I have been thinking a lot lately about the issue of bullying, and whether there is any chance of us, “society”, making any inroads at solving, or at least reducing it to some extent. I must admit I have sometimes just accepted it is part of growing up, or part of life for many regardless of age. I see so many approaches to bullying that are just feel good approaches with little substance to them, but I have always wanted to ask my friend Michael Panebianco “Why Bullying” is so important a topic to him. I mean he has a full time job as a Captain for a major airline, but he still has made it a priority with his NoBullyFear program. Well, I got the chance to ask him “Why Bullying” is a topic he just can’t let go of, as well as, was there one incident, or a series of them that began his path at attacking this issue. Please read, post your comments, questions, or disagreements on this.
So Chris asks me the question of my immediate condition: Why Bullying? Why don’t rah-rah rally events work, and is there something you’d like to write about that isn’t being written about regarding bullying? I punched him in the nose and stole his lunch money after that… But in all seriousness:
I wasn’t bullied more than once or twice that I can remember, and it wasn’t traumatic or debilitating. I remember being anxious about going to school. I remember looking around corners. I remember a couple of times being occupied with it, but it wasn’t enough to be the fuel behind my crusade with NoBullyFear. That was something different.
It was a perfect storm of things that happened all at once. I was working for “Insert Name Here” Tactical trying to reshape their civilian operation. We were receiving calls and emails from parents that needed help for their kids that were being bullied. We had no viable product for them, and for most, we didn’t even have an instructor in their area code.
We would have discussions about it on the forum for the instructors, and everyone had their own brand of course that they taught for bullying. Some did scenario training, some do martial arts instruction, and some did a combination of both.
On the counseling side, you can Google everyone else’s soft skills recommendations. Seriously, if you want to laugh, Google it. Start with none other than the US Government. Google Bullying, anti-bullying, counter-bullying, help with bullying…. You will see it all. There isn’t much of quality out there.
So, let me answer Chris’ question right here: A mom called, and she left a voicemail that changed my life. Her son was in real trouble, and her plea for help couldn’t go unanswered. So, as a parent, coach, and budding entrepreneur, I set out to help.
I focus on bullying because it is one of the greatest threats to our potential for generations to come, and it doesn’t seem that anyone wants to really stop it. The general attitude is, on one hand,“I got mine, suck it up”. On the other side are the Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley Character from Saturday Night Live: “Im good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me”… Yeah, there’s a realistic solution…
We lose more life potential with every act of aggression towards each other. Kids are our future, and that future becomes bleak when they start believing the words of a bully. We as adults don’t “get ours” if we lose the next great generation.
I got through school, university, some graduate work, and landed the dream job. As a kid I dreamed of flight. I am a captain for a major airline, flying the B737. I work every day next to some of the most talented and accomplished people I have ever met. I worked with a 4 time shuttle astronaut, and he was the most awesome guy to fly with. Me, a lowly farmer, flying with an real life space cowboy!! Too cool. But what have I done for others?
Time for me to give back, and having spent so much time in the pursuit of a dream, training and working in high risk, stress loaded environments, I have a unique view of confidence. I have been writing about it, studying it, and was facilitating it back in the 90’s as a wee chap in the commuter airlines. I see it all the time either in flying planes, and since 9/11 training with law enforcement, working with former military operators and aviators, and civilians with “hard knocks” degrees at the school of life. It’s time to share that with kids.
Why does this matter with bullying? Here is why: At some point nearly everyone deals with a bully. Some kids figure out the path for themselves really quick. It usually ends up a few punches thrown, a snappy comeback, or a total blowoff of the event and everything goes back to normal (my situation). However, it doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes it becomes torment and torture. Sometimes, and you have seen the news stories countless times in the last few years, the kids give up, and one of a few things happen:
• Worst Cases:
o Active Shooter
• Most Likely, and silently devastating:
o Surrender of hope
How do you like your options for these kids? I freely admit, not all kids hit bottom. Some pick themselves up and move forward, but the scars run deep. Some of them don’t have the guidance to steer a path out of the mess. Some parents never even know their child is in harms way! It’s the nature of the problem. My parents never knew what I dealt with. I didn’t want them to!
What are we doing about it, and why don’t rah rah methods work?
Think to yourself, why don’t text and drive commercials work? I see people texting nearly every single day when I drive. I have even caught myself doing it. Like texting, bullying has become a hard habit to break, and the example is set from the highest levels. Refer to some of Richard Dimitri’s rantings on why we bully. It is ingrained. It is habit, and the mainstream media feeds the beast. We text until we wreck or get scared enough to stop. Maybe we have an epiphany, or, like my kids and wife do, scream at me about it and take my phone. We allow bullying to go on until it appears on our doorstep. We pay lip service, but we don’t get in the trenches and hash it out. Awareness is not enough. Awareness won’t trump fear.
Knowing that, what will a t-shirt do? What will a poster in a school hallway do? What will a singer putting out a song about bullying do to change things? The answer; NOT MUCH…..
The solution to bullying is to hit it from every angle we can. We must make kids more resilient, strong, and thrive-minded. We have to continue to make bullying a shame-able offense, if not criminal to an extent. We need to make schools function like teams, where poor behavior is detrimental to the WHOLE DARN TEAM. Poor behavior gets you a ride on the bench! On the flip side, we have to be better at dealing with people and situations. Kids too. Kids need to be harder targets. They need to train like a team does. Bullying isn’t going to stop, the game goes on.
Life is hard, and kids need to be ready to deal with life’s bullies. That is a LOT to ask. Well, anything in life worth having takes work. I didn’t get to my seat as a Captain without a lot of hard work, studying, a few near death experiences, and dedication to the development of skills and leadership abilities.
My goal was to share what I have seen as a formula for kids to work towards being the Captain of their own lives. You, as parents are their flight instructors. You can’t put on a t-shirt that says “pilot” on it and go out and really fly. You can’t put on a t-shirt that says “bully-proof” and go out and fend off bullies.
There has to be experience and belief behind those words. Let me tell you, the first time I had an engine come apart on me in flight, I can tell you that I was overjoyed that I trained like I did to deal with the situation. Life is never exactly how you train, but when your hands know where to go, and your mind is working on the problem, there is not time to shrink into a ball and cry, “why me”, you will be grateful for those hours of dedicated work.
Kids have to believe in their ability to thrive in adversity. That takes REAL comprehensive training. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars in aviation to provide the most realistic simulators you have ever seen. (they can even make you sweat and puke). When it matters, you need the experience to be as real as you can get it.
Life is that way. Kids need training that teaches the multiple facets of conflict and interaction. That is the course/path I provide for kids that are bullied. Teamwork, Leadership, Confidence.
There are certainly other paths to take, and I am sure there are better ones. But, to answer Chris’ original question: I chose bullying because being a bystander with a solution is akin to being part of the problem. We need those kids to thrive. They are the future of human flight.
The litmus test: When you see a lion stalking a gazelle on the savannah, tell me how that would work out for the gazelle…
Mental, emotional, and physical resiliency need to be there for our kids. You can’t get that from a song or a poster, and I’d like to help kids learn it. Hashtag this, #StrongThrivingKids. Please visit www.nobullyfear.comfor more info
Thanks for the forum Chris.