Traditional education has long served as a foundational pillar in societal progress. Yet, its inclination to prioritize academic success over the holistic development of children remains a predominant concern. As students invest countless hours in classroom learning, more than 90% of the students are struggling to reap its full benefits. This results in unmotivated learners and a sense of disillusionment among parents and educators. This podcast addresses that critical imbalance head-on.

Introducing Aligned Learning Revolution, the podcast that re-envisions student learning for today's rapidly evolving landscape. It serves as a beacon for those seeking to supplement the conventional education model with rich, applicable learning experiences beyond traditional limits. Join a voyage of discovery that elevates the educational dialogue with insights from parents, teachers, and thought leaders who are altering the rules of student engagement and learning efficacy.

The show joins a diverse group of people who express their discontent with the current education system and offer their well-informed opinions on necessary changes. Listen to parents whose children deal with the challenges of a system that seems to be against them and how these families have successfully managed to navigate through standardized education to showcase their children's unique talents and abilities.

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Making Excellence Your Average With Mike Oster

May 09, 202436 min read

What if you could make excellence your average? Whether it’s at work, in leadership, or in our family life, it would most certainly change the way you do things and view your goals. In this episode, Mike Oster shares how this came to be his life philosophy. Mike has been a beacon of motivation and inspiration for over two decades delivering powerful presentation to numerous groups and organizations. His journey is nothing short of remarkable from his time working in the Fortune 500 company to serving as an elected official and successfully running private businesses. Mike's diverse background has shaped his unique perspective on life and Leadership. Not only he excelled in the corporate world, but Mike has also served our country with honor wearing the uniform of the United States of America in South Dakota Army National Guard as a combat veteran. Tune in for more of his insights and wisdom!


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Making Excellence Your Average With Mike Oster

I am thrilled to introduce our special guest, Mike Oster. Mike has been a beacon of motivation and inspiration for over two decades delivering powerful presentations to numerous groups and organizations. His journey is nothing short of remarkable. From his time working in a Fortune 500 company to serving as an elected official and successfully running private businesses, Mike’s diverse background has shaped his unique perspective on life and leadership.

Not only has he excelled in the corporate world, but Mike has also served our country with honor, wearing the uniform of the United States of America in the South Dakota Army National Guard. As a combat veteran, he bravely served in both Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom bringing a wealth of experience and resilience to everything he does. Mike, I’m so excited, and thank you for being here. One of the big components of your life will honor that.

I appreciate that. I joined the military when I was a senior in high school. I was seventeen years old. My dad was a Korean War veteran. He used to show us the slide shows of when he served in Korea. He would get very excited telling us about those stories and the different things that he did. It got me excited about wearing the uniform. I watched all my brothers and sisters go to college and so I wanted to do that as well.

I found this thing called the National Guard and that allowed me to do military service and go to college. I honestly thought I would do 6 or 8 years. There were some college benefits. It would allow me to wear the uniform for a while. Through a lot of different things happening along the way, good things. I became an officer and I got some great assignments. Fourteen years in, I got a full-time position that I thought was going to be temporary.

We moved the family and went to a new location and did that for a while, thinking I would get out of that after maybe two years at the very most. In the middle of that, 9/11 happened. That created some new opportunities for assignments and different things. Thirty-six years later, I finally retired. I had an awesome career and awesome opportunities along the way. I met incredible people who served with me and had great people serve for me.

Aligned Learning Revolution | Mike Oster | Excellence

It’s one of the best decisions I ever made in my life and such a privilege to be able to do that. During my service, I ran the recruiting battalion for our state for two years. I watched so many young men and women who went to the military entrance processing station trying to join the military and were turned away for a myriad of reasons, academic reasons, moral reasons, or physical reasons.

Far more people trying to serve but were not able to. It reminded me. It was a privilege to serve. Military people get thanked for their service all the time, but we need to be thankful that we were allowed to serve because it is such a privilege. It’s a sacrifice certainly for the service member and the family, but it’s also a privilege. I had a great experience and was blessed to be able to do it.

Thank you for your service from all of us. I want to take this further. You said your dad was the one who modeled it for you, then that sparked an interest in you.

If you’re lucky, you were raised by a father who’s your hero and whom you look up to. I was certainly lucky to have one of those dads. We grew up on a farm, so he was a hard worker. He taught me about work ethic, values, trust, and integrity. He was a community volunteer and a service person. He was an elected official. He served as a county auditor. He did a lot of things.

