Leadership Lessons Applied to 3 Generations of the Family. Grandparenting 101 with Richard Eyre
If you have to think about your primary focus, would you say it’s your achievements or your relationships? Do you spend most of your time, thinking of new strategies and business plans or nurturing personal relationships with your loved ones? Although we all crave recognition, success, and money to provide a comfortable life for our families, none of that would mean anything if we don’t have a meaningful relationship with them.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We have a very special guest with us today. Richard M. Eyre is a consultant, speaker, and author of many books. He was also a candidate for the Republican nomination for Utah Governor in 1992 and I supported him. Rick holds degrees from Utah State University and Brigham Young University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. His wife, Linda, has a degree from Utah State University, where she has served on the Utah State Board of Trustees. They are a dynamic duo. Welcome, Rick.
Rick Eyre: Good to be with you, brother. We’re going to have fun today.
Steve Shallenberger: Yes, we are. Just for our listeners today, this is going to be especially fun for us because when we started the Becoming Your Best podcast series six years ago, Rick Eyre was our first guest from the outside. So, welcome back, we’re on like 350 almost.
Rick Eyre: Well, it’s about time you had me back.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about the Eyers. They really are extraordinary. They have written more than 50 books that have sold in the millions and been translated into a dozen languages—with several of them becoming bestsellers. These include Teaching Your Children Values, which was the first parenting book to make it to the position of #1 New York Times bestseller in the last 50 years. Recent books include Life in Full, The 8 Myths of Marriage, The Happiness Paradox, Grandmothering, and Being a Proactive Grandfather. We’re going to have the chance to talk about those today. As we mentioned, Richard is a Harvard MBA, has had two senior appointments in the Reagan Administration, and ran, as I mentioned, for Governor. Linda is a violinist and a musician and is the founder of Joy Schools, a worldwide preschool curriculum. They are the hosts of the podcast “Eyres on the Road” and have more than two million social media followers. They have 9 children and 34 grandchildren and currently live in Park City, Utah. So, let’s get into it, Rick.
Rick Eyre: Let’s do it.
Steve Shallenberger: We can talk about so many things today, but I’d like to really zero in on what you’re doing with grandparenting. For our listeners, some of you are grandparents and some of you are not, some of you may be or some of you may have a big influence on the lives of others and serve as a surrogate grandparent. So, this is a podcast that will apply to every single one of us.
Rick Eyre: I’m glad you said that, Steve, because when you talk about grandparenting, we really are talking about all of us because if you’re a parent, you’re probably concerned about how your parents interact with your children. So, we’re really thinking about three-generation families today and wherever you are in those three generations, it’s those relationships that have the most bearing of anything on your happiness and on your wellbeing. So, you’re right, this is not just for grandparents today. Although, having said that, we’re going to single out and really zoom in on this fabulous role of being a grandparent.
Steve Shallenberger: I’m glad you mentioned that, Rick. And not only that but much of what we talk about also impacts relationships in general. So, my guess is that we’ll all have some ideas spark of how we can do better in every relationship we have, including working with our teams on a professional basis.
Rick Eyre: Absolutely. You’re right. But I will tell you, Steve, grandparenting has really become a thing in the last few years. If you go back 70-80 years, parenting wasn’t even a word and nobody said, “Well, how are you doing on your parenting?” We just did what we had to do and we just tried to follow our instincts. And that’s where grandparenting has been all these years. There haven’t been a lot of books on grandparenting, it hasn’t been a topic of a lot of conversation. But suddenly, people, especially the Baby Boomer generation is realizing, “Hey, we might be a grandparent here for 30 years or 40 years and we ought to do our best.” This ties right into the name of your podcast: being your best. How are you going to be your best at this new role of grandparenting? And if you’re a parent, how are you going to be your best at integrating your parents and your children, and building that three-generation relationship? It’s a big deal right now, and that’s illustrated by the fact that we’ve started a Zoom course on grandparenting. We thought we’d get a couple of hundred grandparents on it, and we put it out on social media. And the first two days, we had over a thousand that joined the course. So people all over the world are saying, “Hey, tell us — we don’t want to rediscover the wheel here — what works in three generations? And what doesn’t? What are the issues?” A lot of parents out there stepping on their kids’ toes, offending them, and telling them how to do their parenting. Getting these relationships right is pretty tricky.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, it is. I’d be curious, and maybe our listeners would be too, you’ve done so much in so many areas — with families and marriages — what caused you and Linda to shift to grandparenting? I love the fact of this increased awareness that you’re talking about. So, what drew you to that area?
