Speaker Urges Students NOT to be “Normal”

by Amy Schweitzer

Kent Julian doesn’t want to be normal.

He doesn’t want any of the sixth- through eighth-graders he spoke to Wednesday at the Central Nebraska Council on Alcoholism and Addictions’ Middle School Youth Congress to be normal either.

Julian explained that “normal” seems to be working at a job you hate and going home to a family with whom you either fight or rarely talk.

“I like being not normal because I like what I’ve got,” he said, telling the students about the closeness he has with his wife and three teenage children and how much he loves his job.

Julian, who has written several books on leading youth organizations and parenting teens, said he wanted the kids to remember that “big is little and little is big,” meaning that to get the big things in life, such as a job you love and a good relationship with your family, you have to do all the little things right.

He told those gathered on Wednesday that they have the power to make things happen because of what he called “E + R = O.” The events of your life plus your response to those events equal the outcome.

“Most people think that the events in your life equal the outcome,” he said, adding that he has proof that isn’t necessarily true.

Julian told the story of a boy who, in elementary school, had a speech impediment, still couldn’t read in the third grade and was often picked last for sports teams. The boy had “zero confidence.”

Then, in middle school, he had a growth spurt and decided to go out for basketball. The coach admitted the boy was the last one to be chosen to be on the team but said the reason he was chosen was because he saw great potential in him. Even after the boy got into some trouble, the coach still believed in him, and it made him want to work harder.

Julian said that boy was him about 30 years ago.

“You can’t control most events in your life, but you can control how you respond to them to change the outcome,” he said. He went from being unable to read in the third grade and being an “at-risk” student in middle school to graduating from college with honors and earning a master’s degree.

“Life is like a game of Simon Says. For some reason, it is designed to get people out,” Julian said. “If you don’t work at life and let life happen to you, you’re going to get out.”


Grand Island Central Catholic’s Joe Mueller (left) and Cody Pederson of Walnut Middle School play “Simon Says” as Kent Julian, an author and teen communication expert, speaks to participants in the Central Nebraska Council on Alcoholism and Addictions’ Middle School Youth Congress Wednesday morning in Grand Island.


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