One of which was serving in the military. The thing that got me excited was he was a fantastic storyteller. When he would tell us about serving in the military, he would tell these great stories. I’m sure they were embellished at some level to make them more entertaining. I was mesmerized by watching him story tell. I also watched him present to groups for a variety of different things.

Watching him in front of groups of people is probably what made me want to be a professional speaker because he would own the room. I would see people respond to him and come up to him afterward and talk to him. I thought, “I want to do that someday.” Both the military service and the public speaking are probably a result of watching him do what he did.

Our show is for parents. Many in our audience are parents. I wanted to touch on that fact. How important was that for you to look up to your dad? He provided that example for you.

I’m very lucky and privileged to grow up in a house with two parents. Both are very loving and supportive. Not without challenges. My dad was also recovering alcoholic multiple times to treatment and different things. He had his challenges and demons. We dealt with those as well. That also showed me that you don’t have to be perfect to be a parent. You have to want to be good and do the right things.

Even he had some failures. Probably, the lesson learned there was that failure can be an event. It doesn’t have to be your entire life. I was fortunate to have great brothers and sisters too who helped me see some things from those perspectives that maybe I wouldn’t have been able to had I not had a close family. Having them around, most of it is positive. Quite frankly, some of the challenges probably made me stronger, a better leader, a better friend, and maybe a better husband and father, even for me, seeing some of those things.

It’s all important if we can keep it in perspective that even the hard times can be very beneficial if we can get through them and go back and see what we learned and how we got stronger from them. I’ve got four kids. I’ve been a parent. My son is 35 years old and I have certainly made a ton of mistakes, but I am so proud of the kids that we raised. A lot of that is because I was raised by great parents. Not perfect parents and I certainly wasn’t either. I feel very blessed for that.

That’s amazing because a lot of us think that if your dad is an alcohol alcoholic, there’s science and everything points towards that, especially the sons. They tend to be also alcoholics, which was the case for my family. My dad was and my brother is to this day, but that wasn’t your case.

I’ve got two brothers. One passed away at a young age, but neither one of us nor none of the kids have succumbed to that idea. I do think there’s a genetic predisposition if you’re not careful about it, at least education that we got through or going through different treatments or him going through those. The family does some of that and does some education on it. We are cognizant of that and maybe because of that, awareness has been very careful about that in our lives. We’ve been fortunate not to have that continue genetically through at least our generation.

How was your mom’s relationship during this time? Your dad went to war and left you guys some time too because that separation and all the military family also causes a lot of drift rate.

My father served in Korea before getting married to my mother. This was before the kids and before the wife. Before any of those things. They got married a few years after he returned from Korea and was completely out of the military by the time many kids came along. We didn’t have to deal with that as kids. My children dealt with that with my service and the deployments that I did to Iraq and Afghanistan. We went through some of those challenges. As we talked about it in our household, there were so many people deploying at that time if you were a military family.

The perspective that we took on was it was a privilege to serve. If I needed to go and they needed to be in that support role, they should be proud of that. It’s going to be hard but they should be proud of the fact that they have something to do with what’s happening in our country and in a way, they’re serving as well. Fortunately, our kids for the most part embrace that. Not without challenges but for the most part, it was a positive experience.

How much of their life did you miss being in the middle of?

A couple of years. All totaled probably a little more than that between schools and deployments and different things. Maybe close to three years total of their lives at different stages and levels. There’s a twelve-year difference between the oldest and the youngest and two in between. Very different stages of life as we went through those things.

The first time I deployed, my oldest son was in his mid-teens and high school. That created a certain level of challenges. The youngest one at that time was three years old. That created a whole different level of challenges. The teenager is old enough and you can see they’re expressing it very clearly. As the youngest one, maybe we didn’t know some of the things he was going through at the time. In hindsight, you wish you knew some of those things ahead of time, but you go through them and try to figure them out.

Now your kids are older. If a young parent is tuning in to this, what’s your recommendation in terms of the world has changed? The children are growing up in a different environment now than ever before. Parents are having such a tough time managing, balancing, and figuring out what’s right and wrong. What’s your advice?

