Finding the balance between work life and family life isn’t always easy. Whether you’re a father, a mother, or a spouse without kids, there’s no feeling quite like that of thriving in your personal relationships. But it takes hard work, setting priorities, and a strong community to truly thrive.
Today, I’m speaking to one of my closest friends, Jon Vroman. We just spent four days together at a retreat led by his organization, Front Row Dads – a group for entrepreneurial-minded dads who believe in family first. Since 2016, I’ve watched Jon help men and their families learn, grow, and level up.
In this conversation, Jon and I talk about what he’s learned from five years of leading Front Row Dads. You’ll learn how to create breakthroughs in your relationships, rethink the act of resolving conflict, improve your emotional intelligence, and discover actionable strategies to enhance and even master your family life.
And if you like this episode, Jon and I will also be hosting a FREE online group masterclass—specifically for husband and fathers—called “Family Man Mastery” on Tuesday, June 1st at 12:00 p.m. EST. If you’re interested, you can go to FrontRowDads.com/Hal to sign up now.
- The importance of modeling good relationships for your kids, no matter what kind of family you have.
- How to transform your marriage by focusing on being the perfect partner for your spouse.
- How to unpack and make sense of what happens when you’re triggered.
- How to reframe situations when you feel like you’re truly out of alignment with your spouse.
- What you can do to build a legacy in real-time for your children to treasure in the years and decades to come.
- And much more! :^)
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- Wild at Heart by John Eldredge
- Loveable by Kelly Flanagan
- True Companions by Kelly Flanagan
- Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
- Play to Their Strengths: A New Approach to Parenting Your Kids as God Made Them by Brandon Miller
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Hal Elrod: Hey, welcome to the Achieve Your Goals podcast. This is your host, Hal Elrod, and I really appreciate you being here. This is a conversation you're about to hear that I just had with Jon Vroman. And Jon is one of my best friends in the entire world. We've been doing life together for well over a decade, probably going on almost two now.
And Jon is the founder of Front Row Dads and you'll hear a little bit about that, but today was really, we wanted to talk about family life and how to really master your family life. It's something that recently I've started focusing on how do I master my roles as a husband and as a father? How do I master those roles, not just do good enough to get by, which I've been guilty of in the past? And I think a lot of especially entrepreneurial dads are really focusing on the business. In fact, that's the theme of Front Row Dads is family men with businesses, not businessmen with families. However, today, I really wanted to focus on not just on being a dad, but on being a parent and really mastering your family life, whether you're a mom, a dad, either/or.
And so, today, we're going to get into some topics around how to master your emotions in the midst of challenges with your kids and/or with your spouse. Jon had a radical breakthrough around that very recently. In fact, he shared it as recently as yesterday at lunch with me. And I said, we got to talk about that tomorrow on the podcast. So, we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to talk about for me, what I've realized, what it means to master being a husband. What does that look like? Jon's going to share with you some strategies that he's been using around creating really magic moments, unforgettable moments for his children and a lot more. So, this is really about family life mastery or mastering your family life.
And I do want to mention this before I forget that we are doing a group call for free on June 1st. This is our annual Father's Day call. We've been doing it for years now. So, it's specifically for dads, for men, really could be just for husbands, if you don't have kids yet, it would work for you as well, but if you go to FrontRowDads.com/Hal, you can sign up there for free. Again, FrontRowDads.com/Hal, go check that out if you want to be a part of that call on June 1st, and all the details are of course at that site.
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And again, that goes across the board for the protein powders and everything that they make. Go to Organifi.com/Hal, again O-R-G-A-N-I-F-I dotcom/Hal and then use the code HAL at checkout to get 15% off your entire order. And I hope you find something there that you love as much as I love their products, which is why I take them on the daily. So, without further ado, my good friend Jon Vroman, and we're going to talk about mastering your family life. Enjoy.
Hal Elrod: Hey, Johnny, good to see you, buddy.
Jon Vroman: I was looking forward to this all morning.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Was there sarcasm? Or is that you're genuinely looking forward?
Jon Vroman: I was completely sarcastic.
Hal Elrod: Alright, cool. Man, it's good to see you. I just spent four days with you in Florida at the Front Row Dads’ retreat.
Jon Vroman: Yup.
Hal Elrod: How are you feeling after that, man? Like, you must be on– I'm guessing you're still on a high from that.
Jon Vroman: I'm on a high. Yeah, I'm on a high. Dude, I don't know if I told you this, but I got to my car when everybody was gone and I was kind of the last one and I was getting in my car and pulling out of the resort. I called Tatiana and she asked me how it went. And dude, I just started crying.
Hal Elrod: Wow.
Jon Vroman: Like, I tried to get it together, but I probably cried for the first five minutes of our conversation, just trying to express to her what just happened, which kind of took me by surprise. And I think it took a lot of the guys by surprise based on the messages I got.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, I don't like the fact, you telling me that makes all the sense in the world. I didn't cry at the end of the event, but I did, just being your friend and being part of the group and what was created there in terms of vulnerability and support and connection and love amongst, what was it? 45 guys, 35 guys?
Jon Vroman: 45.
