By C. Jayden Smith
A San Clemente-based author seeks to help teenagers succeed in the classroom, in athletics, and against mental health struggles by giving away 100,000 copies of his new book, The Mental Edge for Teens.
Ken Baum, who has trained people for success in various fields since the 1980s, curated The Mental Edge program decades ago and now wants to change the trajectory of thousands of young lives for the better.
“This is not hocus pocus; this is not ‘Be Positive Paul’ or ‘Sunshine Sally,’ ” Baum told San Clemente Times. “This stuff is teaching you how to program the most sophisticated, powerful computer in the world—your brain.”
When social justice movements for equality and fairness emerged nationwide in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, he felt the need to tangibly bring positive change to the world by exposing his teachings to underprivileged populations.
“That was my driver to get this book in the hands of as many underserved kids as I possibly could,” Baum said.
For every book he sells, he will give away one copy. He has already given 250 books to the Wolf Creek School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, 40 to a Sacramento basketball club, and more books to a continuing high school in Los Angeles.
Conceptualizing a book to inform teenagers came from years of experience working with young athletes, according to Baum.
After seeing repeated examples of the habits his pupils learned trickle into gaining confidence and improving at school, Baum felt he could insert the principles into a book that apply to numerous areas in life.
Some of the challenges that can arise when training teens include shorter attention spans and vague goals, the latter of which can hinder a crucial step of identifying paths to success. With any client, Baum focuses first on determining what exactly they want, which can help set expectations and a firm foundation of what to do next.
“(Also) a lot of them have a really huge goal, (saying) they’re going to be in the Hall of Fame and they have yet to play a high school game,” he said. “A lot of uncertainty is what I feel from teens today.”
Baum’s professional development as a trainer began after a stint in the corporate world where he first taught people how to communicate and give speeches. His first job with an athlete came in 1983.
From then on, he took industry courses and used practical application opportunities to solidify himself within the development world.
Establishing a desired result is a key part of efficiently training clients for progress, he said.
“We start with finding what they want,” said Baum. “We find out what their values are, what makes them click, and we link the values to what they want.”
The next steps include looking at strengths, whether athletically, academically, or otherwise, evaluating challenges and how to overcome them, and then asking the clients whether they’re willing to sacrifice to bring their dream to fruition.
“We do all that before we set a goal, and that’s what really makes this so different and so powerful,” Baum said.
His advice to parents, coaches and others who work with young adults is to have an undying belief in the children and that they shouldn’t judge teenagers’ athleticism or intelligence too soon.
He added that adults should let teenagers be themselves and nourish their growth and encourage in the most positive way.
Growing up in a household with a mother who held an eighth-grade education and a father whose livelihood revolved around working on the farm and not excelling at school, Baum said he had to figure out how to succeed on his own.
“I had great parents by the way, I’m not knocking them at all,” he said. “I think that’s why I see so many kids without that belief system, without the support.”
Despite the surplus of information available at teenagers’ fingertips because of advancements in technology, Baum still sees children struggling to become the person they want to be. With his book, he said his lessons will provide that help.
Baum has given away 960 books so far.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.