I’m excited to be speaking with Bradley Callow. Bradley is revolutionizing the way affluent families teach and learn passionate performance and perseverance. This is going to be a different interview than what we’ve done before, but it’s going to be powerful. For all of us who run businesses, one of the big casualty sometimes is our family relationships, and that is Bradley’s specialty. He came from an affluent family and went through some difficult times. He learned a great deal through that and has created a program called Rich Legacy to help families and help parents and children in particular communicate better with one another. Bradley, I’m excited to have you here. I’m personally interested in this because we’ve got four kids and so I’m hoping to learn something here. Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO.
Thanks for having me, Steve. I love your choice of language there, that the family can be a casualty of success in the world of business, especially as an entrepreneur where you constantly have to sacrifice. This notion of work-life balance is laughable. You show me anyone that has a perfect work-life balance. It doesn’t exist. We call it work-life integration. How do you get intentional about the time you do spend? Thankfully, the actual data shows that it’s not about the quantity of time that you spend with your family. It’s about the quality of time.
I’m in complete agreement. I don’t think there is any such thing as balance. For people running a business, integration is a perfect word because you do have to integrate both sides of your life. You are intertwined in the business and intertwined and family. We’re going to learn a lot today. To give everybody some context, what is it that got you to this point and focusing on this as a topic?
I was a perfect angel that came from a perfect family and had nothing but a 4.0 and all the awards and accolades that any parent and child could ask for. In reality, that wasn’t my story. My story was much darker than that, despite coming from a good family as you said. My mom was a stay at home mom. She used to be a special ed teacher, an educator. These are parents that are intentional in what they were doing with their family. Still, despite that, I started using drugs at eleven years old. Not twelve, not thirteen, not fourteen, certainly not seventeen, eighteen, nineteen. I was eleven years old. I always have people say to me, “What do you mean your parents didn’t know you’re on drugs at eleven years old?”My simple response to that is, “When was the last time you looked an eleven-year-old in the eye and said, ‘Their eyes are a little red. I bet they’re on drugs?’” It doesn’t happen because the constant mentality is, “Not my kid.” I’ve heard that a thousand times. No one wants to believe, my parents included, that their kid’s struggling or would do something like this. For me, I started using drugs at eleven. I’m an entrepreneur with every fiber of my being. I didn’t know what entrepreneurship was despite my dad being one. I didn’t understand and appreciate it. I started having these ideas about how I could make money off this if I sold this to my friends. The first business I ever had was selling drugs. That was my first entrepreneurial pursuit.
As an entrepreneur, it’s not about the quantity of time that you spend with your family. It’s about the quality of time.
Through my own drug use and the selling of drugs, despite that, I kept up pretty good appearances. I managed to make my way through high school, get decent enough grades to get into a college, and went to the University of South Carolina. Within a month of turning eighteen and being in college, I was arrested for felony distribution. They caught me selling marijuana, enough so that I was then a felon from that point on in my life, not the way you want to enter into the world of work and certainly not what my parents would have ever hoped or wanted for me. As a result of that, I thankfully was given another chance and was only suspended from school and went back with something to prove. I did well for a little while but ultimately fell back into old behaviors. By the time I was 26 and out of college, I explored entrepreneurship quite a bit as well as software sales, digital media sales, and had a lot of success. I still didn’t think I was good enough. I always felt I was less than, and no matter what I could do in my life, I wasn’t good enough. I felt empty. I felt this burning hole inside of me, which in some ways motivates me still. I’ve closed that hole tremendously, but there’s still a bit of that that motivates me. A lot of entrepreneurs I talk to and work with share that same feeling of “I’m not good enough and I’m going to prove that I am.” That voice for me came from my father who was an entrepreneur. A very analytical man, a very much left brain and his way of showing me love was with positive intent that he was doing these things. He was always looking to show me the right way to do things. There was always a better, smarter, more sophisticated, effective, efficient way to get things done.
