Brad Neufeld has hit many rock bottom moments in that have put him on a path to mentor troubled teens. He also shares life lessons learned in hard times.
Brad J. Neufeld: The American Dream Falls Apart
- Brad was born in Bakersfield, California and lived there until he was 13 years old.
- Moved to a very small town in Alabama where he worked on a 4,000-acre soybean farm.
- Moved to Utah and supported himself through high school.
- Married to Charlotte for almost 32 years, and has 6 children and 7 grandchildren
- Professionally—migrant worker, to trucker, to being the founder and President of Affinity Guidance Services, Inc.
- Developed the Positive Self-Management™ Learning System, the Winning Mindset Series, the Ultimate Self-Worth Workshop Series, and others.
- Over 30 years of experience in assisting others with overcoming personal challenges and helping them succeed with their own personal goals and desires.
- His passion is to help people discover their own self-worth, talents and value, and create for themselves success filled lives.
Brad’s Story of Going from Gangs in California to Being Successful
He lived in Bakersfield, California growing up and was often beat up, so he got really good at running, but that got old. Finally as he reached his teens he began to wonder if he should join a gang to get some protection. Just as he was deciding this he came home to find that his family was packing and moving–that night!
Their family drove across the country and ended up in Alabama living in a trailer. After a few months his parents decided to go back to California to clean up their mess and Brad said he didn’t want to go back. They had come to such a small town where everyone left their keys in their car and their windows open at night. It was such a contrast and Brad didn’t want to leave and go back to gangs.
So, he stayed with their friends Frank and Marlene Crabtree, but he had to support himself, even though he was 13-years-old, so he could make payments on their trailer. So, he worked on the Crabtree soybean farm making $1.85 an hour so he could stay in Alabama.
He loved his time in Alabama and stayed there for two and a half years until his family moved to Utah, and Mr. Crabtree said he should probably join his family. So he went to Utah, graduated from high school, served a mission, got married, started working as a trucker and also got into sales which earned him a good living.
The American Dream Falls Apart
Brad felt he was living the American dream. He bought a home, a car, and had a wife and a couple of kids–and then the world seemed to drop out from under him.
After working for the frozen food company and being one of their top sales people for several years, his boss called him in and split his sales territory in half. Brad went from being on top of the world, to losing his house, car, and living in his in-laws unfinished basement in 9 months.
This was devastating to him. He started having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. Brad finally went to see a doctor who told him he was depressed and gave him some medication.
Brad went through several years trying different things, visiting psychiatrists and getting psychologists and they tweaked his meds, but nothing seemed to help.
After struggling for two years, Brad decided he was going to give up. He prayed and he told God, “I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore,” and made a plan to end it all.
Just at this moment of great despair a little voice inside of him said, “Give it one more shot.” So, he decided he would study everything he could for the next 6 months and see if it made any difference.
During that 6 months of studying and he found options and avenues he could pursue. This began changing him. He realized a lot of his depression that due to people relations and abandonment issues. He figured out what people’s true needs were (including his own).
After that he made a commitment to start teaching the principles he was learning and was then able to thank God for letting him go through that dark period of his life.
Volunteering Opportunity Opens New Doors
Brad began volunteering at the Utah Boys Ranch (now Westridge Academy). This was a residential treatment center for troubled teens.
Brad began going out there and talking to the teens and playing football with them.
After volunteering there for 6 months, a therapist approached him and told him to stop talking to the boys because he was messing up their treatment plan. He didn’t even know what a treatment plan was!
Shortly thereafter a different therapist approached him and also told him to stop talking to the boys. He said, “What am I saying? All I’m doing is answering their questions.”
For example the boys would tell Brad that when they got home they were going to run away from home and go live with their friend. Brad simply spoke to them from experience–“Listen, your family is the only stable thing you have. Friends come and go. Go home, get right with your family.” He was speaking to them as a friend, from personal experience.
The therapist told him “This kid tells me that you’re helping him more than I am.”
