About JEFFREY LEIKEN
My Story. Abbreviated.
Let me share with you a brief story about my own past to give you an idea of why I’ve made this commitment to make this my life work. I was born and raised in Peoria, IL. and was a nice Jewish kid from a second generation immigrant family. By the time I was born in 1968, there were already 5 Leiken Lawyers and I was destined to join the family practice and become the 6th.
When I was 9 years old, they sent me to summer camp at Camp Timberlane For Boys in Wisconsin.
That’s me bottom left, sitting next to Scott, my best friend who I met my first summer at camp. The next summer we made a vow to be one another’s Best Man in our weddings. Decades later, we were both one another’s Best Man in our weddings.
Camp gave me many things but the other one beyond friendship was the foundational experiences that shaped my career.
In 16 summers I spent at camp, I had countless moments where a Camp Counselor was able to, often with just a few well-timed words, make an enormous positive impact on a child’s life. I was captivated by how often they could say the same exact word that a parent or teacher might say, but coming from them, the child (especially with teens) would listen to it and internalize it.
It was out of the experience of being a Camp Counselor, that the idea of Evolution Mentoring was born.
My own journey as a teen and college student:
I was a high achieving high school student. I had a few friends, but we were all nerds. Only one of us had a girlfriend (not me). A few were athletes (not me).
But what bonded us together was our intense desire to grow up and make an impact in the world. It was the 1980s, the tail end of the Cold War and Reagan’s time in office.
During my Senior year of high school, my nerd friends and I met once a month at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria on Sunday afternoons. We would convene with the purpose of having intense debates about politics, philosophy, religion and issues impacting our world. Whereas typical teen guys talked sports and girls, we were trying to change the world.
We may not have been cool or popular, but I loved these guys. Every single one of them has gone on and become masterful in their careers: Surgeons, Engineers, Politicians, Entrepreneurs, one is an Astro-Physicist. All are long term married, responsible, honorable men. People from a small blue collar town like Peoria, IL don’t always go on and do things like that. People who have the discipline, ambition and priority of values, do – no matter what obstacles they may face.
In 1986 I left Peoria behind. I enrolled at Colby College, an elite private college on a spectacular hilltop 900 acre forest preserve in Maine. I loved the outdoors and spent nearly every weekend backpacking, mountain biking, cross country skiing or snow shoeing somewhere in the Maine wilderness.
Unfortunately, I continually felt like a fish out of water there. I was not a New Englander. I missed my Midwestern friends.
I thought what I was looking for must be elsewhere, so after two years, I transferred to middle America.
I spent the fall of 1988 at the University of Wisconsin. I made one friend there: my roommate. In fact, after four months there he may have been the only person who knew my name. I was not an extrovert. I was not particularly outgoing. A huge Big Ten school is great for someone who loves the crowds and excitement. I hated it.
After one semester, I left. No one supported my decision. My mother teared up and thought I was “dropping out”.
So January 5, 1989 I flew to San Francisco.
It was the day my life truly began.
Up until then every decision I had made was burdened by someone else’s expectations and influenced by how I would be perceived in the eyes of others. This decision was truly mine.
Within a day, I got a job working at an agency as a counselor for kids from deeply troubled backgrounds. I moved in with the one friend I had who lived there. For 6 months, I slept on his living room floor.
I bought a 1979 Vespa P200 and in my free time, explored every inch of San Francisco and beyond. This photo is from the Bolinas Ridge up on Mt Tam in Marin County, the fall of 1989. (I finally sold it in 2012 for the same price I paid for it 23 years earlier, making it the SECOND best investment I ever made).
I was in love with living in San Francisco and I was ALIVE! I was finally happy to be where I was. I loved being able to be invisible in a big city when I wanted to be, and also being able to meet so many different and interesting people. I loved being able to do so much on any given day or night. It was where I belonged.
I also loved the work I did. I learned more in that job than I have in the rest of my jobs combined. Until I became a parent, it was the hardest job I’ve ever had.
The following fall I enrolled in the University of San Francisco. Though I majored in English, I would sneak into graduate classes in Counseling Psychology. I was typically the youngest one in those classes by 20 years.
I graduated with my BA from USF in 1991. It was a year late, as happens with transferring twice: I was on the 5 year plan. I was also selected Valedictorian. One of the greatest blessings of my life is that my Grandfather Ben Leiken (whom my second child is named after) lived long enough to come to my graduation and hear my speech.
Two years later, I enrolled in the USF Graduate School of Education. I earned my MA in Educational Counseling, and a Pupil Personnel Services Credential.
I immediately started a 3 year career working as a Counselor with the most at-risk youth in the public school system in San Francisco.
