How to Survive Being Away from Your Family and Kids for Work

2017 has found me in a much different situation than anything I have experienced. I am 46, soon to be 47 in November, and I am for the first time working in a different state from where I live. My family resides in Franklin, TN while I am currently working in Salt Lake City, UT. Not exactly how I would have planned things, but it is nonetheless where I find myself. One thing I know for sure is that I am in the center of God’s will, and that is absolutely the best place to be no matter what the circumstances are. However, it does present it’s challenges, and there are many.

Beginning January 2, 2017, I started commuting from Franklin, TN to Salt Lake City, UT for my new COO gig with Financially Fit. In my previous position with Dave Ramsey, travel was very limited with only 2-3 trips per year. Now, I travel 2-3 weeks a month. Normally, I begin my commute early Monday morning with my lovely wife dropping me off at the airport around 5:30 AM. After a long week, she picks me up Friday night around 9:30 PM where we then finish off the evening with a rather late night out. With 6 kids at home from ages 5-17, it can be a little difficult to say the least. My wonderful wife has done an amazing job holding down the fort and keeping the insanity of our lives in balance…if there is such a thing with 6 kids. 🙂

As a husband, father and professional, this new lifestyle is requiring to me step up and adjust my game. Not to mention my new company is a startup which presents all sorts of challenges. The stakes are extremely high. Employees depending on my doing a good job…long hours of the startup. 6 little lives depend on me doing a good job as a father, and 1 amazing woman depending on me as well. Demanding? Yes. Challenging? Absolutely. Impossible? No.

So here’s how I’ve adjusted my parenting, husbanding, and professional game. I’m just beginning, but I’m happy with the results so far.

  1. Be Intentional. Whether its work, the kids or your spouse, be intentional. Don’t let any time slip away from you. When I’m home on the weekends, I start early and end late. Cooking Saturday morning breakfast with my girls. Yard work our projects with my boys. Campfires and smores. Taking the kids to school every morning and putting them to bed every evening. As soon as I get off the plane Friday evening, its spouse time. A late night snack, dessert or a movie, she gets my full attention. Whether I’m in Salt Lake City at work or in Nashville, focused intensity is the most important thing. My Salt Lake work schedule is typically 8:00 AM till 10:00 PM. I like it that way and I keep my life simple. No TV. No distractions. My Nashville schedule is a little different. Work starts at 8:00 and goes till 5 or 6, with a dinner and family break from 6-10, then the day closes out with a little work from 10-11. This week, I’ll be sending my first surprise “care package” home to the kids and my wife, being sure to leverage Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages in the notes and gifts I send everyone.
  2. Keep Life Fun. I’m probably more focused on fun family time and keeping life exciting that I ever have been. When I’m home, we’re always finding fun things to do on the weekends or during the week. Cooking together. Walking the neighborhood. Spring break to Salt Lake City for snowboarding. Family games like Mafia, Pokemon, etc. Anything the kids enjoy is fair game.
  3. Cut Back the Distractions. Since I am spending a lot of time in Salt Lake City, I want the time away from my family to count. I’ve chosen a simple lifestyle. No car. No TV. No frills lifestyle. It’s allowed me to keep my thoughts much more clear and stay more focused on productivity than every before. The clarity and direction I see now is extremely refreshing, and I’ve found it to help me be even more focused and productive when I’m at home with my family.

2017 has been an interesting journey so far and I have plenty to learn before I can say I’ve figured it out.

A 2017 Reading List for Success

Whenever I go through the airport heading to my flight, I make it a point to walk through the bookstore. 90% of the time something will catch my eye and once again they have me hooked. I’m a sucker for a good book.

However on this particular morning while heading out to Salt Lake City for a cold snowy week, I reached a conundrum. I found a particularly enticing assortment of books. While I tried to narrow my selection down to just one book, I couldn’t. My next choice was to expand to two or three books which I quickly eliminated as a viable option seeing as I had three books witb me already. Hmmm. Such an unfortunate predicament.

Finally, it occurred to me. Any one of these books would be an amazing read, and seeing as I had only read two of the books, why not make this book display my reading list for the year? And thus was born my business reading list for 2017. I say my business reading list because I have various other spiritual, adventure, and scientific books already started.

As I found this shelf to be filled with very relevant topics for my new adventures in 2017, I felt it only fitting to share the list with others. Enjoy.

