A Unique Teen Leadership Blog!
Russell Bernstein was born in Miami, FL and currently resides in Orange, CT. He has a Masters Degree in Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University and extensive experience working in the healthcare field. He tours schools spreading bullying awareness and talks about his book, Doodles: When Art and Magic Collide. Information on his speeches and book can be found at www.bullytalks.com. Russell’s second book in the series, Doodles Lanhorn and the Quest to Save Inner Earth is slated to be available for preorder on November 3rd, 2015.
- Russell, did you always know that you wanted to serve others and help today’s youth?
I have always had an affinity for helping others. I found that I have a natural talent for running groups to teach and reinforce vital skills and values with children that require more attention and have mental and learning disabilities. Helping others makes me feel complete, and as I talk about in my talks at schools, changing the world may seem a daunting task in its entirety, but the little steps add up and can ultimately lead to change.
- Can you walk us through how you first got started in your career path?
I started writing in college and got discouraged with it being such a difficult task in completing a book. I set the book aside to collect dust, or the equivalent term for sitting on a flash drive. Years later I took another try at it. When I was published for my first book, I volunteered at local places to speak about the underlying themes in my book. I found that my skills as at running groups in the healthcare sector translated well into talking to large groups of students. My efforts have spread all by word of mouth and I am now sought after to speak, which brings affirmation to my efforts.
- How did you handle the bumps in the road? Were there any moments when you wondered if all your hard work was worth it?
My first book was rejected almost sixty times. If I had given up at any one of those rejections, and believe me I felt like it many times, I would not be where I am today. I kept going because I knew I had a strong story and an even stronger message to impart with the youth of today. I feel fortunate and blessed to have my hard work and perseverance pay off.
- I’m wondering if you can help us understand what you attribute your success to.
Perseverance is important. Writing can be very subjective. It can also be that an agent or publisher’s case load is too full at that moment or they are just not looking for your type of book, or the market is too saturated at the moment. So many puzzle pieces have to fall in to place. But, as Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss every shot you don’t take”. If it is something you are passionate about, whether it be writing, sports, music, or whatever, pursue it.
- What do teens need today more than anything else?
Kids need a support system. They also need to know how they can handle situations such as bullying. Knowing before something happens is so important. Kids need to feel that they can get help without getting ridiculed or bullied worse. That fear sometimes prevents them from opening up.
- What would you tell a teen who was struggling?
What I tell everyone that I speak to is that if I can teach them one lesson it is that you have to talk to someone. I want the kids that are struggling to address it right away rather than wait until it has reached a boiling point where they feel trapped and either lash out against others or themselves. For parents with kids who are struggling, I tell them that it is vital that you help the kids understand that you are always there for them, but if there is a subject matter they do not feel comfortable discussing, here is a list of people that you can talk to. It makes a tremendous difference to a kid to know they have a wide support network in place prior to anything happening.
- Russell, what else do you want to tell us about what you do and what you want to eventually be doing?
I am very passionate about talking to children at schools and programs. I plan on continuing to do so and am truly looking for more books in the Doodles series to be released so children have even more adventures to go on with me.
- Can you please share with all of us something else that I should have asked you?
I have a unique writing method and will continue to use this method throughout my career. We are taught at an early age that writing has to be done a certain way, a thorough outline completed and a sentence structure adhered to, and while this is all very good fundamental knowledge, I think it takes some of the fun out of the writing. I like to have an idea of the story and world, understand the characters and their motivations, and then place them in situations and figure out how to get out of those conflicts. It makes it more fun for me because I discover what happens next as I write, making the process more fun. I also come across many more discoveries of the characters in this method because I am thinking from their point of view. Then you can go back and edit and proofread accordingly.
- How can people get in touch with you if they have additional questions?
I encourage anyone to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, advice, further information on my talks, etcetera.
Thanks for your time Russell and keep up the good work! Our youth needs more people like you!
Author and Speaker of the Granddaddy’s Secrets teen leadership book series.