Hal Elrod: And then people coming up to me that I invited, like Tucker Max, saying, “This is the best Mastermind I have ever been to, Hal, and I've been to all of them.” Matt Recore, my best friend of 20 years, I was rooming with him, he said, “Hal, I will never miss another Front Row Dads’ retreat.” And I said, “Oh, me either.” And then Phillip Stutts. So, I invited Phillip to the retreat. The same thing, he said, “I will be at every single one of these.” And just watching you from the beginning, having built this, what was it? 2015, 2016, when did you start Front Row Dads? 2016.
So, the last five years, watching you build this and seeing, I was there from the beginning and then seeing what it's become is, I mean, yeah, being that this is your baby and I could see you getting emotional over what would happen. Let me ask you, that's a good place to start, why did you decide to start Front Row Dads? And five years later, and especially coming off of an experience that put you in tears for five minutes trying to tell your wife about it, what was the intention, the motivation to make that decision five years ago and shift gears in your business significantly to focus on fathers? Why did you make that decision? And how do you feel about it five years later?
Jon Vroman: Yeah, if I go back to that mindset, 2016, it was fear and love that we're winning out the fear of messing up as a dad, the fear of getting to the– my kids would be 18 and I would have this regret that I miss their childhood, that I just worked my way through it. It was one more project, one more season, one more busy thing I had to handle on an evening or a weekend, one more trip. I had a fear and it was getting very real because my son was six at that time and I had always talked about being the best dad. When I'm a dad, I'm going to read all the dad books, do all the things. And six years in, my business was thriving, but it was still that one-more-book-I-had-to-write-and-get-out-there type of mentality. I was like, I just gotta finish this.
And I had this awakening, this awareness that I'm so grateful for in that moment where the fear was really setting in, that he was six and a third of his way to adulthood. And then I loved my family, I loved my wife, I loved my kids, and I wanted more time with them. I wanted more conversation. And at that point, I’d conditioned myself all through my 20s that my life was about being productive with work. It was like my best hours were in the morning, I gave them to my business. And my wife was okay with that, like I was the primary breadwinner. She's, of course, like, you got to give the best to the business, if you will, because that's what I was, that's what I believed to be the right thing to do, but things just started to switch.
As I evolved as a man, I knew I needed to make some changes. So, I got everybody together. And it was the type of thing where it's like I had a hunch that we needed it. I didn't quite understand the impact that was going to be created in the lives of the men, but I remember Mike McCarthy, I remember John Kane coming up to me at the end, saying, “We need to do more of this.” And that was the first one. Now, we just did our ninth event. And what drives me today more and more, Hal, is I continue to be impacted by this community.
Even this morning, dude, I took Tiger on a bike ride, where I was going to prepare for a podcast with John Eldredge, who wrote Wild at Heart, who I just got off the phone with. And I was like, I normally would sit down and prepare for a podcast by maybe looking at his bio again or watching a couple of his videos and thinking about what questions. And I said, John wrote the book about being wild at heart, boys needing an adventure in their lives. I said the best way I could prepare for this podcast is by going out and taking a bike ride with Tiger.
So, we went on a 45-minute adventure. And we took this pretty cool thing, Hal, when we would pull up to a stop sign or an intersection, I know you've been riding, like you've been riding with the kids, so you're going to love this one. When we pull up to an intersection or a stop sign, Tiger starts slowly saying, left, right, straight. And as he hits the stop sign, whatever direction he's saying in that moment, left, right, or straight, is the direction we go. And we flow like this random adventure and Tiger, on the way back, after 45 minutes ended up on these trails riding through the mud, he's like, man, this was a great morning. This was a great morning. I woke up, I read, I went on a bike ride with my dad and like, this is great.
And dude, that is what the community continues to give to me is the right framing for my day, the right examples. There's a voice in my head always from one of our brothers, from one of our podcast guests, from somebody in the Front Row Dads’ world that's directing me on how I might be able to behave in a way that I feel great pride in being a father. And today was an example of that.
Hal Elrod: You know, I resonate with that. Obviously, I'm not the founder of Front Row Dads, although at times, I've been like, hey, like what you're doing… What did you say?
Jon Vroman: I said you were there in the beginning, dude. We've done this together, no doubt.
Hal Elrod: And by the way, was that first retreat, the one in Philly?
Jon Vroman: Yeah.
Hal Elrod: In that, like a restaurant pub with the wood pole in the middle?
Jon Vroman: Yep.
Hal Elrod: Okay, I remember. I'm picturing it, yeah. That was a small group of folks. Berghoff was there, yeah. And I think that for anybody listening today, right now, I really want to be clear, and I'm sure when I recorded the intro for this, I will tee this up, but this really is for any family person, right? So, if you are a father or a mother or you're just a spouse or a parent, that's what I love about Front Row Dads is it's called Front Row Dads, but most of the wives of the dads are learning, growing, and making sure their husbands get there because we always come back better, typically, but I think a big win for me that isn't in the name of the group is husband, you know right? It’s like really helping me to up-level as a husband.
In fact, that's a perfect segue. You shared something at our Front Row Dads’ band yesterday. We meet once a month for anybody listening. There's four of us, it's like four in each of the four Front Row Dads’ group. Groups of four meet as a band every month and we go really deep and support each other. And yesterday, you shared a huge breakthrough for you, which was, I guess, I would say it was around emotional intelligence and how you used to get very triggered by your spouse and you would get angry. And then because you've worked on yourself, so I don't want to tell all of it, but you've worked on yourself so much that you were like, I'm right. I've evolved. I've been doing Tony Robbins since I was like 20. You don't know what you're talking about. So, anyway, man, I would love to hear that breakthrough for you, because I think it's going to transcend not only your marriage, but every relationship that you have.
