A solo trip to the island country of New Zealand at age 26 was a life-changing experience for Ruth Lamberty. Surrounded by mountains and mighty volcanoes, self-motivation was critical.
“I didn’t have the luxury of FaceTiming my mom,” says Lamberty, now 40. “That push really changed me. It taught me to have a global approach to life, to be flexible, to make room for mistakes, and face my own challenges.”
Lamberty shares these lessons with teens at the educational institute she founded: Adult Prep, LLC. It prepares teens for life skills through courses and private coaching.
Originally from Olney, Lamberty lives in Mt. Washington with her husband George and two stepdaughters, Natalia and Miranda. Their “furbaby,” Dash the dog, completes the group.
Lamberty previously spent some time living in Florida, but says she prefers Baltimore because “the roots run deep here” and “it’s easy to find the support you need and the right way to give back.”
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.
What is significant about the start of a new year for you?
This new year is also the start of a new decade. It’s motivational in a sense to think: I am here to experience all the new decade has in store.
Everybody has different motivations. Some don’t even know what their motivations are; it takes some digging. Personally, I buy into the new year to focus on yourself. Resolutions can be helpful. What I do for myself and clients is find the best way to accomplish them — that is, create small goals, or milestones. Concentrate on one step at a time. We work better on timelines.
The time between the Jewish New Year and the calendar New Year flies by. We’re making gifts, giving donations, senior [high school students] are applying to colleges, and college students are job searching. It’s easy to get caught up in those to-dos. What’s special for Jews is we have the best of both worlds. We have two chances to commit to personal growth. I think being able to bridge Jewish tradition with our American culture really gives double the opportunities.
Why did you found Adult Prep, LLC?
I was at the Federation [of Greater Washington] for about 10 years. I loved the work and the family, but was ready for the next challenge.
I thought long and hard about the population I wanted to work with. Working with the next generation, empowering them to be successful, is huge to me. There’s a lot of anxiety and lack of confidence [at their age, which is] a danger to their futures if they can’t break out of it. My goal was to start young so that they are more confident to overcome that pressure.
I customize the approach I take to find their goal. For group classes, I do an intake, written assessment so I can start everybody on a level playing field. For example [the teens have different levels of] financial literacy. For personal clients, I sit down separately with them and an adult, because [teenagers] have a separate sets of goals [than their parent figure].
This is gonna sound super cheesy: There’s a phrase, “Find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I adore the time I spend coaching my clients. It’s challenging in the best ways. When you get that genuine ‘thank you’ or see a client’s success when they come home from college and have enjoyed it, there’s no better feeling.
What is the most important lesson you teach teens?
What separates the work I do from some teachers and therapists is coaches try to lead the client to make their own conclusions. Especially with this age group, when they come to a conclusion on their own with guidance, it leads them toward a much better place to work on their own goals. It empowers them with the knowledge they had already in them, to figure things out and make room for mistakes. That’s what I want them to walk away with: an independent mindset and power to take those steps.
Each teen I work with is an individual. Some have confidence, are overactive, burn themselves out trying to be at the top of every list. Some are disorganized, or dysfunctional. One of the things we work on in those initial sessions is figuring out what their motivations are. For a teen, it can be one-on-one time, helping others, or we need to figure out what it is.
Ultimately the most common threat is adjustment. There’s a lot being thrown at you at these fragile ages. To overcome the fear of transition at a young age is so helpful, because we transition every few years.
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