Put Family First

Most of you will be receiving this post on my birthday, August 10. I am in San Francisco with my family on vacation and so I thought it appropriate to talk about families and leadership in my posting. I made some poor choices when it came to prioritizing my family early in my leadership journey, and I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

Put Family First

If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you’ll be going, ‘you know, we’re alright. We are dang near royalty.’
Jeff Foxworthy
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Bible, Exodus 20: 12, The Fifth Commandment
Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.
Bible, Proverbs 17:6


When we moved to Florida and I had my first role with Disney, I worked long hours in an effort to get ahead. My career had always been a driving force. We had three children, a son and twin daughters, who were all under three years of age (“three under three”). We were active in our church. With all of our busyness, my wife and I were moving apart in our marriage. We weren’t fighting—we just weren’t engaging.

I went to hear the Chairman of a major banking system in Florida speak at an Lifework Leadership event. He was everything I wanted to be—very successful financially, well regarded in the community, powerful and influential. I was hoping his talk would be about how to achieve a life like his. Instead, he talked about the failure of his marriage due to his neglect. He said he would give anything to go back and restore that relationship. His words echoed in my mind as I drove home: “If you fail with your family, you fail in life.”

At that point, I recognized the importance of people and my interactions with them, and put more emphasis on my wife and family. Yet, I soon fell back to old habits and started to miss dinners and events with my children. Then, I read a Wall Street Journal article in which the author interviewed very successful CEOs. He asked them what they would do differently if they could do it all over again. One CEO said he had missed many family events because of work requirements. His quote greatly impacted me: “You will never remember the business emergency, but you will always remember the missed ball game and piano recital.”

From that day on, I looked at my commitments to my family in the same way as if I had an important business meeting with my boss. It often meant that I had to work late into the night after the ball game or awards ceremony, but being true to commitments to my family was the right choice. You have a job for years, but you have your family for life.

It takes effort and sacrifice to keep a family together. Those who want to really excel and succeed in life take on this challenge, and reap lifetime benefits.

Action Points

• Treat commitments to your family with the same priority as work and other commitments.

• Recognize the importance of being present for your children, especially in their teenage years.

• Honor your parents so your children can learn from your example.


Strong family relationships, successful children, a worthy legacy


This posting comes from Chapter 49 in The Surpassing! Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence.  To get a 20% Summer Reading Discount or sign up for the free weekly tip, go to www.thesurpassinglife.com.



1 Comment
  1. Another great article, thanks. After years of being an entrepreneur with a tight fist on the schedule to make sure family came first, was presented with an opportunity to be in Senior management for a big company. It was a learning experience and one of the biggest learning experiences was that making sacrifices for the success of a company at the expense of your family is just not worth it. After three years in that role, it was time to step back and reprioritize. Thanks again for the reminder!

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