I like to use the example when I was five years old. I’m washing the dishes and I am thrilled. I’m excited. I’m on my little stool. This little brown hair, blue eyed boy, smiling ear to ear, bubbles flying everywhere and dad comes in, tall, skinny, focused, serious look on his face and he says, “Son, that’s awesome. That’s cool what you’re doing. I got to tell you it’s the friction of the brush that gets the food off the plate. You running the water on full blast and using hot water, it’s a waste of money, electricity and energy. To a five-year-old, you can imagine this little brown haired, blue eyed boy falling under the weight of himself. That was a continuing pattern. Despite my dad showing up in lots of meaningful ways in my life and still to this day is my hero, some of those little things that he or my mom did, the community that I grew up in, ultimately led me in the wrong direction. It didn’t set me up for success. It set me up for a life of torture and self-torture more often than not. I was responsible for so much of my own pain, discomfort, and hardship. By the time I turned 26, I found myself on my knees, with a 1911.45 caliber handgun pressed to the side of my temple. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about than others. I still to this day don’t know why I didn’t pull the trigger. I’d like to think it’s when you think of the token saying, “I was meant for bigger things. God and the universe had a plan for me,” but I don’t know. At the end of the day, I don’t know. I’m grateful that I didn’t.
When I hear that the adolescent suicide rate has quadrupled since 1950and the greatest increases are coming in the affluent demographic, I started to pay attention. I became a student of what it is that are happening in these families that are leading all these kids to not be able to deal with uncomfortable emotions. At the end of the day, that’s what it is. I’m not trying to eliminate pain from people’s experience because pain exists everywhere. Looking at the title of your podcast, I am such a believer that the greatest hardship, discomfort, and failures is what gives us our grit. It’s what gives us our edge. It’s what gives us growth and excitement in life. I’m not trying to remove everyone’s pain. I’m trying to teach them a better way to deal with it. How do you take that pain and make it an opportunity versus an end all to be all?
Thank you for sharing the story. It takes courage to share a story. The pain that we all experience at whatever stage in our life, whether it’s great pain or small pain, is a great teacher. It’s hard to see that sometimes. I’m 46, soon to be 47 years old. It’s taken me 40 plus years to understand that. It took going through some challenging things, not nearly what you’ve been through, to understand the role that that plays. At a young age, it’s something you want to run from. I look at it and go, “This is preparing me for something. There’s something here that I need to learn. I’m either exhibiting a behavior that isn’t in alignment with what I’m trying to do or I’m getting prepared for something to come. Either way, I better pay attention.” I didn’t always approach it that way. Particularly for children, it paints something you want to run away from.
It takes time and firsthand experience. Over time, you build up that resilience and that grit. You start to look at problems and challenges differently. You’re saying it took you decades to solidify and own this. One of the patterns that have become so clear and ever present in the high-performing families that I work with all over the world are that they tend to shelter their children. You’ve heard the concept of helicopter parents. I wrote an article, I haven’t put it out yet, on bubble parenting, which we’ve gone even farther. Instead of hovering over the kids and trying to protect them, “Let’s literally insulate them from having to experience discomfort. That will allow them to get into college. That will allow them to get good grades. That’ll allow them to be successful and happy. If I protect them, that’s what will allow them to experience those things.”
The greatest hardship, discomfort and failure is what gives us our grit
You and I know that’s not reality. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s the gritty kids, the gritty human beings, the resilient and persistent ones that are successful and happy to find that purpose and that passion, that perseverance in life. The kids are being denied that opportunity to learn through hardship and discomfort while they’re still under the wing of the parents. They go off to college and they implode. They don’t know what to do with themselves. I’m going to start a business on doing laundry for college freshmen and retire next year. It’s unbelievable and the intention is good. Look at the media, you have to be terrified to let your kid out of the house without knee pads, shin guards, a helmet and a reflective vest to walk to the bus because it looks like the sky is falling. The reality is if those kids aren’t given that opportunity to learn that grit and resilience now, the likelihood they’re going to learn it later or be able to manage those difficult emotions is unlikely.
We’ve got four kids. We’ve seen lots of parents and parenting styles and we’re certainly not necessarily the best at it. Any parent will tell you it’s always a work in progress. Some days, it’s a better work than others. Having seen a lot of different parenting styles, the one thing that I’ve observed is that the kids who go through that protective experience from their parents get robbed of accomplishment because they’re protected from everything. They don’t get to fall down and pick themselves back up again. Oftentimes, that’s masked by the fact that academically they’re achieving because they’re given the right tutors and they’re going through all this. They never get the chance to try something and not be good at it. It’s interesting to watch that. All parents mess their kids up to one degree or another because there’s no license and there is no training to become a parent. It happens. We all know how it happens. It happens and there you go and you’ve got kids. You’ve had this experience, but now you’re working with families to help get things to a place where parents and kids are communicating. Talk about why you want to do that and what some of the challenges are in working with these families.
