Jim Sheils is not just your average entrepreneur; alongside his wife Jamie, this dynamic duo has embarked on a mission to help busy professionals find deeper, richer connections with their families. Rewind to episode 206, and you’ll remember their heartfelt insights. But today, they’re back to delve even deeper.
Being successful real estate investors, Jim and Jamie weren’t unfamiliar with the demands of a busy life. Yet, it’s their Wall Street Journal bestselling book, “The Family Board Meeting,” and their commitment to the “18 Summers” entrepreneur family organization, that showcases their unique expertise.
What drove them to pen “The Family Board Meeting”? It’s the realization that while professionals are often armed with resources for business success, the toolkit for familial success is often sparse. Enter rhythms. Not habits, mind you, but rhythms—a term that resonates with intentionality and harmony. These rhythms aren’t just fluff; they’re the heartbeat of lasting familial bonds.
One such rhythm is the “Date Night with a Question.” A time carved out weekly for couples to escape the mundane and rediscover each other. Then there’s the titular “Family Board Meeting Strategy,” a transformative routine ensuring individual bonding time with each child. Imagine a world where parents dedicate a half-day every quarter to understanding their child’s evolving world, from princess parties to fishing trips. Jim’s own tales shed light on the undeniable impact of such dedicated time. And let’s not forget the “Family Adventure,” where memories are forged in the crucible of fun and collaboration.
However, starting with these rhythms isn’t about overhauling your life overnight. It’s about introducing simplicity, starting perhaps with just two or three rhythms. Commit to these pockets of time, and you’ll witness harmony weaving its way into your home.
Above all, it’s the profound conversations, the open-ended questions on date nights, that pull couples away from the brink of ambivalence and towards the warm embrace of understanding. In a world constantly pulling us in a myriad of directions, Jim and Jamie’s message is clear: Your family deserves intentional time. And with rhythms, that’s possible.
The Biggest Helping: Today’s Most Important Takeaway
“Remember: There is no perfect family. If you’re aiming for perfection, you’re probably setting yourself up for the impossible. You’re putting a lot of pressure on your spouse and your kids. It’s not about perfection, it’s about bridging our imperfection.”
Thank you for joining us on The Daily Helping with Dr. Shuster. Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Podcasts to download more food for the brain, knowledge from the experts, and tools to win at life.
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But if you’re aiming for perfection, you’re probably setting yourself up for the impossible, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your spouse and your kids. It’s not about perfection. It’s about bridging our imperfection.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
Hello, and welcome to The Daily Helping with Dr. Richard Shuster, food for the brain, knowledge from the experts, tools to win at life. I’m your host, Dr. Richard. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, and whatever you do, this is the show that is going to help you become the best version of yourself. Each episode you will hear from some of the most amazing, talented, and successful people on the planet who followed their passions and strived to help others. Join our movement to get a million people each day to commit acts of kindness for others. Together, we’re going to make the world a better place. Are you ready? Because it’s time for your Daily Helping.
Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Daily Helping Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Richard. And I am so excited to welcome back to the show Jim Sheils. He and his wife help busy professionals create deeper, more connected, more meaningful relationships with their spouses and children so they can have the family life they always imagined.
And if you want to check out my original interview with Jim and Jamie way back, hop in The Daily Helping time machine, we connected all the way back in Episode 206. We’ll link that into the show notes so you can check that out.
But Jim and Jamie have been busy through their Wall Street Journal bestselling book, The Family Board Meeting, and their entrepreneur family serving organization, 18 Summers. Jim and Jamie are helping transform families and show them how to make the most of the time they have together. As successful real estate investors, they truly are walking alongside you on your family path.
Jim, I know Jamie is at home sick today. We’re running this solo. But welcome back to the Daily Helping. I’m so excited you’re back with us today.
Yeah. It’s good to be back, Dr. Richard. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
Absolutely. So, we were talking a little bit off-air and you and Jamie have been so busy doing some really cool things since we last had you on the show. And I know we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about your book, your best selling book, The Family Board Meeting.
