Note: Following is an interview I conducted with homeschool graduate Arlen Busenitz for the Home Educating Family magazine. Check out the latest Spring 2012 issue for tons of great articles on a wide variety of topics!
When did you begin homeschooling, and what did you think of it?
I was home schooled starting at kindergarten. It was a great experience. Mom kept us on a schedule, but gave us time to pursue other areas as well. I was interested in farming, so I spent extra time researching and writing papers on it. I also spent many hours outside working on our farm.
Did your parents do anything specific that helped cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit?
They encouraged me to pursue my ideas. Through high school I created a couple of computer games called “Catch” & “Paddle Ball.” Ever heard of them? They could have been the next Pac-man, but fizzled out before they got off the ground. J A successful person told me, “You will have to experience a number of failures before you succeed. The quicker you get the failures out of the way, the sooner you will succeed.”
Right after high school, my parents started selling vegetables at the farmer’s market. I cleared some space in the back of the pickup and hauled in 500 pounds of landscape rocks. People bought, and my first real business started. For two years I sold rocks and earned enough to help pay for college, my first car, and 21 sessions at the chiropractor. My parents did what all parents can do: encourage their kids in their areas of interest and give them space to pursue them.
You speak on a variety of different topics, including the importance of a balanced approach to dating and courtship. Could you share a few points on this topic that might be helpful for parents and young people approaching this stage of life?
I have observed the negatives of both casual dating and strict courtship. Numerous romantic flings can cause young people to give their heart away many times and enter marriage with regrets and baggage. On the flip side, strict courtship can also leave a path of broken hearts. I have seen deep hurts caused by pressure from strict rules, ending relationships unnecessarily, and well-meaning parents driving away legitimate suitors.
What’s the answer? Don’t follow a system, a book, or what everyone else is doing. Use wisdom and biblical principles. Every situation will look different. What’s best for 18-year olds may not be best for 27-year olds. Here are some tips I have found helpful:
- Focus on building friendships.
You don’t have to date around to find out which personalities you click with. Build friendships with the opposite sex. Hang out with friends. In this safe environment you can discover what you want in a spouse.
- Do not stir up love before its time.
Solomon mentioned this in Song of Solomon. This will solve 90+% of dating/courting problems. Giving your heart away too soon, stirring up desires in the other person you can’t fulfill, and talking about marriage prematurely will create additional heartache. This is not just a problem for casual dating. Numerous guys and girls have mentioned the overwhelming pressure of a strict courtship. It takes time to build a relationship without having to determine in the first month if you’re going to get married or not.
- Make decisions out of wisdom, not fear, pride, or what others think.
I know of a case where a father would not let his 33-year old daughter ride to church with a Christian guy because a book said that was not a good idea. Use some wisdom. In the same way, just because every other 16-year old girl is going out Friday night does not mean it’s a wise idea. Every parent, daughter, and son should ask, “Am I doing what’s best for the relationship, or am I acting out of pride, selfishness, or fear of what others will think?”
- Guard your heart
Don’t give your heart away to someone unless you are both positive you will get married. Let it go slowly. Many give away their heart repeatedly through casual dating. Don’t get serious too soon. Strict courtship has burned some of my friends because marriage plans were in the works too quickly.
- Date only someone who is a potential spouse and break it off if you don’t see it going anywhere.
If you get romantically attached to someone whom you can’t or shouldn’t marry, you’ll both get hurt. In the same way, why stay in a relationship if one or both of you don’t see it working out?
- Treat the opposite sex like you want your future spouse treated.
A common question is: “How far is too far?” How do you want another guy or girl to treat your future spouse? Do the same. Walk in wisdom. Honor God. Build character. Do this and you’ll successfully navigate the path through singleness and into marriage.
What other topics do you like to speak on?
Currently, I am focusing on two main topics. First, helping people overcome their fear of public speaking and equipping them to be better speakers. I do this through speaking, coaching, teaching classes, and writing.
Second, I help people Shrink the GapTM in their life. All of us have gaps between where we are and where we want to be. It could be with finances, relationships, time management, health, etc. After much research and experimentation I have found practical strategies that enable a person to Shrink the Gap in every area of life. I’ll be releasing more of these on my blog at ShrinktheGap.com.
You used to be shy as a child, but now you’ve given over 650 presentations in four different countries. What happened?
First, my parents “strongly encouraged” me to take a public speaking class and go through leadership training. Public speaking is a great way to break free from shyness. In the classes I teach, shy people are often the best speakers.
Second, I learned that shyness is a form of selfishness. When a shy person is standing in the corner not talking to anyone, they are thinking about themselves and their negative feelings. I coach people to get out and focus on other people. When you focus on making other people feel important and have a good time, you will break free from shyness.
Third, when I started selling rocks at the farmers market, I was making ten cents an hour. My selling skills and people skills were poor. I hit the local library and checked out dozens of books on people skills, selling, and conversation skills. I applied what I learned, sales took off, and I was able to make friends fast. Many of these concepts are in my book Conversation Magic: Improve Your Conversation Skills in One Evening.
What tips do you have for others who want to become more effective communicators?
Practice, Practice, Practice. If you’re a parent, train your children to look at others when talking. Have them give “off-the-cuff” speeches where they stand up and talk for one minute on a designated topic.
If you are over 18, join Toastmasters. There are thousands of clubs across the United States. Going to one would be a good field trip for a home school family (students younger than 18 can observe).
Check out Speakinginfo.com for lots of additional resources!