Jon Vroman: Yeah, I'm glad you said all that. And I'll connect a couple of dots, too. So, you mentioned that it's not in the title because when we first started this, it was really about the kids. We're like, we need to talk about being a better dad. So, we got everybody together. There was nothing to Front Row Dads outside of a title, like this is what the event's going to be called, but we just needed to get people together to talk.
And then, it was very clear that throughout those conversations that in order to be a great dad, that you had to be a great husband, and not that you, in order to be a great dad, you need to be married. It just happened to be that probably 99% of the people in that room were married, end of the conversation. Very much so, it was like we're having this challenge with kids, but really it goes back to the deeper, like, how is your relationship with your spouse? What are you modeling for your children? What energy are you bringing into your home every day?
Hal Elrod: And by the way, even if you're divorced.
Jon Vroman: Yeah, sure.
Hal Elrod: That relationship is even probably more important, right?
Jon Vroman: Totally. It's all important. And then it's just relationships with other people in your life that your kids are watching you, have a relationship with your neighbor or your coworkers or how you treat somebody at a restaurant. They're all just modeling relationships. And so much of that relationship is about how it's filling you up or how you're filling other people up, but anyway, we didn't have pillars at the time, which we now have six. And our six pillars now include thriving marriage because it became very obvious that to have a great family, there are things we need to focus on, like our health, like our emotional intelligence, right? And those are things that are important to us.
Well, fast forward, thanks to many people in this community that have helped me, including one that you and I were talking about prior to hitting the record button, which is Dr Kelly Flanagan. He wrote a book called Loveable. He wrote a book called True Companions that just dropped. And he's a brilliant psychologist who has really served our group, actually showed up to one of our events and then became a member. He was so impressed by the community, but if you recall, Hal, Dr. Kelly has brought to us, and I'll tell this to everybody who doesn't know, he brought us this concept of the ego castle, ego castle being like this idea that, look, we all have an ego. Everybody listening to this podcast has an ego. Nobody escapes this. Whether or not we're conscious of our ego is a different thing.
Well, if you become conscious of this ego, this false self, the part of you that created an identity to survive junior high and high school and to create an identity that allowed you to make it in your 20s, or wherever you are in life, we've created this identity, this personality, this front to the world, and that has both helped us. And maybe, at some point, it helped us, but now it might be hurting us. Well, as I have more and more of these conversations with these men, as I become more aware of who I am, and that's part of why Front Row Dads’ works is conscious conversations that reveal blind spots where we're curious enough and somebody else can see us enough to say, “Hey, I might see something that might be helpful here.” That's what enlightenment is, right? Like we're in darkness and all of a sudden, the lights are on and we can see what's going on. We see our ego at work. We see that we're in this battle, but we don't need to be.
Well, with Tatiana, I've had some really big breakthroughs. And one I'll share specifically is, and thanks again to the brotherhood for this awareness, Tim Nicolai, big shout out to Tim, he's been really helpful for me. Your current neighbor, soon to be ex-neighbor, so enjoy that time while you can, buddy, but what happened, here is the breakthrough, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this. So, Tatiana and I were in Florida with a couple of friends and we went for a walk on the beach. And Tatiana was picking up these beautiful shells, but I'd asked for, I said, “Hey baby, for a moment, for a couple of minutes, just hang with me. I want to share something really deep. I want to share something very personal, if you could just not pick up any shells.” So, she said, “Of course.”
And then, we start walking and then she picks up another shell. And I could feel myself start to get triggered by this, and I'm sure people can relate. I start to feel the trigger, but I think I say it semi-nice, but probably with some passive-aggressive tone to it of like, babe, like just pause on the shells for a minute. So, the energy starts. That's what usually happens in our relationship, right?
Hal Elrod: Yeah.
Jon Vroman: I don't get what I want. So, I start in with this energy, this passive-aggressive, right? There's probably this little bit of a condescending tone to it. And she picks up another shell and then we walk and I'm thinking there's no way she's going to pick up another shell because she just sensed my energy elevating, but then 10 minutes later, she stops and she picks up another shell. And I freak out. I'm like, I don't get it, you know? Like what on earth? Like I asked you just to not pick up shells. And I got angry and I left the beach.
And when I got back to the house, I was stewing over this, like I was just angry, and I had a call with a guy named Nathaniel Chawkin, who I just had on my podcast. He's my coach. And Nathaniel, I was sure, in this case, that I was going to tell Nathaniel what happens. He's like, yeah, dude, you know what? You're right. She was just being rude. Like, there's no coaching about this. That was it. That's what I was going to get.
Hal Elrod: You couldn't wait for the call just to get him on your side?
Jon Vroman: I just needed validation, man. I just needed to be validated, but here's what he said. I told him the story. And he uses incredible tools in his coaching, he's a wonderful coach. And again, we get into this more on my podcast. If anybody wants to go deeper, they can go listen to that on the Front Row Dads’ podcast, but here's the big takeaway. The big takeaway, Hal, and the emotional breakthrough was that I was telling her with my words that I wanted her to listen to me. And she was telling me with her body language that she did not want to talk, but I was convinced that I was right because I'm this, like, evolved, well read, like you said, right? Like, I've been to the Tony Robbins’ event. I'm certified in coaching. I'm this leader of this company. Did you start a charity? I started charity. Do you have a following? I’m like, are you best friends with Hal Elrod?
