041: How to Live Your Retirement in the Front Row with Jon Vroman
Jon Vroman makes moments. As the founder of the Front Row Foundation, he helps individuals facing life-threatening health challenges to take part in a life-changing experience they’ve always dreamed of. The Foundation has taken people to concerts, sporting events, holiday spectaculars, and more.
In his book The Front Row Factor: Transform Your Life with the Art of Moment Making, he shares stories, science, and strategies to help you cultivate an empowering mindset, create lifelong relationships, and design an environment where you can thrive regardless of life conditions.
Jon is also the creator of Front Row Dads – a brotherhood created for family men with businesses, not businessmen with families.
Today, he joins the podcast to talk about how to make a difference and impact in the world as you approach retirement, why the best time to start something is always yesterday (and the next-best time is right now), and the power of leading by example to pass on powerful lessons to the next generation.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What it means to be in the front row – and why the unique energy that you get when you’re close to the things, thoughts, and people that make you feel alive is so powerful.
- How Jon designed his identity to achieve simple goals, like being a better listener – and how this work led to transformative results.
- Why people over the age of 65 have the power to make the biggest impacts, even if you don’t want anything to do with your past career.
- How Jon got started writing his first book, despite his belief that he wasn’t a writer – and the tools you can use to write and self-release a book today.
- How you can make use of idleness at any stage in life – and the power of curiosity and positive thinking.
- What retirement really means to Jon – and why we shouldn’t be scared of the life-threatening illness that is being human.
“If a young kid could pass along a quality to an older person, it would be to remain curious.” – Jon Vroman
Casey: Today’s guest is Jon Vroman and, listen, we’ve had some excellent guest on this podcast, ones that I’ve been really excited for to connect with and have a discussion with and share information because most of these people are just a wealth of knowledge that we need to hear. However, I’ve got to say, I may have been the most excited to have Jon on the podcast of all time. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this guy and what he stands for. After listening to this podcast, Front Row Dads, over the last year or so I have absolutely gotten hooked and it’s quickly become my most shared podcast of all time with friends and family and I have people tell me all the time, send me email, send me a text saying what a huge impact this has made in their lives and their family’s life and I know you’re going to get the same out of this experience with me.
Jon is an award-winning keynote speaker, life coach, he’s the number one best-selling author of the Front Row Factor which was a real tearjerker for me to get through. He founded the Front Row Foundation in 2005 which is a charity creating Front Row experiences for individuals who brave life-threatening illnesses. Jon’s going to talk to us about what it means to live life in the front row and how to practice the art of moment making. And one of the biggest reasons that I wanted to have Jon on the podcast is that I recently joined his retreat program which is called Front Row Dads. I’ll attend two retreats this year which is for family men with businesses, not businessmen with families, to help me and everyone that joins that program become the best dad they can possibly be and optimize every area of their lives. And for a lot of families we work with, a lot of the people that listen to this podcast, they’re grandparents.
And the grandparents that I had, Howard Weade, Ralph Bailey, Christine, Loretta, and my grandparents had such a big impact in my life that we ultimately named the company after my two grandfathers and I want you to know what they did to help shape me and help me become the best I could possibly be. And Jon’s going to share with us the things he’s taken away from his interviews on Front Row Dads Podcast, his connections he’s made through the retreat. He’s going to share with us how his parents have applied those same principles and becoming the best grandparent they can possibly be so you can make the biggest impact you can in your grandchildren’s lives. He’s also going to share with us what he has learned from his parents along the way, what he’s learned from his grandparents, and how to make the most of your time with your grandchildren.
He’s going to cover with us how to engage your grandchildren with meaningful questions so actually, give us some really good advice on what questions you should be asking and how to shape your environment to make the most out of every moment you have. He even offers up some tips on gift giving that I can’t wait to share with my parents. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Here’s Jon Vroman.
Casey: Welcome back to the Retire With Purpose Podcast. This your host, Casey Weade, and joining me today we have a good friend of mine that I’m really excited to have join us on the podcast. We have Jon Vroman here with us. Jon, so excited to welcome you to the podcast.
Jon: Hey. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Casey: It absolutely is because we’ve got some really cool stuff to cover, some things that you’ve actually got me involved in, things that I’m implementing in my family life that I want to get to but I want to make sure before we get to ideas about grandparenting and kind of applying all of your experiences from the Front Row Foundation, Front Row Dads to being a grandparent, to being retired, I actually want to go back to the beginning. I want to talk about what Front Row means. You got this book, the Front Row Factor, which I just finished and so what does it mean to be in the front row?
Jon: Well, first of all, thank you. Appreciate it, man. Every time somebody tells me they read the book, I feel deeply honored and it was definitely a community project, so I want to award credit to those who contributed. It was a lot of conversations and individuals and, of course, we wrote about so many people in the charity that we’ve helped. And so, living life in the front row is a concept of getting close to the people, places, things, thoughts that make you come alive. So, just like if you were to want to be front row to your favorite concert or sporting event and if you’ve seen somebody in that space or you’ve been there yourself, you know that there’s an energy, there’s a connection that occurs because as one of my mentors said years ago, proximity is power. It’s how we feel when we’re close to somebody we love and care about. It’s how we feel when we get close to, if we’re an ocean-type person and we’re standing at the edge of the ocean watching the sunset, we feel charged with that energy, we call those front row moments.
To me, this moment is a front row moment like I’m charged by your energy and how you show up to the world. And so, when we’re having this conversation and I’m in this space, I feel alive in a unique way, that to me is a front row life. It’s a person who’s chosen to show up, to step up, to speak up, and to live in a way that’s actively engaging and also a front row life is one of service. We talk about this openly in the charity that, look, we’re all about participating. The last 10 years I’ve been a keynote speaker. I’m all about standing on the stage and sharing and contributing to the world of all about my kids playing the game, but I don’t want to underestimate the power of what it means to put somebody else on stage or cheer for somebody else. Sometimes we kind of make fun of like the sidelines like don’t live life on the sidelines. I’m like, well, that’s partially true if in context where, look, if you’re cheering someone on, that’s an honorable place to be in life.
You don’t always have to be the one giving the keynote message or rocking the stage or catching the game-winning pass or doing that stuff. You can honor other people along the way. So, living life in the front row is one of service. It’s about elevating others.
Casey: Well, you can be in the front row at a concert, right? If you’re really elevating the person that’s on stage so you can do that same thing in life, right?
Jon: That’s it. Yeah.
Casey: You can put somebody else on stage and be in the front row there for them.
Jon: Best fans get the best show. It’s what we always say.
Casey: When the sub-line of your, book, The Front Row Factor, said transform your life with the art of moment making and a lot of your focus is about moment making. How do you make a moment? What is moment making mean into you?