So, what I want to do, because we’ve already talked about a lot of the things you guys do, and as I said, I’m going to link our first discussion together in the show notes, why this book? Why now? And I know the book is selling incredibly well and it’s charted on the Wall Street Journal and some other other places, which is a testament to how well received it is. But why is this book out in the world right now?
Yeah. The book was important to us because it was such a part of our family history and our imperfect start and how we came together. And, you know, Dr. Richard, I’ve found so many ways to improve my real estate business, to market this company, to learn how to do this in the entrepreneurial world, the business world especially. There was very little to help successful professionals and business owners succeed at home. There just wasn’t a focus on it. And I wanted to create something that was understandable, easy to follow that could get results.
And the simple rhythms and principles we talk about just have a lasting effect. And so, we felt, especially when a publisher approached us and said, "You’ve always self-published. We want to take this to a higher level," we said okay. And it wasn’t about the book sales. The book sales are great, but from where we were at, Richard, we figured there’s about 375,000 families using our strategy now, which is pretty cool. And we’re like, "Imagine if we got it to 2 million." So, we just set this benchmark goal of saying if we could get 2 million families to be following these rhythms that have worked well for us and so many others, what will it do?
Dr. Richard Shuster:
You had mentioned, and you’ve used the term a couple of times in our conversations, rhythms. Talk to us about that.
Yeah. It’s a word that was taught to me by my mentor. And, you know, we all hear about habits, right, Dr. Richard? But I don’t like the word habits because you can have a bad drinking habit, you can have a habit of swearing in public, you can have a habit of picking your nose in front of other people. I don’t know what it is, but a habit seems less intentional sometimes. But a rhythm has that musical element to it. That drumbeat, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum. That one beat keeps the whole song together. So, I always liked rhythm-izing things.
And a mentor of mine said, "Look, if you have a few powerful rhythms in your business and in your personal life, it can hold everything together." Even if you’re as crazy out of whack, ADD as I always thought I was, just a few simple rhythms that I can lean on, depend on, use over and over, they don’t bore my life. They ground life. They bring inspiration. They bring connection.
And so, I always tried in both business and in home life to have a few rhythms that I could lean on. And the more I’ve leaned on these, Richard, they’ve held us together. They’ve expanded us into other, bigger things. But they’ve been extremely important in my life.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
I think this is so cool. And, you know, to even go a step back, the reason that you felt compelled with Jamie to create this book, you said, was because we had all these tools out there and resources for entrepreneurs, but none that really focused on the family. And that’s not surprising to me, because one of the things – and you’re an entrepreneur, I’m an entrepreneur, a lot of people listening to this are entrepreneurs – when we think about entrepreneurship, what are we focused on?
Freedom is a big term, but it means different things to different people. A lot of people, most people are focusing on the money. I’m going to make as much money as I want. I’m going to have the big cars and the yachts and all the exciting, fun stuff. I’m going to be my own boss and nobody’s going to get to tell me what to do. And I’m going to get to work whenever I want. And if I, in the middle of the day, want to go to a baseball game, I can do that. And I don’t have to, you know, fill out a form to take time off or whatever.
So, we get, as entrepreneurs, so excited about all these things that freedom gives us, whatever freedom means to us. And while I think many entrepreneurs have a cursory appreciation as to what this might mean for our spouses and our children, we never really think about it in the context that you and Jamie have positioned all of this. We never really think about what does that mean, good or bad, or, to use your language, what kind of a rhythm would having a business create and how would that impact my relationship.
So, I love, number one, that this exists. Number two, I love this terminology of rhythms because rhythms, also, they ebb and flow. If you think about the seashore, think about tides, there’s rhythmic things to that. Sometimes tides are high, sometimes tides are low. And so, where you sit, your mentor taught you, having rhythms in your life can pull you through when there are challenging times. I’m so excited to dig deeper into this.
Yeah, me too. Me too. And you said it so well with the ebbs and flows of the ocean. And I’m sure we’ll talk about it, date night is sacred to my wife and I. And we put a spin on it called Date Night With A Question.