Wheels began to turn in Brad’s mind, “Maybe all this happened to me for a reason.” He decided maybe this was what he was meant to do–help troubled teens. So, he decided to go back to college.
Brad already had a couple of kids and was making $48,000 per year when he found out a psychologist with a masters degree would get a starting pay at $23,000 per year. So, financially it didn’t make a lot of sense for him to go back to school but it was what he was feeling pushed towards doing.
As he took classes, he realized that kids were different than when he was younger. When he got paddled when he was younger, he stopped doing the thing that got him paddled. But the teens he was dealing with now were much more stubborn and resilient. Spanking them didn’t work or sway them at all–if they were going to do something, they would still figure out a way to do it.
As Brad studied the more modern teens, he realized they didn’t fit with all the diagnosis that he was studying about clinically.
At this point, Brad heard a talk from one of his spiritual leaders that really helped him look at teens a lot differently. This leader told him that the new generation had more determination than any generation in history. He also explained that they need that determination to get through.
This talk validated Brad’s thoughts, but what was he supposed to do with it?
The words of this leader answered that question as well: Don’t beat it out of them! They need that determination to make it. If you take them by the hand, lead them, guide them and show them the way, they will follow.
This was enough for Brad to set the psychology aside and really ponder what this meant for him.
The Survey That Changed Everything
Brad gathered at team of people and they then surveyed over 1,000 teens and asked them one question:
What do you want from adults?
After they got passed the “I just want them to leave me alone,” and got to the core of what they REALLY wanted, Brad and his team discovered some amazing results.
What teens really want from adults:
- To know that they are loved.
- They want someone to look up to.
- Teens want someone they can trust.
- They want to be adventurous.
- Teens also want structure and consistency.
- They also want validation.
Brad put all these things into a model called, “The Ten Things Youth Really Want” which he is currently writing a book about.
CAGE (Community Awareness Gang Education) Task Force
Brad began speaking to teens in high schools about gangs. While there, a woman approached who invited him to join the CAGE task force to help them keep teens out of gangs in the St. George area.
CAGE wanted to know WHY teens wanted to join gangs since they were so dangerous. The reason Brad considered joining a gang was for protection when he was a teenager, but he felt there was more to it that he needed to discover.
While he was brainstorming and pondering about why teens join gangs, he happened to glance over at his paper he was writing about the 10 Things Youth Really Want, and it hit him–those 10 things were the same things that gangs provided–ALL 10 of them!
So teens can either get it from the home environment or from the gang environment. Brad quickly realized that what people said about this “battle” being for the hearts and minds of our children is real.
Being the father of 6 children, this hit home to Brad, but unfortunately they’re his kids and don’t want to listen to dad. He has even had to spend the money to send his kids to counselors so they can figure out that the advice is the same coming from a counselor as it is coming from dad.
At this point Brad was a public speaker, and was teaching the Winning Mindset to people and was quite successful. As he did follow-up 6 months later, he found that people hadn’t changed at all–even though they were so pumped up from his workshop.
This really began to eat at him because he wanted to make a real difference with people, and so he began looking for how he should pivot.
Western Region Youth Council
At this point of dissatisfaction, Brad was presented with the opportunity to work with the Western Region Youth Council. They wanted to increase the effectiveness of their program, and they wanted him to help with mentoring hand in hand with the therapists they already had.
Brad’s team had tremendous success with this model where they would help the teens implement and actually DO what their therapists were telling them to do.
For example, if the teens were supposed to go talk to their teacher and they didn’t know what to say, Brad would help them figure that out. If they still didn’t go, then Brad would take them down there and talk to their teacher with them. So, he and his group were really making a difference.
A Success Story
One of the 14-year-old girls they were working with was really ambitious and had big dreams, but she would never do any of the assignments that they gave her.
After a few months without her acting on anything, Brad decided to stop by her home to see her. As he visited with this girl, he could tell something was wrong. She came out and spoke to him on the porch and then her mom came out, and she was obviously intoxicated. As he was invited into the home he saw two guys passed out on the couch that were probably doing things they shouldn’t have been doing.