Jon: Well, so the idea of making your moment is saying, look, you don’t control everything that happens around you clearly but you control the meaning you give to it and you can certainly influence how your moments unfold. So, you might be delivered some terrible news. How you react to that is such an important piece of life. You might be witness to something amazing and how you respond to that is an important aspect of life. We view your whole life as a charity. We talked about this, that we believe that our whole lives are just a series of moments. You want to live an amazing life? You put together amazing years. You stack up amazing months. Months are made of weeks, weeks of days, days and hours, hours of minutes, and minutes are moments. So, one moment at a time, we’re kind of writing the story of our life. How do we engage in those moments? What do we create in those moments?
And sometimes we are just a spectator of our moments. We’re like things are happening around us and we’re just watching it. And to us, we say that you can live life in the back row where you’re kind of observing everybody. It’s a very safe place to be. You’re like, “I want to be close to the exit. I want early out. I want to beat the traffic,” and then there’s other people that are like, “I want to get in there and get active and participate, be in the moment,” and that to us is somebody that’s a moment maker. They say, “How do I show up to this moment where I contribute something? What do I have to offer to this moment?” If I’m in conversation, can I ask a question that’s really interesting for that person? Like, I’ll give you an idea like I’m always thinking about how to be a moment maker. It’s part of my conditioned mindset at this point. So, I’m at a brunch this last weekend, a wide range of people that are there. We’re standing around the counter and what I noticed is that that the conversations kind of topical, which is nothing’s wrong with that, right?
There’s an easing into conversation, but I like to get to the good stuff quickly. So, I just throw out the question to the group. I say, “Hey, I’m curious. How did everyone’s identity shift in 2018?” and you could feel like the whole energy which is the whole conversation completely pivots and one of the things is because I love that question. I love that question. By the way, what it got to was people’s biggest personal transformation over the last year. Do you want to get to know somebody’s value? Do you want to get to know their life? Do you want to know what’s meaningful to them? You want to talk about something that stirs energy in the room. You want to talk about something that like elevates the conversation where you walk away going, “Man, we could all be better because we know that,” that to me is what moment makers do. They take a moment, an ordinary moment and they turn it into something extraordinary. That’s what we attempt to do. It’s turning ordinary moments into extraordinary ones. We always say we want to turn now into wow. How do we do that? There’s a million ways to get it done. Sometimes it’s what we say. Sometimes it’s what we don’t say. We just ask the question and listen.
Casey: Well, when you talk about that, it didn’t take a lot of courage in order to ask that question. I mean, I don’t know that I’ve gotten there myself yet in those situations where you have a really cool conversation. You could have that stays very much on the surface. Have you always been like this? You always just had the courage to step up and ask a question that might feel a little awkward?
Jon: No, no, no. I mean, I lived a life in terror as a young guy who’s really shy. No. This was something that I had to create. I designed the current version of Jon Vroman. Now, there’s parts of my core being that I can recognize that as a little kid were in my nature to be a certain way. And then what we do is we kind of go through life and reborn our true selves and then we sort of develop this false identity, this false ego. We try to protect ourselves by wearing certain clothes and acting a certain way and telling people we like music we don’t really like that. Then we hopefully find our way back to our true selves in our life. We try to find our way back to our authentic version of ourselves and I think there’s a part of me that no doubt at my core I love people and I love connecting and I love listening and learning and there is a core. But there’s also pieces of that that I had to train myself to become that way.
I remember basically this game with my friends where I’d say, “What are a couple of things you like about me and what are a couple of things that you would change if you could? Tell me the thing that nobody wants to tell me. I want to know what people say about me when I’m not around. I want to know what people say about me when they’re talking about me behind my back.” This one woman, really good friend, [Dr. Paulette Tutrone – 11:38], who says, “Hey, I don’t think you’re a good listener, Jon,” and I was like, “That’s not true. I’m a really good listener.” Think of the irony of that like I didn’t even get the message. So, it wasn’t until sometime after that, that when I finally was able to let go of the ego and just say, “Could that be true? What can I learn from that? How can I be open to that possibility to change my identity?” I designed an identity around being a good listener. I said, “You know what, I’m going to seek out praise, not for what I say that’s a value,” which is funny because I’m doing a lot of talking right now but it’s how I listen.
So, I determined that one of the things I wanted to rate my personal success in life is how many times somebody would say, “You’re the best listener I’ve ever had. You’re the best listener, Jon. You’re the best conversationalist because, when you talk to me, you’re like you look at me like I’m the only person in the room. Something will happen over here. You don’t get distracted. Somebody will walk up and they’ll try to – you’re eye to eye. You just are with me. It’s like I’m the most important person in the world. That is so rare and I so appreciate it and you ask the best questions.” I said to me, “Total victory.” That to me is like I can show it even in my professional life how that’s made a difference like I was in the college keynote speaking world, and I would go to these events and I would set up a booth and I would tell people about my presentation and I wasn’t getting the business and I finally said, “Why is that?” Because these people walk up to your booth when you’re in these exhibit halls, when you’re showcasing your business. Everybody wants to shove down their throat their value, “Here’s why we’re awesome. Here’s why you want to work with us.”
So, I’m going to take a different approach. I’m just going to get to know them. I’m just going to ask some questions. I want to learn about their life. I’m going to be interested in them versus trying to get them interested in me. Business took off, won speaker of the year award. It was like, “Oh my God,” like in little pieces of like that type of information shown up from time and time again. So, when I created that, man, that’s been hard work, and I don’t think I’m there. I don’t think I’m the best in the world at it but I definitely got better.
Casey: You think you’ll ever actually get there.
Jon: So, the before I’ve arrived is that you…
Casey: Yeah. Are you ever going to – you’re constantly trying to tweak it and find ways to improve yourself and live more in the front row.
Jon: Yeah. Always and so much I’ve realized about life is not learning something new. It’s remembering what’s true that I use…
Casey: Wait, Jon. I got to interject. The reason I asked that question is because I was talking to my wife about this conversation that we’re about to have here last night and I’m so excited about this conversation. I think Jon’s going to be able to really talk about making a difference and making an impact which a lot of people struggle with as a step into retirement. They’re going, “What am I going to do next or how can I make this big impact?” So, after reading Jon’s book I kind of feel like less of a man because he’s just absolutely killing it. I mean, you got everything going in the right direction.
Jon: Now, that’s not the purpose of the book, Casey.
Casey: But you really identified how to make an impact and you’re living it every single day and she said, “Well, do you think that some people that are 65 or 75 are going to go, ‘It might be too late for me to take that path,’ and maybe they won’t feel like they can relate.” I know what I said to that. What would you say to that?
