How to Be an Adult with Julie Lythcott Haims

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

In this episode with Julie Lythcott-Haims, we discuss her new book, Your Turn: How to Be an Adult.

Takeaways We Learned from Julie…

Get ego out of the way,

This applies not only to leading in business but also to parenting. Instead of trying to shape our children into our image of what they should be, we should take a humble and curious approach, allowing them to become their best selves.

Don’t make childhood miserable.

Micromanaging and interfering with their development hinders their growth, just like it does in the workplace. By getting our egos out of the way and adopting a compassionate approach, we can create a nurturing environment for our children.

Leadership starts at home.

Recognize that leadership isn’t limited to business contexts. Being a leader as a parent involves setting an example, guiding, and empowering your children to become independent and responsible individuals.

Help humans thrive.

Passion lies in assisting individuals who face obstacles or internal challenges. The key is to listen to their fears and dreams, provide compassionate support, and offer guidance to help them navigate life’s journey.

Be in charge of yourself.

It’s crucial for young adults to develop a sense of agency and self-reliance. Embracing the responsibilities and opportunities of adulthood allows individuals to feel empowered, make their own decisions, and take control of their lives.

Reflect on role as parents.

We need to consider how our actions may contribute to our children’s disinterest in “adulting.” By creating a super cushy environment and constantly rescuing them from their responsibilities, we inadvertently hinder their desire for independence.

Instill the desire for independence.

Instead of enabling dependency, parents should focus on instilling a desire for independence in their children. Teaching them the value of problem-solving, accountability, and self-reliance will empower them to take charge of their lives and face challenges head-on.

Let life teach important lessons.

Julie highlights the significance of allowing life to teach our children important lessons. By stepping back and letting them experience the consequences of their actions, such as forgetting homework or facing financial limitations, they can learn valuable skills and develop a sense of responsibility.

Encourage immersive learning experiences.

Julie suggests providing immersive learning experiences for young adults. For example, she proposes giving an 18-year-old a few thousand dollars and a plane ticket to Europe, challenging them to navigate unfamiliar territory and learn to rely on themselves. Such experiences can foster growth, self-discovery, and independence.

Expand horizons with a passport.

Another way to open up possibilities for young adults is by getting them a passport. By giving them a passport, parents symbolically offer the idea that the world is open to exploration and that there are endless opportunities awaiting them beyond their familiar surroundings.

Focus on foundational skills.

Julie highlights the importance of nurturing foundational life skills during the 12 to 18-year timeframe. Parents should encourage their children to take responsibility for personal care, make decisions independently, develop good relationships, manage belongings, and plan for their future. Fostering these skills empowers young adults to navigate the challenges of adulthood successfully.

You matter.

The most important takeaway from Julie’s book is that every reader matters. She emphasizes the value of each individual, their significance in the world, and their right to lead a fulfilling life. Through inclusive storytelling and relatable content, Julie aims to make readers feel seen and understood, ultimately empowering them on their personal journeys.

About Julie Lythcott Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult and Real American. She holds a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MFA from California College of the Arts. She resides in the Bay Area with her partner, their two itinerant young adults, and her mother.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host Executive Business Coach, Allison Dunn. We are having a conversation with New York Times best selling author Julie Lythcott-Haimes, about her new book, Your Turn, How to Be an Adult. Julie, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Julie: Alli, great to be with you and your listeners.

Allison: I love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation. What would be your number one leadership tip for our parents, I think is the way I want to position the question today. For our listeners today.

Julie: Wow, we often don’t use the word leadership next to the word parent or parenting. So I just appreciate the possibility and that that you framed it that way. And I’m going to go deeply into my own personal journey with the answer I have a 23 year old and a 21 year old.


And I’m going to say good leaders have to get their own egos out of the way. And nowhere is that more true than in our own homes, when we’ve given birth to or adopted, or somehow a child has come into our life.

And too many of us think it’s our job to shape them into our image of what a human should be. And that is so arrogant. It is micromanagement interferes with their development, just as when we micromanage somebody in the workplace, with their growth and development and make it miserable for them. So let’s not make childhood miserable for our kids. Let’s get our egos out of the way and take a humble, curious approach to helping them become their best selves.