Brad thought, “no wonder she is struggling to succeed.”
Brad asked her mom, “Do you want to change your situation?” and she replied that she did. So, he told her he’d come back the next day when she was sober and make a plan.
So, they made a plan to get mom into treatment and get her the help that she needed. As the mom turned her life around, this girl was then able to grow and do some really great things.
In-Home Portion Added
So after the success with this girl, they began an in-home portion of the program. By doing this and going in without judgment and finding out how the parents wanted to raise their kids, Brad and his team were able to then support them and get them the help to be successful in their homes.
Success & Failure
They had about a 93% success rate with about 1600 teens–getting them through high school and into some sort of career or post-secondary education.
After building this successful model, Brad felt fulfilled and was happy that they were finally making a difference. But the program didn’t continue.
Now what? Brad wondered.
He moved his family from St George to Tooele, Utah to start an inpatient program themselves. After a year of working on that, the guy that owned the property had a heart-attack. He lived but told Brad afterwards that he just didn’t have the energy to finish building this new facility.
And Brad hit rock bottom again. “Now what,” he wondered.
But he knew he had discovered some really effective techniques and he couldn’t let it go.
Affinity Guidance Services
This was when Brad stated Affinity Guidance Services. He was able to push through the despair of things not working out and make a difference in the world.
Advice for Parents of Teens Who Are Struggling
Parents want a few things for their kids
- They want them to be safe.
- They want them to be happy.
- In most cases they want more for them than they had.
A parent’s drive is to provide that, and we think we know better for their life than they do.
It is important for parents to realize that maybe their kids know what they are supposed to do with their life (even though they don’t have the experience yet). So, they need to get the experience.
For example: If they say they want to be a rap artist, let them try and see if they can do what it takes. To be a rapper they will need to work for 2-3 years for free to get their message out there and getting recordings done, and they will probably need to have a part time job to support themselves. They will usually figure out on their own that they really don’t want to be a rapper after all.
Advice to parents: If you try to stand in their way, you will get nothing but friction. Get rid of the fight! Ask them what they want.
The best thing you can do is build a rapport with your children. Find out what they want and help them with that. Stop trying to force them to do specific things and get to know them.
If you are still struggling with your teen, what do you do then?
Ask for Help
Parents see their kids as a reflection of them, and they don’t want anyone knowing what is going on in their home–this is human nature.
You are dealing with God’s most complex creatures and they have free will. These kids want things that are different than you probably want for them.
If your child needs to go to a hospital, it is okay. So, ask for help.
Brad has had to send his kids to counselors.
There is a magic to the third party. Often counselors teach the exact same thing that you are trying to teach in the home, but the kids need to hear it from a third party before it clicks.
Final Tip Dealing With Teens
Brad gave up a long time ago trying to find techniques that work with teens because each teen is different.
The key here is to have a consistent structure in your home. They have a model they use that they call “Parenting with flexible consistency.”
The important thing here is that you do what you say you are going to do. You have to follow through on what you say you are going to do. So, take the time and decide what the consequence is going to be before you talk to your teen about it. If you don’t follow through, that is where you lose trust with your kids.
“Consistency is the key.”
Back in 2008, Brad started having these really bad headaches and pressure behind his left eye. He visited his doctor and they prescribed him muscle relaxers and said it was probably due to stress. But the headaches didn’t get any better.
He tried to relax, but then his brother died, and the headaches were still pounding. He returned to his doctor and said, “Something is wrong.”
The doctor simply thought he had a really bad migraine. It was Friday, so the doctor gave him a shot of something that was supposed to knock him out all weekend.
Well, the shot didn’t make him sleep all weekend and by Monday he returned to his doctor who immediately wanted to send him to the hospital. Brad fought him, because they didn’t even have insurance at the time, but he eventually went once his doctor threatened him.
There is Something in Your Head
After four hours of testing the doctors came back and said, “There is something in your head.” But they didn’t know what it was. Brad still wasn’t worried at this point.