Jon: I’d say that what we’ve learned is that you could argue that the best time would have been yesterday to start anything like in hindsight. The next best time is right now because a number of years down the road no matter where you are in your life, no matter what, you’re going to look back and question what you did with the days that you had. My thought is always that our work, our best work can be done right now. I truly believe that our best work if you’re here, if you’re breathing, if you’re hearing this, if you have a heartbeat, there’s a calling for you. There’s a reason for your life. There’s a reason you’re here. And now we just need to boldly step into that place. That’s what I believe. I love the stories of like Dom Perignon inventing champagne and I think it was in his 70s. I love that stuff where you realize that people’s best days, you got the most amount of wisdom. This is the time when you’ve worked your life to get to that point where you might be in your 60s or 70s and you’re like this is where you can make the biggest impact.
Casey: And you’ve done some coaching in the past on this.
Jon: Wait a minute. What did you say to her?
Casey: I said the same thing. Along the same lines, I said, you know, I mean, I think people that are 65 there’s no limit on their impact in the world and along with all the wisdom that they’ve accumulated over the years, there’s never a bigger impact they can possibly make in the world until that age. When you got 70 years of wisdom under your belt, that’s when you can make the biggest impact. And a lot of people say, “Well, I don’t want to do anything in my old career ever again.” We can still extract all those really great pieces of wisdom and skill that you develop and then help a lot of other people get to maybe where you were a heck of a lot faster and have even a bigger impact.
Jon: I think when you achieve some level of success, it’s your – I’ve heard this, I don’t know who to credit this to, but it’s your job to send the elevator back down. Your job is to lift someone up. That’s one of the greatest joys in life. And something on this point, Casey, I want to talk about purpose and making a difference is that I really feel powerful and I really feel like this is important to consider. Not to accept my point of view, but to consider that we often want to put on a pedestal people that made a difference and we talk about making a difference. People sometimes be like Gandhi and MLK and Mother Teresa and like we pretend to like put these people like our measure of success is when we are equivalent to Martin Luther King or Gandhi or something. I think you know what we don’t talk about, is whoever nurtured Gandhi as a baby. We don’t talk about whoever nurtured MLK or fed them when they couldn’t feed themselves or provided an opportunity for that person to make a difference.
See, we want to talk about and idolize and like amplify the Bill Gates, starting the biggest charity in the world. Like, I want to be like Tony Robbins because I thought that that impact and that reach and that like the number of people that he helped and then I thought, “You know what, what we underestimate is the person who like had a conversation with somebody and maybe that conversation shifted the direction of that person’s life. Maybe it saved their life.” I mean, the amount of suicide is incredible and maybe it saved their life and maybe that person that you talked with, maybe, just maybe that person has the ability to find a cure for cancer because you played a role in that. You can never really know the impact that you’ll have in your small way. Like, I think that we underestimate the power of the mom and the dad, the power of a grandmother or grandfather because I can think about the times that my grandparents have said or done things that have massively influenced my life.
And not only just the people that are related to me as a father or a grandfather, but people that played a role similar to that, that I wasn’t even related to. You don’t always choose your family. You don’t always choose your family but you can certainly choose your – you have a chosen family and your given family and I think that the point is that we can be in relation to a lot of people in our chosen family and make a difference.
Casey: Well, the same thing with my grandparents had a huge impact on me when I was kid. I attribute a lot of whether it’s successor or just my personality and where I’m at today was all the time I spent with my grandparents as a kid. That’s why we named the company after my grandparents. We got Howard Weade and Ralph Bailey. We put those together because that really embodies our values and makes us who we are. It’s the way we treat people when they come and visit with us. I don’t think we can understate the importance of being a grandparent and to you, what does it mean to be a grandparent?
Jon: Well, I’m not one yet so let me speak to what it’s like to have one or to witness them in relation to my boys. So, I’m in this kind of space where, number one, my grandmother is 101 years old. I love her deeply. I’ve never heard my grandmother complained at any point in her entire life and I’m deeply inspired by how she’s chosen to show up, total courage. Like, when she gave birth to my uncle, she broke her pelvic bones, the way her body is structured. To have another child, the doctor was like, “You will break your pelvic bone.” So, by the way, my grandfather was in the military. My grandmother’s home by herself. She chooses before he’s deployed to have another baby, knowing that she’s going to break her pelvic bone, knowing that she’s going to have one child that like in diapers, another child that’s going to be like breastfeeding, and this woman’s like pure courage is my point. Like just the way she chose to live her life makes me feel like I have no room to complain about just anything. It’s like time to step up and get stuff done. I love that influence.
I love the influence that I see my grandparents have on my kids now. I love when they can say things and recognize my kids in ways that they can get to them in ways that I can’t because it’s wisdom. It’s dad’s mom and dad like this is big deal. And I think the way we talk about people and the way we speak things into existence is really important. I want to also share something really – I’m going to make a tie in here, Casey, that’s something to my family and something to the charity so I’m going to come back to the Front Row Foundation for a second. One of the things we do in the charity is we write letters to our recipients and we invite our entire community to do that. We invite our community to write a letter to a recipient that is fighting for their life. So, let’s give an example.
We have a woman right now, Shelley. She has two kids. She’s in her 30s and her situation is terminal and she is right now just trying to get every possible minute with her kids. She’s recording videos for them that will be played at their graduations, and it is both an inspiring story and a crushing story and a sad story all at the same time. And what we did is we got our community to write Shelley love letters, words of encouragement, prayers on paper, however you want to look at it. Little kids drawing artwork. We showered Shelley with 400 pieces of fan mail from individuals all over the US that she’s never met but that are cheering her on, honoring her life, sending her love, and that is one of the greatest gifts that our recipients receive, their words. That’s what they tell us. I took note of that.
I was like, “You know, what my kids don’t need right now is more stuff.” They don’t need more toys. They don’t need more stuff. You know what they do need? They need words of encouragement and you know when I went to my grandparents, I said, “Hey, guys, rather than a birthday present, would you write Tiger a letter and tell them what you think of him like speak love into his heart, like a lift this kid up like your words are unbelievably powerful,” and I said, “What would be so cool is for each of his birthdays,” and I know it’s a lot of work and I know what I’m asking here but like if each of his birthdays you got a letter from grandma and grandpa, we put that in an album, we kept that and like, well, one day he’s going to be questioning himself. He’s going to be like, “Am I good enough? Am I a good person?” Like one day somebody’s going to shame him, break his heart, like rock his world and I hope that he has things in his world that he can have anchors to who he really is and the people that care most about him, that know him the best.