Allison: Yeah. I love the kind of a little twist that we have on this because we often talk about business and leadership and executive leadership and all of the tips around that. But leadership does start at home with our children.

Julie: Amen. Yeah.

Allison: Fantastic tip. Thank you. And so applicable to the, you know, obviously taking that right into the business. So why did you write this book?

Julie: Once upon a time, I was the dean of freshman at Stanford University, which is right up the road for me here in Palo Alto, California. And I loved that work. I did it for 10 years, I had other roles at the university. But that was my culminating role. I left 10 years ago to write a book about what I had observed in that role, which led to a career as an author. I wrote this book, your turn, how to be an adult, because my passion is helping humans thrive, particularly those who have obstacles in the way or obstacles internal.

My joy is in sitting with humans and listening to their fears and their dreams, and helping them figure out what they want to do with this life.

And so I wrote this book, because too many millennials, and now Gen Z’s are saying things like, I don’t know how to adult adulting is scary. Maybe I don’t even want to adult.

This is me as a 55 year old gen x er, knowing well, you gotta it’s imperative that you feel this sense of agency, the sense of I can do it. And also, I want to invite you into the deliciousness of, hey, it’s amazing to actually be in charge of yourself, instead of having someone else tell you what to do all the time. So, come on in, the water’s fine, like you’re gonna be alright, you know, let me listen well, as you know, in the form of being an author, who is, you know, is trying to imagine every reader Let me listen to what’s on your mind. Let me be compassionate. Let me share advice. Let me share good stories from other people who, you know, who are ahead of you on the road of adulting. So that you feel seen, supported, rooted for and not alone.

Allison: At my age, which is very similar to where you’re at. I do wonder when I’m actually I mean, I’ve been adulting for a long time, but I wonder when I’ll actually feel like an adult.

Julie: I think it’s not a destination. It’s not it’s not a destination, you arrive and like I’m done. I’m an adult, no. Mindset is a degree of acceptance that we are all in fact winging it. So it’s not about arriving at some place of Oh, I am the be all and end all know, to be an adult is to know things will go wrong. I will cope. opportunities will arise.

I’ll have to figure out which one is right for me next. Losses will happen I will you know, well in And then accept it and move on relationships are to be had, I will investigate and deepen the relationships that matter most to me, good work is to be had, am I doing good work that lights me up. It’s this continual, it’s giving the self permission to say our things now. And what do I want next to continual goal setting? It’s a continual learn and grow process, as opposed to I’ve arrived at the place of adulting perfection and I’m done.

Allison: I’m I love all of that. I’m curious, do you have like a definition of what it means to be an adult? Maybe I can see if I check the boxes yet?

Julie: Yeah. Well, there’s a, there’s a tripartite definition that I have for you, which is you have to you have to want to be an adult. So do you want to? Yes, you have to know how to be an adult, which is, you know, the skills of life of fending for yourself, you know, taking care of your bodies, your body, your bills, your business, your belongings, are you more or less responsible for those things, not perfect at it, but you kind of know, I’m in the driver’s seat. And do you have to be an adult, meaning there’s nobody with more money, or more control than you who is really in charge of your life, okay.

Where people who are quite wealthy can get tripped up if you came into life with a lot of wealth. And you’ve got a family and a family set of staff who are micromanaging, handling, paying for filling out fixing things for you, you could be 35 or 55. And not really adulting in your own life, because he’s very, you know, kind helpers are taking care of business for you. And that undermines your being able to be an adult, if someone else is in charge, no matter how lovingly intended or how, financially, you know, you know, endowed they are, you may not be fully adulting, because an adult makes their own decisions, makes their own choices, deals with their own problems they get themselves into, and rely on others for advice and guidance.

But an adult is in the driver’s seat of their own life, even for someone with significant disabilities and challenges. That person wants to be as capable as they can be in the face of those challenges. So it’s like a wheelchair, it’s like, I might need your help getting up on this particular, you know, pavement that has not been appropriately graded, but please don’t give me a minutes more help than I need. You know, every one of us has that intrinsic sense of No, it’s my life, I want to I want to take care of business. That’s fundamentally what it means.