The doctors finally told him, Brad, you have got to get up to the University of Utah hospital. We just don’t know what this is, and you need to get that figured out.
He refused to go by ambulance and so his wife took him up to the University of Utah hospital after stopping at home for some clothes. Brad still wasn’t worried.
When they went to the ER there were like 150 people waiting and Brad felt frustrated because he didn’t want to be there all night. He wanted to get checked out and go home.
No sooner had he sat down then they called his name. That was when he got scared. The doctors were waiting for him, and told him they were going to have to drill some holes in his head to figure out what was happening.
Losing His Eyesight
So, Brad was in surgery for 4 hours. When he came out of it, his eyesight was gone.
When he asked the doctors what had happened, they told him they had to cut some of his skull out because there was an infection or brain abscess up there. It was actually a strep virus and it was growing and pushing his brain forward.
He then asked, “Am I going to get my sight back?” There was silence. He asked again and the doctor simply said, “Brad, we don’t know.”
Brad hit a low and had a good cry. He muttered prayers,
“What am I doing wrong? Why am I going through this? Why does this have to happen to me?”
“God is in charge,” was the only answer that seemed to come to mind. He just had to repeat that over and over and over. It was the only thing that brought him comfort.
He was discouraged because he was to the point where he was finally building his business back up when he was hit by this HUGE blow!
By the end of the week he could kind of tell who was standing in front of him (if he knew them), but everything was still blurry. So, they sent him home from the hospital, but he had to return to the hospital two times per day for a shot of antibiotics because the strep infection was everywhere in his body.
The doctors didn’t tell him until later that if he didn’t make it through that initial phase that he would have died. They just didn’t know if his immune system was strong enough to fight such a huge infection.
After being home for two weeks, the Brad got this really bad headache and the back of his neck got really tight and he began vomiting. He was in so much pain!
They had to call an ambulance and they took him back to the hospital in Tooele.
The pain was so bad that Brad asked them to kill him because nothing helped. Nothing could knock him out. Nothing would touch the pain.
They finally gave him some morphine and asked if he was still in pain. Brad answered, “Yes, but I don’t care.”
Ah, the beauty of modern medicine!
Brad traveled by ambulance back to the University of Utah where he was diagnosed with Spinal Meningitis. The infection in his brain had gone down into his spine.
This was so painful and no pain killers would help. Brad couldn’t move his head at all. If he moved even a quarter of an inch he felt like a huge shock of pain.
He had 5 IVs hooked up to him and began making little baby steps of progress. One day he was able to move his head right and left just a little without pain. The next day he could move it front and back a little.
Finally the infection moved down into his low back for 7 days, and then they were finally able to take him off of all the medication.
Only then did he find out how precarious his situation was.
Lessons Learned From Challenges
Lesson #1 God is in charge
Brad just said that over and over. It was his mantra. It is important to learn to trust that God’s way is better than ours.
Lesson #2 Pray Specifically
Brad also learned to pray and ask specific questions. For example when he was in so much pain, Brad would pray, “What can I do to alleviate this pain.” The thought would come, “Shift your left hip.” And he would and it would lessen the pain.
There were a couple of times when the answer was, “No. You are just going to have to endure it, but I’ll help you through it.” And Brad would feel these warm arms wrap around him and he knew that everything would be okay.
“God will help us with anything no matter how small it is if we will just humble ourselves and ask.”
Lesson #3 Earthly Angels
Brad was just getting his business going when all of these health challenges hit. He was discouraged and prayed to God telling him how he had lost his sight and was worried about he could provide for his family.
The feeling he got was, “Brad, I’m right here. Everything is going to be okay.”
Amazingly, other people did more work on Brad’s business while he was flat on his back. This was a miracle! He had other therapists volunteer to help and see his clients for him.
Brad realized God was right, everything was going to be okay and that things would work out in God’s timing, not his.
