Happiness is an Option: Thriving (Instead of Surviving) in the era of the Internet - Dr. Lynda Ulrich

Joining us from Cabo, San Lucas, Mexico, is Allison Maynard; former public school teacher turned fearless education thought leader and entrepreneur.
Allison is intimately aware of the learning gaps in today's children, and is on a mission to help today's parents fill in those gaps that schools are NOT focusing on.
She has created an online course that is all about teaching parents and educators HOW to teach and establish a foundation for learning for young children.
Her program, MINDFUL MATTERS centres around four modules based on the skills necessary to succeed in any class at any level: study skills and organization, critical thinking and reading, writing, and emotional well-being.​
Connect with Allison:
This Episode is Sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academy
Podcast Host: Jamie Buttigieg 

Automated Transcription of the Podcast: 

Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode, we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Speaker 2 (00:38):
Hello, parents. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Parenting in the Digital Age Podcast. Today we are joined by Dr. Linda Ulrich, the founder of The Goodness Exchange, the Home for Goodness in the World. Now, each time we turn on the TV or social media, it's often filled with negativity, chaos, and controversy, all cleverly orchestrated to keep our attention and influence our thoughts and behavior. And Dr. Linda's voice arises with a vision and strategy for action available to each of us. And Dr. Linda gives us a plan called Four Simple Shift to Find Less fear and more Joy in our online lives. Now, Dr. Linda is also an author, a three times TEDx speaker, a media contributor, and a regular podcast guest. She's also the host of her own podcast, the Conspiracy of Goodness, interviewing global thought leaders who are pointing to the possibilities and perspectives that would put a spring in everyone's step right now, which is much needed. Right. So, uh, Dr. Linda, thanks for joining us. Thanks for generosity and time. Please share with our listeners in your own words, you know, a little bit about who you are and you know, your journey so far.
Speaker 3 (01:45):
Yeah. So thank you. I'm delighted to be here. I I love talking to parents. I'm a parent of three myself. I've got kids all in their twenties now, so I'm on down the pike that, you know, I, I've, I've lived the, the, the life of trying to be a working mom and trying to make sense of the digital age with young children and then older ones. And so I'm, I'm, I'm delighted to share what I know about this world. So, um, my story is like this. I've been a dentist with my husband in a small town in the United States, um, since, uh, the 1990s. And, um, during that whole time, most of our patients were super chipper and, and we developed a very relationship or new practice. So we talked about people's lives all day long, and we found some way to find something to celebrate in everybody's lives, even if they had a tragedy.
Speaker 3 (02:32):
And, um, then about 2013, we started noticing that was harder and harder. If you'll remember, the negative news in social media about 2000 11, 12, 13, was really starting to burden us all. And we all start to recognize the gravity of, of the direction that, that, that was going. And, um, you know, every day I would say, geez, negative news. Somebody's gotta do something about this. And then one day I got an email from a young patient who had always relied on me to, to find something to celebrate in his life. He'd had a, a, a difficult life. Um, he wrote me from a foxhole in a very bleak part of the world, asking me, um, what there was to celebrate, because he, what from where his vantage point was, things were pretty rough, and all he heard from home was bad news. And I tell you, it set me on my ear, <laugh>.
Speaker 3 (03:21):
I just, all I had was a list of really great Ted talks to send him. So I dove in and, which was good, it was a good list. Um, but I dove into the internet to find someplace with no politics and no commercialism, um, that where he could get a refreshing view of what he wasn't seeing about humanity and the world, the good stuff, the innovation and so forth. And, you know, after about 48 hours nonstop, fortunately he wrote me on a weekend, <laugh>, I just snapped. I said, it isn't there, there is no place on the whole internet for people who want good news about insight and innovation going on. Celebrated. And so <laugh>, I invented it. And, um, the goodness exchange has been, um, shining a light on this enormous wave of goodness and progress that's going on since 2013.