I get into this giant ego trip, about how evolved you are, but the crazy part is, that's all ego. That's all ego that actually prevents me from understanding that, look, my wife's being in touch with her body, not putting as much effort and energy into being this, like, well-spoken person. We just created a blueprint and said, this is how we're going to interact. These are all agreements that we are bringing, but we're not getting anybody to sign a contract to say that in order to be a valuable human, you have to study. My wife is from Russia, born and raised in Russia. English is her second language. She’s writing and reading and speaking in a second language.
Hal Elrod: And there's no agreement that says, when we go for a walk on the beach, my words are more important than your shell picking up, right, like, yeah.
Jon Vroman: All these agreements. So, I, in that moment, really felt that I was better than she was. I was just more evolved, but, dude, the minute that I could see that that wasn't the case and that I had a lot to learn from her and I was like, my world of words was no more important or valuable than her world of feelings, that my words and her body language were just different ways of communicating. I started to feel that I was becoming more emotionally aware of myself. And then, now, I'm reacting very differently and, dude, literally this morning, literally this morning, Tatiana said this to me. Even after our event, she came up and she snuggled in. She said, I just want to thank you so much because you've been so grounded lately, bringing this incredible presence to all of our interactions.
And she goes, when I start to lose it, when I start to get emotional and you stay so grounded that literally, I feel safe in your company. She goes, I feel you're carrying me right now. You're just so solid that you're not reacting. She goes, you're so different than you were two or three years ago. You are not even the same person, Jon, than you were two or three years ago. And dude, that to me is the greatest testament to the brotherhood because without these men bringing this consciousness to me, this awareness of my ego, not a bunch of guys going, yeah. She's crazy, but a bunch of men who are like, no, the work is within. The minute you start with she should, if you ever get into that business, she should, that's almost a direct clue that the work is within you.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And of course, whether it's she should or he should, I want to dive into this for a second, because when you shared this, it was yesterday, right? Yeah, yesterday at lunch. I went after you with my share, and I said, “Jon, I've had a similar breakthrough recently.” And the breakthrough for me, it was a few weeks ago and it was during meditation, during my Miracle Morning, and this is a constant nagging thing of feeling, like I could be a better dad and a husband and should be a better dad, not doing it right. Like, I think that's part of human nature is and it's important to hear that, but also to not beat yourself up over it, but I think for all of us, it's like we all know we could be doing better, because the reality is there's always a next level of anyone's potential.
So, for me, I realize, though, okay, what is the next level of me being a family man? What's the next level of me being a spouse? And what's the next level of me being a father, a dad? And I wrote down a lot of notes, a lot of bullet points, but the big one, emotional mastery, was not reacting to my spouse. If my spouse is upset or angry, I write down, I don't have to (A) take it personally, it has nothing to do with me, nothing, nothing. Even if I said the thing or I was the stimulus for that emotion, it's still that's their emotion. And we take it on.
In the past, my spouse got angry and I got angry. And we go back and forth, and like you said, that energy starts to build, both people feel it and it escalates, and then it turns into, who said that recently, where your spouse, like when you're fighting for like a day or days at a time and you pass each other in the hall accidentally and it's awkward and you have to turn your back, kind of not look, if you're married, you've all been there. And if not, I need to have you on the podcast to teach us your secrets, but that was the first thing.
So, I've been working on that as well, whereas I just become aware there's emotion building inside of me. And again, if you're listening to this, consider that this is a– I called it a superpower yesterday, and our friend Tim said, “No, it's more of a skill because you're not born with it like a superpower, you have to develop it,” but realize that you are in control of your emotional state and that you don't ever have to allow someone else's emotional state or even an event or a circumstance in your life to trigger something inside you that is not of your highest good. And it's amazing and it's challenging, but you mentioned it, that now that you've gone there in your body where you started to feel the tide rising, the anger building. And then you become aware, oh, wait a minute, I'm starting to get angry.
And I'd actually love to hear yourself and I'll share a few thoughts here, but I'd love to hear what words you say to yourself. For me, it's like I'm getting angry. It's my choice whether or not I continue to get angry and build that anger, or I just continue to let it completely go, and go, how do I want to feel right now? And then just breathe into it and smile. And you mentioned that once you had done that a few times, now, your body knows what it feels like to start to get angry. So, it's your building that muscle where you go, oh. So, it's going to be going from this really conscious, difficult, ahhh, go down, anger, go down, to where you'll be like, oh, I'm getting angry, doesn't serve me, move on. And you can just move through it and it's getting easier.
So, for you, actually, if someone's listening and they go, yeah, that sounds easier said than done, when I get angry, I feel angry. And then in my head, I'm going, screw this person and they're an idiot and I can't believe, da, da, da, da, and it's their fault, Jon, like practically speaking, how do you maintain that calm in the face of chaos?