Rick Eyre: That makes me smile. We were given a big parenting lecture about two years ago in a big auditorium and a young mom came up afterward and was lined up to say hi to us. She got at the front of the line and she said, “How old are you guys?” And I suddenly realized we’re kind of over the hill when it comes to talking to a bunch of parents and giving them advice because we’ve been removed from that a long, long time. And you know, Steve, in your life, especially as a writer, you always write your best, you do your best work when you’re writing about the thing you’re doing right now. When you’re focused on the thing that is your own passion at the moment, what’s relevant to you right now. And what’s relevant to us right now is grandparenting. We’ve got a lot of grandkids, we’ve got a lot of them that have issues, we’ve got kids that are struggling in various ways, and we’re spending so much time. So, we said, “Hey, let’s be authentic, let’s write about where we are in life and about the issues we’re facing and about what we’re learning from other grandparents around the world, other three-generation families.” And it just makes it relevant. So, we’re integrating what we call the inner of our life, what we’re actually doing with the outer of our life, which is what we’re writing about.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s wonderful. And you’re kind of turbocharging your experience with only 34 grandchildren.
Rick Eyre: Well, that’s the funny thing. In this course, the other night, this online grandparenting course, some of the first questions were, “Well, do we have anything in common with you? I’ve dealt one grandchild and you’ve got 34 here. How are we going to work together?” And Linda made a great comment. She said, “All grandparenting is one-on-one. You don’t do grandparenting or parenting in groups. You focus on one child, and you focus on that relationship.” So, she said, “Whether you’ve got one, or whether you’ve got 10, or whether you’ve got 30; it’s all about how do you relate to each individual grandchild.” So, that’s what we try to focus on. And I will say, we have one of every kind, Steve. So, when a grandparent or a parent asks us a question, “Well, I’ve got this kid who does this and this is his issue.” We’re like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got one of those.” So, we can feel any question because we’ve got such a variety to draw from.
Steve Shallenberger: It does help you think about it a lot and you love each one. I love your answer that it’s one at a time. I can just tell you, from my point of view, I don’t know the right word, but maybe terrified could be one way, maybe worried, maybe somewhat anxious, desirous on the other side of “I want to become my best.” It’s becoming my best as a grandparent, but I felt like the candle is burning and I only have so much time, and I want to be the very best grandparent I can be. So, I’ve got this whole mix of emotions, but I have more than anything, a desire. And I’ve got to tell you, and I’ll just lay it out for our listeners here: I kind of feel like I’m falling short a little bit. I mean, I’m a conscientious grandpa.
Rick Eyre: Then are you doing enough? Are you being your best? I think there’s a lot of that kind of worry, there’s a lot of that kind of angst because we look out on the world. And if we’re candid and honest — those of us in our generation, Steve — the world is a harder place than it was when we were raising our kids. It’s harder to raise kids. It’s not only the social media, the online stuff, and the screens; it’s just the culture in general. This is a tough time to be a kid. It’s a tough time to be a parent. And if grandparents can be the ones who figure out the right way to support and give a special kind of love, confidence, and motivation, grandparents can be a big part of the solution here. And I think we all share what you just said: we want to do our best. We’re going down tomorrow to speak to a great big group, in California in Huntington Beach, of entrepreneurs. Here’s the interesting thing. They’ve got a two-day conference and they’re going to talk about all sorts of skills and business acumen and whatnot. And guess who the keynote speakers are? Richard and Linda Eyre are talking about relationships, about family, about getting these things. They’re more concerned about that than they are about all the other reasons they’re meeting for; to learn how to be better entrepreneurs; to learn finance; to learn marketing. All those things or workshops, what they want to focus on most is these relationships in our family. And I think that’s what you’re saying, we’re all in the same boat. We know the most important thing is not our achievements, our businesses, or our bottom line on our balance sheet; the biggest thing is our relationships. And of all those relationships, the ones that matter most are the ones in our family.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, I’m just sitting here and thinking about this and I’d like to just share something as I’m reflecting on what you’re talking about. Some of us have been blessed to have grandparents, some haven’t had the blessing to know them. I was fortunate, as an adult, to know all four of them.