But if Jamie was on, and you know Jamie, she would have joked, "Dr. Richard, there’s times I don’t even feel like going on the date with Jim that Wednesday at [5:30] to [8:30] because it’s been a crazy week. We gotten a little bit of a tussle or whatever it is, but then we go on it and we stay in the rhythm. And by the end of it we’re like, ‘Gosh. We’re so glad we have this steadfast rhythm in our life because it just, again, reunited us, reinvigorated us.’" And that’s what rhythms do.
And so many people, there is no rhythmic element to their home life and we wonder why we seem like it’s all of a sudden October and we don’t feel like we spent any time with our family.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
I definitely want to dive into Date Night With A Question. I wrote that down because I’m curious about it. But let’s talk more about that, about people not having rhythms. And actually let’s not talk about people not having rhythms because a lot of people probably don’t. Let’s talk about how we establish and introduce those rhythms to our lives. I think that would be really helpful.
Yeah. I think a great starting point is knowing how simple it has to be. When we say rhythms, you know, our overachievers out there – like I used to try to be and you used to try to be – and have learned better, well, rhythms, "I need to set 37 rhythms into my family life," almost like it’s a contest. I’m talking, like, two or three rhythms to start with, Dr. Richard. That’s it.
So, you don’t have to, like, put on this numerous amount of rhythms. You put a few into your life and, again, it starts to hold the beat. And so, we’re not talking about a bunch of things, just adding a few spaces in your schedule, into your calendar that you do over and over and over, and you’re going to start to feel like you’re in harmony. And that’s the whole goal.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
I’d love to hear a few examples of things that you and Jamie do or some of the people in your community have introduced that are good kind of baseline starting rhythms.
Yeah. So, one of the best rhythms is Date Night With A Question. You know, we met through Hal and I’ve gotten to speak at some big events, and even in the most influential high achieving rooms, I would ask this question, saying, "Hey. How many of you -" if they own businesses – "have a meeting with your CFO every week?" "Oh. Every week, Thursday, [8:00] to 10:00 a.m., I’m doing it."
And I’ll ask a few questions about rhythms in their business, and I’ll say, "Okay. Well, how many of you have a set day and time that you go on a date with your spouse every week?" And, Dr. Richard, less than 10 percent of the room’s hand would go up. And then, you start to say, "Well, when was your last date?" "Oh, you know, it’s been seven months ago." And I’m going, "Oh, my gosh. Imagine if you hadn’t brushed your teeth in seven months, you know, it’s going to start to get a little stale." And so, setting a simple Date Night With A Question, which we’ll go over later, that’s one.
Second thing is, you know, what kind of put us on the map was our Family Board Meeting Strategy. I believe one-to-one time is the most pinnacle device of connection that you can use. I separate the parts to strengthen the whole. We have a big family, but I have spent time with Jamie individually and each of our children.
So, every quarter, I spend a-half-a-day with each one of my children one-on-one, and there’s a framework to that. And that one-on-one day every quarter with each of my children, which I’ve been doing for over a decade, it’s the pillar in our relationship. It gets us below the surface and puts the magnifying glass on our relationship in a good way.
And then, a third one is family adventure. You know, once or twice a year we’re planning a family adventure together. Where do you guys want to go? What are you feeling like doing? Do you want to go warm? Do you want to go cold? And planning a family adventure together, when you want to talk about lighting up the connection and the fun and the laughter and the buy-in, that’s another great one.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
I want to talk a little bit more about these meetings with the kids, these quarterly meetings. At what age do you think is appropriate to start doing that with?
Yeah. So, we say two-and-a-half. And that’s because when I started with my youngest ones, I had this in rhythm. Now, the time requirement I say is at least four hours. And you’d know more on this, when we say once you have four hours of uninterrupted one-on-one time, you start to get decompressed. And decompression is so important for real communication. So, we make it a minimum of four hours.
Now, truth be told, when my kids were two-and-a-half, they fell asleep three hours in, but that’s okay. But I had slated the four hours. So, two-and-a-half all the way up. I’m still doing them with my son who’s 19. But that’s about the starting age.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
So, obviously, creating a framework of understanding is very different with a toddler than it is with somebody who’s 19. But in general, kind of talk us through the agenda. So, over this four hours of time with your child, what are the things you’re doing?