Jon Vroman: It's a great question. It's a great question. It's the question. Well, one is I had a shift of identity of who I was supposed to be in those moments. And what I realized was that I went from the last 10 years of my life was about how do I control my environment? And lately, in the last couple of years, it's been how do I control myself? So, I just became obsessed with like, how do I control what's around me, how do I control my team, how do I control what's happening with my wife, I wanted control over that. And the more that I just surrendered to like the biggest thing I can teach my boys as an example is how to respond in difficult situations.
Literally, it's like, just had this conversation with John Eldredge an hour ago about interpreting failure. Like our role as parents is to be there with our kids, not even to create all experiences where they're winning and building that confidence that comes from sometimes winning, but how to interpret failure. That's such a key element to this. So, part of not wanting to be like, ahhh, when our anger is oftentimes us grabbing a hold so much because they are not doing what I want them to do and I want them to behave differently so that I feel differently. I want my wife to change her behavior because I don't know how to manage my own emotions. So, I need you to act differently because I'm tired of feeling the way I feel when you act that way.
With our kids, it’s the same thing. Why we get frustrated and raise our voice or yell is like you're not behaving in a way that I think is right, I can't control you. I want to control my external world because I have this internal reaction and I don't know how to control that. I need you to change so that I feel differently. Where we really start to master our family life is when we start to master our own emotions internally. So, what's the language that I use? Well, a lot of times, it's what I get from my coach, Nathaniel. And I got to give props to Byron Katie and her work about personal inquiry.
And part of it starts with a work that she does called Judge Your Neighbor. Alright. That's a worksheet that she has people fill out. And it usually starts with he should, she should, they should. And it's like my kids should go to bed on their own, go take a shower and brush their teeth without being asked. My wife should speak differently in this way. She should have dinner, whatever it is, like he should work harder, she should work less, she should whatever. She should be more organized, she should be more free.
Hal Elrod: Or she shouldn't, right? She shouldn't get mad at me. She shouldn't yell. She shouldn't…
Jon Vroman: You think other people should be differently than they are. It starts with that. And then, the process that Byron Katie teaches, which has been brilliant for me, and here's what I do in my mind now is I reverse it in my mind. I've conditioned myself how to, instead of like she should calm down, I should calm down. I've trained myself to now pause in the moment and then take a second to reflect on what's my label. She should speak more calmly. I should speak more calmly.
Here's another one ready. Instead of she should speak more calmly, I reverse it and I say she shouldn't speak calmly. And then, I argue for that point. I go there and I’m, "Is there any benefit to her not speaking calmly?” And here's what's crazy. What I've realized, Hal, is in that moment like this is when would Tatiana go, "She shouldn't raise her voice,” then I go, “She should raise her voice,” because if she raises her voice, what does that give everybody in our family an opportunity to do? It gives me an opportunity to practice being calm. And what's a greater gift to my kids? Having a mother that seems to be perfect that doesn’t raise her voice? So, my kids go out into the real world and meet people who've raised their voice and they're like, "What happened? For 18 years, nobody in our home ever raised their voice. I don't even know how to be a person in the world.” Or does a kid go out into the world saying, "You know what, I remember seeing my mom get emotional because humans get emotional. I remember seeing my dad like really stay calm in that moment. And I saw a model of how one person could get triggered, another person could stay calm. And now I have a model of like what happens in the world when crisis arises.” So, why should my wife raise her voice? So that I can practice not raising my voice. And for the record, let's be clear, this is not me presenting you that my wife is a lunatic. I'm somehow this evolved creature because there are equally as many examples as I could give, Hal, about me raising my voice and my wife staying calm. There are equally as many examples of me not acting like a Front Row Dad and my wife showing the kids how to behave and deal with a man who's losing his mind. Right?
Hal Elrod: Yeah.
Jon Vroman: So, that's it.
Hal Elrod: That's brilliant. So, it's the Byron Katie work that you just referenced, you start out, "She should,” and then what if the opposite of that were true?
Jon Vroman: That’s exactly it.
Hal Elrod: And there's different ways to the opposite, which is like you did, “I should.”
Jon Vroman: Correct.
Hal Elrod: You know, “I should be calm,” instead of, “She should be calm,” or, "She shouldn't be calm.” So, it's finding as many opposites as you can or at least a few. And then when you go, "Why? Why shouldn't she be calm or why should she raise her voice?” One might be because she is. Like, that's one of the big things with Byron Katie’s work is it's Loving What Is a.k.a. loving reality. Whatever is happening should be happening because it's happening. Period. Because it's reality. Anything else is delusion. Like for you to go, “She shouldn't have done that.” You go, "Well, that's a delusion because she actually did that.” You're living in a fantasy land and you're creating your emotions and your paradigm and your model of the world based on this fantasy that something that did happen shouldn't have had - that wall should not be there right now in my office. Why is that? That wall should not be there. It should be an open space. Dude, the walls there like you can should all you want. Right? Our country should not blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, this is dealing with reality and then optimizing your response to reality. And so, what you're sharing, Jon, is it's so universally applicable to anybody and everybody.
Jon Vroman: That's it.