My advice for the most part is to persevere and push through. There’s no right answer for everything that you’re going to deal with. I’ve said it before and I’m sure other people have said it too. If somebody could write a book with all the answers for parenting, they would be a very rich person because we’d all buy a copy. Every experience is so unique.

If somebody could write a book with all the answers for parenting, they would be a very rich person.

I look back and the things that we struggled with or the challenges I expect my kids to think about and go, “That was horrible.” That’s not their memory or perspective of it. Some of the things that were amazing, they’re like, “Eh.” You don’t even know when you’re going through it what their actual perspective is on it. It’s like anything else. You see the situation at the time. You make the best of that situation and you push through it. Anything you can glean from it going forward is an opportunity for growth for everybody.

Once it’s happened, there’s nothing I can do about it. If I’m living in the past and dwelling on that. It’s super unhealthy. If I get through it, it’s okay to then realize and recognize that we got through it. We can talk about it, but only from the standpoint of trying to learn from it. If I could do some things over, I would let the event be the event and understand that it’s just an event and not a way of life, and try to learn from it and move forward. That would probably be the biggest thing. It’s going to keep coming at you, raising kids and living life. It’s going to keep coming. You deal with it the best you can at the time, learn from it, and move forward. Always move forward.

Deal with challenges the best you can at the time, learn from it, and move forward.

Take it as a season in your life. All the military veterans come back into the real world and their normal life. It’s always hard for them. A lot of people go through a lot of hard stages to get back into it. Did you have to go through that or were you prepared to come back?

That’s another funny perspective in hindsight. When I came back the first time, I thought I did very well. We were briefed on that, educated on it, and prepared for it. I honestly thought I got through that pretty well. Several months down the road, when I was doing very well, my kids pointed out, “Dad, when you came home, you were in a different place. You were not the same person.” I thought I was.

I thought I wasn’t going to let that affect me or impact me. They saw something that even I thought I didn’t recognize. They had education for them as well. Your service member may be a little different. The biggest thing in hindsight and I see a lot of service members even now and it’s not just deployment related. Anytime they’re in a situation where they have a tremendous sense of purpose or a tremendous feeling that what they’re doing matters, and all of a sudden, that has taken away from them, there’s a struggle there.

That’s true of everybody but we see it clearly in the military, at least I did. I call it loss of purpose PTSD. I’m so ingrained and so focused and so locked into what I need to be doing, and then I get home from that deployment. All of a sudden, I have an 8:00 to 5:00. I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m doing it and I get into an immediate rut.

Maybe it’s not full-blown depression, but it’s depressive. You start to feel different. I went through that because I came back to a job that I wasn’t crazy about. That had an impact on me. That recognition by them more so than me was an interesting realization that even when you don’t think you’re going through something or you think you’re putting on that façade. The people who know and love you can see what’s going on.

How does that affect your relationship with your wife? When people leave and come back, it’s like you’re going through depression. It’s hard for them to come back.

They see the struggle and want to help but they don’t know how because it’s very new. When it’s that specific to a military situation, then it’s a challenge for them. The military does a fairly good job of trying to educate you that these things are coming and be ready for them. It’s still a struggle and something you’ve got to work through and try to figure out. It is one of those things that you hope you have a strong enough relationship that you’re going to be able to push through those things.

We were fortunate that we did. My wife is good about figuring out a way to call me out on things without calling me out and creating conflict. I’m very fortunate that way as well. We push through them. As people say, “If you get through it what you go through and get through, it makes you stronger on the other side.” It certainly did for us. We’ve been married for many years. We’re very blessed to have a very awesome relationship and enjoy it. We talked about enjoying being empty nesters and having more time together than we ever had before.

In your time of service, was there any moment that taught you something so profound when you were in that?

Probably the biggest life lesson for me related to my military service was when I got a call saying, “You’re going to get this battalion commander position and you’re going to deploy with this battalion and probably have 1,200 people under your command.” Having that anxious moment of, “What if something terrible happens and I have to write that letter home to a parent or a spouse or a child?”

The realization was and it came from a mentor of mine. It was, “What do you do to prepare for that horrific situation so that you can sleep again someday after it happens?” His advice was, “All you can do is all that you can do.” That didn’t resonate right away with me, but as I walked away and started thinking about it, if you do everything possible to prepare, there’s only so much you can do.