It was there that one of the great epiphanies of my life happened:
I realized that all the training I’d had – personally and professionally – in the field of psychology, was basically worthless when it came to impacting change in the lives of these kids who had suffered so much and had so much going against them,
Teaching them to feel their emotions was not only useless, it was hurtful. I realized that these kids didn’t need to heal and recover from the things they’d been through. THEY NEEDED TO LEARN HOW TO LEAD AN AMAZING LIFE IN SPITE OF WHAT THEY’VE BEEN THROUGH OR WHAT OBSTACLES THEY’LL FACE. It was about LEARNING AND GROWING, NOT HEALING.
In 1994 I read a book that sealed the deal. It was called We’ve Had A Hundred Years of Therapy And The World’s Getting Worse.
I scrapped everything I’d learned up to that point and started fresh.
I quit my job. I tried to get rich in real estate and other silly ventures (yes for a while I was that annoying friend trying to get you to be a distributor and sell vitamins for a network marketing company).
I failed miserably and two years later I filed bankruptcy as I was nearly $90,000 in debt on credit cards.
Then in 1997, something magical happened. The phone rang and I was invited to come to a Summer Camp and speak to Camp Counselors about how to do their job effectively.
I am forever grateful that I answered The Call. This has only happened to me two times in my life: The first launched my career that has now taken me almost 3,000,000 miles around the world speaking to audiences of parents and professionals, and working with youth worldwide. [The other Call I answered (quite literally) led to me marrying my wife!]
That fall I started my private mentoring practice and my consulting business. Since I had no office, my first clients would either meet me at their home, a coffee shop or community space, somewhere they felt comfortable.
To get more experience, I took under my wing several of the highly at-risk inner city youth I’d worked with in the school system and did The Work the way I instinctively knew it needed to be done. All three of those teen boys have grown into phenomenal men – two of them hold Masters Degrees and one of them (without a college degree) is now in management for a major international corporation. One of them calls me every year on Father’s Day.
I knew I was onto something big. At the time I just didn’t realize how big.
It wasn’t until I made what turned out to be The Best Investment I ever made, that I began to see large scale results. This was my decision to enter into an apprenticeship with Joseph Riggio from Princeton, NJ.
Joe is still far and away the smartest, wisest and most effective personal growth and change expert I’ve ever known of (Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, Deepak Chopra, et al. couldn’t even stand in his shadow, that’s how far beyond and truly transformational his work is).
Learning and studying with Joseph, changed my life. I went from an insecure guy in the dating scene to a confident man who could approach anyone anywhere.
He helped me grow into a man who could make and keep commitments, act honorably and hold his own on the world’s stage.
With his guidance I grew a substantial business and now have a solid client base in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area (I live in Marin and have an office in Mill Valley). Heavily influenced by the methodology he taught me (combining somatics with one’s personal mythology – a methodology he named The MythoSelf® Process and of which I am now a Master Trainer), combined with the benefit of having acquired over 50,000 hours of experience working with thousands of youth, I can now typically very quickly identify “what is going on” with an adolescent, what needs to happen and, for the right person, can often be the one who can make it happen.
In 2016 I published my first book: Adolescence Is Not A Disease:
In it I argue that there is no need for any parent to become an expert in raising children… and that anyone who claims to be the expert with the right formula, is full of shit.
Parents only need to become the expert in how to raise their own unique children: figuring out what works for them given who they are and the challenges they will face.
The second part of the book I explicate how adolescence – the journey from being a child to becoming an adult, is a 3 stage journey. There is a distinct question they seeking to answer/resolve in each stage. Giving them the right experiences and lessons, helps them resolve these issues.
Every college student I work with (now half of my clients) is in the second stage, and most are still struggling with aspects of the first stage.
They don’t yet know who they are well enough to make high quality decisions for themselves and they are still too often distracted by their image and status socially.
One of the first things I do with them is begin answering these questions and getting themselves oriented on the right path for them… often this is not the easy path and sometimes it is not a path others would want for them… but it is the right path.
In 2002 I started a program called HeroPath with my colleague Des Barry who lives just outside of London. We have now run Heropath weekend programs in England, Ireland, Mexico, the United States and New Zealand. The entire focus is on helping older teens to find their life direction… helping them identify career paths as well as the right opportunities to invest in and people to connect with.
In 2014 I began working in partnership with the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, to provide the HeroPath program and coaching to teens and young adults who have hemophilia. I continue to explore new connections to grow this program, currently looking to expand to China in 2018.
I live with my wife and two daughters in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. They tolerate a ton with my clients who call and text at all hours of the day and night, and my frequent travel often multiple times a month (mostly to New York). They also remind me constantly that every one is on their own journey in life and my deepest wish is to help others to do what my wife and I most want to do for our children, to launch them into an amazing, extraordinary and rich life of substance, connection, contribution and satisfaction.
It will be an honor to play a role in helping you to do this for your kids as well.
Learn more about Jeffrey’s Private Practice & Evolution Mentoring for teens and young adults: www.Leiken.com