In light of Father’s Day, I thought I’d share an interview I did a couple years ago with Michael Hyatt. At the time, he was still the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing. He has since moved on to become one of the most popular bloggers and podcasters on the web. He and his wife Gail have 5 grown daughters.
I’d gotten to know Michael and Gail via Twitter and I really enjoyed reading about their sweet marriage and the fun things they do as a family.
Michael has some amazing wisdom that applies to both fathers and mothers. On with the interview…
A Father’s Day Interview with Michael Hyatt
1. We often hear of high-level businessmen achieving success at the expense of their families. How have you been able to move up the corporate ladder while maintaining a healthy marriage and raising such a close family?
I know that businessmen sometimes do rise in corporations at the expense of their families, but in my experience this is rare. If you have problems at home, they eventually show up at work. When they do, they can torpedo your career. The same is true of your health. If you don’t pay attention to your physical well-being, it will eventually catch up with you.
Life is a seamless whole. Everything affects everything else. You can’t easily focus on one area for long without giving attention to the others. If your health fails, it affects your family and your work. If your career fails, it affects your health and your family. It all works togetherâ€”or not.
I have also been very clear on my priorities from the beginning: God, self, family, work, church, everything else. (If you want to know why I put myself second, see this link). Early in my career, I wasn’t always successful at keeping these things in balance…especially when the girls were younger. But Gail, my wife, has always been great at gently getting me refocused on my priorities.
2. You and your wife, Gail, have 5 girls. What do you know now about raising daughters that you wish you’d known when you started the journey of parenthood?
That listening is the most important skill you can acquire. If you don’t listen to your daughters, they will find someone who will. I don’t have to share brilliant insights. I don’t have to be clever. I certainly don’t have to have all the answers. All I really have to do is listen well and ask good questions.
There is a tremendous healing power in listening. It connects you to other people. We receive a torrent of incoming information all day long. But it is rare to find someone who will listen.
Listening connects us to other people in a deep and powerful way. I haven’t always been good at this. When the girls were younger, I tended to talk way too much. I thought I had to speak into every situation. Often this caused a breach in the relationship, because the girls didn’t feel heard. If my daughters don’t feel that I have heard them, they can’t hear me. This is really a lesson that applies to every situation.
3. What was the most challenging season of parenthood? How did you endure? In hindsight, what advice do you have?
The most challenging season is the one you are in. Seriously. Parenting is one of those things you generally have to learn on-the-job. You can read books, attend seminars, etc. But it’s all theory. Until you get in a real, live situation, you don’t know what you will face or how you will handle it.
The best advice I can give is to trust God, read His Word daily, and do your best. Years ago, Dr. James Dobson said, “The average child can survive the average number of mistakes made by the average parent.” This has been hugely helpful to me in giving me perspective.
The other thing I have learned is that if you love your children well, you can make a lot of mistakes and they will be okay. By “loving them well,” I mean telling them daily, valuing them, encouraging them, listening to them, and expressing physical affection. We are a very “huggy family,” and I think this is also one of those things that kids crave. Again, if they don’t get it from you, they will seek it elsewhere.
4. You often write about the fun things you do with your daughters (running, web 2.0 stuff, playing guitar). What are some practical steps you’ve taken to develop such close relationships with your children?
Someone has said that kids spell “love” T-I-M-E. It’s true. If you make time for your children, everything else will take care of itself. I find that just by eating together as a family and taking the girls out for impromptu dates really works. By spending time together, I learn what is important to them.
I have also always tried to encourage the girls to pursue what interests them. My dad was great at doing this with me. When I took up a hobby, my dad took it up with me. I have also done the reverse. I’m kind of a natural evangelist in that way. If I get interested in something, whether it’s blogging or running, I have to enroll other people in it. I just enjoy doing things with other people and sharing the fun. I think my girls have learned this, too.
5. What is the #1 piece of advice you would give to fathers?
Love your wife. This is more important than loving your children. It creates a secure environment. It will make your children secure. When they are secure, they will be less tempted to find security and belonging somewhere else.
It also demonstrates concretely what love looks like. It teaches them the importance of relationships. It is the model they will take into every other relationship. Nothing is more important than this. It applies on so many different levels.
I would also strongly urge any parent, especially fathers, to read How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell. He talks in depth about how to express love to your children in ways that are meaningful to them. This is one of the first parenting books I ever read and certainly the most important.
Didn’t I tell you that was some good stuff? I especially love his wisdom about the art of listening. Too often I think parenting is about lecturing and instructing…