To Jim Whiddon, old school is always in style.
While older generations complain about millennials and the “me” generation, Whiddon has developed a program that helps millennials, ages 17-24, get in touch with some old-school roots of professionalism.
Whiddon is the mastermind and creator of The Old School Advantage, a program that began as a book for his children then morphed into a training for all ages.
“My motivation for creating The Old School was to manufacture more opportunities for [millennials] to get this information because it is something that is learned,” he said. “It’s all about continuous improvement…If you’re always improving, that means you’re always headed in the right direction.”
Through his four-hour workshops, Whiddon teaches 10 key “old-school” principals to the general public, schools, corporations and more. He conducts six courses that address professional development for those early stages in a young person’s life.
There are courses for college students, post-graduate young professionals, mid-level executives, as well as older professionals looking to mentor younger ones.
“It kind of ranges from 15 to 100 [years old] in terms of people that can come. But where we really want to make the most difference is with the younger people,” he said.
Whiddon’s method is based on 10 keys to professional and personal success. Each of the keys is modeled after figures in history who embodied successful traits for all generations to admire.
To Whiddon, old school “means going back and garnering the tried and true principles that have really been around for centuries,” he said.
Residents of all agents can learn courage from Winston Churchill, humility from Booker T. Washington, compassion with Mother Theresa or leadership with Abraham Lincoln.
Whiddon calls these men and women “witnesses from history. And each one of them represents a particularly good characteristic that we would all like to be described with. … We use those witnesses to teach the principals of the old school, so the people that we teach will be good leaders and courageous and humble,” he said.
Whiddon’s workshops are based on his book, “The Old School Advantage.” He said he wrote the book for his four millennial-age children because he saw not enough young people were learning valuable character traits before they entered their first professional setting.
Some business schools hold etiquette training, but Whiddon believes there’s a gap.
As a baby boomer, Whiddon said he learned lessons of respect, courage and storytelling freely around the dinner table from his parents and grandparents.
“It came naturally and more organic because we didn’t have the distractions of what I call ‘the tyranny of the rectangles,’ all the electronic rectangles that surround us,” he said.
Though technology has made life easier in some ways, he said that in other ways, it’s created more distance and distraction between families. On family car rides, Whiddon would listen to his parents tell stories or talk politics. There were no iPads, iPods or individual entertainment to separate each other
“It’s just a matter of us not being together as a family,” he said.
In the lesson, they teach professionals to “scrub their vocabulary” of crutch words such as, “like,” “so” or “awesome.” Instead, they’re encouraged to use more powerful words that “show you to be a person that’s really trying to improve themselves and add to society,” Whiddon said. “The words we used give clues to who we are and the things we’re trying to aspire to in our lives.”