As career-driven individuals and busy entrepreneurs, we can get often caught up in the time-consuming race of constantly growing our income and expanding our businesses.
While our motivations may be pure, there can be long term consequences to focusing more on your work than on your family.
Our guest today knows this reality first hand.
Jim Sheils is the founder of 18 Summers, which specializes in live events, workshops, and private consulting for organizations looking to strengthen their family lives while still succeeding in business. He's an in-demand public speaker and owns a private real estate company that has done more than $200 million in transactions.
He's also an avid surfer and enjoys traveling with his family and friends, especially his wife, Jamie, and their four children.
The interview below has been edited for easier reading.
Andy Hill: How did you become interested in supporting entrepreneurs with their family lives?
Jim Sheils: It all started about 10 years ago when I read a very interesting article about Steve Jobs having his final days with the interviewer trying to explain to his family why he wasn't there for them.
It showed me that there's an important balance between success in business and success at home. And at that time of reading that article, I had some big things going on in my life.
- I was running my real estate investment company that I had literally brought back from near bankruptcy.
- I was in the middle of growing our family from two to four children and suffering the pain of miscarriages.
- And at that time as well, I had just been approved to be able to donate a kidney to my father and that was a big deal for our family.
- My wife had to step down from her long term career of running Montessori schools to help me with the recovery and things went great.
But I think when you get hit with all those things all at once, I just took on a new curiosity and commitment towards family. And in my own search, I started to share some of the rhythms and strategies that I was doing.
And here I am today.
I am my own test subject and I always say, I wouldn't be able to fake “perfection”. I have no idea what that even looks like for a family. Because family life is not about perfection, but about bridging perfection.
I think with taking that ‘into trenches' approach where I'm running businesses and doing my best at home, and sharing my experiences of what's working and not, it's really brought together a really nice community of entrepreneurs.
Where does the disconnection start to happen for families?
I think a lot of it is the pride of providing for your family, which is a big important role for sure. It's so honorable, but sometimes besides providing you've got to love them as well. For busy executives and entrepreneurs, we feel like our only needs are within the business. That's our role.
But they really need you at home as well.
A lot of people go after their business goals so hard, so fast, so frantic with the best intentions that when they stop and finally look around, their families are gone. What we see happening way more often as the family is still there, but they view you as a stranger.
We were just going so hard, so fast almost, with blinders on, we've delegated ourselves out of family life and that's when three dominant emotions take over.
If you're feeling guilty, depressed and bitter, you cannot do your best personally or professionally. It's kind of a vicious circle where we feel like we're being cheated out of family life, but we've delegated ourselves out of it.
What are some of the family rhythms that you've incorporated into your life and taught to others?
This is the big “aha” and it's so simple, profound and effective but it's overlooked and that is one-on-one time. You have to separate the parts to strengthen the whole.
So if you are spending one-on-one time with your family, it will strengthen the family as a whole and the individual relationships. It takes away sibling rivalry and puts the magnifying glass on a relationship in a positive way. I do one-on-one time with my wife every Thursday night.
Every quarter, I have a day with each of my children one-on-one. They're my most important investors, clients, key team members. I schedule a day one-on-one with them and that's a pillar in our relationship.
Intermittent Tech Fasting
Now, this is something very important, something that we're very proud we coined. If you've heard of intermittent fasting, it's got a lot of study behind it.
There is some controversy, but you only eat between certain hours, let's say between 12 pm and 7 pm and the rest of the time the body is not eating. It's for organ revitalization, weight maintenance, weight loss.
I think the same thing with technology. I'm not saying to move to a survival ranch and give it all up, but you need periods of complete and total unavailability. You have to disconnect to reconnect to the phone. So when I'm on that date with my wife, my phone's not invited.
When I'm doing one-on-one time with my child every quarter, my phone is not invited. I encourage people to start with one hour of intermittent tech fasting for the whole family. Everybody's phones off, everyone's laptops off.
And it almost feels freaky at first because you don't realize how much you're getting interrupted until you actually stop getting interrupted. If people do an intermittent tech fast one hour a day as a family, then there starts to become more of a face to face awareness of each other, deeper conversation, more jokes, more planning of adventures.
Saying the Words
Most people, most children and most spouses need two things: an apology or a genuine compliment. And those are so rare. I've seen a lot of entrepreneurs and especially business leaders roll over their children saying “Well, I don't have to apologize.” That's a big mistake.