Allison: Okay.  I appreciate the distinction. And even if someone is an adult, what some of the things that would hinder them from being fully in adulthood. I’m just gonna speak personally, I’ve got I got six children that are between the ages of 23 and 27. And they are all successfully adulting. And like, really like, like, ran into it and embraced it, you know, at 1819 20. And it just really surprised me. I mean, all of them are there. They’re all married. And they all have jobs they all have are doing the things that make them adults, right. They’re making their own decisions. They have babies, like all of those things.

Julie: Wow. Thank you. I know, like I’m super proud of that. And yet so beautiful n this moment. Yeah, I want to know what your secret sauce is. But yeah, keep going.

Allison: I don’t know. But I remember as like, as it was all happening. In the beginning. I was like, What’s the rush kids? Like, there’s no reason to feel like you need to get married, like, like, and they were just moving in these like, you know, significant directions. So I think, potentially my generation, maybe part of the problem of like, not wanting our children to adults too quickly. Yeah. And I would say I’m proud of it. But I also felt like it was too fast.

Julie: Yeah, too fast for you. You know what, Alli, you’ve hit on something really important. Look, the baby boomers were the ones to first start to micromanage to be so alongside kids in a very loving way. They knew every name of every teacher that every class or kid was taking every after school activity. They were there on the sidelines, you know, it was just a very attended to childhood and they raised the millennials. I’m being broad with my generalizations here. But in Gen X came along, and this was how the baby boomers were already raising people. And Gen X grew up quite neglected. You know, we were the kids whose moms went to work for And we’ve came home and let ourselves in after school no adult was there, we gave ourselves snack we did our homework, we found friends to play with, we might have started dinner even.

And maybe our parents asked us to make a cocktail for them, when they got home, things were different.

In Gen X feel, my parents were never around. They didn’t know what I was up to. They didn’t care, they didn’t seem to care. You know, they were busy with other things.

And many of us have taken to this more intensive micromanaging No, every little thing always, you know, you know, really hyper involved in our kids like we’ve taken to it, because it’s the opposite of what we had. And we felt a little lonely or left alone, there were some advantages to being left alone. But, you know, if there was some loss, and like, hey, you know, I want to know every detail about my kid’s life. And it’s so much more loving, it’s so connected and beautiful.

And, and now we miss them, I think when they’re gone so much more than our parents missed us. Right. And so, so the point is, though, admitting it is so valid, people need to hear it. And then we have to tell this truth to each other, and maybe to our spouse or partner, to our friends to our therapist, but not tell it to our kids, because the last thing our kids need to feel as well. I can’t leave to go take this job in another city, because what will mom do without me, right? I mean, unless you have some kind of real illness or challenge where they really need to be supporting you. We need to like its roots. And if the roots of the family values and all the skills you’ve developed, right, and then wings, we don’t want to clip their wings, they want to fly, we’re supposed to delight in that. We are a little heartbroken.

Take that heartbreak to someone you trust and connect with. And you know, outwardly project just confidence and excitement about what awaits them.

Allison: Okay. So assuming that I have my children are not the exact example of maybe why this book was written and what are some of the best ways that parents can support their children into adulthood or in or into their own?

Julie: Yeah. So you know, I said, I was a former freshman dean at Stanford, my first book to which this is really a sequel, the first book it’s on is called how to raise an adult on the harm of overparenting.

And it really speaks to the fact that if we micromanage along the way, what we end up with is an 18, or 21, or 25 year old, who cannot, who doesn’t have the wings, basically with which to fly, because we’ve never let them try to develop wings, so they just sort of stuck. And so it’s really a mindset of from the minute they learn to walk, le, they’re actually walking away, it’s our job to make sure the environment they walk into his age appropriate, we’re supposed to protect them from traffic and from the ocean.

And from ledges off buildings, like we we’re supposed to keep them alive while they grow. And the only way they grow is by taking that step forward and falling and standing again and getting stronger, literally their muscles in their core in their balance when they’re one learning to walk. But that’s the visual metaphor, or when they’re five, and they’re learning to make a sandwich for the first time. And when they’re eight, and you’re finally letting them cross this teaching them across the street for the first time. And when they’re, you know, making that first purchase in a store. And when they’re filling out the form for school, we have to resist doing it all for them. Because that undermines the ability to learn to do for themselves.