Yeah. So, let’s set the framework and then the intention. The framework is this, Dr. Richard, the first principle is one-on-one. My wife’s not invited. I’m not invited on hers. Their best friends aren’t invited. My best friends aren’t invited. Their siblings aren’t invited. It’s a one-to-one, just the two of us.
The second principle is we’re doing a tech fast. So, technology is not invited on these days. It’s great. I love technology. That’s why you and I are speaking today. But we all know, especially as busy professionals, that one phone call, that one text, that one email, first of all, shows that we care more about that than the most important person in front of us. And secondly, it just breaks up the harmony. So, we have a tech free zone when we’re on these these family board meetings.
And then, the third thing which ties it all together, is, it’s a fun day of their choice, and this is absolutely key. You know, I’ll throw myself under the bus. Sometimes I think I know best for everyone being that pushy, excited entrepreneur. And we do the same for our kids, Dr. Richard. "Oh, hey, let’s go to the Jacksonville Jaguars games," because, you know, we live here in Northeast Florida. And I dragged one of my kids up to a Jaguars game, and, you know, we leave at the day and I’m like, "Gosh, that was great," and I’m punching myself in the arm, giving credit. But we never stop to ask, Is that what our kids really wanted to do? What if they have no interest in football?
You got to let them design the day. And when they design the day, there’s creativity, there’s buy-in, there’s excitement. So, I let them design the day and I go all in, and that’s one-on-one, without electronics, so we’re tech fasting so that can’t get in the way. And it’s something fun of their choice. And we just save a little time at the end for what I call focus reflection, just a little bit of time to talk.
So, getting back to your question, for our two-and-a-half year old or three year old, you know, with my daughter, I had some princess parties, Richard. And I’m not the most pretty princess, I got to be honest with you. But that’s what she wanted to do and I went all in. My oldest son, he might want to go out on a fishing adventure into the Intercoastal. So, obviously, my three year old daughter is probably not going to want to do that. So, I just go all in with what they want to do.
And I try to save that time at the end of the day to review the day, catch up. And it’s a great chance for me to give an apology that I’ve probably not had. Like, "Hey, I know I’ve been really busy. Hey, you know what? I was really short with you last week and that wasn’t fair." Or just compliment them on something, "Hey, I see you’ve been really working hard on this or that, and, you know, I was really impressed to see you do that."
It’s just that point of connection. But whether they’re three or they’re 19, those principles will work, especially with the fact that you’re letting them design the day.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
I love this for so many reasons. And I was excited to hear kind of the no tech policy. One of the things that I often tell people is if they’re out on a date with their significant other, put your cell phone in your pocket. And if you are locked into the conversation, awesome. If you find yourself getting this itch, almost like you’re on drugs, like you’ve got to pull out that phone and pull up Facebook, you have a problem.
And in rooms of large groups of people that I’ve spoken to and I do the show of hands things like you do, more often than not, they’re always on their devices. You go out to a restaurant and there’s a family of four, two of the kids are on iPads, the dad’s watching sports, the mom’s on Facebook.
And so, this is awesome. So, just as a humanitarian initiative, thank you for banning the tech.
I also love that you said the kids get to pick everything. Kids pick the agenda. You’re not forcing a kid who doesn’t like sports to go watch football. And the point of reflection at the end is cool too.
I mean, you’re a much bigger educator than I am, and I just had learned through my wife, with Jamie’s Waldorf and Montessori training, they use a lot of principles of experiential education. And experiential education just means putting your students in direct, inspiring experiences, and then spending time at the end of focus reflections, which is just a time to validate the lesson, define and clarify values. I mean, that was the shortest definition. I said, "Wow. What if I can do that with my kids in a fun way?"
And these days, you know, funny story is, in the book there’s a famous – I say famous. For us, it’s famous. People go, "Oh, I love that story about the lighthouse," when my son, Leland, our second oldest, picked to go to the St. Augustine Lighthouse. And it was surprising because he’s afraid of heights. I mean, it was well-known, he can’t stand heights. He was six years old, maybe seven at the time. And his big brother had just gone though a couple of months ago so he wanted to do it.