So, I just want to encourage everybody that no matter where you are in life that one of the things you can always do that is filled with purpose that gets better and better with age is to share your words powerfully, whether spoken or in writing, or some other way, but that is something we can all do. We can do it daily. We can do it an easy way. We can write a card. We can write a big letter. We can write a book. Document your life. I keep telling my dad, I’m like, “Write a book. I want my grandkids to read about you.” “I don’t think I’m going to do a great job. I think I’m really like biased in a lot of ways.” “Write a book, dad.” Anyway, just want to share.
Casey: No, that’s great. And I want to question about the book but before we get to writing a book for your grandkids because I do want to talk about that because I think that’s an interesting concept that I actually haven’t heard before. But when you ask the grandparents, we’ve been struggling with this, you know, that kids are just spoiled with gifts. They’ve got like half a dozen grandparents right now and that that might sound kind of weird but, yeah, grandparents, great-grandparents, step-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, and so they just get showered with gifts. We have different Christmases with gifts that every single one so goodwill absolutely loves us right now. But I can’t imagine being able to talk them into, “Hey, can you just write them a letter? Just put the gifts away.” So, do they put the gifts away or they just give them gifts and the letter?
Jon: Yeah. It’s a little bit of both, and we’re navigating that. It’s not a perfect – Vromans are not perfect. Let me because clear about that. We have lots of struggles here. No, and this Christmas they got a really cool, they got the boys a tent because one of the things they said is we also want to create experiences for the boys. So, when we get toys or things like that, we want to create experiences or things that bring the family together. We just tried to create some value around the gifts. The Christmas gifts, we didn’t avoid that. The birthday gifts we have. We have avoided them and grandma and grandpa also put away some cash so this is actually something that I think my dad has done really well, which is he invested to set up a fund for my boys and that money is dedicated for their education.
And he wrote out kind of the rules of how he wants that money to be used and it’s like, “You can use it in these ways for this particular type of education and if you don’t, it’s just that money comes back to me. If you want to use it, it’s there but it has to be used for these types of things. So, it’s my money. I’m in control, but it’s in your name and if you choose to use it in this way, you can.” I think it’s really wonderful. So, I think if we are going to pass along some form of wealth in that way, I like the idea of funding educational programs like that. I love that.
Casey: Sure. Yeah. Yeah, and along the lines of writing a book, that was also another good idea you had and I’ve heard people that want to do this but coming from someone that’s written a book, what if somebody wants to do this, but they’re just concerned about how do I go about this process, what’s the easiest way to do it? If someone wanted to write a book, maybe they’re bad at writing, but they really want to deliver these messages and philosophies to the next generation and have the biggest impact, how do you say they go about that?
Jon: Yeah. Well, I’m going to give you two ways to do this and I’m going to give you the way that’s free or mostly free. So, if somebody is working on a budget or like to do it themselves, they give you that way and then also tell you a way that you can get it done. If you have capital and you want to hire the right team, I’ve got an easy way to get that done. So, my friend Tucker Max has a business that he started which was actually originally named the Book in a Box and now it’s under the name of Scribe Media. And Scribe Media what they do, their tagline is, “We unlock the world’s wisdom.” And I remember having a conversation with Tucker and he said, “You know, there are so many people out there that we want to help them pass along their wisdom. That’s a lot of steps to take, especially if they don’t consider themselves a writer to sit down and then how do you get it published and all the things that go into the decisions and people often get paralyzed when it comes to all those decisions and just don’t do anything.”
He said, “Jon, think about it.” He says, “Even Jesus didn’t write the Bible,” and I was like, “That’s so true.” In some ways, it’s spoken out loud and then actually put on paper by other people and I thought about that. That’s how I started my first book was actually I had my best friend John Kane come over to my house early mornings at 4:30 AM. We set up a microphone in my basement and he just started asking me questions and I started rattling off answers into the microphone. We had it transcribed and then we had somebody start to assemble the book together. That’s how it started. Now, it didn’t actually end up that way. I ended up writing a lot of the books. Along the journey, I actually found out that I enjoyed the writing process. The story I told myself that I wasn’t a writer and then I never liked writing. That was a story I told myself starting back 16 years old. There’s a couple of different ways you can do it.
One is you go to Scribe Media and I don’t know how much it cost, but I think it’s about $25,000. For $25,000 they will hop on the phone with you, they’ll interview you, they will help put all that information into a book, literally write the book, hand it to you. You edit it. They’re your words. You’ve spoken them out loud. You’re literally transcribing your words. They’re just helping you organize the words, put it in a book. They’ll help you design the cover. They’ll get it edited, they’ll get formatted. They will help you upload it to Amazon and print the book and that’s what they do. That’s what they’re experts in. It is a beautiful process. Now, I think if somebody was actually saving $150,000 for their kids’ education, let’s say a grandparent is doing this for their grandkids, “I want to put away money,” whatever that money is, I think if they have the means, consider allocating some of those funds to writing a book about you and your family’s life.
And by the way, it’s not to be read by anybody else in the world. It could literally just be a family heirloom, but I actually will tell you that one of my friends, John O’Leary, who was burned in a fire over 90% of his body, his family ended up writing a book just to say thank you to the people who supported the family. That book went on to become an amazing bestseller. That’s what sometimes happens there and then I want to quickly get to this other piece. The other way to do it is like you can literally sit down with a Word document, write your book. This is no joke. You can write your book and you can basically go to Amazon or you hire somebody to do this for $500. You go to Amazon, you can upload your own book to Amazon, and be a published author as fast as you can snap your fingers. It is incredibly easy and all you would need to do is just hire a person to navigate that process and you could find that person almost anywhere. You can literally google, “Help me get my book on Amazon,” and you’ll find tons of services out there to do this.
If you just want to put words on paper and get it on Amazon and the ability to pass along, you can do that. It’s much easier than people think. Now, writing a best-selling book, a different story.
Casey: Not always the same.
Jon: But writing any book it’s like people ask me, they go, “How do you start a charity?” I go, “That’s easy. Just fill out some paperwork and you’re a charity. Now, running a charity is…”
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Casey: Yeah. I think a lot of people are really intimidated by the whole book writing process. I just finished my third and I think everybody is unique. I mean, I’ve met a lot of people that do, like you said, they voice the book and somebody else does the writing. I’ve been someone that I just have to write it. It’s the only way. That’s the way my mind works and I don’t write like a thousand words a day like some do. I’ll sit down, I’ll block out myself in the calendar for two weeks, and lock myself in a room, and then come out two weeks later with a book. That’s just the way I have to operate. Everybody’s unique in that way. One of the unique things that you do is you got Front Row Dads and Front Row Dads is a group that I just joined a couple of retreats a year and it’s just this community of dads that are also businessmen. They’re family men that have to run businesses. They’re not businessmen that have families and I love that concept. That’s why I joined the group and I can’t wait to come in for my first retreat here in a few weeks and spend some time with everyone.