A Visit with Global Media Outreach

There are many great leaders and groups doing wonderful work in sharing Jesus with the world. Several weeks ago I was introduced to Global Media Outreach. GMO as they call it was founded by Walt Wilson. I could write several books about Walt and you’d never be able to put them down. Former marine and former Apple team member and leader on Steve Job’s team, Walt walked away from the professional business world to focus on using digital media to reach the world for Christ. What God has used him to do is simply amazing.

Walt Wilson: Video 1 , Video 2 , Article

Global Media Outreach was started in 2003. Since that time, GMO has served up the Gospel to over 1.5 Billion times worldwide and achieved an astounding 150 million decisions for Christ. With over 4,000 volunteer online missionaries, GMO reaches people for Christ in 126 countries and across 6 languages.

GMOs unique approach targets language groups and then leverages online and mobile digital to reach people for Christ. Early on Walt recognized the power of the internet to reach people for Christ and set about preparing for the day when he would be able to embrace the mission full time. Now 13 years later, GMO is able to present the gospel of Jesus for 10 cents! 10 cents will serve up the gospel to someone in the middle east where not even the most courageous missionaries are able to go.

Being a numbers geek myself, GMO’s use of numbers and analytics made me smile. They have the best numbers on Christian expansion in the world. Serving up the gospel over 250,000 times per day and seeing roughly 25,000 decisions for Christ, GMO has put together what is probably one of the best estimates on where the gospel is being sought.

I’m looking forward to getting more involved with Walt and Global Media Outreach. Take time to look at their ministry. It is truly amazing. http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com

Leading Your Family. Loving Them Well.

Tuesday morning. Dropped the kids off at 7:58 just before the 8:00 buzzer. Whew! I was running late because the printer wasn’t working and my 13 year old son needed his homework printed. Quick lecture on printing it and having it ready the night before all while fixing the printer. Done. 3 kids waiting in the car…my girls 11, 8, 6. Yes, I have 6 kids. 3 boys. 3 girls. Ages 16, 13, 11, 8, 6, 5. Boy. Boy. Girl. Girl. Girl. Boy…who has his mom rapped around his finger.

I love my family, but I don’t think I’ve always appreciated them as much as I should have. I certainly didn’t show it. I married late…one month shy of 28…sometimes you have to wait on quality. 7 months later, my wife was pregnant with our son. The plan was to wait 3 years, but what the heck…time for a child. That was 1999.

Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Unfortunately, we don’t do a good job these days equipping our young marriages and young parents. While I grew up in a very loving home, my father wasn’t a great example of a leader in our family which doesn’t surprise me. He came from a broken home where he had to drop out of school in 9th grade to survive. As a young man newly married with a child, it did leave me on my own to figure some things out. After all, I hadn’t seen an example of how to do it right. Unfortunately, that’s not an uncommon story in today’s society.

As you might guess, I stumbled along for years. Neglecting and failing in many areas at home. I spent my time focused on work, my own projects, and distractions.

I guess it was around 2008 when I started to wake up. One day after my 35 minute drive home, I walked through the front door and said “Hi” to my kids who were sitting on the couch watching TV. They essentially ignored me, and I went on to my routine. Eat. Get the kids ready for bed. Go do my thing. A routine. A daily routine. A daily routine for years. However on that day, something was different. This wasn’t how it should be. If I was the father I should be, my kids would be jumping off that couch to meet me at the door. They would greet me with excited smiles and eyes. I needed to change.

So where did I start? Babysteps.

My First Step: Make My Kids My Primary Focus When I Arrive Home From Work
On your drive home, stop thinking about what you want to do after your kids are in bed. Think about what you want to do with your kids when you get home. Make your kids your focus.

Some starter ideas…
Sit on the couch, watch tv and hold them
Tickle them
Play hide and seek in the house (it’s so much fun!)
Ask them about their day
Flip them on the bed

It didn’t take long to accomplished my basic goal. Kids greeted me at the door. They smiled. They screamed. They jumped into my arms. That’s fantastic! Yet as I’ve learned after 6 kids and 18 years of marriage there’s so much more to being a parent…and a husband. Remember. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. There’s a secret to making it all work. Want to know what it is? It’s really very simple.

You have to be intentional. Kids don’t just turn into good kids. Kids don’t just turn into good adults. Marriages don’t just turn into good marriages and last. You have to be intentional. Ridiculously intentional.

So that was 8 years ago and here I sit, just 7 short months after separating from my job of 15 years. This life halftime has afforded me a much needed time to reflect on my life. During that time,  I’ve come to know my wife, my kids and my family in a whole new way…a deeper way. And I want to leave you with a few tips on loving your kids, your spouse and your family well.