So my big message is overwhelm undermines. And so we have to be continually asking, What can I teach my kid next, instead of delighting in Oh, I’m so needed, I do everything for my kid, people are wiping their kids butts too long. They’re tying their kids shoes too long. They are bathing them too long. All of these are things you’re supposed to teach your kid to be able to do for themselves.

And those may sound like silly examples. But they actually, literally that’s what’s going on. We’re so helpful, so useful, and so rushed. Being too busy, means we can’t often parent appropriately because we’re, I gotta get you out the door. You know, I don’t have time to teach you to tie your shoes because I’m in such a hurry.

Well, then you have an eight year old who can’t tie their shoes. You know? Or a 12 year old who’s never been the one to ask a teacher a question because you were always so interested in asking it the way you needed to ask it. So we’re supposed to step back what can I teach them? What are they about to learn? Let me bite my tongue. Let me sit on my hands. Let me let this play out. unless it’s an emergency, I need to let them have this experience why? So they will learn from it why so they will be stronger and more competent next time.

Allison: At in, in your experience, your research what? What are some of the It follows that we’re finding as they should, should relative be adulting. And but they’re not, like, let’s say, they don’t even want to, how do we help them get there?

Julie: Right? Well, we have to examine it in ourselves. What have I done to contribute to their disinterest in adulting? If we’ve made home super cushy, we’ve never given them a chore, let alone a set of chores. If they’ve ever been held accountable to their agreements, if we always backfield, you know, when they ran out of money, or they, if we always rescued them, when, when they forgot their homework or their lunch, we always would right there with it. We have basically failed to allow life to teach them these important lessons. So we’re all we’ve basically become their concierge and they’re in their chauffeur, why wouldn’t they want that forever? At some point, they’re like, Hey, this is pretty sweet. I don’t have to lift a finger, I got my Netflix, I got my Hulu. I got my snacks, you know, they’re basically accustomed to being served.

Well, that’s not gonna help when you’re dead and gone, right? So what we’re supposed to do is instill in them the desire, like, Oh, I better get a job so that I start earning more money than my parents are willing to give me.

Right? Oh, I need to learn how to do this. Because, you know, when, when, when I forgot my backpack, my parents wouldn’t drop everything and go get it for me. So I didn’t have my homework that night. And I had my teacher wasn’t happy with me, I better remember next time, right? We’ve got to examine the ways in which we may be so overly attending that we’ve, we’re sort of breeding the desire for independence out of them.

Independence, feels delicious. It’s a little scary. But once you solve the thing or figure that thing out, we get this buzz Kelly Corrigan describes it because I just solved my own problem, let’s not deprive our kids of the natural buzz that comes from problem solving, figuring stuff out, frankly, one of the best things we can do when we have kids little younger than yours, well younger than mine, even if we have the means a great gift for an 18 year old graduated from high school is if you have the means this is a very privileged statement I’m about to make.

But let me offer it to the extent there’s some listeners who will have this possibility, give your kid a few 1000 bucks and say, here’s a plane ticket to Europe, come back when you run out of money, you know, and I’ll pay for the return ticket back. But you stay in Europe as long as you can with this $2,000 or $3,000. And I’m giving you why Europe is interconnected by rails. A lot of people there speak English, if I’m talking to an English speaking audience, but they’re also going to be challenges around language, it’s a great place to sort of discover, oh, my gosh, I’m out on my own, and my parents can’t rescue me. But in an environment, because Western Europe is very similar to the United States in many ways, it’s not going to feel so different. You’re not going to be like in your panic zone, you’re going to be in your growth zone, you know, go see if you can figure out lodging, food, transportation, you know, learn a thing or two from the humans you bump into. That would be a great learning experience.

Allison: That is such a fantastic tip. And for just one level down from that, but actually as effective, because I’ve done it for my kids is get them a passport. Here you go. It’s like a ticket or the idea that the world is open.

Julie: That’s right. Exactly.

Allison: Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. Is there so I mean, we’ve sort of spoken a little bit about like the it’s kind of the the age group that should be maybe 18. And above or out of college and going in and building a career and whatnot. What are some of the major obstacles and or opportunities for parents to help in that? 12 to 18 year timeframe?