Rick Eyre: You were rare and fortunate.
Steve Shallenberger: And I reflect back and every single one of them has had a profound impact on my life for which I am so grateful. Sometimes it’s just the simple things such as my grandpa, Shallenberger, at 16 knew I was looking for a job, I wanted to work. He introduced me to a real estate broker in the San Francisco Bay Area, who became my first major mentor, ended up changing my life in a huge way, and were lifelong friends. He was so successful, the very top of the game. I learned so much from him, and I ended up speaking at his funeral when he passed away at 92.
Rick Eyre: Wow! That’s a great story, Steve. But I will tell you, you are rare. We’ve surveyed grandparents, and most of the people we’re talking to don’t really remember much about their own grandparents because, in that generation, grandparents were not very involved. And now grandparents today are saying, “I want to be involved. I want to be proactive. I see where I could help these kids financially. I see where I can help them spiritually and morally. I see where I could be a good influence as a mentor. But boy, I’m worried about how to do it because I’m not the parent, I don’t have that stewardship, and I don’t want to go around the parents or over the parents. I don’t want to spoil or entitle the kids.” So, there is a lot of technique, a lot of methods, a lot of learning skills, if you will, and that’s why we’re doing this grandparenting course. We are seeing out there grandparents who are saying — if I was to reduce it to one sentence, and again, this gets back to the title of your podcast — “I value this role of grandparent and I don’t want to screw it up. I want to do my best. I want to learn how to be a good grandparent.”
Steve Shallenberger: Well, you mentioned at the beginning that three-generation families are the future and it’s the best thing for the kids. So, can you talk just a bit more about that because that’s a great concept? And I think it’s also one that applies everywhere.
Rick Eyre: Well, you travel all over the world, Steve, like we do. And you mentioned, our podcast is called “Eyres on the Road.” We’re always gone, we’re always speaking to people. And as you well know, in most of the world, when you say family, you’re talking about three generations. If you’re in Asia or you’re in Latin America, when you say family, you’re talking about three generations that probably live in the same house. And guess who has the real authority in that house? It’s the grandparents; they’re the wisest; they’re the ones that have the resources; they’re the ones that make the decision. We’re kind of an anomaly in the US where we say family, and we mean a nuclear family, we mean parents and kids. And the grandparents, a lot of times are the odd man out. We don’t respect age in this country like Asians do, for example. So, a lot of grandparents, as we survey them, feel irrelevant. They feel like they’re done, they’re out to pasture, they’re over the hill, all these things. And what we’re saying is if that’s the case in your family, probably your own fault. You probably ought to figure out and work hard on these relationship skills and figure out a way to make yourself more relevant. And if you’re a parent and your parents are not involved with your family or with your kids in a meaningful way, guess what? You’re missing out on maybe the greatest resource you have. A lot of times, Steve, if the parents take the initiative, if they say, “Hey, Mom and Dad, you’re the grandparents, let’s go to dinner and let’s talk about the kids. We’ll tell you our goals for these kids. We’ll tell you what we’re trying to do. We’ll tell you what our worries are. And let’s form a strategy about what things you can support us on and what things you can help us on.” And if you’re the grandparent, you can initiate that meeting. You can say, “Hey, let me take you guys out to a nice restaurant. Let’s talk about your kids. And let us acknowledge, as grandparents, you’re in charge, you’re the steward, you have the stewardship of these children. But we’re a resource to you, where could you use our help? What would you like our help on?” Then you’re getting off to teamwork that’s really going to work.
Steve Shallenberger: I love it, and I was just thinking how powerful that is. And at the same time, as I started, I invited our listeners who may be involved in an organization in some way. Isn’t that a great application of building a successful team, just to be in the time to invite them to lunch and to talk about what you want to do, where you want to go, how can I help you, and how can we work together to get to this place? But you’re doing it in a three-generation sense applied to the family and the relationship. So powerful. What a great idea.