But I’m interested as someone that’s been a part of this group for a long time, been a Front Row dad for a long time and we get together, you have these conversations with individuals and come up with some really cool ideas and then you got these grandparents that are spending a lot of time with your kids and I wonder, have you had any really valuable or impactful things come out of that experience in Front Row Dads that your parents or your kids’ grandparents are applying what they’re doing?
Jon: Yeah. You know, there have been and I can think about a couple that comes to mind right away and this idea of the family board meeting, one of my very good friends, Jim Shields, wrote this book, The Family Board Meeting, and his story is really great, very successful real estate investor and developer, and then he was just asking himself. He’s like, “Why do I have these scheduled board meetings for my business?” Like, I’ll plan and I’ll think and strategize, and I’ll get together with fellas all the time but why am I not doing that with my kids? Why am I not having dedicated time like once a quarter that’s very special where we get together and what would that look like? What version would that look like? And the board meeting was kind of a play on words because he’s also a surfer, lives in Florida. So, the board was a board and that time that we get together. But he created this program. It’s very simple.
For him, it’s a four-hour stretch, uninterrupted one-to-one time, no technology, and activities of the kids’ choosing. Our guys took to this and implemented it immediately once a quarter one-to-one time with each of their kids and in their planning out board meeting agendas, their kids are getting involved. They’re counting down the days. It’s on the calendar in the house. It’s really cool. There’s a lot of value to that. But what we also found was that this concept sort of transcended then into when does that ever end? Why does that have to end? Why do we originally think that that concept is best suited for a guy who has a five-year-old or a 10-year-old, but why not a 43-year-old and a 73-year-old? Regularly scheduled one-to-one time on the books reoccurring every year. And whether you do it every quarter or twice a year, whatever it is, one of my best friends, John Kane, lost his dad this past year and I watched the impact of that and he said to me multiple times when we’ve been talking and he may have even been in tears the majority of these times where he said to me is, “Jonny, I would give anything to have another day with my dad.” He said, “I want you to go home right now and I want you to schedule something with your dad. I want you to schedule one-to-one time with your dad like get it on the calendar. No excuses. Go away. Spend time.” And to me, that’s so simple. It’s so easy.
But again, like I mentioned earlier, it’s not always about new. It’s about true. A lot of times we’re looking for that new sexy idea. A lot of times what we need to be reminded is of the truth behind the good old ideas. The ones that are like, hey, there’s a lot of truth to that, one-to-one time. So, I think like it’s ideas like that that that’s not a novel. If you said to any of the guys in the group was that a new idea? One-to-one time? No, but it’s the way we talk about it, the way that we bring it to attention, and bring it to our attention. The way that we create accountability amongst each other, the way that we revisit the idea and celebrate the victories and talk about what happens on those one-to-one time, what questions do you ask? Jim even talked about asking specific questions and he taught specific questions of what you would’ve talked to your dad about. He did this with his dad. He went and sat down and he’s like he listed out some of his favorite questions with his dad. So, you think about that. We’ll spend hours planning a board meeting for people that are just part of our company but yet we oftentimes don’t spend time planning out our dinner routines with our families or our meetings with our parents and we say it’s really important, but it just doesn’t get the time it deserves.
Casey: What does this look like and your family for the grandparents? How have they implemented? What’s the structure look like?
Jon: Well, there’s a couple of things. So, one is like I’ll give you an example of how this shows up for us. So, we have a family vacation every year with all of us. So, we’ll all go to someplace together.
Casey: Then you’re talking about both – are all grandparents living?
Jon: Yeah. So, my mom and dad. My grandmother at 101 is no longer traveling, but my mom and dad, my kids, those generations will come together with my sister and her daughter, and we often will go to a place in Wisconsin a little lake called Shell Lake, a lake that my dad grew up on like literally as a kid. So, he played in the water at 2, I played in the water at 2, my kids have played in the water at 2 years old. So, it’s a cool place. There’s literally like concrete blocks on the walkway that have my dad’s initials in from like 1946. That’s really cool and there’s a height chart on the wall. One of the things that we wanted to do to bring generations together is like have a height chart that actually pass along. So, my dad is measured at five years old in the wall. I measured at five years old in the wall. My son’s measured at five years old. It’s really cool. So, what we’ll do is when we go there then the question is how do we get one-to-one time at the place?
How do my dad and I get one-to-one time? How does my dad get time with my kids one-to-one? How do we structure our time when we’re together in those ways? Because they live in Virginia. I live in Texas. So, one-one-time regularly with grandparent, grandkids is not happening. But this all comes back to intention and planning. This all comes back to how we structure it, how we make this a priority in our lives because a lot of people will tell you that everybody’s heard this, spend time. Not a lot of people are executing on that and I know you are and I know a lot of guys in our group are but even guys in our group that are really successful guys, really smart guys, really good at their calendars, they were not doing this in a way that was meaningful for them.
Like, we have one guy who literally was talking to Jim Shields, the guy I was mentioning wrote the book, they were doing a little session in the front of the room and what Jim did is he had this guy think forward in his life, to the end of his life, and look back and feel the pain of missing out on his kids’ lives and the joy of what would’ve felt like knowing he showed up as a dad. And, dude, the guys at tears, he’s crying, and since that day, he’s never missed a board meeting with his kids.
Casey: That’s awesome. That quote from the book I really like. Looking, I would reemphasize that. You said we must look to the end and reverse engineer it from there to understand what needs to happen today and what needs to happen today might be time with those kids. And for some, you might already be spending time with your grandkids. You might already be spending time with your children, but it’s quality time, which we often hear it’s quality time but it’s also about asking questions during these board meeting types. And so, if we’re spending that time with our grandkids, what do you think are some of the most valuable questions that a grandparent could use during those moments to make the best of it?
Jon: What’s on your mind? Like, that’s a question. What’s on your mind? What’s on your mind? What are you excited about? What’s new? Who’s fun? What’s fun? Who’s your best friend? What I would recommend is I think it’s actually important to sit down and write out those questions or that grandparents as an example could be asking other grandparents. When you connect with your grandkids, what questions connect? What’s working? Like, we should just approach it like we do everything else in our life where we’d make it our mission. We’re thoughtful about it. To me, some of the questions I think that work for my kids, when you keep it simple, I have young kids so I have nine and four-year-old. At the end of every day, we do a happy crappy. And so, like what are you happy about? What was a happy moment of your day? And what was a crappy moment of your day? And the kids love it.
