Advice to Parents With a Child in Trouble

Parents have asked me for advice regarding their kids. ADHD, depression, anxiety bullying etc I don’t really know how qualified I am to answer, but I do have a lot of experience. I grew up in a broken home and I was naturally a boy looking for a father figure or mentor. Whether by nature or nurture I lacked trust so my relationship with leadership has always been one that starts with suspicion that has to evolve to one of trust. I have been doing this analysis for as long as I can remember.

I studied at West Point where the focus of the curriculum is designed to develop future leaders. Leadership, like all complex things is nuanced. Sometimes rigidity and firmness work and sometimes a quiet and calm approach is more effective. Different situations call for different types of leadership.

On a personal level, I have the privilege of raising two boys. Our older son is autistic and is fully grown and our youngest is 12. Nothing is more important to me than being a good parent. I am quite hard on myself so I am constantly analyzing the job I am doing. My goal is to make our kids as anti fragile and robust as possible. I am not making tough guys, in fact I want the opposite. I want our boys to be kind and loving, but have the ability to adapt and persevere in whatever situation they may find themselves. In jiu jitsu we say it’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war. Things are moving so fast today that I find it hard to forecast what the future is going to look like. When I am dead and gone are my kids going to be living in a world of robots and algorithms with a dominating central authority or maybe some crazy decentralized internet world? Who knows ? I know I don’t, but I do know I can make my kids as well prepared as possible.

So when it comes to giving advice for their kids I almost always answer with “JIU JITSU”.


Jiu jitsu teaches you to problem solve in a live setting where there are consequences to your actions. One of the earliest and most important lessons in jiu jitsu is that you make much better decisions when you are calm. Learning to be calm when someone is trying to physically control you takes some effort and is incredibly liberating once some acumen is developed.

Another important jiu jitsu lesson is that there is a technique to address your current predicament and if you know how to employ that technique you can make yourself safe. Knowing that solutions exist that anyone can do is one of the most empowering aspects of the art.

Jiu jitsu just like life, is a journey that sometimes is the most fun thing you have ever done, but sometimes can be very difficult and frustrating. Knowing that you can persevere the bad times by controlling your emotions and finding solutions is some of the most liberating and empowering things I have ever experienced.

Lastly, jiu jitsu is about the people that you train with. There is nobody who trains jiu jitsu that hasn’t felt the way you are feeling. The biggest toughest people have been humbled by smaller more skilled players . Everyone has felt super confident to only have the rug pulled out on them knowing they have to calm themselves down and overcome the obstacles through application of a learned solution. This reality filters out people that are too caught up in their egos to face the challenges. You are left with a group of people that want to learn and help the people around them. The collective striving to improve is amazing in a good jiu jitsu academy. Jiu jitsu is always about the journey and a big part of that journey is helping the people around you.

Life is like a poker game. Regardless of how good a player you are you still get dealt a random set of cards. A good player plays the cards dealt. No emotions, no complaining, just play the hand. Good players know when they are going on tilt. Jiu jitsu teaches you constantly about how to play the hand you are dealt. Adversity in life is inevitable. Remaining calm, giving the problem proper perspective and then developing the tools to persevere is the greatest gift one can give to themselves and their children.

I spent a career on Wall Street surrounded by people with almost endless means to prepare their kids for the future. I have never known anything as powerful as jiu jitsu. Not even a close second. It’s with good reason that Teddy Roosevelt said “Jiu Jitsu is worth more in every way than all of our athletics combined”.

I found jiu jitsu when I was 52. I was brought to it in a search of a way of coping with the anxiety created by our oldest son going to live away from home. In my 59 years I have tried everything to get my head in a good place. Nothing has been anywhere close to as effective as jiu jitsu. I wish I had found it earlier, but this is the hand I have been dealt.