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A lot of us are hard-charging employees, side hustlers, or business owners who are looking to grow, get that promotion, or just make more money. But we can’t forget the most important people in our lives: our spouses and our children.
Today, we’re going to talk about how we can practice putting family first and how it’ll help us be even more successful in our financial lives.
Jon Vroman is my guest today. He’s married to his wife Tatyana and he’s a father to two energetic and playful boys, Tiger and Ocean, and they live in Austin, Texas.
Jon is a bestselling author and the founder of a global network of men at Front Row Dads. They believe in being family men with businesses, not businessmen with families.
Andy Hill: What’s the long term impact on kids who have parents that are more present in their businesses than with their family?
Jon Vroman: We really won’t know until we’re seeing the effect of it, the values that we’re attempting to instill are years down the road. It’s a game of faith in many ways, and that’s why we look back at our own childhood.
We ask ourselves what worked, and can we continue to implement within our families, carry the tradition forward, and where we feel like, “Hey, that didn’t work, and we need to change something?”
Some things I look back on my childhood and I think, “You know, yeah. That was tough and I went through that, and I’m glad because it fortified this character that I’m very proud that I have today.” Then there are other pieces of it where I’m like, “Yeah. I might have made the best of a bad situation, but I don’t need to deliver that to my kids.”
It’s not just like, “Well, I went through it as a kid and suffered, so you’re going to also. It’s a rite of passage.”
You go, “Ah, I don’t know that we need that,” but there’s a lot of hardships that kids are going to face. There’s a lot of traditions that worked for us as parents that we want to continue to pass along, and I think that this is a big experiment.
So, I think we’re all hoping that what we’re doing today is going to help our kids and then generations to come.
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When did you realize you weren’t putting family first?
I was a corporate executive and decided to take the leap to start my own business. It was 2008 when I did that.
All in one year:
- I left a corporate job with secure paychecks
- Started my own company
- Bought a second house
- Got married
- And had a child.
In year two, I went $100,000 dollars in credit card debt trying to call myself a motivational speaker, and year three it finally worked. I won an award in the college speaking market and made $100,000 dollars, barely starting to dig myself out of debt.
The next year I made $200,000 and started to pay down some of that debt, and by year three we were in the clear and the rest is history.
It was a very interesting journey.
The thing that you’re referring to is I was in a startup grind mentality. I wanted to build this thing so I have time and freedom for my family, and I think there’s a lot of people that find themselves in this place.
You’re busy trying to build a life for time and freedom for your family, and you’re spending all your time and freedom away from your family building a startup.
For me, I woke up one day and my son was 6 and I was like, “You know, I’ve been talking a lot about being a great dad and building a life of flexibility.” I had read so many books on leadership and speaking, and writing, and coaching and all these things on entrepreneurship. I read so many books on that and I said, “When I become a dad, I’m going to read so many books on fatherhood, and parenting, and marriage. I’m going to be the best dad.”
Then one day, here we are. My son is 6 and I’m like, “I’ve read two books on parenting, I have never been to one personal growth conference to be a better father or husband.”
The way it hit me was I was at a party and somebody said, “What do you do?”
I knew what they were asking. They wanted to know what I do professionally, but I started to answer that question of what I did professionally and then I cut myself off. I’m like, “You know, I’m a father and I’m a husband. When I’m not doing that, I do a couple of other things,” and that felt like such a good answer.
The problem is, it wasn’t true.
When I went home and I got honest with myself, I looked at my calendar, I looked at all the folders I had on my desktop and every single one of them was for building a charity, core values of the business, every single thing in the calendar. I invested $50,000 that year, $30,000 to become a better speaker,$20,000 in my next book, and it was all these things.
Then I thought, “I invested zero dollars in my family. I invested zero time learning and growing,” and I said, “Wow, that’s got to change.”
So because I host live events and I had done that for over a decade at that point, I decided to get 30 guys together and said, “Look. We’re going to do a conference and the only rule is no business talk. I’m tired of talking about business. You could talk about business forever. There’s always another book to write, there’s always another speech to give, there’s always another vertical of your business. I’m tired of it. We’re not going to talk about it anymore,” and we had such a good time.
It was so powerful. That’s where it all began to shift, and that was three years ago.
How did you change?
One of them that comes to mind is that for years I conditioned myself to “Do the toughest thing first”. Wake up, get it going. When are you most creative? What are the best hours of the day? Well, give those to the most difficult task in your business.
I was really good at that. I did that and I achieved business success as a result of it. The problem is that continued into my role as a family man.
My wife stayed at home with the kids and I was like, “Well, you take care of the kids. I’m going to go make the money. So, these are my best hours of the day. I need your support.”
The challenge is, she’s not really a morning person, and I am. I love to wake up and crush it. It’s not her style, so I would get angry at her. We would have fights and I would be like, “I need your help. You’re not supporting me.”My wife would be like, “You don’t understand me.”
It was just this big thing.
Finally, I was like, “Wait a minute. If the whole goal is I’m a family man with a business, not a businessman with a family, why is it that my family doesn’t get the best of me, they get the rest of me?”
Why is that?
Why is it that I’ll go pour everything in, I’ll come home and I’ll have laid it all on the line for my family, and had nothing left to give my family?
