate, but what have been some other cringeworthy or dramatic political moments that have caught your attention?

The moment that I think a lot of people discovered me was right before the Trump administration began, when there was a group of congresspeople meeting with former FBI director James Comey. One of those people was Rep. Maxine Waters. She came out of their meeting and she was clearly unhappy. There was a gaggle of reporters waiting for her to give some sort of canned statement — and instead, she surveyed the room with disdain continuing to exude off of her. They said, “You know, how did it go?” And she was like, “Not well!” That level of honesty was really refreshing, and her frustration continued to be like a present factor in the important and skilled work that she was doing.

You’re an accomplished playwright, and now your debut memoir is out. How was writing a book different from writing in the other mediums you’re used to?

Online writing and playwriting, in some way, are about immediacy. Online writing needs to be up in a couple of hours, or else the news is old and things have changed. Playwriting has that same relationship with immediacy. A play is something that happens only once in the same way: The audience is never going to be the same, the air is never going to be the same. So you’re writing to a really electric, and temporary, moment.

I started writing the book in 2017, and I finished it in early 2019. It’s just been sort of permanently sitting in some computer at Random House for over a year now. Hopefully it will continue to sit on people’s shelves and in libraries, most importantly, for decades… until we all go live on Mars. And then I guess it’ll be translated into Martian. So the book is much more like trying to have a relationship with the future, with the unknown and with this idea of permanence.

Well on that note: How can we deal with the idea of the future… when the present can be so scary?

I have a lot of anxiety about the future, and the book touches on that. I tempt fate a little bit: The epilogue of the book flashes forward into the far future. I envisioned myself at older ages. Some of those are great experiences, and some of those aren’t. And I was like, “Well, it’d be really ironic if I die and people will be like, ‘You thought you were going to see the future, but you didn’t.’” But that’s the gambit we all take when we open our eyes in the morning, get out of bed, make a plan for the weekend.

There are definitely things that are always top of mind about the present that make the question of the future a really anxiety producing one. But one of the powerful things about storytelling is that, whether you’re telling an anecdote on a date or you’re telling the story of your life, you get to choose where the story begins and where the story ends.

Oh, that’s so true. And Eric, here’s the part where I ask you for advice: How can we find the humor in the world right now? We’re deep into the 2020 race. How can we look at what happened in Iowa or a memorable moment from a debate, and find the humor in it… rather than fall into a hole of existential dread.

That’s a good question. The way the news is set up, and the way that the internet is set up, leads us to believe that everything is a crisis that we have to address immediately. “Why aren’t you yelling at your uncle on Facebook right now to change his mind? Why aren’t you in the streets getting people to register your vote?”

There are actionable things we can do to change our situation. But it is also really important to remember that, the world is so much bigger than the headlines. Minutia is where the humor lies. Sometimes the headlines are things that we should actually panic about. But there’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy.

Look at any plotline on Friends. You turn the volume down a little bit on it, and you turn the emotional residence up on it, and it goes from being a hilarious caper between Ross and Rachel — and ends up being a story of unrequited love and heartbreak.

There was this moment on Lost years ago, where one of the characters is panicking. The plane crashed, and she doesn’t know what’s happening. She remembers some advice someone gave her: Just be still, and count for 10 seconds. If you count for 10 seconds, everything will be okay for 10 seconds… which, well, I don’t think that’s practically true. But it’s a really beautiful moment of mindfulness in the middle of this terrifying situation.

Stop and smell the roses — but also, stop and make fun of that bumblebee that’s tripping over the roses.

Do you find that laughing about all of this is calming?

I do. It right-sizes a lot of things, and I think it also helps to separate. If you watch the sitcom that’s supposed to have a laugh track — and doesn’t have a laugh track — you notice that when a joke happens, they just stand there for a couple of seconds while the laughter is supposed to be filling the space. Laughter inserts a pause the action, and I think that’s possible to put into play in real life.

You can watch CNN all day long, and there will be no space for laughter. Or you can take in the information that you need, go about your day, insert a little pause to examine the ridiculousness of something that happened, or something that was said, and throw it onto the larger canvas of the rest of your life — where your dinner is waiting and your kids are playing and your coworkers are getting on your nerves and there’s free cake in the break room. It’s only part of the experience of what’s happening.


