Have Serious Fun and 12 Other Principles to Make Your Life Count releases TOMORROW. You can click here to buy the book at HomeWord, or pick it up tomorrow wherever books are sold. This interview from Authority Magazine, which has over 41 million users a month worldwide, gives you some background on Jim and his new book.
As a part of my series about how to live with Joie De Vivre, I had the pleasure of interviewing author, speaker, cancer survivor and president of Homeword, Jim Burns.
Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord, speaks to thousands of people around the world each year, and has more than two million resources in print in twenty languages. He is the author of Confident Parenting, Creating an Intimate Marriage, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; two sons-in-law, Steve and Matt; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte, and Huxley.
I only had one career goal as long as I could remember. I wanted to be a professional baseball player, like my older brother. And then at age 17, I changed my mind. I had a faith experience that caused me to look deeply inward and I decided I would give my life to helping kids and families. From that time, I have never looked back. Although in my early adulthood I spent much of my energy speaking to students, (about a quarter of a million a year), as I got older, I decided that I really needed to help the parents of those kids I had been trying to support. Over the years, I created four values for my career: strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids, and healthy leaders. Now everything I do is centered around those four values.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I don’t know if it’s the most interesting story, but I literally grew up! The kids I used to speak to also grew up and they now have kids of their own. They are still looking to me to help them figure out how to parent well. I realized when I was helping students during the early years of my career, it was the parents who needed help as well, just on a different level. I was often asked to speak at school assemblies and conference on healthy sexuality or dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. Today, when I talk to parents about those same issues, they often look like a deer staring in headlights. When I tell parents that research reveals that kids will be much less confused about media, sexuality, and drug abuse if they have open, honest dialog with their parents, they know it’s true, but it’s really hard for them to do. I found it was easier for me to talk to high school students about cultural issues than their parents. But it’s still fun to give them practical insights and push them a bit on some of the tough subjects.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I was speaking at a Catholic gathering of high school students on healthy sexuality. Without telling my daughter the topic I was speaking on, I invited my 15-year-old to go with me and then afterward we would go to her favorite restaurant. Admittedly, I had an ulterior motive to have her listen to my talk. When I got up to speak, I introduced my daughter and proceeded to have a blunt talk on sexual integrity. I kept looking at my daughter and she was literally ducking low in her seat and giving me the “evil eye” look. After the talk all the kids in the room gave me a standing ovation except for one, my daughter. We then left for dinner. She was not happy about being set up and I realized I had a lot to learn about parenting and passive aggressive behavior.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom was the most inspirational person in my life. Her father (my grandpa) died of cirrhosis of the liver. It wasn’t easy for mom living in a dysfunctional home and all the trappings of alcoholism. She married my dad when she was very young and once again, she lived with an alcoholic. Yet, mom had so many of the incredible attributes found in my book, Have Serious Fun. She was the “party time” grandma to my kids. She created fun and meaningful times for all of us. She found happiness in the midst of tough circumstances. She was the greatest cheerleader to everyone around her. Even at the end of her life, in hospice, she was still reaching out and loving. Her very last words to me were a blessing, “Jimmy, I love you and I’m proud of you.” She had no more than a high school education. She probably never read a parenting book and never went to a parenting seminar, but she was a wonderful parent who I often imitate my own parenting style after.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
How much time do you have? I think one of the biggest problems in America is this breathless pace in which we live our lives. We are too serious about being busy ALL the time. We are overcommitted and under-connected, even with our primary relationships. We spend way too much time on social media and watching depressing news stories and miss out on enjoying deep relationships or a stunning sunset. We work like crazy only to take a short vacation where we still bring our computer and workload. If we invest all our time and energy on work, we only give our families our emotional scraps and then we wonder why things aren’t going well at home.
People who are too busy often have trouble naming anyone in our life we would call a deep friend or replenishing relationship. In America we don’t focus enough on developing meaningful relationships with people who inspire us. And one other thing… The people I know who are the happiest are the people who are thankful, grateful people who take time to strengthen their primary relationships, which would be our spouse, if married, family, friends and even God. We’d be so much happier in America if we slowed down, invested in meaningful relationships and had some serious fun.
Can you share with our readers your 5 strategies to live with more Joie De Vivre? Can you please give a story or example for each?
These strategies became clearer for me as I faced cancer….
Have Serious Fun: I wrote part of my PhD dissertation many years ago on the traits of a healthy family. The trait that surprised me the most was that play was one of the major traits of healthy families. Fun is sometimes the missing ingredient to deeper connection and meaningful relationships. Play builds great memories and reduces stress. Play opens a closed spirit and brings togetherness like few other experiences. When our kids were young, my wife and I began a monthly “Family Fun Day.” Each kid took turns being in charge of the monthly day. Those became amazing connection times that still carry into the DNA of our family. I have a friend who felt he was “losing his son” and he had little connection with him at age 16. A basketball hoop changed all that. My friend went to Walmart, bought a basketball hoop, put it in the driveway and then started playing basketball with his son most every day. Months later, he realized that basketball had brought back the connection between him and his son. The son is now an adult, but they still connect over basketball.