Julie: Yeah. So I’m looking at your turn, how to be an adult, my new book and just looking at like in the early pages, I kind of described like, these are the basics. So the book is written for kind of aged 15 Plus really 15 but really 18 to 34. And I got this list of things that someone should be able to do by the time they leave home, whether it’s leaving home after high school, leaving, you know, after college or trade, school, whatever, when you’re really kind of going to get your first apartment. You got to be able to so a parent should look at this list like what am I doing to foster them learning this rather than foster a dependency on me to do it.

So the things are attend to the care and maintenance of your own body. Personal hygiene, buying and cooking food doctors, dentists, counseling appointments, refilling meds, find work that pays your bills. Try hard this is the importance of effort. Make not being perfect every time. But knowing my effort is what I can control. Let me get better at making a good effort every time. Make your own decisions, don’t rely on other people to make your decisions. Get along well with others. Don’t rely on other people to sort out your disputes for you, like often happens on play dates, you have to learn how to do the interpersonal dance with other humans. Keep track of your stuff, reply when you’ve been invited to something. And if you said you were coming, show up, find your people and care for them.

This is about being in community, you know, roommates, dorm mates, friends, your chosen family, your squad, your team, your you know, like, learn how to deepen those relationships, and then plan for your future, which is, you know, everything you do now around what you eat, and how you exercise, how you live, how you spend money, how you save money, is going to impact yourself at 30 and 50, and 70, and 90. So you’re not an indentured servant to your 70 year old self. But at the same time, your seven year old self will have wanted you to start saving the minute you could because the value of compounding interest, you know, so it’s that balance between the now and what I need to want now. And what might I want in the future? And how am I going to really make good decisions to prepare for a thriving future?

Allison: Yeah. Okay. And that is such a good list. It’s gold. And it seems obvious, but yet, it may not be right. Julie, what would you say is the most important takeaway from your book?

Julie: Oh, my most important takeaway is you matter, reader, you matter, in this earth you matter.

In this moment, you matter to your loved ones, to your family, you matter to yourself, you matter to me, I’m an author trying to serve you because I believe in your right to be wildly successful at this journey of life.

So the book is filled with stories from humans from all walks of life, you know, that it’s religiously diverse gender diverse, racially diverse, socioeconomically diverse, how educated the storytellers are really varies.

I’m trying to I’ve written this book with a structure that is deeply inclusive of people, from the myriad ways in humans in which we define and describe humans, people with mental health challenges people with longing and loss. I mean, just estrangement from family close to family, people with pets, people that pets. So I hope that the way I’ve written it says to a reader, I hope the reader will at some point say wow, she had me in mind when she wrote this story, or when she wrote this list of, you know, how to get over perfectionism or how to be better at saving money and you know, how to cope with death. I mean, she, you know, like, I feel seen is my goal with this book. And I, you know, implicit in that is Hey, reader, you matter to me. I’ve written this for you.

Allison: To the what is the best way for someone to share your book and or follow the work that you do?

Julie: I love that request. That question. I am. No all my books are available in every format. They’re everywhere you can buy books, your local independent bookstore would be my choice of where you would get it. You can also get it online. I love, which gives one at the local independence. I’m at my website is Julie Lythcott-Haimes,.com on social media on Julie Lythcott-Haimes, everywhere on social media. I blog weekly at a place called Julie’s pod. You can just Google Julie’s pod that’s where you’re going to get my short form blunt Frank observations about life. And it’s free. And I hope you’ll check that out if you’d like the way I write and think. And finally, if you live in Palo Alto, I just ran for city council talk about deliberate leaders, I decided to tackle the unaffordability of our of our housing stock and I just ran for city council here and want a slot. So I’m going to be a incoming city council member learning and growing at 55 Humble, trying to take all I’ve learned and use it to make things a little better for people in my city.

Allison: Congratulations on your win. And the city is lucky to have you as a fresh view on the world at the table. So thank you for doing committing the time to do that. I also want to thank you at this. This has been a slightly different conversation that I typically have. And I think it is equally as impactful as anything we discussed on the podcast from week to week. So Julie, thank you so much for your time today.

Julie: Appreciate being here and thanks to all your listeners who stayed with us.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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