A Survival Guide for America's Families
by Bill O'Reilly and Charles Flowers
I am 15 1/2 years old. You said on your show, Mr. O’Reilly, for kids aged 10 to 16 to write in about the biggest problem in their life. Well, the biggest problem in my life is actually the future. I worry about getting married and having babies, and graduating high school, and if I’m going to college or not, and just handling the stress of growing up, period. Peer pressure ... These emotions I feel for no reason ... Boys ... you know? Stuff like that. Well, that’s the biggest problem in my life. Just kind of growing up and feeling that pressure, you know. It’s scary. — Elizabeth in Ohio
Direct to You from Bill O’Reilly
I wish I’d had this book when I was a teenager because, like Elizabeth, I had many concerns.
Unfortunately, no one had written a realistic book for kids. So I made dumb mistakes, got in trouble because I was too stubborn to know better, and did things I wish I could forget.
I’m going to tell you about some of those things in this book. Maybe you’ll laugh at my boneheaded behavior, but that’s okay, as long as you end up smarter than I was at your age.
The O’Reilly Factor for Kids is a survival guide. It will give you an edge in facing the challenges of this crazy but exciting time of your life. And that edge will make your life easier.
What does an adult know? Well, I have a career that’s lots of fun and makes me a lot of money. I’ve also never forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. No one does.
You may have seen me on my daily TV program, The O’Reilly Factor, or heard me on the radio. If you have, you know that I tell it straight, no matter what. And I make sure my guests tell the truth, too. (Telling yourself the truth is going to be one of the hardest jobs in your teen years. I’ll show you how.)
I am as honest in this guide as I am on the air. No sugarcoating. This is straight stuff.
At this stage of my life, I know who I am and, best of all, I know how to choose friends I can trust and stay away from people who are poison. I want you to have the same kind of knowledge, and I want you to have it now so you can get on to p of life earlier than I did.
I spent years making stupid decisions, even in adult life, but somehow I made it through all the mistakes. Now I know that even though I have achieved success, I could have done much better along the way. I’m determined to show you how.
But The O’Reilly Factor for Kids is not about me. This book is about you. About finding the courage and willpower to be who you really are. About standing up for yourself. About doing the smartest thing.
Did you notice what I said? “The smartest thing.” This guide is not necessarily about what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s about using your head.
Listen up . . .
People In Your Life
Almost everybody watched the TV show Friends on NBC. Unfortunately, some kids think that's what real friends are like. Of course, we can learn a lot of things from our Friends on television, but sitcoms are very different from real life.
In real life, true friends stand by you when things get rough. If you get sick or have a tragedy in your family, your real friends will be there to listen and to help. Sure, they do that in the TV program, but the tragedies those characters experience last only twenty-three minutes. Yours will last much longer, so your friends will have to last much longer, too.
TV friends are also always fooling around. You can't do that in real life. There will be times when you will have to do some very difficult things. If you have friends who will help you, you'll be a lot better off.
I once had a friend in high school whom I confided in. This guy and I had known each other since first grade and we were pretty solid. At least, I thought we were. Freshman year is always tough because you are the youngest in the school and are still trying to figure out the program. There was this dance I wanted to go to, but I didn't want to go alone. I wanted some guys to hang with so the girls would think I was cool. So I asked my friend, who was usually up for this kind of thing, if he would come along. He said he couldn't go. I said fine and found a couple of other guys to go with me. But when we arrived at the hop (that's what they called a dance back then), I couldn't believe my eyes. My so-called friend who told me he couldn't go to the dance was out there doing the twist like a madman. What was up with that? I cornered this so-called friend later, and he admitted that some of the guys he went to the dance with didn't like me, so he didn't want me around.
If that situation had happened in a TV sitcom, everybody would have made up and had a few laughs. But life is different. I never trusted that guy again and rarely spoke to him. Since he never apologized, I think I made the smart decision. He wasn't a true friend, and that happens a lot in life. By not wasting any more time with him, I went on to make real friends, many of whom I hang around with to this day. I'm that kind of guy: once I become friends with you, I'm in for life unless you do something bad to me. Even though I am now famous and successful, I still keep my old friends. And believe me, none of them looks like Jennifer Aniston. It would not be hard being her friend.
Okay, you know I've made money. It was a long time coming, so I don't usually spend much of it and I certainly don't show it off. (We're going to talk about money smarts later in this book.) But one thing I do that costs a few bucks is set up a trip every year to some exotic faraway place — the Caribbean, the Hawaiian Islands — where I sail and swim and dive with old friends.
And I do mean "old friends." I've known some of these guys since we were four years old, others from high school and college, and still others from my early years in television. I've been lucky to have such friends, but I've also worked hard at it. We trust one another. We care about one another's families. We laugh a lot. We remember a lot.
I hope you can have such friends when you're my age.
Of course, you can't control all of the circumstances that help friendships develop and last. I grew up in the same house until I went away to college. The kids in my neighborhood really knew one another. We went to the same schools, terrorized the same teachers, dated the same girls.
Now, I don't want you to think that I sat around when I was your age and carefully chose my companions because of their virtues. No way. I ran with the loudmouthed, brash, unruly kids. We looked like bums; we acted like maniacs. We did very stupid things.
But even though we would not have used these words back then, we were loyal to one another. One for all, all for one: we really were like that.
And because I had experienced true friendship, which grew over the years through many different situations (not all of them fun, by any means), I got very, very spoiled. I mean, throughout the rest of my life, I have expected new friends to be as honest and loyal as my old friends.