Which was really challenging to think about, and so I said, “Wait a minute. I’m an entrepreneur. I get to design my schedule,” so I started not taking any calls, making any appointments before 10:00 AM and I said, “I’m going to wake up and I’m going to take care of my kids, my wife and I’m going to bring her coffee in bed.
I’m going to step up where she says, ‘I’m not strong in this area,’ and I am. I’m going to give my best to my family,” and guess what?
Business did not suffer.
My revenues continued to grow, and I feel amazing going into my workday because I gave to my family first. It’s a small example of it and I started driving my son to school every day, I started cooking breakfast in the morning, I was reading with them.
I turned my meditations in the morning to just me hanging with my 5-year-old, tickling his back and just breathing. It just became family time, and it’s now been several years that we’ve been doing that, and I can’t imagine ever going back.
What does a successful relationship with your kids mean?
How well do you know your kids? How well do they know Dad, right? That’s a real question. When I met my wife back in 2005, this was a time in life when I had been with somebody prior to my wife. We had dated for a long time, and I used to ask people, “How do you know when she’s the one? How do you know when she’s the one?” I struggled with that, and we never got married.
Then when I met my wife, I didn’t have to ask that question. I asked nobody, “How do you know when she’s the one?” The reason I didn’t ask is because I didn’t need to.
So, people would ask me then afterward, the last couple years, the last decade of my life after being married for 11 years. Young people. “How do you know, Jon, when she’s the one?” I’d say, “When you don’t have to ask that question.“
So, sometimes parents will be like, “Well, how do I know if I’m really connected to my kids? How do I know if I’m really making a difference? How do I know?”
When you are, you won’t need to ask that question.
A lot of times we’re like, “Well, is it age-appropriate?” That is really more of a symptom of a disconnect between you and your child than anything else if you’re really struggling with age appropriateness.
Everybody struggles a little bit. Everybody is going to ask that question, but if you are deeply struggling if something is age-appropriate for your kid, in my opinion, it means we don’t know our kids well enough to be able to answer that question.
We’ve got to plug in, dial in and spend more time. We’ve got to ask more questions, we’ve got to learn, we’ve got to know where they’re at, and we’ve got to know ourselves enough and our relationship, and where the relationship stands to be able to have those conversations.
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To me, success is having a relationship where I know what this kid needs. I am attuned, I am listening, I’m paying attention to the vibe.
Sometimes parents are like, “I didn’t know they were going through that thing. I didn’t know,” and I’m like, “Look. There’s no judgment here. I’m not trying to dish out insults to parents that are really trying, but what I am saying is that look, I know what it’s like to be totally disengaged with my wife and my kids, and I know what it’s like to be engaged. There is a very big difference.”
I know how to succeed at a birthday party when I’m plugged into what my kid wants and what he’s passionate about.
For the busy parent already limited on time, how can they make a better connection with their kids?
It’s a hierarchy of needs.
If your kids can’t eat and your kids are not safe, they don’t have a roof over their head, then you need to grind and hustle your way to give them their basic human needs. That is your job.
If you need to do that, that is the space you’re in, then wonderful.
Now if you’re hustling and grinding to keep your kids in their 5,500 square foot house and in private school, and you keep claiming that what you’re doing is providing to your kids so that you can take them to Europe on a 10-day vacation at the Ritz-Carlton and that’s why you can’t be with your kids, there’s a check-in there that needs to occur.
That is not what your kids need, and arguably some of that is going to be really crushing to your kids, because to grow up with all that wealth and privilege is not always a true gift. So we need to reevaluate our hierarchy of needs.
Related Article: 5 Smart Ways to Save and Invest for your Child’s Future
Again, if you’ve got to hustle and grind to put food on the table or a roof over their head, I get it. Do that.
All the science shows it. We’ve seen the reports. It says after a certain amount of money, it is not money that’s going to make you a better Dad, which his why in Front Row Dads our five pillars are not about finances.
They’re not. Am I opposed to making money? Definitely not.
I make great money and guys in our group, some of them have tremendous wealth; millions and millions of net worth, tens of millions. The truth is that we also put guys together that one guy might be worth $10 million, another guy is worth $100,000, or whatever. The guy that’s worth $100,000 can be teaching the guy that’s worth $10 million a ton of great things about marriage and parenting.
I have a buddy who runs a huge business and I’m like, “How are things going? It’s been 10 years.” He goes, “I feel like we’re in startup mode every single year.”
That’s just the way it is, so we need to make sure that someway, somehow we’ve got accountability in our lives because the fact is, we’re heroes at work many times. We’re at our desks building, creating, typing, creating content. We’re heroes on stages, we’re heroes when we write books, and people tell us how we’ve changed their lives. We hire people, contractors, they listen to us, we tell them what they want, they build beautiful things.
Here’s what I would say to any business entrepreneur: you need a short term hustle, grind period in your life. Give yourself 6 months, a year, whatever it is fine, but give yourself a deadline and then say, “I’m going to do this for a period of time, but then I’m not going to make this my ongoing pattern.
I’m going to put vacations on the calendar first, even if that’s a staycation. I’m going to put time with my kids in the morning and at night. I don’t care what opportunity presents itself,” Sometimes business has to suffer, and that’s fine.
You demand it, you schedule it and you make it happen.
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“I sustain myself with the love of family.”Maya Angelou