Speaker 2 (04:13):
Yeah. That, that, that's a cool place. Like, uh, you know, for those who need some context, it, it's like, uh, a blog or it's almost an alternative news channel. When you go to the Goodness Exchange website, goodness, it, it is literally just like a news channel full of good stuff, right? Stuff that'll get your day started on the right foot.
Speaker 3 (04:32):
Yeah, no, you know, we always make the distinction, it's not puppies in mailboxes kind of stories that make you feel good for an instant. And then, you know, then the, something rains on your parade and you're back in the dumps that we only write three times a week because we, we're not gonna flood. We just don't wanna be part of the noise, the mediocre noise on the internet. We only write things that are, are, are just jubilant. Um, and, and not not insignificant things. Just the amazing wonders that are going on in this world, and the generosity of unbelievable thought leaders. The helpers in this world is just not rising to the top of the internet. So somebody's gotta be out there doing it. And so we, we write about, um, really unbelievable things that we all could know about. Um, if, if our internet served us,
Speaker 2 (05:21):
You're, you're a champion for change in, in a world that needs more people like you, Dr. Linda, um, uh, you know, why is it important though, for us to sort of work hard to get outta this cycle of dooming glmSpeaker 3 (05:34):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>? Well, you know, um, as parents, as coworkers, as friends, as family members, I'm sure you have people like, like, um, like I was where I was taking care of these young children, and my parents were getting older at the same time. So I was kind of in the sandwich generation. There was a lot of people counting on me. And I basically don't know what I would've done in the last 10 years through a lot of turmoil, raising teenagers and taking care of an aging elderly mother if, if I had been dragging my knuckles about the world too, <laugh>. Um, so one of the reasons to, to really manage what's, um, let's say curate your incoming, you know, everything comes at us as fast as the digital, uh, media can, can throw stuff at us. It wants our attention, it demands our attention. It's built, like you said in the beginning to, um, to get our attention with doom and gloom and danger and disorder.
Speaker 3 (06:31):
But, um, but I have these four shifts, <laugh> that I teach people that I learned, you know, um, that can help us walk with a spring under step and be, be the person in the room for our children, for our family members, who people can turn to for another perspective that's full of possibility and opportunity instead of making the setbacks even harsher. So that's, that's my my reason for, um, advocating for people to really make an effort to know about all the good in the world, because people are, are people need someone like us to, um, to keep the light, to hold the lantern on possibility for the future.
Speaker 2 (07:12):
Yeah. This is, uh, particularly powerful. Um, so, you know, looking at the goodness exchange, you know, you, you're effectively curating all the good of the internet for the last eight years or so, and you've no doubt discovered some secrets to seeing a much brighter, more balanced version of reality. Uh, I read a little bit about, uh, your parents and how they helped you sift through and have a more balanced view, and, and that's, that's a powerful position to be coming from. So how can we as parents tap into this, you know, most of us aren't that, um, uh, maybe conscious, I suppose is the word. So how can we help our kids develop a more positive view, or at least a more balanced view of reality?
Speaker 3 (07:51):
Well, you know, um, I, I was very lucky in that my, my dad was a physician and my mom was a nurse. So they were, and that was back in a time when you got an hour of your doctor's time and where he knew you birthed the death and you had his home phone number. And so these two people were very tuned in to the fact that what we give our attention to expands. So if you have a 14-year-old who's coming in late every night, and all you can do is yell at him, <laugh>, that reason to yell at him may expand. Um, but we can, my parents really were careful about teaching us to, um, to take great care about what we gave her attention to, like on the playground. If we came home and, you know, had some rest story to tell, they would always point out some periphery things that we might give our attention to.
Speaker 3 (08:42):
Instead of that, that nugget of, um, meanness and unkindness, that was the most obvious thing to give our attention to. And then retaliate and all the things. So, um, so my parents were really good about that aspect of things, and they taught us to pause. That was always my parents first take on any dilemma, on any setback, on anything that threatened to take us from zero to 60 emotionally pause, because my dad had seen so many people's lives come and go based on the fact that they, they, they followed their emotions over a cliff. This is at the heart of an, a remarkable coping skill that we can teach our kids, is not to follow their emotions over a cliff. And <laugh>, coincidentally, the first one of the four shifts that I teach people how to see a better world in their digital lives is pause.