My girls (11, 8, 6)

  • Put them to bed every night
  • Pray with them. Take Turns letting them pray. Pray over them: “God, I thank you for my daughters and how beautiful and smart they are. Please watch over them and keep them safe. Always remind them of how much you love them and I pray that they always tell you how much they love you and that they will never let anyone trick them into believing you aren’t real. We love you so much Jesus. Amen.”
  • Kiss and hug them goodnight. Tell them “I love you. You are so beautiful and smart.”
  • Play games…in house hide and seek, ball tag outside.

My boys (16, 13)

  • Go to their rooms. Hang out with them in their room.
  • Tell them goodnight…every night. Hug them. Ask them if they prayed. Make sure I pray with them at least occasionally.
  • Tell them how proud I am of them.
  • Tell them how much I respect them.
  • Wrestle them. Tell them how strong they are and how they can get stronger. Challenge them. They need to be strong to protect their family some day.
  • Encourage and challenge them to be their best.
  • Give them a book to read. (Recently gave my 13 year old a leadership book on Bear Bryant)
  • Play games…in house hide and seek, ball tag outside.

My boy (5)

  • Don’t let him get lost in the family.
  • Tell him how much you love him.
  • Hug him. Tickle him…a lot. Chase him…a lot. Swing him with a family member…a lot.
  • Play with him even when you don’t have time.
  • He’s not a morning person. Wake him up in a fun way (The woodpecker. They tickle worm. The spider with a pinching bite. The scratching, licking dog.)

My wife

Confession. I have not loved my wife well over the years. 2015 was a rebuilding year for us after 17 years of marriage. What began as trying 1 marriage counseling session turned into weekly marriage counseling for 6 months. It was worth it. It helped me to wake up and make some much needed changes. Everybody needs a marriage tune up once a year. I learned that from one of the greatest leaders in my life, Dave Ramsey.

  • Hold her…a lot. Kiss her…a lot.
  • Tell her and show her you love her…a lot. Tell her she’s beautiful…a lot. (Unfortunately, many women grow up not hearing this from their fathers. Men, this is a must. If you’re not doing it. Fix it. Your marriage will exceed your wildest expectations.)
  • Come up with amazing romantic nicknames…not the same stuff everyone uses.
  • Watch romantic stuff.
  • Establish a regular date night. We’ve done weekly date nights for 11 years. Although we’re not always able to stay on track, we’ve been faithful to our date night 80% of the time. Our budget is tight now, so we spend more time at the coffee shop together writing or reading.
  • Discover her love language and fulfill it every day.

A well run and lead family is the most amazing and fulfilling things I have experienced in my lifetime of 45 years. Why did I wait so long to get it together? It’s  not easy, but it is oh so worth it. Get it together. Be Intentional.

 

 

HALFTIME, A Life Journey

My fifteen year career with Dave Ramsey and the Ramsey Organization ended on May 2, 2016. It was a wonderful fifteen years, and while I was sad to see it end, it was time. It was a wonderful journey through which I learned so much. I met and worked with so many wonderful people, and I was able to work on so many amazing projects. It was such a life experience to walk with Dave as his company grew from 30 people in 2001 when I joined  to over 550 in 2016 when I left. Now it is time for a new season and journey.

Fortunately after following Dave’s teachings and principles for fifteen years, I am in a place where I can take my time in figuring out what’s next. Now at forty five years of age, it is a perfect time to begin a new adventure. Over the last four months, I’ve been focused on my family. I wish that everyone could enjoy time like this with their children.

I believe in God’s active hand in our lives. He’s here. All we need to do is seek Him out. During the last few months something interesting happened during this time as I began to meet with people and advisors. The book Halftime by Bob Buford kept coming up. If someone mentions a book to me once,  I take notice and write it down…sometimes I buy it…sometimes I read it. With Halftime, it happened four times over 3 months. Four different people in four different meetings over 90 days recommended I read Bob Buford’s Halftime. That’s never happened before, and it caught my attention…as it should have.

Interestingly enough, I had a copy of the book on my shelf at home…with a bit of dust on it. One of the many books I purchased with good intentions of reading…later…apparently much later. Tonight, I finished it. I wish I had read it 5 years ago. For this season of my life, reading it was perfectly timed.

So what was so good about Halftime that caused four people that I respect to recommend it to me? I’d like to do an indepth review of the book for you, but that would do you a great disservice. I will over you these highlights, for the rest, you’ll have to read it yourself to see what its become such a recommended and appreciated book.