You can do everything you can do. You don’t cut anything. You don’t take shortcuts. You don’t skip anything. You do everything you can possibly do to prepare, but then you have to remember that the enemy gets a vote. Not just in combat, but in life. I can do everything right, but the enemy is going to get a vote. As long as I’ve done all I can do, I’m going to be able to live with that at some point. Not right away.

It’s still going to be hard, but if I do all I can do, I don’t ever have to have any regrets that I wish I would have, because I’ve done everything I can do. That realization for me made me decide that I need to do everything at a level of excellence. I need to do everything I can possibly do and that’s where my mantra of living where excellence becomes your average came from.

It’s not just important in combat. It’s important in life. If you want to be a great father, great husband, great volunteer, great business person, or great educator, a methodology that I’m going to live where excellence is my average and do all that I can do. If I’m going to spend my time on it, then I’m going to spend it at a level of excellence. That came from you’re going to combat with a thousand soldiers and you’re in charge. I’m going to do things differently than I’ve been doing things. That was my realization and where it came from.

That’s beautiful. I love how you connected that to what you’re doing now. Tell us about what you are doing now. You are a motivational inspirational speaker.

I’m keynoting and training and doing those kinds of things. I’m also a performance excellence coach, trying to help people understand that they can live in a place where excellence becomes their average. The thing that I find most people is holding most people back is themselves. I’ve seen that in myself. I’ve seen it in the people around me. I’ve seen it in my soldiers

They talk about accomplishing things, goals, and dreams, but they don’t think deep down inside they can get there. It’s that self-doubt or inability to see their best self and believes in their best self that keeps them from getting there. I’ve made it my mission now to work with those people either in group coaching or individual coaching and help them understand and do the things, put the things in place in their life that will allow them to truly believe they can get there.

That’s not going to get them there overnight, but it’s going to put them on a whole different path where they can start doing everything at a level of excellence. They can start to see that progress and get to their best self and whatever that is for them. That’s my new passion. That’s what I’m working on and enjoying. I still love to go out and keynote and do motivational talks because it has an impact on people.

I’m fortunate to have the background that I do to have worked with amazing people and a God-given ability to stand in front of people and tell stories like my father did and make an impact. I get done sometimes and I come off of the stage or off the front podium and people will say, “Tell me what you said about this.” I honestly don’t know what I said because sometimes, I feel like I’m the vehicle and the message is coming from a different place. When you’re given that gift, I feel like I need to be out there using it. I’ve been so privileged to have a career in the military that I was passionate about and now this one. I’m blessed to get up every day loving what I do.

What else did that experience set you up for what you’re doing now? You said about that one thing that you learned. You do your best. There’s some excellence. What else did it give you to what you’re doing now?

A realization that most of us go through in life. Not having the moment when you get that realization that your best matters here. It made me start recognizing in other people that they’re living at 75%. They think that’s it. They think that’s what they’ve got. This is probably a little bit of an aggressive analogy, but when I was running the recruiting division, we had some recruiters who couldn’t seem to get anybody to join.

It wasn’t because we had a bad product. We had a fantastic product. We had kids out there who wanted to serve. They couldn’t quite get to where they were putting the right effort in to make it happen. There’s no threat of being fired when you’re in the military. You get reprimanded. You don’t get fired. The realization for them was that I had to get them in the mindset of, “If you don’t get anybody recruited this month, you’re not going to get a little bit of extra pay. Maybe you’re going to get reprimanded.” That’s not enough incentive.

What if your family depended on it? What if you lost your family if you didn’t get somebody in? They’re responsible. If it was that important, I would get somebody in. What’s the difference? The difference is your mindset. Getting in the mindset of, if you’re going to get my time, you’re going to get it at a level of excellence. Otherwise, don’t give me your time. Go give it somewhere else where you can find the passion and the commitment to work at a level of excellence being your average.

It’s that realization that people sometimes haven’t had the opportunity or the moment in time that gives them that perspective. I like helping people see that and find that perspective and watch them go, “Wow,” and live in a whole new place. It helps their relationships. It helps them as a volunteer. It helps them as a parent. It’s incredible. The rewards from all of those different things are all a result of seeing that and having that a-ha moment for me.

Can a person from their perspective see the level of excellence they can reach? Sometimes, we’re only able to envision from what we are currently at.