Attitude is Everything: your circumstance may not change, but your attitude can change and that makes all the difference in the world. This strategy became a life-changer for me. I had to accept certain circumstances in life that might not change but I could look at it with a different attitude and different perspective. I found that thankfulness was the key that unlocked my negative or even depressive emotions. Every morning I practice “thank therapy” where I write down at least 20 reasons why I’m thankful. It’s a great start for the day and gives me the right perspective.
If the Devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy: I’m convinced that one of the biggest problems in our world is this breathless pace in which we live our lives. I’m not saying we all need to move to a distant land and not have responsibilities. However, an overcommitted and under-connected life is not a life of happiness or purpose. Intentional times of rest, refreshment, restoration, and recreation should be a part of our regular schedule. The Bible says that even God rested on the 7th day and was refreshed. One couple I know said that they restored their marriage connection with a regularly scheduled “do nothing day” that usually included a long walk, fun food, reading, relaxing, more emphasis on romance and perhaps catching a movie. Wasn’t it that great coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, who said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all?” Give yourself permission to slow down.
It’s the pain of discipline or the pain of regret: There is pain in life. Those who do well in life understand that it takes putting your energy into creating workable habits but like most things, the pain of discipline will always outweigh the pain of regret. I’ve been working out lately. I know it’s good for me, but I don’t always like to do it. But I also know that the pain it takes to work out will pay great dividends with a healthier body than the regret of not putting any energy into good health and taking care of my body. You can apply this strategy to almost any venture in life.
Find replenishing relationships: One of the keys to a happy and fulfilled life is strong friendships with a good support system. Do you have deep friendships? I have found that putting time and energy into doing life with very inspiring people has made a huge difference for me. Every Tuesday morning for almost 20 years, I have had breakfast with 4 other men who totally inspire me. I’m a better husband, father, and leader because of the culmination of those breakfasts. There is a great proverb that says, “iron sharpens iron.” When you regularly invest in replenishing relationships, you can’t help but become a better person.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
Ha! That is a bit like asking if I have a favorite child. I love learning and I believe leaders are constant learners. I always have a novel on my iPad. Reading for fun, with a great story, is relaxing and always inspiring. I just read John Grisham’s latest novel, Sooley, about a young boy who lived in the African bush who was given a chance to play college basketball in the United States. He became a major success and brought his team to the Final Four basketball tournament. Then with a major sudden event, it all changed. I laughed, I was inspired and yes, I’ll admit it, I cried. After having cancer, I decided to read more for fun and inspiration, rather than just for work. Inspirational writer Max Lucado always inspires me. I buy his books the day they are released. I’m currently listening to a series of sermons by Andy Stanley and loving that podcast. As a person who writes books, I need to spend a lot of time and focus reading for research. I don’t mind that, but it’s the other types of reading and podcasts that are what give me the most joy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Anyone who ever hears me speak or reads a book I have written, knows I love “life lesson quotes.” There are too many to name. I put a Winston Churchill quote in my book, Have Serious Fun, that in this season of life is something l think about almost every day. “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” What that says to me, is that I will never experience the joy of life if I’m focused on all the negative the world puts in front of me. Each day I have decision to either choose joy or wallow in all that is negative about the world. I don’t find any benefit putting energy into the negativity, especially when there is so much to embrace that is good and beautiful.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I love meeting people who are passionate about their calling. My calling is a simple statement: “Help Families Succeed.” I want to spend the rest of my life in small or large ways, doing just that. Yesterday it was sitting with a single mom after I had given a talk on parenting who was really struggling with her life. My goal was to help her understand that she was doing a great job at parenting and that her sacrifices were going to change the trajectory of her child and family system. Each day, whether large or small, I want to bring hope to families.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, just this week we finished the Have Serious Fun video course. I love it. I speak for a short time and then there is a story that that helps develop the idea. We took stories from the lives of some of my heroes. However, my favorite was an interview I did with my wife, Cathy, about a deep friendship she was blessed to have with her lifelong friend, Carolyn. Carolyn died at 53 years old of pancreatic cancer. I’ve done over 2,000 interviews but had never interviewed my wife of 47 years. It was fun and inspirational. I hope the book and now the course inspire thousands of people to make their lives count.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I love the question and remember everyone approaches their calling differently. I’m blessed to already be doing what I love doing and believe I’m called to do. As president of HomeWord, I lead an organization that has the four values I talked about in your first question:
- Strong Marriages
- Confident Parents
- Empowered Kids
- Healthy Leaders
I’m giving my life and energy to help families succeed through those four values. I believe doing what you are called to do brings deep joy in life.
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.