Highlights

  1. Bob Buford offers a very strong Christian perspective on life, its importance, significance and value. Bob’s writing inspired me to seek and aspire for more dedication and value to Jesus and God.
  2. Bob faced some very difficult challenges in life. Challenges that would wreck many people. It caused him to draw closer to God and evaluate at a much deeper level the life that he was leading.
  3. He provided me with a great framework for this season of my life. Tools to evaluate where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. Tools to evaluate where I want to go with the rest of my life and how to get there.

I’ve recently started a new Super PAC, A Better America, and I will soon start a new non-profit, Take God’s Hand. I’m very excited about both of these endeavors and what the future holds, but I must admit there is doubt in my mind. Challenges ahead. Family financials. What sacrifices will be made? For me, Halftime was a very timely book. It challenged me to press forward, never give up, and to trust the God that brought me to this place. He has a plan and he’s equipped me for it.

 

Part of Leadership. Learn to Relax.

I’m an active guy. Slowing down is not something I do well. At work, I stay busy. At home, I stay busy.Even when I go on vacation, I don’t vacation. What is this “relaxation” you speak of?

So here’s a great example of what I’m talking about. I planned a family trip to Disney a few years ago. Nevermind the fact I erroneously planned the trip during one of Disney’s peak seasons, spring break. Let’s start with who was on this adventurous and daring trip. My wife. My sister. My 6 kids. My 60 year old mom and dad. My 65 year old mother and father in law. As if that wasn’t enough, our days started early and consisted of me with 1 kid on my shoulders and 1 on each hand. I had 3 kids by myself, while all the other adults had 3 between them. Why can’t they keep up with me? (I was a little oblivious to the fact I was toting four elderly grandparents through an overcrowded Disney park…turned out one of of them was coming down with an upper respiratory infection!)

While the mornings started early (6 or 7 am), the evenings ended late. After all, we’re staying at a Disney hotel, and I needed to use that extra hour they give you after the park closes. Most days, everyone else wrapped early, while I kept a few of the kids out till 12:00 or later. No wonder I was tired when I got back from my vacation! I believe I walked 8 miles a day!

Now things are starting to change. In the last several years, I’ve been blessed to have some wonderful friends come into my life who live a much different vacation lifestyle than I do. Now I’m learning to chill. I’m learning to actually sit on a beach and relax by a pool for longer than 30 minutes at a time. I don’t actually have to be doing something all the time! It’s freaking amazing!

Here’s a great relaxation tips article from one of my favorite blogs…LifeHacker.com.

Now, the reason for the timing of this post is that my wife and I just returned from Sandals Grande Resort in St. Lucia. It was an amazing trip and probably my favorite resort and vacation to date. Let me emphasize this was a “no kid” vacation. We didn’t take our kids, but even better there were no kids at the resort! Some parents may judge me for leaving my kids behind, but I really don’t care. I’ve earned it. Now, you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a trip without your kids. It’s healthy for you. Our trip was a short one spanning Wednesday through Sunday. Keep in mind we have six kids, so 1 day away from six kids is equal to 3 days away from 2 kids.

My wife and I really enjoyed St. Lucia and Sandals, so I feel I owed them a shout out since they took such good care of us. Thanks Sandals! Hopefully we’ll see you again soon!

slide-01

Strategic Planning

I love planning. Absolutely, love it. I don’t think I realized how much I enjoyed planning until more recently as my job responsibilities have changed. I enjoy looking into the future to create vision and devising plans on how to achieve that vision. Thinking through the details, all the angles, all the possibilities. It excites me.

I guess I should have realized this sooner and worked to leverage that side of who I am. Even as a youngster the signs were there. Learning to play chess and enjoying the complex strategy needed to win. Visualizing what moves your opponent would make and what your options would be. Some matches even able to predict 7-10 moves ahead what my opponent would be doing. Other areas where planning tendencies manifested included putting together neighborhood fishing, basketball, and football tournaments.

In June, I transitioned from CIO to COO. My new set of responsibilities include Strategic Planning, PMO, and Internal Communications. While I’ve lead Strategic Planning for many of our Ramsey Solution digital efforts over the past 15 years, I’m now leading the company’s entire strategic planning efforts, and it is a challenge.

I’m excited about the progress we’ve made this year in developing some process and structure around our top level planning. In the past, we have been a bottom up very entrepreneurial culture. While we are still maintaining that very entrepreneurial bent, we are balancing it with some top level direction that connects our many businesses and products in a stronger way. With this change, we hope to reach even more people and impact their lives.