Little Ocean’s four years old and he’s like, “My crappy,” like he always starts with crappy like, “My crappy…” Then like he’ll say, “My other crappy,” and then big brother is like, “You only want crappy.” But here’s what I think that people should be considering no matter where you are. But listen, if you’ve got time on your hands, if you’re in a place where you are in a rewirement phase of your life and I love that concept, it should not call it retirement, you should call it rewirement, you’re rewiring yourself for a new phase of your life, for a new journey, for a new adventure. The most exciting, I won’t say exciting one. It doesn’t have to be exciting. The most meaningful one, the most purpose-driven one, the most valuable one of your life, you can move mountains with the intentional question, conversation, and don’t be afraid. Like my thought is don’t be afraid. I could tell that my parents are sometimes fearful. I can sense it.
They’re fearful to like say the wrong thing. I’m like there’s a place you have to play boldly as well when you’re in these conversations. You’re going to mess up. Kids are going to look at you like you’re an idiot. You’re going to say the wrong thing or you’re going to talk to them like kid’s going to be nine and you’re going to be like, “How’s it going little Billy?” and he’s like, “I’m nine, dude. You don’t have to talk to me.” We’re going to mess up a lot of stuff but that’s okay. But here’s what I would encourage people to think about. What’s the brand of your family you want to pass down? What are the values that you want to pass along? I think when you spend time with somebody, it’s good to be intentional to say what do you want your family to be about? Like, I often say to my kids and like that’s not how the Vromans operate, or this is how the Vromans operate.
We do this because you’re a Vroman. What does it mean to be part of your family? And when you have a chance to influence kids, you have a chance to pass along values and the way that you can do that is a bunch of different ways like you can just take kids to volunteer. You can take kids to a soup kitchen. You can take kids to the library if you want to instill the value of reading. You can take kids into nature for a walk and instill the value of nature like there’s a thousand ways to instill values. It’s just how you’re spending time. And don’t underestimate the power of like casual interactions. You take your kid to a store to buy something, the way you talk to the person at the checkout counter instills a value of how we treat strangers. When somebody cuts you off in your car, you instill a value of how we deal with adversity, how you deal with people that seem to be careless or unaware. It’s like you curse them or do you like, “Hey, I wondered. They must have something on their mind. You know, maybe they’re in a rush. Maybe somebody’s hurt in the car and not paying attention,” like we have so many opportunities to influence.
Casey: Well, a lot of it just about leading by example, right?
Jon: That’s it.
Casey: And really setting the right example that we want them to have it. It’s just like leading in the workplace if that’s maybe what you did during your working career. You have the opportunity to be a whole new leader. A leader in your family and pass on values and pass on valuable lessons to that next generation. And one of the things I know you do is you ask yourself questions every single day, just spark that audible, well, how can I make somebody’s day great today. How can I make a big impact? How can I make most out of the day? How can I create a moment for myself? Create a moment for someone else? And there’s a lot of values that we could pass on. There’s a lot of valuable lessons and things that we could take, teach our grandkids, but it’s good if we prioritize and say, “Okay. I know that I want to teach them these three things because these are the most important to me or these are the things that are going to have the biggest impact.”
Do you think that there are some things that maybe stand out? Maybe it’s one valuable lesson and you think every grandkid needs to pass onto their kids or maybe it’s a list of three. What do you think are the most important things? And then can we just write those things down and keep them top of our mind every single time we make that interaction with kids?
Jon: Yeah. You know, I can approach it from what I might think if I were in that situation, but I think the real exercises and somebody figuring out what is important, what are those values like take that time if what you have is more time than ever before. Because let’s say you have invested wisely and you’ve created a situation for yourself regardless of how you got there where you have a little time with your hands and you’re asking what do I do with this time. That one of the first and most important lesson is not only a lesson you can practice. It’s when you can teach is that of silence. It’s not of contemplation. It’s out of thinking. It’s actually you don’t have to be busy all the time, but it does need to be directed because I’ve seen enough people. I have friends that are in their 70s, you know, that I hang out with. I have men that I have a great relationship with that are not related to me but that are great men that are in their 70s that I love and appreciate and learn from tremendously.
Ed Paul. My friend Ed Paul is in California like my wife and I get together with Ed. He loves our family. I love his family like he doesn’t even have kids but it’s like I love this guy right and I can learn from him. And my point is all stages and ages, I realize that you are idle, if you’re still, it is also important that that is directed which is why meditation is healthy to sit and have a practice of breathing and contemplating and understanding thoughts and images and letting them go. The practice of detaching from things and not being stressed out like that’s the practice of that like not being rushed and hurried at all times and at the same time, if people are just sitting around worrying, watching the news, sitting around thinking of worst-case scenarios, all the things that are going wrong, all the things they didn’t do in their life, all the things they’re missing out on now, that’s torture.
So, I think that is part of what we need to do is we actually need to learn how to think, which is why teaching somebody how to be a learner or how to always have a growth mindset in their life that, “Hey, you always have room to grow,” I mean, I hope to God like I am learning and growing and reading and all that until the very, very end. So, not only is that something that grandparents or parents or anybody should be practicing but it should be that what they’re teaching. They should be modeling that, because like as an example in our community, we talk about meditating and we say it’s good to meditate. But a lot of guys get into the world where they’re like, “I’m going to meditate before my kids wake up,” and I’m like I want to meditate when my kids wake up because I want them to see me do it.
Casey: Good luck with a four-year-old and a two-year-old for me.
Jon: That’s okay. Like, here’s the thing. It’s like that’s perfect, dude. That’s a perfect time to start doing it. You put on your eye thing and you just keep teaching your kids like when this is on, I’m in meditation. This is what I’m doing. So, one of my friends, Christian, just said the other day he goes, “You’re not kid-proofing your house. You’re house-proofing your kids.” It’s like we teach people how to treat us and we should do that all along the way like we should be in a place where that’s the case. So, one is and let me answer your question specifically. I think it is how to be a listener and a learner, how to be curious. If you were to pass along one quality to a young person, if a young kid could pass along a quality to an older person, it would be to remain curious. It’s why kids have so much to teach us. They remind us of what it’s like to be fascinated by things.
And so, if we can hold onto to that fascination and that curiosity and that joy, boy, that’s good for everybody. That’s why young people should hang out with old people and old people with young people and it’s a beautiful progression, a transfer of information. It’s why tribes for millions of years that we grow up in these tribes where that elderly people are with the young people and that we just get a chance that all support each other in the ways that we can.