Well, I wrote this whole story about we climbed the lighthouse. Now, it took forever. And we would go up one flight of stairs and then sit on the landing and sit and talk them through it. And, "I want to go back down." I’m like, "Okay. We can go back down. But what if we made it up just one more landing?" And we did this, you know, for quite a while. And then, after a while, Dr. Richard, we climbed it three times that day.
The first time took most of the time, and we just had a really powerful focus reflection at the end about overcoming fears and him saying to me, which is a big lesson to me, this little six or seven year old saying, "Hey, dad. Have you ever been afraid?" And I thought, "Wow. What a horrible example I’ve set for this young kid if I’m putting up this bravado that I’ve never been afraid." Because it’s total bullshit. Of course, I have.
And the moral of this story, Richard, when we just did the updated third edition, I didn’t realize it until our editor came to us and said, "This is incredible." I’m like, "What?" Because both our boys are entrepreneurs. Alden, who used to always go fishing on his family board meetings, now owns his own charter fishing business. And Leland has a business with one of his best buddies that they’re doing very well doing roof cleaning, so he cleans out gutters on roofs. And he’s like, "Do you see that you’re little guy -" he wrote the story about he’s afraid of heights "- now spends all his days up on roofs." And I was like, "Oh. Isn’t that ironic how that happened?"
So, you never know what’s going to come about these focused days together. But for us, I couldn’t have scripted that. I mean, I couldn’t have scripted that, Alden always went on fishing trips for his day with me and now he owns his own fishing company or Leland getting over heights and now he’s up on heights all the time.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
Awesome. Quick question about the family adventure and then I do want to jump into the Date Night With A Question. I totally get conceptually the family votes on planning, what you’re going to do hot, cold, near, far, whatever it is. Do you guys advocate ever taking a kid either with one parent – I guess most practically one parent – a vacation, just one parent and one kid? Do you do that too? Is that advisable?
Yeah. You know, when Alden, my oldest, turned 18, I gave him the anywhere in the world trip. I said, "Where do you want to go? You’re turning 18. The name of our company is 18 Summers. This is a big moment and you’re moving into a different phase in life. Wherever you want to go." And he chose Alaska. So, we went to Alaska, fishing in the Kodiak Islands for nine days. It was unbelievable. We have done longer, and sometimes I’ll do an overnight. That four hour trip has turned into a two day trip, you know, maybe down to Disney or out to something we want to go to.
So, I think, again, separating the parts to strengthen the whole, it’s a memory maker. You don’t forget that. Like I know with Maggie, who’s now eight, but when she was three or no more than four, we went to Disney for two days, just the two of us. She had wanted to go, wanted to go, so for our family board meeting, I extended it and just the two of us. And she still talks about it to this day.
And so, I encourage that because as long as you’re rotating your whole family and spending time with them, if you separate the parts, this whole will be stronger.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
Well said. So, I want to jump into it – we teased it a couple times – what’s the question, Date Night With A Question?
Okay. So, let’s talk about all the ways that I screwed up first. I never set dates. And then, Jamie starts to think, "Gosh. He’s not interested. He doesn’t want to date me." And then, we start to set dates. And we’re like, "All right. We’re going on a date this week." But then, we can’t get a sitter, and then this day I’m booked. Then, we finally get the date.
And, Dr. Richard, who was that numbskull that took out his phone and answers the text or the call or the email? That sad soul was me. So, I had to go back to my principles and say, first of all, my phone is not invited. Jamie really good discipline. She’s got her emergency phone in her purse for the babysitter. That’s it.
But what we found was, in order to get on the date, we had to make it same bat time, same bat channel. Because especially, you have kids, so if you’re looking for the sitter and you’re like, "Oh. Could we maybe get you this Thursday and next Saturday?" So, we decided every Wednesday, [5:30] to [8:30]. Every Wednesday, [5:30] to [8:30]. I can’t mess it up. I don’t schedule over it. It’s right at the middle of the hump day of the week. We love that to reconnect and it’s there.