Speaker 3 (09:38):
Like, you see something on the internet, it's built to get your attention, pause. And then the second shift is ignore more. I mean, this is like what your grandma would say. Remember, if you complain to your grandma about somebody calling you fat or short or whatever it was on the playground, your grandma would say, ignore 'em. Right? Like, that is a powerful, powerful tool on the internet, because the reality is the way the Internet's built, I know this is gonna sound funny, but we have all the power there. If we don't click on it, they won't create it. They won't keep creating it. But when we give our attention to things, they say, oh, people will click on this. And that's how you make money on the internet. So the first shift is to pause before you click on anything. The second shift is to ignore more.
Speaker 3 (10:29):
Here's my little trick. Um, I always say to myself, oh, I might be, you know, my finger might be poised to click on something, maybe a picture of some the blob fish on the weather channel, or, you know, that kind of stuff. You know, some mean headline, but maybe it's for my team politically. Yeah. You wanna click on that like your team won? No, ask yourself, do we need more of this? Okay. So even if it's my team politically that's winning, we don't need more of this harsh drama escalating rhetoric. So if I can't answer that question, yes, do we need more of this? I will click on it. And the third, um, shift is to seek signs of goodness and progress. Cause the internet is now built to pay attention to what we, what we're seeking. You know, if you just Google a certain pair of boots, that's all you're gonna see on your ads for the next month.
Speaker 3 (11:23):
Um, so seek signs of goodness and progress, and then the algorithms will bring that to you. You'll start seeing more goodness in progress. It's really that simple. And the last, um, of the four shifts is share it. When you see something good, let's say you see that the neighbor boy raised $400 for the Humane Society, for, gosh, they share it <laugh>, because what we share can go out in waves and waves and waves. That's also the way the Internet's built. And if more of what we shared was, um, thoughtfulness, then that's is the world that we would see reflected back in our digital lives. So if that's the four shifts, pause, ignore more, seek signs of goodness and share it. And you will see a different world in the screens in your life.
Speaker 2 (12:10):
This is a, this is a powerful, I'm, I'm like madly writing notes Dr. Linda <laugh>. Um, and, and, and I can see myself using this and taking this away. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So I know that our listeners will be doing the same,
Speaker 3 (12:22):
But can I, um, can I offer that? Um, you don't have to write this down. We realized how powerful this was, um, couple of years ago, and we created four, like the number four, or you can write it out then the word shifts. S h i, four And there it is. It's just there for the world. I, it's my mission in life to get people to understand those four things can re-engineer the internet for the future of all of us.
Speaker 2 (12:53):
Yeah. Yeah. That's, that's a another rabbit hole we can go down, but before we do go down any more rabbit holes, pause, ignore more, seek signs of goodness and progress, share it. Um, you know, I, I can definitely look, I, I'm guilty, I'm gonna say it now. Uh, you know, like, I'll have a break. I, I think I'm rewarding myself. I'm going for that dopamine hit. I click on that thing, just that simple piece of advice of pausing and asking that question, do I really need to click on this right now or ever is gonna save or change my life? I know that. But let me ask a different question here. This seems, uh, adorable. I think I can achieve this certainly as an adult, but what about kids? So let's say, you know, how, how do, how do I as a parent, teach kids? I struggle with this, with, um, uh, my own younger kids, um, their social media consumption, their idle screen time. And I don't know that I have all the answers as a parent. Um, and I think because they've been born with this digital technology or this digital, um, appetite, right? Um, and, and they're raised with it, is it as easy for kids to be able to stop, pause, and ask those questions? Say a 13 year old or a 15 year old mm-hmm. <affirmative>.