In terms of why, for me it ties back to my own story and my own journey. I see an opportunity to create some real change here and in generations to come if we can zero in and dial in this approach to empowering kids and empowering families. You picked up something earlier, talking about my use of language related to business. I do a lot of that, not because the people I work with tend to be executives and entrepreneurs, but because the parallels are unbelievable. You tell a spouse or your kids that you do things similar to the way you do in business and you’ll probably get kicked in the shin real hard. The reality is that it’s a good thing. It’s harder than ever to be a parent or a child. The internet in all its glory has made things difficult because that gap and understanding that is age old for parent and child is so dramatically wad right now. If you grew up 30 or 40 years ago, that experience as a child is no longer relatable to an experience of a child today. For example, we have parents all the time who’ll say, “My kid came home and they said they didn’t get enough likes on their Instagram post.” I said, “Big deal, get over it.” That’s the most important thing that happened to that child that day. That would be the equivalent in your day of someone walking up to you and being like, “I don’t want to be friends anymore,” and this was your best friend yesterday.
To be able to put yourself in that position is difficult because I personally don’t have a family yet. I have a wife. We’re looking to start a family in the next six months or so. As of right now I don’t have kids. At first people would say, “I’m not listening to anything you have to say about parenting, family, or any of this stuff because you’re not a parent.” I said, “Fine, don’t listen to me.” What I serve is that bridge in that widening gap of understanding, that I can connect with a kid and understand that kid, and I can also connect with the parent and understand that parent. Not on that same level because I haven’t had that personal experience, but now after working with thousands of families, I’ve got a pretty good idea.
At my age, I’m now 32, I grew up with technology and without it, with the internet and without it, and so I can bridge that gap. What I’m finding is in order to bridge that gap, you have to be very intentional and focused. It’s not going to happen by accident. If I sit here and ask you, “Steve, what are your goals for your business for the next five years, three years, one year, next quarter?” You’ll be like, “Hold on, Bradley. How much time do you have? Let me tell you my BHAG, my Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Let me tell you my more reasonable goals. Let me tell you my mission statement, my value state, you name it, how we run meetings, how we do budgeting. Here are the things I want to teach my employees to allow them to be better at what they do.” I’ll ask you simultaneously, “What’s the most important thing in your life?” “It’s easy. My family.” What are your family values? What is your family mission statement? What are your goals for the next five years? How can we look at the parallels of business and family and start getting intentional and focused like we are with our businesses and with our families? Empowering these kids to be successful and happy, which is what virtually every parent wants, in this day and age is no longer going to happen by accident. You don’t have that tribe. You don’t have that community of people raising kids like you used to. If you’re not getting intentional and focused, you’re putting a lot at risk and taking a huge chance on something that is the most important thing in your life. My job is to open the eyes, hearts, and minds of those families so they can start getting intentional about those things.
Empowering these kids to be successful and happy, which is what virtually every parent wants, in this day and age is no longer going to happen by accident.
You used one of my favorite words, intentionality. You said we’re so intentional in our businesses. We need to take some of that and bring it home and be intentional with how we’re cultivating our family relationships. How do you coach people to create that intentionality? It’s so easy to sit back and think, “It’s my family. It’s my kids. It’s my wife. We hang out together. We live in this house together.” To insert intentionality, you have to take it to another level of consciousness of what you’re doing. How do you get people to look at that? It’s like for a fish swimming in water, it’s the water sometimes.
It’s more of a given. The things that are given in our life, we tend to take for granted, as sad as that is. We take breathing for granted all the time. It’s pretty damn important. It’s the same with our family. Unfortunately a lot of people that come to work with us are on the verge of divorce or maybe recently remarried and want to be more intentional this time around or with a combination of the new family. Their kid was suspended. Their kid got into trouble at school. Whatever it may be, there’s some pain that motivates and inspires them to take action, like most areas of our life. Unfortunately when something is a given, it might take even more of a pain and a discomfort to motivate people.