This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.com

Books purchased through this link may earn us affiliate revenue.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

An expert breaks down what you need to know

It’s February — a time of year when many of us aren’t getting the amount of sunlight we’d prefer. Instead, we’re stuck with gloomy clouds, rain and snow. And you know what? That lack of sun can turn into a lack of vitamin D… which could have major health implications. To find out more, we turned to Food Fix author Dr. Mark Hyman, who explained why vitamin D is so vital to our health — and how we can make sure we’re getting enough.


Katie Couric: I recently got a physical and my internist checked my vitamin D levels… Is this something everyone should do?

Dr. Mark Hyman: Absolutely, vitamin D has a huge impact on the health and function of your whole system, and regulates hundreds of genes. About 80% of our population is deficient or insufficient.

Vitamin D deficiency is often missed and has been linked to many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, bone loss, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

It acts on a cellular docking station, called a receptor, that then sends messages to our genes. That’s how vitamin D controls so many different functions — from preventing cancer to reducing inflammation, boosting mood, easing muscle aches and fibromyalgia, and building bones. When we don’t get enough, it impacts every area of our biology — because it affects the way our cells and genes function.

These are just a few examples of the power of vitamin D. It’s an essential nutrient for optimal health, and without checking our levels, a hidden deficiency could put us at risk for many imbalances.

There’s been a great deal of research on Vitamin D. Why is it so important? Why is it helpful?

Optimal vitamin D intake reduces cellular growth (which promotes cancer) and improves cell differentiation (which puts cells into an anti-cancer state). That makes vitamin D one of the most potent cancer inhibitors — and explains why vitamin D deficiency has been linked to colon, prostate, breast, and ovarian cancer and why optimal levels could reduce the risk of those types of cancer. Another review of 10 randomized controlled trials (the gold standard in research) with 79,055 total patients has found that taking vitamin D improved cancer-related mortality after diagnosis.

What is considered low or the healthy range?

It’s important to understand that the Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRIs, are intended as general population-based guidelines and are often based on the minimum level required to prevent deficiency diseases like rickets, not on what’s needed for optimal health. They do not differentiate or take into account a person’s unique medical history, genetics, ethnicity, dietary intake, symptoms, or environmental conditions — including sunlight exposure.

The best way to test for vitamin D is to have your doctor measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D, shortened to 25(OH)D. The recommendation from the Institute of Medicine is that between 30 and 50 ng/ml (nanograms per deciliter) is the general level for adequate bone and overall health needed in healthy individuals. However, the optimal level is over 45 ng/ml. Normal is defined as the average of a population. If everyone has a low level, that doesn’t make it normal — much less optimal.

Something else to think about: Attaining those “optimal” blood levels levels typically requires often about 3,000–4,000 IU a day of vitamin D3, which is about 6 times current daily recommendations for supplementation put out by the IOM.

Research by vitamin D pioneer Dr. Michael Holick, Professor of Medicine, Physiology, and Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine, recommends intakes of up to 2,000 IU a day — or enough to keep blood levels of 25(OH)D between 50 to 125 ng/ml. That may sound high, but it’s still safe: Lifeguards have levels of 250 ng/ml without toxicity. I look for optimal levels between 50 to 85 ng/ml; in my experience as well as that of my colleagues at The UltraWellness Center we’ve found this is the most effective range for our patients.

Can you get Vitamin D from certain foods? I was given a once-a-month pill to get my levels up.

Vitamin D is one of those nutrients that is harder to acquire from food, though not impossible. Since it’s fat-soluble, the body can store it, which is why you can take one mega-dose a month to balance your levels (though I recommend daily dose). The best food sources are fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, wild salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines in oil, and whole eggs. Mushrooms, especially porcini, are a good plant source of vitamin D. But most of us don’t eat enough of these or get outside in the sunshine enough to optimize our levels. Sunlight is the most effective way to get vitamin D up naturally — and depending on your skin tone, you may not need much at all. Just 15 minutes or so of exposed skin in the midday sun will get you what you need, though living in northern latitudes or having darker skin may require more. Just be careful not to let yourself get pink. Vitamin D production is already maximized before you get to that point.