Hal Elrod: You said something else I think at the retreat. I think this was you that said it that I wrote in my notes and it was, yeah, I'm almost sure it was you who said it and it was something like, "Defensiveness is the first act of war or getting defensive in the first act of war.” And that resonated because I may not usually be the one to start it but I get triggered. I go, “You shouldn't be yelling,” and then I get angry, and then it just escalates. And so, to be able to be in control of your state regardless of someone else's state, then you don't get defensive. You can look at somebody through the lens of empathy, understanding. And I think that one paradigm that's been such a game-changer for me when it comes to dealing with other people is the recognition that had I lived their life, I would probably be, do, and say exactly the same things. If I had grown up with their parent like, for example, another person's parents yelled or whatever, their world was different than mine. They grew up with, A, a different brain. They don't have my brain so I can't expect them to think like me and act like me. But equally, they grew up with different situations and circumstances and people and influences in their life. And so, from that place, that to me is the key that accesses empathy. It's, "Oh, wait a minute. If I were them, I would have yelled right then too. If I were them, I would have done whatever they did. If I had lived their life, I would have probably been exactly the same.”
And so, what's exciting for me around this mastery topic, which you and I are going to do a group call on this on June 1st. By the way, hold on. Let me see. If anybody is listening, you can go to FrontRowDads.com/Hal and we're going to do a Family Man Mastery. We do an annual Father's Day. Jon and I for the last few years had an annual Father's Day call and this year we're calling it Family Man Mastery. We might change the name. Who knows? That's what I thought of today. But for me, this topic of mastery, just the word, mastery, I had never really brought into my family life until recently. I tried to master when I was in sales back in the day and different areas of my life as an author maybe, but really mastering as a family man. I don't think you know this. The last conversation that we had in Florida at the Front Row Dads Retreat, I won't say who it was with because it's about his personal life but it was with someone I've known for 20 years. And we probably only see each other at the Front Row Dads Retreat so we're close but we don’t spend a lot of time together. But anyway, he was sharing with me about how his spouse, how basically he teeters on whether or not he should end it because they're just not aligned and she's not as positive as he is. And she doesn't recognize him for all the things he does. She has some issues with her family. She's not close with her family. And he said, "Those are three things that are very important to me, being positive, recognizing the other person, acknowledging them, and being close to my family. And she doesn't bring any of those to the table.”
And I listened to him pour out for a while and then I said, "Are you open to some coaching?” And he said, “Please, Hal. Please.” He's begging for it. And so, I'm going to share this because this was one of the biggest breakthroughs for me as a husband, as a spouse that I had years ago and it continues to evolve. I said, "What if your job here, what if you were put into her life? She was put into your life because she was the perfect woman that you sketched out on paper but because she was the exact woman that you needed to fulfill your purpose in life and that you were the exact man, the exact husband that she needed to give her everything that she needs.” I go, “So, wait a minute. She doesn't know how to be positive.” And he had told me earlier that she had said recently that he was the most positive person that she knew. And he goes, "Why have you never told me that before?” She goes, “Oh, I don't know.” I go, “So, wait a minute. She doesn't have a lot of positivity in her life and you're the most positive person that she's ever met. Damn. Good thing you're her man. And so, wait, she doesn't have a good relationship with her family, but yours lives down the street and you see them all the time. Damn. It sounds like God put you into her life.” And so, I said, "Here's what I would shift. Instead of looking at what she is or isn't giving to you, what if you just look at it as, ‘Hey, my role is to be her perfect husband and fulfill her needs in the way that serves her?’”
I said, "How would that feel if you were to do that?” He said, “I think it would be really fulfilling. If I was focusing on how I could meet her needs and be the perfect husband for her, not for any woman, for her based on her life experience and her beliefs and her mindset and all of that.” I said, "It sounds like you're already that guy. You just didn't know you were that guy and you didn't realize that that's what you're here for.” And so, anyway, to sum all of that up, consider that in relationships including with your kids but for me, especially for my spouse, when I get on the, “Oh, my spouse isn't the way I want them to be. I wish she was more of this and less that,” I go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. How about she's exactly who she needs to be for me to fulfill my purpose as a husband on this planet?” And it's not supposed to be easy, just like life isn't easy. It's supposed to be challenging because in the midst of our challenges, that's when we grow. That's when we evolve. That's how we become the best version of ourselves. And so, if your kid is not the exact way you want them to be, if you were rubbing a magic lamp and asking the genie to give you this perfect kid, consider that they're the exact kid that you need to fulfill your purpose in life for you to grow and evolve, just like Jon, just like you have. If it wasn't for your wife bringing out the need for you to be patient, you'd still be getting triggered. But it was perfect. She was perfect. She is perfect for you to evolve and fulfill your purpose. So, that for me was the game-changer where I shifted from how were they behaving in accordance to my perfect model of how a woman/wife/child should behave to, “Oh, how is how they are an opportunity for me to grow?” and that changed everything.
Jon Vroman: You know, I want to honor you for that too, Hal, because I've seen you apply those principles in the business world very effectively in your coaching, in your leadership, in your writing, and now I'm seeing you apply them in your family life and translate them. You're experiencing great results. You're able to help other people with that now, too, and I just love to see that message for you continue to evolve. It's beautiful to see, man.
Hal Elrod: Thank you, brother. Thank you. I wanted to ask you about the picture program that you had. We talked about this last year and it might have I think it was new for you then. I know you mentioned recently it came up in conversation like, "Oh, you're still doing that?” I was impressed. So, talk about this because I think this is cool for any human being, right? Whether you're a parent or you're just a kid, you could be anybody. And this is an example of a creative, fun, unique way to create meaningful moments and memories for the people in your life that matter most. So, I'd love for you to share a year ago how you started this and if it's evolved or just what you do.