That’s exactly right. I get that response from people that, “What if I can’t get there? What if that’s unattainable for me?” My first thing is it’s a level of excellence in your mind. It’s your level of excellence. You’re not competing against anybody else. You’re competing against you. If I’m here today and I’m here tomorrow, that’s winning. That’s living in excellence. That’s a new level of excellence now, but you’re not competing against me. I’m over here competing against myself.

The first thing is to stop worrying about everybody else and what they’re doing and worry about you. You can absolutely up your game because wherever you’re at, there’s room for growth. That’s why I call excellence the average. There’s a level above excellence that on certain days when you’re in the zone, you’re going through the motions. You’re spectacular or whatever that word is for you above excellence.

It’s the realization that excellence is in the eye of the beholder. You’re not competing against others. You’re competing against you. You grow every single day, get better every single day, and do things at a level where you can walk away holding your head high and being proud of the work you’re doing instead of just getting by. It changes who you are, which changes how you are. When we get better at who we are, we get better in everything that we do.

Can I compare excellence to being successful? People say, “Success is a measure of what success looks like for you.” Is it something like that for excellence?

I think so. If it’s not, I would say your success bar is not high enough. The two should be very similar. You should be hoping to be at a level of excellence. They could be very much the same and if you’re not agreeing with that, then maybe you need to raise your bar for success. If you’re going to spend your time on something, be committed enough and passionate enough that you want success to be at a level of excellence. Therefore, they would be very similar.

Would that level go up to one level? We’re not comparing to anyone else, just myself. If I reach excellence, I can set up another goal to reach another excellence level.

That’s exactly right. If I set some goals and fitness, the first set of goals that I set to reach that goal would be my excellence at that time. Once I reach that, now that’s my normal. Maybe that’s my baseline. My level of excellence is going to be the next level. That level of excellence is going to be growing and changing as we go forward and it’s all relative. If I were getting older, the goal that I had when I was 30 for fitness would have been excellent at age 30. I’m not going to have that goal at age 50, but that goal can still be excellent because, at my age, it’s still going to be at a level that’s beyond average. It’s ever-changing for sure. No matter what it is. That level of excellence for you is changing as you change.

Is there a certain age group that you work with within your coaching?

As far as the coaching goes, it’s professionals that are in the career field and doing the things in their work life where they’ve got different things that they’re working with. I don’t coach youth, high school kids, or college kids. It’s adults essentially.

What would you say to a younger person from your experience and what you have gone through? We are the average of the five people we hang out with. The excellence can come from that measure too. I can just become average of the people that I hang out with.

I say the same thing. We become the average. I told my kids that as they were growing up, “If you’re hanging out with people that are doing bad things, you’re going to do bad things. If you’re hanging out with kids that are doing good things, you’re going to do good things.” It’s a product of our environment. There are so many studies that prove that to be true.

I don’t coach youth, but I do speak to youth. When I speak to youth, I talk to them about the same things. You’re competing only against you. I tell kids almost always when I get an opportunity, “What other people think about you is none of your business. If your morals, ethics, and values are where they need to be, then stop worrying about what everybody else is thinking about you.” Unfortunately, with social media, it’s very easy for people to lash out and say negative things about other people. That’s why youth in particular have to be very careful about caring too much about what other people think.

My first thing for them is to get yourself right. Know you’re doing the right things morals, values, and ethics, then focus on yourself. The second thing is, if you truly believe in yourself, that self-doubt is prevalent in all of us, but in some cases, in youth, it’s even harder because they’re going through so many different things. It’s that self-belief in themselves.

Honestly, it’s about saying to themselves, “I’m a great person. I can do great things. I matter. I’m loved. I’m going to make a difference in the world.” I give them those positive affirmations and say, “You need to start telling yourself this every day 4 or 5 times a day that you can overcome the things that are going to come at you hard in your youth.” They don’t all come from a home with two parents, two kids, and a dog in a white picket fence.

They’re going through something or they’ve gone through something or they’re going to go through something. I try to help them understand that it’s a moment in time. No matter what you’re going through, you’re loved, you’re awesome, you make a difference, and you’re valued. They need to tell themselves that because they’re the only ones who will be constant throughout their lives. People will come into their lives and go out of their lives. They have to love themselves, believe in themselves, and know that they can make a positive difference in the world.