Casey: Well, to me, I’d add number two if not number one are on the same plane as curiosity, which is so valuable. Something that my grandparents and parents constantly hammered in my head which is positive thinking and I still have a can in my office that is an old tomato soup can, that my grandfather had wrapped in this eye so it’s got an eyeball on the outside of it. So, it’s an eye can. And so, I’ve got dozens of these things that I’ve kept over the years. They just mean so much to me and I think they really set a good foundation of positive thinking for me and I hope that everybody’s taking that time to set that foundation for their kids because it can be a pretty negative world that we live in. And I think watching the news and then unconsciously, we start bringing up that negativity around the kids, it can have a really damaging effect.
Jon: One thing I want to say about this is that this is stuff we brought up earlier and it’s really important, which is the power of listening. You know what kids really need? They don’t always need our advice. They need to just, they do at times, but of course, they need to be heard and I remember watching an interview one time and it was the most unlikely person to say this brilliant thing. It’s Marilyn Manson being interviewed on like whatever. It’s a talk show. He was just being interviewed and it was shortly after the Columbine shooting, and the interviewer was only saying, “If you go back and talk to the kids at Columbine before they did this, what would you say to them?” And then Marilyn Manson responds, he goes, “That’s the problem because I wouldn’t say anything to them. I would just listen to them,” and I was like, “Oh my God, like, that’s brilliant. That’s it like we have to think it’s like, “You’re not listening to me. I’m telling you the answer. I’m giving you the wisdom,” and it’s like what we really do is oftentimes just be really good listeners.
And it’s like a good coach, ask questions, zip it, ask more questions. Tell me more, which is why what’s on your mind, what are you thinking about? What are you excited about? Now, sometimes I ask that to my nine-year-old and the answer is nothing, nothing. What did you learn? “I can’t remember.” What was your favorite part of yesterday? “I can’t remember. What did we do yesterday?” I mean, I get this isn’t easy, but the more that we can just be in a place to be open to listening and also ask questions of the what’s interesting to them, “Hey, look at that bug, what do you like about that bug? What’s interesting about that bug? Do you like all bugs? Just that bug?” You kind of travel down to whatever they’re excited about.
Casey: Yeah. I love that. I want to make sure we get to this topic of environment planning and making sure your environment is really set up to make moments and really create the kids that you want to create, give them the values one might have from curiosity, positivity, having just be excited about life. Maybe it’s understanding finances, the value of hard work, and money and in your book, you talk about the importance of setting up the right environment. How do you shape the right environment to make the most of the time you have with your grandkids? Let’s say they come over your house. You want to shape that environment to have the biggest impact on them and really accomplish the goal of spending some quality time?
Jon: Well, it’s going to be different for everybody, of course, based on where you live and what your resources are. I mean I’m thinking about like my parents’ house so when my kids visit grandma/grandpa or when I think about the environment that was created for me when I was a little kid at my grandparents’ house. I think a large part of that is like when you shape an environment, I think about the keys for me, dinner time, shared dinner time, so creating a space to commune, to come together in one spot. So, if you create an environment that invites people to gather, I think that’s really powerful. I think creating an environment that feels safe and psychological safety where you have like not just a physical environment of like what color is the carpet or the walls or what toys are laying on the floor but you think about an emotional safety that exists in an environment where people feel free to express themselves and voice their opinions and talk about what works or what doesn’t work, which is why we do happy/crappy because we need to be in a place where we can talk about what’s not going well for us and not be judged for it or shamed for it.
There are lots of fascinating things in my environment. I’ve studied this deeply and I’m very passionate about it. I believe that we need to design our environments because it shapes our lives. I was sharing with you earlier that one of the things I wrote about my book which I was fascinated by was this Ellen Langer study. She wrote a book called Counterclockwise, and I became fascinated about this actually relating to our recipients that are fighting for their life like how might an environment change the way that we actually like our health? Does it change literally our physical well-being to be in a different environment? So, I studied this and one of the things I found which is really interesting was Ellen Langer did this study where she took a group of men that were in their 70s and she put them in a retreat center where they ultimately like turned back the clock. And I know you read this in the book so I’m telling this to the rest of your audience, but it’s like what they did is they put magazines from 20 years ago, all the artwork, everything, all the decorations, all the appliances. Everything was from 20 years ago.
The men were instructed to dress as if it was 20 years ago. They were instructed to have conversations as if it was 20 years ago. For two weeks they would do this. Prior to the experiment, they would measure cognitive abilities, eyesight, hearing, flexibility, all of that, and then at the end of two weeks, after doing this experiment, the majority of the men in that experiment demonstrate or showed improvements in all areas. Their eyesight improved, their hearing improved, their arthritis was dissipating. Literally, their hands were getting longer, they were taller, they were faster. They were more mobile. It was remarkable. What would happen when you shape your environment and you have these environmental cues and there’s lots of work out there that you can research and study about this. But I think what’s important, I think it’s important to intentionally design a place that brings about positive emotions, that brings about the things that you likely value and that we all value. I think that’s really important.
So, like Shell Lake, Wisconsin, where I talked about earlier, that’s a place that set up to attract kids. That is a place that is set up to attract families. My dad said that was his grandfather’s original vision. I want to build a spot that people want to come visit because I want all my family around, I want all my kids around, my grandkids around so I want to create a spot that they want to come and feel connected. And by the way, this isn’t a fancy lake house. This isn’t like the cutting edge jet skis and what. This is passed along and owned by multiple people and it’s nothing fancy. There aren’t marble countertops, but it’s just full of heart and soul. So, when I think we shape environments, we need to be doing those things that we need to pay attention to what do people care because not everybody cares about a lake house, not everybody needs to have a lake house to create an amazing environment for their kids.
But whatever it is, my parents in their place whether it’s the garden that my mom’s created so the kids can come and learn about flowers, my dad setting up a pool table upstairs in the room because he knew that I love pool and he wanted to honor that and he wanted to create a place where we could play games. Whatever it is, we get intentional about that and I think that’s key. You have to read your kids. What are your kids like? My kids love to climb so everything around my house, every gift that my grandparents or that my parents have given to their grandkids has been to nurture their passion. That’s what I think about environment.
Casey: That’s awesome. And I think that this part of environment is really important but I also have to ask about something else because I know you’re a really well-traveled family and that you now lived down in Austin, Texas but you tested out a lot of different environments I think about six weeks at a time before you landed on Austin and said this is what we’re going to do, this is what’s going to be our home. A lot of families we’re working with to transitioning and retirement, we’re in Indiana, we’re in Michigan or Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois. It’s cold up here and they want to get to the south. They want to get someplace warm and sometimes it just seems like it’s, well, Florida seems like a nice place or Arizona seems like a nice place and so we’re just going to go there. How do you make a decision on where you ended up if somebody’s going through this transition and they’re trying to think about, “Well, I want to downsize and I want to get someplace a little warmer,” what kind of questions should they be asking themselves to make sure they end up in an environment they’re going to be really happy in, ultimately?