Rick Eyre: Well, Steve, you, like we, speak to a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of CEOs, and a lot of people very successful in the business world. I’m just gonna be candid here, I don’t want to offend anyone, but it is astounding how many really smart people, who know how to run an organization, they know how to build a team, they know how to communicate, they know how to hold a weekly staff meeting, they know how to prepare a vision statement for their company, on and on. But they don’t use any of those skills in their own family. It’s just quite amazing. In fact, again, I’m not trying to criticize anyone, I’m just saying we’ve all got to wake up on this score. We usually understand in our businesses and in our professional lives that the best defense is a good offense. So we have a strategy, we have a plan, we have a pro forma; we go out and we get things done. And yet, in our families, so often, we’re on the defense, Steve. We’re like, “Well, gosh, I hope if I have a problem, I can figure out a solution. If I’m worried about something, maybe I can go buy a parenting book and figure out the answer.” You would never run your business that way. You wouldn’t walk into your office and say, “Well, I’m just going to sit here and if a problem comes up, I hope I can solve it.” So, what we try to say to parents and grandparents is think the same way you do in your professional life in your family life: have a vision statement, have a mission, get together, the team, who are the stakeholders? It’s pretty simple, it’s the parents and the grandparents. Get together, have a meeting, form a strategy. These are not rocket science. They’re things we mostly know how to do, but we don’t do them enough within our own families.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, these are great principles of leadership and they impact everything we do, including our happiness, health, our satisfaction in life, and really making the world a better place, helping people become the best they can be, every single one. So, I love what you’re talking about. So powerful. Now, you wrote actually two books. Linda wrote one on being a grandmother and you wrote one on being a Grandpa, why did you do that?
Rick Eyre: That’s a funny story. We set out to write a single book, and we were going to call it simply Grandparenting. And we were both working away on it, and we have a partner’s desk where we work, where we look right across at each other. And one day, Linda looked up and she said to me, “We need to write two books instead of one.” She said, “Grandmothers are very different than grandfathers.” You’ll understand when I say this, it turned out, Linda’s wonderful book called Grandmothering is a big thick book. It’s an inch-and-a-half thick. It’s got everything. It’s got recipes in it, Steve. Grandmas want the whole nine yards. And my little book, which is called “Being a Proactive Grandfather,” it’s like a pamphlet, it’s bullet points. Because I know grandpas are not going to wade through a big old thick tomb; they just want to say, “What’s the bottom line? What do I do? Give me a list, I’ll do it.” We try to recognize that in our course, in our seminars too that we’re all grandparents, but sometimes grandpas and grandmas think in two different ways, and that’s a good thing. We can each do our thing with our grandkids and they’ll be the better for it.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s great. That’s fun. I’ve already read Rick’s book, it’s so good. I appreciate the tips in it, it’s awesome. Rick, you and Linda have just started a six-month grandparenting course called Grandparenting 101. Now, tell us about that. How’s it been received? Because you, I think, just started maybe even yesterday, depending on when this podcast comes out. People will have the chance to listen to it in the future. But tell us about it.
Rick Eyre: Well, in a way, you could say our timing is a little off, Steve, because there are six courses, six online seminars, and the first one was yesterday. But here’s the good news: they repeat. So, it’s like you can come in at any point, all six of them are standalone. And in fact, your listeners who get involved in Grandparenting 101, all they’ve got to do is, if they want, they can go back and listen to the Zoom seminar from yesterday and they’ll be caught right up to date. It’s the basics. It’s like a 101 when you go to college, and that’s what we want, we want to figure out these basics. The website is pretty simple: grandparenting101.com. And if you go there, you’ll see a syllabus. It’ll tell you what we cover each of those six months. And what we’ve found is that it’s like a treasure trove for grandparents because they look through the syllabus and they find five, six, or 10 things that are exactly what they’re worried about and so they’re like, “Well, let’s get on there and let’s see what we can learn.” You’ll appreciate this, Steve, that we didn’t want it to be completely free because people don’t value things that are free, but we didn’t want anyone to say, “Well, I can’t afford it.” So, we set it up in a way where you can join for free, you can be a scholarship member. People all over the world are joining this course and some of them don’t have any money. You don’t want them to spend money on a course that they could otherwise use on their grandkids. So they can register for free. But on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve said if you’ve got a little money and you want to register, then you can be a regular member or a sponsoring member. And if you’re a sponsoring member, you’ll pay double. And what you pay extra will go to cover one of those third-world grandparents who can’t afford to pay anything. And people have really responded to that. Like I mentioned at the start of the show, we thought we’d have this first class with a couple of hundred people and we’ve now got over a thousand, and it’s just growing all the time. In a way, we thought, “That’s too many for a class.” I mean, you wouldn’t want to go in a 101 class in college and have a thousand other students, except that Zoom is so great with webinars and there’s kind of strength in numbers. So, we’re looking at these last night in this first Zoom course, where we’re scanning across the screen and seeing these faces of grandparents, nd in some cases, parents all over the world, who are taking this course. This is a movement. This is a grandparenting movement that’s going to get families more prepared for this difficult era we’re moving into, and it’s going to be the best thing that’s ever happened for kids.