But then, once we were getting in this rhythm, you get kind of that surface flatness. How was the weather today? What are we doing for errands this Saturday? How is the kids day at school? It’s womp, womp, womp. You know, not really very romantic, to say the least.
So, what Jamie and I decided is like, hey, better questions, better relationship. So, we started to go online and just pull up different questions. And we would set a goal to ask one to two deep powerful questions on each date. So, instead of asking how was the kids day at school today, name the top three adventures we’ve ever taken together and which one you’d repeat first. Or it might be a little deeper, this is where the hands really need to come down, name a time that I didn’t show up for you when we were going through a rough patch and how I could have done it better.
We ask deeper questions. We get to know each other better. We keep dating. And so, that’s what the question is about. It’s Date Night With A Question, because we find if you just go on the date and stay on the surface, you don’t really get below the surface of where you really want to go.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
I love this for so many reasons. Number one, there’s a vulnerability with this that’s so important. And number two, it’s not just all positive stuff. I mean, it results in positive things because you get to help your partner feel validated at a time where you weren’t there. But this is very cool. And one of the things we often are taught in our training to become clinicians is the really good one, ask open ended questions. It’s not yes or no. It’s questions that you’re forced to give a thoughtful response to, and this is what it sounds like you’re doing.
Yeah. And you’d be shocked, Dr. Richard, of how few that this happens. People don’t get into this rhythm of asking deeper questions. They’re busy with work and the kids. And we’ve done these dinner events, Date Night With A Question, with whole company leadership teams or entrepreneur groups.
And every time without doubt, there’ll be someone in their married 20, 30, 35, we’ve had 44 years married in this thing. And we’ll do two questions that night, and really good questions that are fun and then deep. And they’ll say, even though they’ve been married that long, I had no idea about this about them. And I’ll say, "How long have you been married? "Thirty-seven years." "Did you know this about them?" "I had no idea. This was so cool to learn about them."
And so, we think like we’re always getting below the surface or gathering new stories and info of the people we love, but we’re not. We’re not.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
I think even more than that, we hum along thinking that we’re doing incredibly well. And if you bring this back to sales, what’s the oldest thing about people leaving one brand to go to another? It’s not that they’re unhappy with a particular product or service. It’s that they’re just ambivalent. They’re just going through the motions and then here comes something new and exciting. So, this is great. I absolutely think this is exceptional stuff, Jim.
Jim, I loved every minute of this. Our time has flown by as I knew it would, as it did when we first spoke a few years ago. As you know, I wrap up every episode by asking my guests a question. So, you’re going to be put on the spot here because you can’t give the one you gave last time. What is your biggest helping? That one most important piece of information you’d like somebody to walk away with after hearing our conversation today.
The biggest thing I want to say is, remember there is no perfect family. People put a lot of pressure, we take a lot of pride in love. But if you’re aiming for perfection, you’re probably setting yourself up for the impossible, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your spouse and your kids. It’s not about perfection. It’s about bridging our imperfection. So, that would be my best advice to them. And look more about enjoying the ride than worrying about perfection.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
Beautifully said. Jim, tell us where people can learn more about you, the work you’re doing, and get their hands on the book.
Yeah. The book is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, The Family Board Meeting. But if you want to learn more about our talks, our workshops, our retreats, just go to 18summers.com. You can learn a lot about us there.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
Outstanding. And we will have links to everything Jim and Jamie Sheils in the show notes at thedailyhelping.com. Well, Jim, I loved it. I knew I would. Thanks for coming back on the show. This was such great advice.
Oh, thanks for having me, Dr. Richard. Always good conversation.
Dr. Richard Shuster:
Absolutely. And I also want to thank each and every one of you who took time out of your day to listen to this. If you got something from it, if you’re inspired, go give us a follow on Apple Podcasts and leave us a five star review, because that is what helps other people find the show. But most importantly, go out there today and do something nice for somebody else, even if you don’t know who they are, and post it in your social media feeds using the hashtag #MyDailyHelping, because the happiest people are those that help others.
There is incredible potential that lies within each and every one of us to create positive change in our lives (and the lives of others) while achieving our dreams.