Is that stupid?
Maybe. But that's the way I am.
Other people will tell you to forgive a friend for lying to you. Not me. Others will say that it is "mature" to expect your friends to have faults. Agreed. They can have all kinds of faults except dishonesty and disloyalty. Either of those is poison to a friendship. Sorry, but I can't see it any other way. Someone can lie to me once, but only once, if he or she wants to be a friend.
See, you heard I could be stubborn.
And I want you to be the same way, at least on this subject. You deserve friendship with people who can be trusted. You don't need to accept a so-called friendship with someone because he or she is "popular" or good-looking. None of that matters. I am surrounded in television by people who choose "friends" because they're rich or famous or sexy. That kind of friendship is called "groveling." And it lasts, such as it is, only as long as the other person has money, gets recognized on the street, or looks good in lowriders.
Everybody needs friends, but it’s important you understand that not everybody can be a friend. Some kids are so selfish and insecure that no matter how nice you are to them, they will turn out to be untrustworthy. Don’t blame yourself when a person you thought was your friend burns you. That happens a lot in life; the trick is to recognize and steer clear of those people who are messed up. I was always pretty good at selecting friends, but, as I mentioned, I’ve been betrayed as well.
There are some things that should tip you off right away that some kid you know is trouble. Violent behavior, for example, is a sure sign. If you know a kid who likes to physically hurt other people, get away from that person fast.
Same thing with someone who engages in malicious gossip. If somebody is constantly spreading dirt about other people, they’ll do it to you, too.
If a kid lies to his parents, he or she will lie to you.
If a classmate cheats in school, he or she will cheat you.
If somebody borrows money and doesn’t pay it back, drop that person as a friend.
If a kid flirts with your girlfriend or boyfriend, he or she is not your friend.
The list goes on and on. The important thing is to keep your eyes open. Bad behavior is seldom a onetime occurrence. Everybody makes mistakes, but if a kid is constantly doing rude or dishonest things, that kid is trouble. You do not need trouble.
One last tip: anyone who offers you drugs or alcohol is definitely not your friend. That is rule number one in life. Anybody who tempts you with stuff that can screw you up is a bad person. Get away, and stay away!
Some of you, I’m sad to say, may have parents who think it’s a good idea to suck up to the rich kids or the smart kids in your school or neighborhood. This time they’re wrong. If you try building friendships now for the wrong reasons, you’ll be lost for the rest of your life.
By the way, it works both ways. No one should want to be your friend unless you’re ready to be honest and loyal, too.
“Keep your friendships in repair,” warned Ralph Waldo Emerson (and if you haven’t heard of him, look him up). In other words, friendship takes a lot of work. Sometimes a good friend is boring, just as you can be, too. Sometimes a good friend does something stupid. But as I said before, you can endure faults in a friend as long as he or she’s loyal and honest.
Here’s the O’Reilly List of True Friendship Factors:
1. DON’T LIE.
2. BE THERE IN THE BAD TIMES.
3. BE FREE WITH COMPLIMENTS.
4. NOTICE WHEN SOMETHING’S WRONG.
5. KNOW WHEN TO LISTEN.
6. KNOW WHEN TO INTERVENE.
7. BE YOURSELF.
8. LET YOUR FRIEND BE HIMSELF.
9. LAUGH A LOT.
Growing up on Long Island just a few miles outside New York City, I had tons of friends in the neighborhood. They were all guys, because at that time women’s lib had not kicked in and the girls played differently than we did. Forty years later, I still have many of those friends, if you can believe it. We’ve stayed in touch because we formed such a strong bond way back then.
In all that time I can’t remember any of my friends ever asking me to do anything that was truly awful. Yeah, when we were young we smoked some cigarettes and knocked over some garbage cans at night. But our pranks were harmless and usually so dopey we wound up laughing at ourselves.
When I was four years old, I met Lenny. He was kind of a slow kid, but I didn’t care. He lived close by, so we played together with two other kids, Gene and Kenny. As we got older, Lenny began to drift apart from us. He didn’t like sports, and he wasn’t very outgoing. Ten years later, Lenny still lived in the neighborhood but had stopped talking to all of his old friends. He had new friends, but we knew they were bad news. Lenny and his new pals looked down on us because they thought we were uncool.
Even then, I knew Lenny was heading for big trouble. He became a drug addict and died of AIDS before he was forty years old. (Hint: That’s not old.) His new friends also made disasters of their lives. And there was nothing my friends and I could do about it. Lenny made the decision to walk away from the neighborhood kids who accepted him to hang out with kids who were screwed up.
Next time some kid tries to convince you to do something you know is wrong, think of Lenny. And also think of his mother. He broke her heart.
A few of my other friends also fell into destructive habits — and they all paid a price, too. If you choose the road of getting high, committing crimes, disrespecting others, or engaging in violence, you will make a mess of your life. Nobody who does these things escapes the fall. Nobody.
Like many things we’ll talk about, learning to develop true friendships now is training for a happy, successful, richly rewarding adult life. Sure, it’s exciting to meet the many powerful and famous people who appear on my television and radio programs. But they’re not friends. Some of the saddest occasions you can imagine are parties in New York and Hollywood where everybody is famous and wants to be seen, but no one is there to enjoy and develop friendships.
Friends are there when you need them, just as you must be there when they need you.
Friends do not share your secrets with other people. Friends know the worst things about you, and love you anyway. They know the best things about you, and respect them.
The foregoing is excerpted from "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids" by Bill O’Reilly and Charles Flowers. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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