Speaker 3 (14:04):
Well, here's <laugh>. Here's what I know to be true. Um, I know that the Gen Z generation, the kids younger than 22 right now, they are going to re-engineer the internet in our lives. They, they are so savvy. There are no 40 year old marketing experts that can out savvy a 17 year old, you know, they're, they, they know how to run us all in circles. And as soon as enough of them know about the game being played with their emotions, they will not play it. Then they will find some way to not play it, and they'll make us look foolish. So, so the first thing you can do is, um, is make sure that your, that your kids understand the game being played with their emotions. And I'll tell you, there's a quick way to do that. Um, there is a documentary called The Social Dilemma that's on Netflix, came out nine days after my book came out, and it validated <laugh> and it, you know, I wrote my book based on observations of, and all the things that I'd learned, um, going from ordinary web user to global positive media mogul.
Speaker 3 (15:13):
But then there was the social dilemma. So the social dilemma is this amazing, it's not more doom and gloom. It's this amazing documentary that if I had kids, I just make that the preface, you don't get to have a phone in my household. You know, we wouldn't turn our children loose, go to on to Costa Rica on vacation and turn our children loose in the jungle behind the, the condo. You know, the internet is at least as dangerous as the jungle. So I would just, you know, say to my kids, you're having a phone, continued access to a phone is predicated on you understanding the jungle that's out there. And we will sit and watch this document together. And it's really, really a cool documentary. It is essentially just the inventors of the internet. We know now the person who, who made that scroll, that infinite scroll that you're talking about there, they sit on a bar stool, only a bar stool in a warehouse, in a broken down warehouse behind them.
Speaker 3 (16:11):
And they tell how that infinite scroll, how they invented it, and then how it was, how it's now used, the person who invented, um, you know, the Facebook like button, all, all of them, everything that we're addicted to <laugh>, they have them sitting on a bar still telling how it went. And then they each, none of them work for these companies anymore. They each tell a very, um, straight up story about how this good, this good intention, even algorithms had a good intention. They were just supposed to bring us things faster so we could get what we wanted faster. And now, you know, that's, it's, the algorithms are used to radicalize people. Yep. Um, because they just keep feeding 'em deeper and deeper and deeper down the nest. So anyway, the way to work with any child is to say, you know, we're learning more and more every day about the way that the, that our, our emotions, our game is being played with our emotions on our phones from, from this moment forward, we're gonna watch this in this, this documentary together, and we're gonna pause it whenever you'd like and we can talk about it.
Speaker 3 (17:12):
And we're gonna have a, a real clear idea about what's going on on the internet when we get done. And then we'll, we'll stay savvy, we'll get more savvy. So the documentary will give your kids all the knowledge they need to make their own, um, good critical thinking choices. And then you can start doing something that my parents did. <laugh>,
Speaker 3 (17:33):
My parents really made a point to let us know that, that we had to protect our brains, that no one was gonna be the gatekeeper better than we were. Like if we were at somebody's house, I, I, I can, um, my kids very, very, um, viscerally got, got this matches down, and they would go to do a sleepover at somebody's house. And we had this code, if they called me at nine 30 at night or whatever, and said, I don't feel very good <laugh>, that was the code that they're watching an r r-rated movie that's scaring the crap out of me, and I wanna go home. Yep. And it was just, it was just what we did. And our kids knew, um, from the time they were very little, that if something scared them, they should walk away. They should do that second shift, ignore it, pause and ignore it, and get outta there. Tell people the truth. I I don't get to watch these movies at my house or whatever it is. Um, but that's the main thing is that, um, I, I really think it's a good thing to teach our kids that they have to be the curators of what goes into their mind and that you can't unsee things.
