1. DRUGS AND ALCOHOL: No surprise here. I’ve noticed, most of the people with messed up lives, who are incarcerated, who have had their kids taken away, who face nasty custody battles, can blame teenage drug and/or alcohol abuse. I’ve seen them all: Honor students drinking on the bus banned from walking at graduation, a prom queen nearly expelled with marijuana in her locker, star athletes imprisoned after killing someone while driving drunk. Mostly, I’ve seen young adults who are unhappy due the failure to meet their own expectations, all as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. Choose wisely.
  2. RECKLESS DRIVING: Lawyers say: “The only way to get good at this is by getting old.” The same holds true for driving. It’s okay to drive carefully, tentatively, and slowly, while you gain experience, even if it’s not cool. We all feel horrible for the teenager who just totaled Dad’s car by driving beyond his skill level. Avoid unnecessary distractions while driving: Phone calls, texting. Hands free or not, your mind is not on your driving. Texting takes your hands, your eyes and your brain off your driving. One accident will cause your insurance rates (and your parents) to go through the roof. Driving carefully isn’t cool, but keeping your money, and your health, is.
  3. VIOLENCE: The great war hero and college/professional football player, Pat Tillman (#42—Pat’s Run—ASU), almost never made it to college. In high school, he beat a kid up and sent him to the hospital, all due to a misunderstanding. He spent the summer following his senior year paying for it. When you fight, a lot of things can happen, most of them bad. You win, and you may face criminal charges. You lose and you end up in the hospital, or worse. You never know who you’re in there with. They could have a gun, a knife, or a criminal for a brother. And no matter how tough you think you are, there’s always somebody tougher. Ask Rhonda Rousey. Stay out of fighting.
  4. DISHONESTY: I know of a straight “A” student in an exclusive prep program. Only one problem: At some point he decided to do it the easy way. He stole test papers from his teachers and sold them to his classmates, until he got caught. He was expelled. Good luck explaining that one during a job interview. With the effort spent on cheating, he could have easily learned the material. I know a lawyer who was almost expelled for cheating. It was a nightmare to get his law license, and I still don’t trust him. Once caught cheating, gaining trust back is difficult to near-impossible. Don’t start.
  5. PARENTHOOD: The quickest and easiest way to take your life completely off track is through teen pregnancy. High school, college, and the job market are tough enough, without an unexpected bundle of joy. This is a practical, not a moral, message. Whether through contraception or abstention, avoid unplanned pregnancy. You may end up paying child support for the next 18 years, or in court over custody. And think of the child. Would you want a teenager for a parent? What is your income? Your schedule? Chances are, your parents will have to help you raise your child. Your 18 years of childhood just became 36. Congratulations! Don’t play Russian Roulette with your future.

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