Jon Vroman: Well, I'll build a bridge here from everything we just spoke about to this idea and the bridge is that a lot of the pain that we experience and a lot of the breakthroughs have come from what we're simply focused on, focused on where this person's falling short, what they're doing wrong. And a lot of it is just flipping the script. It's looking at the opposite. Instead of, "Hey, what's wrong with this person? What's wrong with this environment is, "Hey, what's right about this? Where is the strength being demonstrated here?” And I also have to give props to Brandon Miller who wrote the book Play to Their Strengths and brought this idea to my life. He has seven kids and grandchildren and he's an influential member in our community but it's how do we catch our kids doing the right thing to elevate their strengths, help them see the genius within them. You and I were talking about this earlier with even with Mickey and what he was saying about really cultivating that zone of genius in a child earlier than letting them find somebody in their 20s by reading a book and they're like, "Oh, zone of genius,” like I have natural talents. Like I don't just have to follow a curriculum where everybody says you all need to learn these things but like what makes me unique, right? What's my uniqueability, etcetera, said by many different ways, by many different people.
So, that is a piece of this is like just simply the question of how is a father or a mother or a spouse or a business leader might you catch the people around you doing the right thing? Well, then you enter Jon Berghoff in Appreciative Inquiry, and he brought to one of his live events these praise cards where he has these postcards. And if somebody did something really nice during an event, you could write a praise card, something nice about them, and then you would hang it up on this board. And I started to see the power of that. Well, there's probably five other examples of great people that were around me so, again, the power of community and I just said, "Why am I not doing this at home? Why am I not doing this for my kids?” So, I started a year ago where I was doing it about every week but you could do this every month was I would print a picture from the week. I’d take pictures. My wife would take pictures throughout the week of whatever, just stuff happening in the family, and I would print one and I would write a note on the back. And the note was something where it was words of affirmation is really what it was. Short note, just a fine point Sharpie-type marker and I started handing these out at like the weekend pancake, breakfast type of deal. I'd hold up the picture and I would read it. And it first started with just my boys but then it evolved to doing it with my wife also. I noticed that when I said something nice about my wife in front of the kids, they started treating her differently.
I noticed when I say nice things about my kids in front of my wife, she started seeing them differently and I noticed that throughout the week I would see them differently because I would see something and I would say, "Where's the strength being demonstrated in this moment? What are my kids doing that's great right now that I could capture?” I started taking pictures with more intention. Now, I have photo albums that are filled with pictures. And I'll give you an example, even though I know that everybody is going to be listening to this and not watching this, but I'll show you this, Hal, and I'll tell everybody what it is. This is a picture of Tiger holding up a $10 bill and he had just purchased his first Roblox stock. So, literally, bought his first stock. And right in that moment when he bought it, I go, "Oh, buddy, let's take a picture,” because I knew this was going to be the picture for the week. And here's what I would have written on it. By the way, I just printed the picture so there’s nothing on the back but here's what I would write. I would write something to the effect of, “Tiger, I'm really impressed by your desire to learn about investing. I really appreciate your abilities to take action, to take calculated risks, and to see beyond this moment into your future, and understand the power of appreciation long-term. These are great fundamentals for life. Love forever, your papa.”
So, there are like all these little life lessons. We think sometimes like we're going to one day write down all the life lessons and hand them to our kid in this beautiful journal but I realized that I might not even get that chance, Hal. I mean, you and I both know that there is a friend of a friend who recently at 38 passed suddenly.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. With two small boys.
Jon Vroman: Two small kids. And those types of stories are crushing. They're crushing. I always wanted to be speaking these words and to share these moments with my kids because I don't know, tomorrow is not guaranteed. And so, we just keep doing this. Here's one of Ocean I printed of he and I just taking a walk. And on this one, I think that I'll mention something I really appreciate about Ocean, how intentional he is about physical touch with me. “I really appreciate you holding my hand, buddy. I really appreciate you snuggling with me in the morning. I really appreciate you giving hugs to people that you love.”
Hal Elrod: He gives me tons of love, man. He jumps on me and wraps his legs around me. Yeah. It’s great.
Jon Vroman: Dude, how many hugs he gave you before we left the water park?
Hal Elrod: Yeah.
Jon Vroman: He gave you six hugs.
Hal Elrod: That’s amazing.
Jon Vroman: But he is so affectionate in that way. I think that's great that he can express himself and that he can connect with people in that channel and that’s okay if somebody is not that way. That doesn't mean they're broken. It just means that's not how they want to express themselves. But, dude, I got to tell you that I'm not sure who's benefiting more from these little pictures with notes of like, "If they are… If I am…” but who cares, right? What I can feel is that culturally as a family, this is creating a shift and it's appreciating over time and it's compounding. And, dude, I'm thrilled that my kids will be able to hold onto these. And so, dude, I take a picture of each one too with my camera so that I have a digital copy in case anything ever happened to the physical copy. But I take a picture of the front and the back and I just make sure that we have those tracked. You could store these in like there's an app that our buddy, Ken Wimberly, put together called Legacy of Love and you could take these photographs and upload that to the app. Legacy of Love is like a way to store these and gift these to your children over time and you can journal about your family. So, dude, that's it, man. It's been great. And now, one more thing. You might not know this, Hal, but I started doing it for people who would visit my house to like Justin Donald came over recently. For those who don't know, Justin is in our band and our group of four. And Justin came over and I took a picture of Justin playing piano with the boys, and I wrote him a note and gave it to him in front of the kids. And so, now my kids are seeing us do this for other people.
