Fred Johnson is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Utah, EO Global Board member, founder of Eagle Environmental, Inc. and board member of Mali Rising Foundation. This is the third of five posts in our "Empower" series, highlighting stories of empowering your words, strength, family, gratitude and teams from EO member leaders who spoke to an audience of global women entrepreneurs at the 2017 MyEO Women of EO Summit in Athens, Greece. The following is modified from Fred's speech transcript with permission.
Life doesn't always turn out the way we intended, does it? I got married young and started having some amazing, beautiful kids―luckily, I still have them. Along the way, I've thought deeply about empowering a family through actions, words, deeds and emotions.
Love is the most empowering gift we give to our family, but sometimes love means doing very difficult things. Many years ago, I realized my marriage wasn't working. Even after counseling, remaining married caused me to parent poorly, which is against everything I believe. So, in 2004, to become the parent my kids deserved, I went through an incredibly difficult divorce and got full custody of all five kids.
It's an understatement to say that running a business and single parenting didn't jive well. I restructured my company, pushed responsibilities to key people and focused on doing the right thing: loving my kids through example.
Establishing boundaries with my kids was super important, because of the individuals they are. The question was how.
I gained great insight during a 2011 EO event. The speaker asked, "How many have a mission statement for your business?" Of course, everyone raised their hands because we're entrepreneurs and we're awesome, right?
The next question was, "How many have a mission statement for your family?" You could hear crickets. No one raised a hand.
I went home and channeled my best summit facilitator: "Okay, kids we're going to put together an awesome mission statement!"
What should we think and feel in our home?
My son said, "We should always feel safe in our home." We were off to a great start. I wrote it down.
My daughter added, "We should inspire each other to learn and grow, and go to college." I wrote that down.
My other son added, "We need to travel the world and learn about other people!" And so it went. For an hour, they taught me who they were and described the life they wanted to live.
Here's our family mission statement:
- We are a united family without the bounds of time or space.
- We create a place where we can feel safe emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.
- We are considerate of each other by listening, working together and treating each other with dignity, kindness and respect.
- We're honest in speaking our minds regardless of the issue or who's involved.
- We create personal intimacy through communication, which allows each other into our lives.
- We're goal-oriented.
- We grow through identifying and developing talents.
- We gain skill through work, learning and experience.
- Through reading great books, schooling, college, travel and experiencing different cultures, we gain knowledge.
- We are world citizens.
- We act to change the place that we live for the better.
- We study other cultures.
- We live abroad and gain understanding, insight and experiences that develop unique, strong individuals with international perspectives and character.
- Our home is a sanctuary--a place for growth, learning and development.
- We strive to be our best selves by supporting each other and becoming as great as we can be.
Boundaries are a powerful gift to help our kids understand what to expect, how far they can go, what we will do for them and what they must do for themselves.
Teaching a work ethic was key. As a single dad, I had to do all the things both parents do. Rather than hiring help, we endeavored to cook, clean and do the laundry ourselves. I installed three stackable washer-dryers, two dishwashers and four microwaves. We cooked and cleaned together. It was understood that we would all work together on each task.
Every Sunday, I got up early and cooked. After breakfast, we'd clean the house from top to bottom! This started when my kids were 12, 11, 8, 6 and 2. Now, they're 25, 24, 21, 19 and 15. It's been our weekly ritual for 13 years. They definitely know how to work hard.
Creating accountability gives kids great peace because they understand what's expected. It goes hand-in-hand with boundaries. By empowering them with those tools, when they go out on their own, they have a leg up on everyone else.
The last thing I realized was that I had to let them be who they are. I chose not to battle over things that didn't matter like hairstyles, music or dress. The bottom line is helping them love who they are and acknowledging their individuality as powerful and positive.
You run your business to provide a better life for your family. I invite each one of you to invest in life's greatest asset: your family.
As the proud father of five great kids, I'm amazed every single day by what they do. Here's what created the opportunity for us all to succeed together:
• Love them for who they are because you can't change it and you'll miss out if you try to.
• Set clear boundaries so they know your expectations up-front. Let them make their choices. Then, discuss their choices.
• Teach them to work hard. It's the greatest gift you can give, along with the importance of honesty.
• Provide accountability. Explain quid pro quo: You want this, I want that. It's basic reciprocity!
• Celebrate their individuality. Love them for their unique qualities and approach to life. Doing so will create the strongest bond imaginable.