Today’s post comes from one of my good friends, Mark Butler. Mark survived my group in 2010, has served on our Board of Directors, and recently graduated his 2nd mentoring group. He is President of CXO Staffing, a boutique search firm focused on finding the best marketing talent for Atlanta-based companies. He’s deeply in love with Jesus, his wife Sara, and his 3 boys . . .
Several years ago, a few friends and I launched Atlanta Decision Makers to create a community of young business owners, leaders, and entrepreneurs working together to help make wise decisions consistent with following Jesus. Atlanta Decision Makers organizes quarterly gatherings intent on learning from the life experiences of business and community leaders through panel discussions around topics such as Purpose, Stewardship, and Integrity. These events give us a framework to discuss what these mentors and leaders have done right, and what they would have done differently.
Recently, I compiled all of the notes from past Decision Makers events and highlighted the discussion themes. More than 45% of the conversations focused on family, marriage, and children. Strikingly, these uber-successful guys focused a significant portion of their time on lessons learned regarding leading well at home. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the discussions . . .
- Triple-down the time you invest with your children during the “Halloween years.” These critical years between the ages when your child first becomes interested in Halloween and when he’s too cool to dress up like a pirate are the most important phase of your parenting.
- The best thing you can do for your children is model a Biblical marriage. Your kids will thrive in the space between you and your wife. Great kids come from great marriages.
- All important decisions in life should be made in “3’s.” This is you, your spouse, and God. Spouses are often given uncanny wisdom regarding key life decisions. God often speaks to us through our spouse.
- Be intentional to frequently change the standard routines and rhythms of life with your children. Take them out of school early for a ballgame. Schedule vacations. Surprise them with a breakfast date. Invest in making special memories with your family.
- Your marriage is your basecamp . . . if you’re not happy at home, you’ll be vulnerable in all areas of your life.
- Develop a structure and a communication style in your marriage so that you can share your heart. Learn to feel, not fix.
- The #1 conflict in marriage is around finances. Work with your wife to create a financial action plan and make decisions based on the agreed-upon strategy and principles. Reduce anxiety in your marriage by evaluating your progress against the yearly plan on a quarterly basis.
- Start teaching your children about finances and responsibility at an early age. Give them a checkbook register and have them maintain a checking balance with allowance and purchases. Teach your child to tithe from day one. Make sure they understand that “interest is something you earn, not something you pay.”
- All kids want you to “tell me who you think I am.” Focus on making sure they know “this is who you are and this is what you’re about.” Set a high standard. Build up and encourage your children daily.
- When parenting, be very, very careful using “words of correction.” Don’t just correct but focus on their identity and standards of behavior.
- When your children start playing sports, don’t place too much emphasis on success and achievements. Be a cheerleader, not a coach.
- Never set an expectation at work that is in variance with your responsibilities at home. Focus on balance. Your family will understand if you have to work late when the “ox is in the ditch.” The problem comes when the “ox is always in the ditch.”
- Woo your wife and work daily to build her self-esteem . . . not for what she does, but for who she is.
- When your children are old enough to choose their friends, be extremely intentional about making sure your kids hang out with the right crowd. Pack up and move if you have to do so.
- Train your children as if you won’t be around tomorrow. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
- Learn to align with your wife as an ally in business and life. Done properly, you can double the fun of successes and only share half of the angst of a loss.
As I recently led my 2nd Radical Mentoring group through our Commencement Retreat, I left my guys with one of my favorite quotes . . .
“To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.” – Samuel Johnson
Marriage is really hard, especially with young kids. But every day, there’s an opportunity to sacrifice your selfish, “I want it now,” for the longer view of marriage: to have peace in your home, to live in harmony, to have joy, to love, to be loved, and to have a lifelong companion.
In addition, kids don’t keep. There are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and him leaving for college. My oldest son just turned 7 . . . giving me approximately 575 Saturdays left with him. I want to make them count. The days are long, but the years are short . . . put the time and effort in now so you can look back as a grandpa on a family legacy built on love, sacrifice, and Jesus.
Life is hard, marriage is hard, and parenting is hard. But it’s worth it.
Scripture: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16, emphasis added)