Speaker 2 (18:41):
Yep. Curate the incoming. I like, I like that little, uh, term you've got there. So I'd like to maybe talk a little bit about this term that you've coined, the gratitude economy and, and how we as families or as parents, perhaps engage the best in humanity when all seems a little, you know, dark and bloomy out there. Mm-hmm.Speaker 3 (18:58):
<affirmative>. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. So, um, I, I recently started doing a lot of public speaking about the gratitude economy. Um, when I, I've experienced now two Christmases, <laugh>, where, where my, my grown kids, they don't want the gifts that I'm picking for 'em. Unless these gifts are bought and paid for, uh, or that the, the money goes to making a better world. They, they care about where everything comes from. They care about the supply chain that got it there. They care about the impact of what it's gonna be like when they stop using it. What am I gonna do with it? I mean, gift giving now to, um, anybody, for anybody who has kind of a thoughtful teenager or grown adult, whew. It's gotten serious. And so I got curious and I started to do some research and I found that 69% of consumers now consider themselves values based consumers.
Speaker 3 (19:50):
Now, the last statistic I saw that group 13% in one year from 2018 to 2019. Now, you know, I don't know a lot about that world, but I know it takes a lot to move the needle in consumer sentiment a fraction of a percent, let alone 13%. So this is a trend that, um, that we're all trying to be a little bit more thoughtful, and some of us are trying to be a lot more thoughtful about how what we buy gets to us and what happens to it when we're done. And so the gratitude economy is full of businesses who are paying attention to that. And the reason why I think it, I think the gratitude economy is a good verbal representation of this, is cuz we're so darn grateful for 'em. And this could be anything from a, a hairdresser that, um, makes us feel heard and, and doesn't make us feel shamed.
Speaker 3 (20:42):
And we drive all the way across town for them. Their staff is lovely, and they don't make our our kids cry and all this stuff that they are part of the gratitude economy. A good dentist that that makes you feel great. They're part of the gratitude economy, but also this part of our economy where we can see what our money goes to. Oh, the biggest reference presentations are things like baba's socks. They give a pair of, uh, of socks when we buy a pair, they give a pair to a homeless shelter and so forth. This is the gratitude economy. And if we teach our children to pick up an item when we're shopping, whether it's food or clothing or whatever, and think about where it came from and where it's going, and, um, be more choosy about who we give our money to, it can be kind of a charge. Um, it can be sort of a, almost a, a fun game to make sure that you're, you're having a good impact with your money.
Speaker 2 (21:37):
Yeah. It's almost that reinvention of commerce, but it almost comes back to your, your, uh, initial pillars. And, and that is pausing. When I pick up this product in the supermarket, just pause and ask, ask yourself some questions, right?
Speaker 3 (21:50):
Yes. And ignore, you know, ignore the ones that are just screaming all the marketing, uh, little angles at you. Um, you know, look at where their pa look at their packaging. Uh, I think the gratitude, the day I came over the gratitude economy was when my brother, who is super conservative, um, bellowed up me to come into his kitchen. He's a former F 15 fighter pilot, and boy, when he bellows you, you run. So I come running into his kitchen and I think he kind of thought climate change wasn't real, and he didn't really understand all the focus on packaging and stuff, but <laugh> this day, he had a light bulb about this big for his fridge, and he could, the packaging was this big and he couldn't get in it, and he was absolutely irate. And then he, he blew a gasket and he was like, this, this is why all our beaches are covered with plastic, blah, blah, blah. And he gave, he gave the, he gave the talk on why we have to pay attention to recycling and all the stuff. And when I heard him do that rant, I said, okay, times are, times are different. If guys like him are questioning, um, the reuse and, uh, replace and, um, repurpose, um, economy and, and being grateful for the ones that are in on it, then it's coming. It's all coming.
Speaker 2 (23:05):
Yeah, you bet, you bet. There's probably a TED talk in that as well that people would certainly listen to. Now, um, before we round off a little bit, you know, is there anything that, um, you wish I asked that maybe I haven't asked or, um, you know, anything else or other tools perhaps we could help parents with, uh, in a practical sense on this podcast?