Then with sharing words of genuine compliments, it's really shocking to see how many people go back and say, “You know what? You're right. I haven't given a compliment to my wife or my son or my daughter, because I never received those. That wasn't how my father was.” We tend to take this forward. So if we consciously just wake up a little bit and drop those in, not for ulterior motives, they blend the family together so much better.
Related Post: 7 Simple Ways to Avoid Distraction at Work and Home
How do you structure one-on-one time with your kids?
Big companies and entrepreneurs, they have board meetings. They look ahead to the next 90 days. That's what I do with each of my children.
They plan the day, we schedule it, and what we schedule gets done. It's on my calendar and they designed the day so I'm not designing it.
We always try to pick like we know what our kids want. You want to learn about their interests and passion, let them plan the day.
It's usually not anything too expensive either. I let them pick the day and then it's only three principles.
- Tech fasting, no electronics.
- And we spend time on the fun activity of their choice and time at the end of the day to talk.
That's it. That simple strategy now is spread to thousands of families.
That was my initial strategy that really coined 18 Summers probably because my oldest son, when I adopted him, was seven years old and when he came into my life, he was a terrible student, close to failing.
He had just been put “on the spectrum” at school for autism and he suffered every night from what's called night terrors. If you don't know what that those are, it's a really bad situation. Your kid wakes up crying and screaming and it can take hours to get him back to sleep.
It was from things in his past that were out of his control and my control. But I knew that those things can change from some of the principles we're talking about here today. I'm proud to say one year later he went from failing to getting this award of the most improved student as a third grade.
They retracted the diagnosis of autism and admitted it to be a mistake and because it was stress-related, there wasn't autism and probably best of all, within a year the night terrors were completely gone.
We got those results without medication, without therapy. I don't think that's what he needed. He needed a positive mental role model, a dad, which so many kids are looking for.
Even for successful entrepreneurs who aren't showing up at home. He needed a dad with whom he felt safe, loved and appreciated. That's what that simple rhythm does for our children.
Do you have any examples of one-on-one activities that you could share?
My oldest son's passion now is fishing. A lot of the times he asks to go fishing. We might go to the end of the pier, we might go to the end of our road, we might go out on a small boat. My other son is more into electronics. We've done…
- Segway tours
- Football games
- Pirate museums
- Climbing the lighthouse
- Beach adventures
- ATV tours
- Princess parties (that's with my daughter).
There are all sorts of things that you can do. They pick the activity because one of the worst things you can do is go do something they didn't want to do. It's never about what I want to do, it's what they want to do.
What would you say to a parent that doesn't feel they have the time to do one-on-one time?
When you actually start to look at a 90-day span, you can pick one night. I know that date night is every Thursday, so it's really hard for me to mess that up. If we were picking a different night every week in a different time, I'm going to mess it up.
Make It Easy
With my kid days I try to schedule them. Quality time is the best defense against lack of connection, addiction and kids going down the wrong paths. So it will cost you a lot more down the road if you don't make time now.
How can we help our kids have gratitude and appreciation?
One of the best ways I've found for kids to really appreciate what they have is getting them involved in acts of service. Now if I write a check to a charity for $1,000, that's a good thing. But they don't see that. They don't feel that.
My wife and I have been very conscious of where we've seen to help kids appreciate what they have. We do acts of service and we might do it in things they love.
So my one son loves animals, and we go to the no-kill shelter and walk the dogs. Two of my boys love the ocean, so we've actually gone out and do service projects for surfing where we'd take out blind and deaf children surfing. We take out paraplegics and quadriplegics surfing.
We've gone and done something called “Pizza Friday”, where we buy pizzas and first we bring them to the police department and fire department. Then we start to pass them out to homeless people.
You can't be afraid to keep your kids in a bubble, that could be a terrible idea. You want to expand them into things that show the realities, the practical affairs of life.
Can you tell people about your book and where they can find it?
The Family Board Meeting is on Amazon. There are thousands of families using this and the principles. It helps simplify and ground their family wants, which is my purpose. That's my mission.
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Carpe Diem Quote
“It’s very important to prioritize. I know, for me, my family comes first. That makes every decision very easy.”Jada Pinkett Smith