As long as they’re telling themselves that, they’re going to be on a path to win. Pick the right five people to hang out with because that’s going to matter to it. If you’re at the top of those five people, look for another group of five people. If you’re trying to bring everybody up, that means they’re bringing you down. I’m not saying to get rid of your friends. I’m saying make sure you always have a group of people that you’re affiliated with that are bringing you up.

How would one know that I’m not paying at my top level of excellence? How do I spot it if I don’t notice?

That’s where you have to have that self-awareness where you have to understand and know internally. It’s that gut feeling where you know you didn’t quite give it 100%. I was a track runner in high school, and I could tell at the end of a race if I gave it my all or didn’t give it my all. That analogy is true in about everything that we do.

If I go to take a test and I know I’m not prepared, I know I’m not prepared. I can try to lie to myself. I know when I’m lying to myself. It’s checking yourself and being honest with yourself and you know where you’re at, what level you’re at, and what effort you’re putting in. It’s having the intestinal forward to not be honest with yourself, but then do something with that.

Is there anything you want to tell the young children who are growing up in this world with everything available to them?

Make good choices. There are so many things out there. Many things are being presented to them. Some of which are very negative. Maybe they give you that immediate self-fulfillment, but the long-term is going to be negative and distracting. The two lessons I was ever taught were if you see something negative happening, especially if it’s happening to somebody else. If you see something, you have to say something. That takes tremendous courage.

If you see something negative happening, you have to say something. That will serve you well for your entire life

That will serve you well for your entire life. The other thing is throughout life, you’re going to have an opportunity to either do the hard right or the easy wrong. The hard right will always take you in the right direction. The easy wrong will almost always take you in the wrong direction. See something, say something, and always do the hard right. Sort through those in your mind and get an understanding of what those mean. You will start to see things in life.

The hard right will always take you in the right direction. Always do the hard right.

As soon as now, you will see something where you know you should say something. You will have an opportunity to make a choice. One will be hard and right and one will be easy and wrong. As you start to see those things and you go in the right direction, you will start to see a difference in your life. It’ll make a positive difference not just for you but for the people around you.

Thank you. That’s beautiful. One last question I have for you is if a parent has a child who’s looking to go into the military, what’s the best way to support them?

A conversation about understanding why they want to go into the military and an open mind allowing them to express to you what they think they’re going to get out of it, what they think they’re going to gain, and the positive difference and impact that it could make on their life. Also, if I’m a parent of a child who wants to go into the military and I have a child in the military, it’s that understanding that even though I served, this is an opportunity for me to serve again by supporting a child in the military.

As a parent, understand as well that it’s not that child that’s going to serve. You’re going to serve in some capacity as well. It’s an opportunity for them, but be open-minded, have a conversation, understand why they want to do what they do, and then ask the person. If that child is thinking about going, ask them if you can go and visit with the recruiter with them so that you can better understand. There are a lot of misconceptions and a lot of misinformation about the military.

Becoming fully educated and understanding what they want to do and why they want to do it. Unless there’s some reason and I don’t know what that would be that it would be catastrophic for that child to go to the military, finding a way to support that if that’s their desire and be side-by-side with them because it is a challenge.

It’s hard to be in the military. You need a support network to be successful and have a positive experience. Figure out a way, have that conversation, visit with the recruiter with them, and figure out a way to be supportive of that decision because, at age eighteen, they can do it with or without parental consent. I think that the overall experience for everybody is so much better if they can do it together and support each other in that endeavor.

The overall experience for everybody is so much better if they can do it together and support each other in that endeavor.

Is your son in the military?

My son.

Did that come from seeing you and his grandfather or did he start getting it on his own this idea that, “I’m going to go into military?”

At least for us, it was very clear. My oldest son and oldest daughter, I probably pushed to join the military and they both pushed back and did not. Our youngest daughter and youngest son, we let decide. Our youngest daughter tried to join the military and had a heart murmur. Fortunately, they found it. We were able to get it fixed, but then she was disqualified from joining.

The two children we had that wanted to join. As I said before, we had one that was not allowed to, turned away like so many are, and one that was allowed to. I found the less that I pushed and let them make their own choice. They were seeing it certainly and what was going on. The less I pushed, the more interest that they showed. Certainly, it’s exposure to both my youngest daughter and son. Their exposure to all the things that went with that. The military does a great job with youth programs. They were involved in those too. That had a lot to do with it as well.

Thank you so much, Mike, for all your wisdom and your service to the country.