Steve Shallenberger: How long is the session?
Rick Eyre: Each session is two hours, so it’s pretty intense. And what we do is we go for an hour, and then we take a break for about 15 minutes, which gives Linda and I a chance to read the chat room and figure out what all the questions are. And then in the second half, even there are a lot of people on there, we’re interacting by answering their questions. So, it’s really a lot of fun.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, I’ve got to tell you, for one, I am really excited to go through the course and be part of it. One of the 12 principles of highly successful leaders from our book, Becoming Your Best, is “apply the power of knowledge.” You can’t apply something you don’t have. So, this is a great opportunity to get a whole new perspective from one of the best resources in the whole world, the whole planet.
Rick Eyre: Well, you’re kind, Steve. You make a great point: why would anyone want to rediscover the wheel? If there’s ideas out there that work, why wouldn’t we want to get them? And if there’s problems that we can anticipate and not fall into, why wouldn’t we want to prepare ourselves? So, this is what I want to end on, Steve, and you agree with me on this, I’m sure. There are two things in most of our lives: achievements and relationships. Too many of us, especially in the business world focus — maybe disproportionately — on the achievements: we want the recognition, we want the money, we want the success, we want to do well. But if that leaves out or shortchanges the relationships, especially in our family, we’re making the biggest possible mistake, and all we have to do is remind ourselves the old phrase: “You can’t take it with you.” Well, what can you take with you? Well, it’s your relationships.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, this has been a great interview. Just a quick question, and then I’d like to have you share how people can learn more about what you’re doing and where they can find it and all that kind of thing. So, here’s the final question of the day: what are some final tips you might like to offer to our listeners? Well, the juiciest ones. Here we go.
Rick Eyre: Well, you said it so well yourself, Steve: teambuilding. Think of your family as a team, whether you’re the grandparent or the parent, think of your family as a team and get that coordination going. We know a lot of families that have a monthly dinner, every month the management team, which is the parents and the grandparents, they’re the stakeholders, they go to dinner, they talk it out. That kind of communication. Because see, there’s no one-size-fits-all, every family is different. In this course, we’re throwing out a lot of ideas. But a good discerning parent or grandparent is going to say, “Well, that doesn’t work for my situation, but this one does. And this one gives me an idea for another good thing we could do.” So, what you do is you build this team. And within that team, you develop your own strategy, your own business plan, if you will — I hate to keep using so many business terms, but most of your listeners know exactly what I’m saying — you get it in writing, and you implement it. Just what you said a minute ago, you can implement something you don’t know. You get the knowledge and then you figure out how to put it into practice in your own personal situation.
Steve Shallenberger: Perfect. That’s great. Well, how can they learn about what you’re doing?
Rick Eyre: Pretty simple. Just go to grandparenting101.com and there are a couple of pages there that are like an overview of the course and who should be involved in it and how to sign up. Join immediately. The Zoom courses are only every month, Steve, but we send out materials every week. We even call it homework; “Hey, if you were in 101, you get a little homework now and then. Here’s the challenge. Here’s what to do to get ready for the next class.” So, grandparenting101.com.
Steve Shallenberger: Thank you, Rick, and vicariously, Linda, for being part of this show today. What a fun, valuable, and enormously productive visit this has been. We thank you. We wish you all the best as you’re making such an enormous difference in the world, Rick.
Rick Eyre: Well, you’re a good friend, Steve, and we think a lot alike. Thanks for all you’re doing for all your followers.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you. And to all of our listeners, never forget: you too can and are making a difference every single day of your life. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership wishing you a great day.
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