What about calcium? What’s the latest research on how vitamin D needs to be added to calcium, to make sure it works? My doctor recommends I get calcium from foods like dark leafy vegetables, yogurt, etc.

Vitamin D is essential for helping you use calcium. It increases intestinal calcium absorption from foods and helps our bones properly mineralize. I always recommend using food first so I agree with getting calcium as much as possible from your diet. Many Americans take too many calcium supplements and, especially in the absence of enough vitamin D, this can lead to increased kidney stones, mineral deposits, and imbalances in other minerals like iron and zinc.

We also have calcium added to so many of our foods. Countries with low calcium intake, a plant-based, low-acid diet, and plenty of sun exposure have very low rates of osteoporosis. I support the intake of adequate calcium from food, especially dark green leafy vegetables, tahini, and nuts and making sure vitamin D levels are optimal. One recent analysis of 33 RCTs found no correlation between calcium and vitamin D supplementation to reduce hip fractures and the total amount of fractures in older adults, but we do know that we need optimal levels of both calcium and vitamin D in the blood to prevent the risk of fracture. That’s why food and sunlight are some of the best ways to get these nutrients, though I do use supplementation for patients who need it to achieve optimal levels.


Follow Dr. Mark Hyman on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and check out his books on Amazon or your local books retailer.

This originally appeared on Medium.com

Books purchased through this link may earn us affiliate revenue.

Sheila Johnson Shares Her Best Advice For Finding Your Purpose

The president of WNBA’s Mystics shares her career — and life — advice

For our January motivation series, Wake-Up Call has been exploring the concept of “purpose.” Today, we’re wrapping things up with the incredible Sheila Johnson. She’s the co-founder of BET, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, and president of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. Here, Sheila opens up about how she found her purpose.


Lisa Ryan, editor: Sheila, you’ve had such a remarkable career. But let’s go back in time. When you were younger, did you know that you wanted to be a leader in business and sports?

Sheila Johnson: My career really took me by surprise because I started out really as a classical musician — a violinist. My parents were excellent musicians, so I was surrounded by music growing up. Music really took over my life starting in elementary school, moving into high school, and then eventually at the University of Illinois School of Music, where I went on a full scholarship and played with the university orchestra.

I thought I was just going to be playing in orchestras for the rest of my life. Then the reality hit — and I’m not disparaging the arts, but I wish they paid better. I’ve continued to play the violin and do to this day, but realized very early in my performance career that I needed to make some money. I always tell graduates: You have to be the CEO of your own life. I went door-to-door teaching violin until I could save enough money to buy a house, where I could then base my business.

So I did start very early in my violin career realizing that I had to learn to make money and I have to tell you — going from a teaching job making $7,200 a year to starting my own business in my own home, I went up to $68,000 a year.

From there, your career took you to eventually co-found BET, Black Entertainment Television. What inspired you to start that network? What gap were you seeing in the market at the time?

Well, first of all, it was in the early-to-mid ’70s, during the birth of all cable. My ex-husband was lobbyist for the National Cable Television Association. He was taking a senior citizen up on the Hill, who wanted to start a senior citizen channel. He couldn’t get the funding, and he went to throw it away in the trash. My ex-husband picked it up, and we looked at it. We crossed out “senior citizen” and put “black” in there.

We realized that there was no one out there who was thinking about starting a cable channel that really represented the African American voice. Now, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but we took the proposal to John Malone. He thought it was the best idea since sliced bread, and immediately started funding us all the way until our sale of Viacom. He got paid back royally. So it was quite a journey. The brand is as strong as ever, even though Viacom’s got it now, but it filled a void within the African American community.

Now my issue with it: I wish we had been able to keep on more news programming to really represent the African American voice — because my dream was to have it become the black CNN. It really became more of a video market. I just think that we squandered a huge opportunity to really make a difference, because what we’re seeing now is the African American voice is disappearing. You see it every now and then with the talking heads on CNN or late night television, but it’s just not the way I envisioned it.