Thank you, Kohila. I appreciate it and thanks for what you’re doing. What you’re doing with education is incredible. I’m a big advocate of people learning in all different ways. The way we’ve always done it is not necessarily the way that we should always be doing it. I appreciate what you’re doing and applaud your goals for the number of people you want to affect. I do not doubt in my mind that you will accomplish that. God bless you. Thanks for what you do as well.

Thank you for that blessing, Mike.


That was a great conversation with Mike. I loved what he said about we’re the average of the five people we hang out with. We heard of that phrase so many times but we need to think about these words that we are being told. Sometimes, when they’re in sentences, we lose the meanings of some of these things that are being said, but calm and being mindful of stuff that we tell ourselves.

Now, when we are hanging out with some people who are not playing at their full potential, and they’re at their 20% potential. If we average ourselves down to what they are, we’re never going to get to our excellence. It’s not a comparison between another person and us. It’s within us. We have to have this excellence bar or even the success bar. What does success look like to you? What does excellence look like to you?

These are very important conversations parents, teachers, and coaches can have. Unfortunately, teachers don’t have time in the classroom. That’s why as certified neuro growth and learning success coaches, our coaches are trained to go into the details of where your child is playing. What is the level they’re playing at? Are they setting up the bar high for them? Why do we need to reach excellence? That’s what the world demands.

If we go into the workplace, that’s what they’re demanding. We need to prepare our children for that excellence. Otherwise, they won’t compete on a global scale. At the end of the day, the world revolves around them going into the workplace. They have to go into the workplace. Sometimes, parents’ teachers tell me that parents are all for their kids not doing work at school, or sometimes some parents say to leave them alone.

The thing is this is the place a child can learn how to work and work smart, not hard. Also, work their mind so that they can prepare for the future. This is the future preparation ground. It’s the school. Sometimes there’s a gap that’s happening. We’re not asking our children to play at a certain excellence. That excellence should be set by them and that comes from conversation. Every time I bring a guest, you can see and hear. Everyone says, “Have a conversation with your child.”

Even I asked Mike about what if a child wants to go into the military. What is his first advice? Have a conversation because when you are having a conversation and when you’re ready to listen to your kids, they are going to tell you exactly what they have in your mind and you can work with them. It’s no longer your opinion. He even said that his first two kids, he pushed them to go into the military. With the second two children, he never asked them to, but they wanted to.

This is the conversation that’s important in our family structure now that’s missing. It is a meaningful conversation. How do we create them? We carve out time for meaningful conversations. I’ve always said, “Go for a walk. Go for a drive and have a meaningful conversation with your child and see where their excellence bar is.” Who are they hanging out with? Are they setting their excellence bars low? If they are, why are they doing that? Can they change it? Can we erase it? At the end of the day, they do have to play in the real world.

The real world doesn’t allow them to not be anyone. The real world expects our kids to perform and be this and have 21st-century skills. We need to help our kids. That starts with a conversation. Again, another person points to the conversation. I know you might be looking for a big technique here that I’m going to tell or someone’s going to tell, but we’re all going to go back to that foundation, which is meaningful conversation.

My question to you is are you having a meaningful conversation? If you are trying to and you’re making an excuse, I would want you to retrain your mind for making that excuse and carve out ten minutes, I’m not asking for a lot, to have a meaningful conversation. It doesn’t even have to be every day. Even once a week, ten minutes will do a world of wonders versus nothing. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you to all the people who are in the military or any type of service, being on the front line and helping us all stay safe and well. Thank you and I’ll see you on another episode.

Important Links

About Mike Oster

Aligned Learning Revolution | Mike Oster | Excellence

Mike has been providing motivational and inspirational presentations to groups and organizations for over 20 years. His background includes working for a Fortune 500 company, serving as an elected official, owning, and operating private businesses, serving on several volunteer boards, and wearing the uniform of the United States Army through his service in the South Dakota Army National Guard. Mike is a Combat Veteran serving in both Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait and Iraq, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Mike recently retired after 36 years of service at the rank of Brigadier General.

Family dynamicsPersonal GrowthOvercoming ChallengesSelf BeliefParental Support
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Kohila Sivas

Kohila Sivas is a parent and a lifelong learner. She has been a classroom teacher at all levels and a Special Needs Instructor and is a Professional Math Interventionist, a Master NLP coach, and a #1 Best selling author.

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