As I’ve reached out to other leaders at companies of all sizes, it has been interesting to discover how many companies don’t do any top level strategic planning. I’ve been asked several times from companies smaller than ours to several times larger than us, “are you getting any value out of strategic planning? What are you doing?”

For those of you who are interested, here a few of the resources that are influencing our strategic planning efforts.

Patterson’s StratOp Process

Traction – EOS (Entreprenuerial Operating System) by Gino Wickman

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 10.51.03 PM

The Rockerfeller Habits by Verne Harnish
Additional Resources

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 10.50.11 PM

Strategic Planning and Innovation Summit

 

The Only True to Scale Model of our Solar System

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.17.34 PM

Our universe is an amazing place. It is an infinitely complex system. Truthfully, it is billions of infinitely complex systems called galaxies. I’m constantly amused and bewildered at people who try to explain the universe’s origin with the “Big Bang” or other theories. The universe is more complex than our human minds can comprehend, so we try to simply explain away it’s complexity tih simple terms and theories.

Today on twitter I found this interesting project a group of guys spent time in the Nevada desert building. They have created an accurately scaled version of our solar system. Their team claims it is the first and only true to scale version of our solar system. Once you see it, it really puts things into perspective. It helps you realize that our solar system is only one of hundreds of millions in the Milky Way Galaxy and that the Milky Way Galaxy is but one of billions of galaxies.

True to Scale Model of Our Solar System

Planets, Stars and Galaxies. Our Beautiful Universe.

Ever since my sixth grade science class, I’ve had a fascination with Astronomy. Although it has ebbed and flowed over time, I’ve my desire to learn more about astronomy and someday own a “monster” telescope has remained.

My parents bought my first telescope for me in 7th or 8th grade. I don’t recall exactly when, but I do remember it being during my middle school years. It was a Celestron refractor telescope very similar to this one Celestron Refractor Telescope. It was a fine entry level telescope especially for a kid.

When I married in 1998, I was pleased to discover that my wife had won a Reflector Telescope at a store drawing. It was big step up from the telescope I had as a kid. After having a few kids of our own, somewhere along the way the kids trashed the tracking gears. It was time for some upgrades. 🙂

After a bit of research and deciding on a budget, I landed on a 12″ Zhumell Dobsonian from telescopes.com. Its quite the telescope standing almost 6′ tall off.

zhummeldesktop

So why all this fascination with astronomy? If you stop for minute and clear your mind of everything you think of during your daily routine. Seriously, clear out all this distractions. Now…

Ponder that earth is 25,000 miles in diameter and its surface is more smoother than a billiard ball relative to size. Its fascinating. Planets rotate, spin around a sun on a set path, all in synchronicity without colliding. Its fascinating. In our Milky Way Galaxy scientists have discovered 500 solar systems. Our Milky Way Galaxy is said to house some 300 billion stars.  It’s fascinating.

I could go on, but pictures speak louder than words.

NASA daily photo site

Google Galaxy Search Images

I’m still completely baffled that anyone thinks that the universe as complex as it is could every have simply “occurred”. Its the most complex thing that has ever existed. Matter, planets, gravity, thermodynamics, magnetism, planets, stars, DNA, life, photosynthesis, food processing, and the list is endless. God’s design is written on everything.

Blogging Again

After taking a 1 year break from blogging, I’m back albeit with a different purpose.

The original reason behind my blog was to use it as a networking tool. I feel like I accomplished my goal. I used the blog as a calling card when reaching out to top tier business leaders. CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CMOs and the like. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to make many connections, and I attribute many of those connections to the visibility I gained through my blog. One of my favorite achievements was the interview with Josh James while he was the CEO of Omniture. As a result of my blogging around the Omniture community, Gail Ennis, Omniture CMO, took notice and while attending the Omniture Summit, she afforded me the opportunity to sit in a room with Josh James. It was a fantastic experience.

Now in this next iteration of blogging, I hope to share thoughts and ideas that I’ve picked up over the years. Recently on a trip to Washington D.C., I was afforded the opportunity to visit Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson and also to visit George Washington’s home. During those visits, I was able to get a glimpse into what allowed these men to become great leaders of our country. They spent much of their time learning, but they also spent much of their time spreading ideas via writing, letters and meetings. Now at 45, father of 6 children, 17 years of marriage, with a moderately successful career, I now hope to share a little of what I’ve learned so that someone may find it useful on their life’s journey.