Speaker 3 (23:25):
Well, you know, I wanna circle back to what you started with. It's this, it's this keeping our own, our own attitudes, um, high and our hopefulness and our, you know, recognizing opportunity and setbacks. I mean, this is part of the, the <laugh> part of the package that we sign on for when we create all these little lives, right? We have to give them the best chance at surviving in a harsh world themselves. And this, this just running on autopilot all the time is what gets us into trouble clicking on things, um, just by what attracts our amygdala that our lizard brain that has just got to go, um, you know, paying attention to marketing plos that's got to go. We, we've gotta teach our kids to be really savvy. So I think what you talked about at the beginning is, um, is what's really important is that we represent to our children and our families and our coworkers the best that we can put forth.
Speaker 3 (24:29):
Not every day, we can't be our best selves every day, but if we surround ourselves with people and internet content, it's there. Here's my, here's my, uh, one big thing. If, if someone would ask me, you know, what's the first thing you can do to just start living a life where the full of hope and less fear and more joy? I would say this, pay attention to what you're giving your attention to the very first second you wake with consciousness in the morning. If you're rolling over and you're grabbing your cell phone and you are starting to scroll on social media or breaking news that is akin to just laying down on a cactus <laugh>. It just, it's just not going to go well because these, these, the, the negativity that we see first thing in the morning, it plays in the background of our mind all day long.
Speaker 3 (25:18):
And we'll be less present for our children, will be less delightful and, and hopeful and aspirational with our kids as we're cooking breakfast and then on it goes all day. But if we start the day with things that are uplifting or that give us, give us, um, you know, that are in our zone of genius or just make us feel hopeful about the day, um, we will be that person that's the helper all day long in other people's lives. Yeah. So I I, I'd like to turn people onto my podcast too. I've got a helpful podcast where I'm interviewing people all over the world who are doing extraordinary things and we have great conversations too. Like, you like starting a day with this podcast. I'm sure that would be a positive impact, but we have to be conscious of what we give our attention to first thing in the morning. I think our, our days look, go better.
Speaker 2 (26:08):
Curate the incoming. I like that. Your podcast is called The Conspiracy of Goodness podcast. And, uh, I'd like to also give mention to your book, which I think is sitting behind you there, happiness is an option, thriving instead of thriving in the era of the internet, which I'm sure is available on Amazon, where all good books are sold. Um, definitely, uh, recommended. And, um, the goodness is definitely one that parents, well everyone should check out, but, uh, particularly parents, our audience we're talking to today. Um, is there, oh, I've gotta ask a really important question. One, a fun question we like to sort of round off our podcast with, uh, and you know, what's coming and that is, if we had the old time machine, uh, hypothetically you could go back to your 10 year old self, what do you think is one piece of advice that you'd give yourself?
Speaker 3 (26:55):
So, um, I I love the Mr. Rogers advice on this. I would, I would, if I knew about this, I would've taught my kids and I would love to have been taught to look for the helpers. This is such a huge thing. It's a Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers saying, he used to say, when, when, when all is going wrong, chaos seems to reign. His mother would say, Fred, look for the helpers. They're always there. And you know, when we, when you watch the news, uh, for instance, Ukraine, what's going on in Ukraine, if you look in the background, they could be showing some miserable, horrifying thing, and they'll be people running towards the, the, the dramas towards the danger. These are the helpers in this world. So I wish someone had taught me to look for the helpers, and I think I would've, I think I would've had more ease, more courage, um, myself. I think I, I was older before I knew to just step up, do what I can do.
Speaker 2 (27:58):
Yeah. That's so great advice. And, and you've no doubt that you're definitely stepped up, uh, in terms of what you're contributing to the world and its positivity. The world needs more people like you. Dr. Linda, uh, thanks for your time. Thank you for your generosity and uh, I hope that we do cross paths again.
Speaker 3 (28:13):
Okay, great. Thank you so much. Have a great day.
Speaker 2 (28:16):
You too. Cheers.

If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast. Description parenting in the digital age is sponsored by Skill Samurai, coding and stem academy for kids. Skill Samurai offers after-school coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit