David Rossi has been actively involved teaching, counselling and mentoring youth for the past 17 years and you can read part 1 of our interview with David here.
Soul Love: In part 1 of our interview you were mentioning 4 ways to teach youth how to obtain happiness and you explained us to “Help them to be clear to their purpose”. Will you also explain the remaining 3:
2. Encourage them to choose worthy friends
3. Teach them the the skills to live frugally
4. Show them how to find seclusion for inner peace
David Rossi: Yes, of course!
2. Choose worthy friends
When we associate with a person we subconsciously absorb some of thats person’s values. Shaping our environment through the people in it is important in our youth’s quest for building good character. We can ideally choose to surround our youth with people of character that can support them in their own higher character development, but that’s not always an easy task! Strong characters will have the qualities of compassion, wisdom, kindness, integrity, temperance and justice and generosity. These people also believe that you can develop virtuous qualities and build strong character through practice and dedication.
These strong characters are actively looking (they believe) in personal growth and development through the process of disciplined and continuous self improvement. These people are important to include in our youth’s life. The youth is encouraged to watch and copy these people – to use them as mentors and trusted advisors or simply as people to associate with. Through contact with these people the youth will pick up admirable habits. People who do not have the traits that will enhance the youths growth are not encouraged to remain in the youths life.
Many youth will not identify with any role model or mentor. Looking externally for inspiration the youth are constantly reminded of corrupt leaders, hedonistic movie personalities and cheating sport icons – fallen heroes and fantasy games in a world devoid of reason. True happiness comes from within the individual. Communicating why some associates are better for the youth’s development helps give them the skills to pick their own admirable friends. Picking virtuous friends will help them understand the importance of their life study.
When it is all said and done it may be in their best interest to change associates rather than hanging with people that will not move them forward. The youth themselves need to understand what moving forward looks like for them and then to remain clear to their purpose.
3. Living frugally
There is a consequence for what we do. The law of nature states that for every action there is a reaction. This is a key concept to teach to youth. What impact does your habits have on the environment? Understand the consequence of your consumption. Living takes a burden on the world. Society conditions us to have more possessions. After a time the possessions can start to own us by distracting from our study and practice. Take only what you need – any excesses should be shared thereby building good generosity practice. Having more does not equate to being happier. This flies opposite to popular culture where having more equates to being happier.
This philosophy of living frugally also applies to eating and health. Understand that good heath starts with proper balanced diet – a diet that does not condone excesses. Eating only what the body needs to maintain optimal health makes sense. Eating more, just because it is there, does not make us happy long term. Short term the eating may give us pleasure but the long term consequence of a diet in excess does not bring lasting happiness – that is achieved through a balanced and frugal existence. Wasting precious time to acquire more than we need subtracts time away from the study and pursuit of the practice needed to attain lasting happiness. There is a real cost to seeking only pleasure. The key word being ‘only’. Teaching youth through modelling the behaviour can lead to deeper appreciation and understanding- an important consideration that will lead to meaningful conversations and observation of their world.
4. Find solitude
Seclusion enables you to look at your own mind without the distraction created by other people. Being alone can help you “know thy self”. Many of us are constantly surrounded by others. Bombarded by constant noise, incessant multi media devices and populated spaces we are so used to having our minds engaged in outside stimuli that we miss sight of who we are and why we are. Using solitude as a technique to build our character means that instead of being “lonely” we are using the moment as a practice for insight. A practice like focused meditation allows you to get in touch with your inner thoughts and to become aware of feelings and sensations in the body. Being alone also slows down the pace of the day and removes us from the daily stimuli that becomes us. Learning to be with ourselves is important to build self esteem and find peace. Our youth need to be instructed in the practice of solitude as a means to an end.
SL: You wrote a beautiful story and your book is called ‘Have you ever been to Sea?’. Can you tell me what the story is about and for whom did you write it?
David: The story is about Billy, a young man with a lower economic background. He meets Mike, the captain of a boat and Mike becomes a significant person in Billy’s life and he is willing to coach him in the process of how to change his thinking, with the belief that by changing your thinking you can change your outcomes. The story is an analogy towards purpose in life – a boat without a purpose is tight up to the dock.
Through a series of events, Billy learns how to change his thinking and he then realizes that by changing his thinking how it changes the outcomes in his life. The story is about how to think critically and it’s based on a critical thinking model to help Billy reason. One thing that we lack in the world is how to reason. We’re good at having emotions, we’re good at making emotional judgements and this one is helping Billy to understand the process of reason – a logical system to help him achieve his desire to solve this.
In job interviews for example, critical thinking is often a required skill. And when you ask youth what critical thinking skills are, they will often define it as problem solving skills, which it certainly can be used for but not necessarily exclusively. Critical thinking would cover how to make sense of things by getting all the information you need before you make a decision, how to find the truth and differentiation between opinions and positions.
I originally wrote the book for kids I work with in the program. The original purpose of the book was to teach these kids critical thinking, a book that wouldn’t be dry to read and that would also teach kids how to reason.
Having said that, I noticed that the book also helped parents to think about finding purpose for their child, because many parents will say “I want my child to be happy”. But what is it that you exactly want for your kids, I just want them to be happy. Well, define ‘happy’, how you’re going to make them happy? It’s all about long term purpose and setting goals, so the book ends up being a tool to be able to use by parents to help their children move forward and give them a tool that is non-personal.
SL: You were speaking about ‘finding the truth’. What is the truth?
David: Especially in this age of the internet, a lot of kids believe in for example conspiracy theories. The end of the world in 2012 is a good example. The internet was full of information about the end of the world in 2012.
If you’re looking for the truth in a certain situation it would take a rigorous study and research to find it. You just can’t say, this is the truth, and the other slippery thing about the truth is that it can change. The critical thinker will realize that they can do rigorous research and study to find the truth, but realizing that they still may not have all the information to get it right and that they may have made errors in their decision making and they may have to go back to reassess. So I believe in giving youth that tool to realize that what they are convinced of may not be actually true. For example – “crack is okay for you because my buddies have all done it, I’ve got ten people that say that crack is okay”, doesn’t make it true. Before you will find the truth, you will have to find the purpose, what your goal is in the first place.
SL: David, thank you so much for your beautiful and professional insights. The work that you are doing is really so important. Where can our readers purchase your book?
David: Thank you Dirk! People can buy my book directly from my site: beentosea.com
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER
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