So that was the second act of my life. And now the third act is the hospitality business.

That’s right! After BET, your career took a turn to hospitality — including sports. Now, you’re the president of the WNBA’s Mystics. Can you tell us about your path to sports?

It was being in the right place at the right time. My lesson in life is never burn your bridges. So a very dear friend who owned the Wizards and the Capitals brought me into his office one day. He said, “Sheila, I’ve admired you. I want you to be the face of the Washington Mystics.” And I said, “Well, what does that mean?” He says, “I want you to buy it.”

There had never been a woman, at that time, that had been offered that kind of a position. I had the money to do it and I said, “You know what, let me see the financials.” And he said, “Well, the team doesn’t make money.”

I realize a lot of teams don’t make money. It was more the idea of being led into that old boys club. So my attorney and I set up a call with Ted Leonsis, who I knew had first right of refusal of the Wizards. He had already bought the Caps. I told him “I don’t want to be an owner of the Mystics — but I would like to be a partner with you. And eventually when you get the Wizards and the Washington Capitals, you can get a twofer here: A woman and an African American.” He laughed, and he said, “I think it’s a great idea.” So I have to give Ted Leonsis real credit for really helping me break that glass ceiling.

And how did it feel to see the Mystics win the WNBA championship this year?

It was amazing. To this day, I watch clips from that time. It was probably one of the most stressful few weeks, going into the finals. When it came down to one game — you know, this is ESPN dream game because we were so evenly matched. In the last three minutes, it could have gone either way, but I sat next to the team and, and I could hear Elena Delle Donne saying, “We have got to kick our defense in. If we don’t, we could lose this.” I knew instinctively that we were going to make this work. They got out on the floor, they shut them down, and we won that game. I started crying. Just talking to you now, I still get goosebumps. It was probably one of the greatest thrills of my life.

Now, when you look back at your truly incredible career, that has touched on so many different fields, what would you say is your purpose?

My purpose in life is to continue to be an example as a leader. I work with so many young people, and I have over 3,000 employees. I want to be an example to them of how you really lead a company: With integrity, with courage, and with passion. I want them to take those examples to lead the rest of their lives.

What would you say to anyone who is still searching for their passion?

It’s all an individual journey. Everybody grows up in different families and in different situations, and they’re going to have to figure out who they are and what is their passion. Once they do find it, they must have patience and faith that if it’s something they really, really want to do. If it’s a journey, it’s not something that happens right away.

Also, once they do find their passion, they have to make sure that they are very careful about who they bring around them. You want to make sure you don’t bring people into your orbit that have another agenda or they’re going to steal your ideas or steal your enthusiasm or put you down. Believe me, I’ve been on that journey before. I have surrounded myself with the wrong people. You need to surround yourself with people that are going to be respectful, that are going to understand your journey, and they’ve got to be people of character and integrity.

Another passion: Your adopted hometown of Middleburg, Virginia. You founded the Middleburg Film Festival there, where you also built the Salamander Resort & Spa.

My real hometown is outside of Chicago. I moved to Washington — and then to Middleburg in 1996. My daughter is a professional show jumper, and I was out here all the time with, you know, with horses. We’ve really settled into this peaceful, wonderful community. But as I was out here, I noticed that economically, the town was not thriving. I bought a big piece of property that ran parallel to the town, and I decided to build this resort that I really believed in.

Later I got an idea from Robert Redford. I was on the board of Sundance for eight years, and he said to me, “You really should put a film festival here.” So I remembered those words — and sure enough, in 2013, we started this film festival. We opened with Nebraska with Bruce Dern, we had maybe 16 or 17 films — but about 1800 people showed up. We took over the whole town. Now we’re moving into our eighth year. We have had people from Emma Stone to Maggie Gyllenhaal and Noah Baumbach. We’ve had Green Book, Moonlight, The Two Popes, Ford v. Ferrari, The Irishman, Parasite… I call it “the road to the Oscars.”


This interview has been edited and condensed.

This originally appeared on Medium.com