Jon: Yeah. First, you have to ask what you value. So, when we this, we sat down and said, “What is important to us?” Then once we had our values written down, we would then rank them in order of importance. So, for us, for example, like climate was important. We just wanted to be in a place where we could be outside, mostly around being active. That was really important to us. By the way, I have a friend who lives in Hudson, Ohio, and he’s like, “I don’t want to move to Austin because I love the cold, I love the season, I love the ski resort being right near our house,” like that for him is really important so I get to each their own right. It’s important to know what’s important to you. My wife grew up in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia until she was 18 years old where it gets to be negative 40. She had all the cold she ever needed for the rest of her life and wanted to find somewhere that was warmer year-round.
What we did is wrote up those values, we looked at all the places that could possibly fit those values, climate, culture, community, the things that we felt, even the size of the city or how big does the airport need to be, how many direct flights we need, because there’s benefits to small airports, there’s benefits to big airports. How important was that? How much travel did we want to do? What was the cost of living? What type of house could we get? Did we really want? Those are all things we had to consider, big equation clearly, but then we found we narrowed it down, Southern California, Denver, okay, Austin, Texas was on the list. Richmond, Virginia, where my family was not so much the warm part but warmer than Philly which is where we were, Boca, Florida. In the Jupiter area, we looked down there. And we would go to these places, we’d rent a house or stay with friends or rent a car, go out to eat at the restaurants, go see the schools, go integrate into the community. We looked at Athens, Georgia. We lived there for six weeks like rented a house like it was great.
Finally, we landed in Austin and we just had to trust a little bit of – we had to trust the gut. When you get to it where you’re ranking, this one’s got this, this one’s got that. Sometimes you just need to say, “What’s my gut say?” Gut said that this one like Austin’s the spot and so trust our gut, made the move, six months later we were living in Austin. And so far, it’s been two years, it’s been the best decision we made perhaps ever.
Casey: Well, it’s a big decision.
Jon: It’s one of the best but also, it wasn’t irreversible. We’re like it’s not a permanent decision like it’s a pain in the butt to unpack, leave your house, and move it but if we get there and we’re not happy, we could just live somewhere else. Well, I’m glad we were bold and I really credit my wife. She was really the one. I was like, “Oh, it’s the business. We’re launching a book. Do we really want to do this?” and she’s like, “Yes, and we want to do it now.”
Casey: That’s awesome. Well, I hope that people take that to heart, really make that decision an important one. Spend just as much time on that decision as we’re spending on the retirement plan. I know you’ve got to get going here, but I’d love to wrap it up with one last question. I’m probably going to wrap a comment and a question all into one because there’s something you said in your book that I think really applies to this last question. You said that you wrote a line of a sheet of paper representing your lifetime, put a dot on where you currently were. I was kind of wondering, why you did that, what the impact was. I think it’d be valuable for people to hear that.
Jon: It’s not going to be what you’re thinking.
Casey: Well, I’m just wondering how that applies to retirement and what, well, retirement really means to you.
Jon: Yeah. Well, I think it’s important that we all know that we all suffer from a life-threatening illness called being human and that the thing that’s true for you, Casey, and me and everybody listening we’re at this stage right along the journey is that this ride is going to end for all of us like that’s not a thought that should make us sad long term. That might feel a little sad for the moment to think the ride’s going to end. I get that. It should but that should also shake us a little bit to remind us that these aren’t days that we ever get back. Like when I do this podcast, I remind myself that you only get a certain number of minutes in your life. That’s it. You get a certain number of minutes. We’re talking today. I’m not with my wife. I’m not with my kids. You’re not with your wife and kids. You’re not doing. You’re not talking to some other client, you’re not taking care of your health, you’re not running, you’re with me. This is part of our – like it’s important to know how valuable our minutes are. I need to recognize that.
To me, here’s where this whole thing started. It started because I developed a fear of flying in my 30s partially because when I’m younger I’m just like, “I’m invincible. Other people die, but not me, that nothing’s ever to happen to me.” Until one day it hits me that I’m like, I’m just in a plane with engines and like things break. Other planes have fallen out of the sky. This one could and that could be it for me. Done, right? That thought terrified me. It was like almost I had a reality. The reality hit me that I was not invincible. When that hit me, that’s when I pulled out my journal. That’s when I said, “Let me look at my life. This is my birth over here. This is my death. Let’s imagine that I live to be 100. I don’t know. How many of those are amazing years that I could do anything I want? I don’t know, 80, 90? I don’t really know. I’m just guessing and where am I? At the time I was like at my late 30s. I put a dot on the paper and I could see the half yard line, I mean, the 50-yard line and I thought, “Oh my gosh, like the visual, that’s very powerful.”
And I think the visual of that, that the understanding that our days are numbered in some ways. It’s not meant to paralyze. It’s meant to excite us and remind us. Don’t waste your time like get after it. Have fun. Don’t just be bold. My mom is 75, just had knee surgery, because she’s like, “I got things to do like I want to run and exercise and garden and like I can’t let this knee thing get in my way.” So, I think it’s a really important piece of it. I might have written this in the book, I can’t remember, about this guy who had a bowlful of marbles and he counted out like, “If I live to be 100, how many Saturdays do I have?” And he would count them out and every Saturday he’d move a marble from one bowl to another, so he’d be reminded that this is going to end and not to take these days for granted.
I think whatever works for you and everybody’s different but for me, that gets me moving, that gets me excited, that gets me out of bed, that keeps me engaged because I’m like there are no minutes to waste. There are no moments to waste, no time with my kid can be wasted, no time with my mom and dad can be wasted. At any moment anything could be taken. At any moment, like a car accident or whatever, it’s like one moment you’re fine. Next moment you’re battling something serious. My only thought is for people to consider how valuable your days are and to give the gift to yourself and to those around you to make the most of them.
Casey: So exciting, Jon. I love talking to you. I love reading your stuff. That’s motivation enough. I don’t know if I’m going to do the whole marble thing. That just seems kind of depressing.
Jon: Yeah. Do what works for you.
Casey: But, I mean, simply just doing that exercise, I’ve done it with clients. We might take out a tape measure actually and say, “Hey, how long you think you’re going to live, put your finger on at 85. Now, how old are you today? Okay. This is how much time you got left. How are you going to use it? How are you going to make the most of it? We need to live with purpose and we need to help all of those around us, especially our grandkids if you’re lucky enough to have them. So, thanks, Jon, for this time. I know we got a run, but I really appreciate our conversation. Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks.
Jon: Yeah, man. Thanks, Casey.
Casey: All right. Thanks, Jon.
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