Lesson #4 Ask for What You Need
One time when they were struggling, Brad was praying for more money. It was around Christmas time and he knew he had money coming in about 3 weeks but they had no gas in the car, no food in the pantry.
Brad had a prompting, “Tell God what you need.”
He and his wife then make a list of everything they needed to make it the next three weeks. They decided that if they had $100 they could make it through.
So, Brad prayed for $100.
Five minutes later there was a knock at the door. His wife’s best friend was there and she handed them an envelope saying, “I had a prompting I am supposed to bring you this and don’t you dare say no.” In the envelope, they found $100 dollars.
Lesson # 5–Pride Can Be Needing Help and Not Asking For It
At a dark time in his life, Brad was putting on a face like everything was okay, when really he was falling apart inside. His Bishop called him in and said, “You need to tell me something and we are not leaving until you do.” Finally Brad broke down and told him how much he was struggling financially.
The bishop surprised him and asked, “Brad, what is pride?” Brad responded that pride was when people look down on others and kind of turn their nose up.
The bishop then explained that pride can also be when you need help and you don’t ask for it. Sometimes we are incapable of answering our own prayers and that is when God sends other people.
It is important to humbly accept gifts and blessings during tough times. You don’t have to pay people back. Simply say, “Thank you.”
“God answers your prayers through other people. Get on your knees and thank Heavenly Father, because He is the one who brought it to you.”
Lesson #6 ASK: What Can I Learn from This?
After years of experience wondering why God was punishing him, Brad listened to a motivational speaker who taught him a new idea. He said, “Life teaches us lessons, and the lessons are going to get harder and harder until we learn what the universe has in store for us.” Brad chose to call this higher power God.
This speaker also said that once we learn the lesson, the trial disappears. So, naturally Brad wanted to test this theory.
So, the next time a situation presented itself, Brad coached himself to not get angry about the situation and ask, “What do you want me to learn from this?” Then listen to the promptings God sends you.
This brought him more peace of mind because he was focusing on the journey and not on the issue.
Lesson # 7 Act on Promptings
We get promptings all day long, but we often shrug them off saying, “Naw, I don’t want to do that.” And we just don’t act on these thoughts and feelings God gives us.
Brad describes promptings as a “random thought that pops into my head.” Brad will often pause after he gets a thought and ask himself the following questions:
- Is this just me thinking or is this a prompting?
- Is this something I need right now?
- If I do this will it make a difference in my life?
Brad thinks about these questions trying to feel out if it feels good. Then he asks God, “Father I’ve been given this prompting, is this something I should do?” If he gets a warm feeling, then he goes and does it.
Favorite Bible Verses
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength.”
“God is in charge. He sees things that I don’t see.”
Brad has also come to love some scriptural references about Jesus Christ who has experienced everything–being betrayed and accused (even though He didn’t do anything wrong) because he can relate to this in his life.
He also enjoys the story of Job and remembers reading it once and relating with the idea that Job had his crops and cattle taken away. Then he realized that Job had boils but Brad hadn’t so he told God, “Bring on the boils.”
I reminded him that he kind of had a boil in his brain, so he can check that off now:).
- Dr. Wayne Dyer’s “You’ll See it When You Believe it.”
Tip: Pray about what you should read because there are so many different opinions out there. First figure out what you believe, and then read books that support and validate your beliefs.
Brad spent the first 8 years of his career chasing the quick fix to help people change their lives in one or two counseling sessions. After 8 years he realized that we don’t learn and change that way. We learn and grow “line upon line” and “precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10). That is just how God teaches us. So, take the time, be patient, learn it and make it part of your life.
His Company: Affinity Guidance Services
This is a day-treatment facility for troubled teens. They work with your kids during the day and they come home at night. This is in the Utah County Area.
Phone: (435) 830-6945
Facebook: The Brad Neufeld Show
Brad’s neurologist recently told him that he is the first 10-year survivor of the type of brain injury he incurred with the brain abscess (infection.) Usually patients die within 5-7 years of the incident. Brad attributes his health and life to God’s mercy.