I so often hear people say, “My kids are too young for this. Things aren’t that bad.” If I can communicate anything, it’s the whole ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure. The older the kids get, the more challenging it gets to change some of these behaviors and trajectory. Those patterns and behaviors become more solidified. The sweet spot for us is that eight to thirteen range. We do father-son retreats. We’re doing our first father-daughter retreat this summer. We also do private family retreats and private family coaching which is for the whole family. Our focus on that eight to thirteen for the father-son retreats is we’ll do an eight to ten and then eleven to thirteen, and segment those out, ten fathers and sons each.
The magic that happens in those small intentional environments is unbelievable. It’s about the quality of time, not the quantity of time. Thankfully, for a retreat type model that’s built in with a lot of fun, we’d go to Park City Utah and you’re doing whitewater rafting, hot air balloon rides and downhill ski jump into Olympic size pool in the middle of the summer. Those things are exciting and attractive enough that the secondary elements that we built in that are experiential to help be more intentional, focused and have a plan are okay. “I don’t even care about that. I want to go have fun with my son,” but then they get those other benefits so then it doesn’t fire that same amount of pain to motivate them. We’re able to plant those seeds which have been huge for us.
Anytime you can create that interaction between a parent and a child, it’s valuable. It’s hard to do. We’ve got four of them and it’s hard to do with each kid individually. Given their schedules, I don’t know a child amongst our friend group anyway. You talk about coming from an affluent background and most everybody in our audience is probably in that situation where the kids in that demographic are scheduled. We did to them what we’re living right now. To create those experiences together, it’s difficult. It’s fantastic that you’re doing that. What can somebody expect if they come to your website? First, tell them where to go to get to the website. If they come to the website and they’re looking for information, what can they expect when they get there? Where should they begin if they want to plug in to what you guys are doing?
The older the kids get, the more challenging it gets to change some of these behaviors and trajectory
I’m going to do something a little different this time, Steve. I’m feeling inspired recently, more so than normal. I always joke I don’t have an exit for my business because I’m so passionate about what I do. I could never imagine doing anything else, but like anything, that passion has waves to it. Right now, I’m riding a nice wave. That being said, I’m going to offer my cell phone number and your audience can reach out. Shoot me a text first please and we will schedule some time to hop on a call, twenty minutes or so. I will speak directly to the actual challenges that they are facing in their life. Anybody can reach out and we’ll schedule a call. I’m happy to make the time to make that a reality. The phone number for me is 301-980-7511. All I ask is that you text me first so we can set up some time that makes sense for both of us.
That’s generous. Thank you. I hope our audience takes advantage of it if you feel you’ve got a need. You’ve got a website, RichLegacy.com. I know you run programs. Is that the best place for them to go to find out the breadth of what you do?
It is. Like any growing business, the website never seems to be up to date with what all the offerings are. I would say if you’re a dad, I would check out MyFatherSonRetreat.RichLegacy.com and then you can check out a father-son retreat we’ll have. We have either three or five-day options for Park City, Utah. You can check that out or BetterDads.RichLegacy.com. We’ve got eight ways you can improve your relationship with your son. We do things with the whole family. We’ve had a recent push towards father-son because there’s been a tremendous amount of interest and demand for it.
It’s a key relationship. That’s fantastic. Bradley, thank you so much for investing some time with me. This has been a lot of fun. It’s certainly educational for me. I’m going to go back and hopefully apply a few of the things that I’ve learned to our kids and our relationships. Everybody go check this out. Take Bradley up on the offer. This is a big deal.
I would challenge everyone to go home and ask each one of your family members separately. That’s the key. This is not a group setting. It’s very intentional. “How can I be a better husband? How can I be a better wife? How can I be a better father? What does that look like for you?”A lot of folks, their first response is going to be looking at you like you’re crazy and, “I don’t know, leave me alone,” or, “I have no idea,” but keep asking that. Once you get the answer to that question and start to get the answer to that question, it will evolve over time the more often you ask it. You will be amazed at some of the things that you can uncover and start working on. You either thought, “We’re already well or we’re going well,” and they feel the opposite, or you thought you were doing poorly and they think the world of the approaches you’re already taking.
That’s great advice. Thanks again. I appreciate you being here and look forward to connecting again soon.