Hal Elrod: That's really cool. And I think what's cool, it's neat that it gives that immediate return on investment if you will in terms of giving the picture. But then for them to have as they grow up to have an album where, "Wow. My dad…” at least I think you do it almost weekly. I said a lot of us do it monthly, whatever, even once a month, “…captured magic moments and acknowledged me for who I was along the way. And I've got this whole journal this whole journey.” I think it's really cool. Speaking of magic moments, I know you're going on a road trip. You've been wanting to do this for a long time, as have many people, myself included. We were talking about doing an RV trip a couple of years ago. We still haven't done it so I'm kicking myself. But once again, you may be the leading by example, the inspiration that gets a lot of us other fathers and mothers to do this. But talk about this. You’re going on your road trip. What are you guys doing? Where are you going? What's going on?
Jon Vroman: Yeah. So, in a couple of weeks, we set sail. We got a little trailer that we're going to pull and just go see people we love. And so, the entire summer, June, July, and August, we're going to travel. And I have, I'm sure, an adventure ahead of me. I'm not calling this a vacation. I don’t know what this is but I do think that I only have one intention, Hal, and that is to let go of any real expectations. Like we started mapping it all out and making a plan. And I said we're not going to make a plan. We're going to wake up and go, "What does today feel like for us?” And so, I'll still do some work from the road. I'm sure I'll work three or four hours each day or on some days but for the most part, like we have a team, we have momentum, we have processes and systems, and we are in a place where we can do this now. And I'm grateful for what we've built to be able to do this. So, we didn't just decide on a whim to go do it. We did actually decide to go on the road trip but we've been building intentionally to have a life so that we could do this in the future and we're now there. And so, my whole goal is just to remain calm. My whole goal for three months is to show my boys how to respond in the face of any type of adversity that we are going to face.
Now, if you take four people so two adults, two kids, and two dogs, a trailer and go out into the world with no doubt we're going to face some adversity along the way. What type of adversity? Who knows? But it's going to be hard. We're going to get on each other's nerves. I'm going to have to manage my emotions. There's going to be whining. There's going to be complaining. There's going to be things that break, things where we can't, right? It's going to happen. And I'm mentally prepared to be present, to be joyful, to be responsive, but not reactive. And I'm going to use this as an opportunity to say, "Look, I'm going to create a memory for my 11-year-old and my six-year-old that I hope they remember for the rest of their lives. We're going to take pictures. We're going to see friends. We're going to do left, right, straight. Oh, like Tiger’s like, “Can we just go on a road and like not use the GPS and just see where it takes us?” His wheels are turning already on like how to turn this into an adventure. Like, "Yeah, man, and then we're going to find somebody cool or something cool or we're going to just,” yeah, this is going to be into the great unknown.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And when do you leave?
Jon Vroman: June 1st.
Hal Elrod: So, it's so weird. It didn't hit me until just now.
Jon Vroman: Like, literally we're going to do our training, our Father’s Day annual call and then we're gone.
Hal Elrod: Oh, that makes so much sense. That's interesting because you and I on the same day we get our keys to our new home and our property and then I'm taking three months off. And so, it just hit me that you and I are both taking a fully focused family sabbatical if you will at the exact same time. So, we’ll have to text each other and let us know how it goes and hold each other accountable to all the things we’re talking about.
Jon Vroman: Trailer after your place on June 1st.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. That's a good place to start.
Jon Vroman: All right, dude.
Hal Elrod: All right. Perfect. So, that's a good transition. So, anybody listening, this is for dads. I think moms would benefit too but the training that we're going to do, it's a group call. It'll be interactive. We're calling it Family Man Mastery. Actually, I want to mention this, actually, we might close with this story. By the way, so if you're interested in that Family Man Mastery, go to FrontRowDads.com/Hal. It's totally free. It's a free training. We've done it every year around Father's Day. But what was the thought that I just had? Shoot. I just drew a blank. I was going to ask you something sabbatical. I don't know. Well, Jon, let me ask you this and maybe it'll come to me. What are we going to cover on that call? I'll put you on the spot.
Jon Vroman: Yeah. I think that what we've done in the past very successfully and we've had hundreds of people show up to this and the feedback has been great is we just share what's working. You know, we look at really over the past year of being part of Front Row Dads, being at these live events where we get a chance to connect with these men, deep dives into all of our six pillars. We're going to bring you the best of what has happened in our community. We're going to bring you the best of what's happened in our personal lives. And I'm excited to talk about that. I'm also excited to talk about this idea of, "Family man, etcetera.”
Hal Elrod: That's what I was going to talk about. Thank you.
Jon Vroman: Okay. Good. So, there you go.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. So, tell that story really quick because this, well, before you tell the story, so Jon handed out these leather wristbands, bracelets, whatever you want to call them at the end of the retreat and they said, "Family man, et cetera.” That simple phrase and the story you're about to tell was really impactful for me. I'm changing my bios everywhere because of this story. I'm wearing the wristband every day. So, share the story and I think this applies for anybody around their one thing.
Jon Vroman: Well, quite fitting to this, Hal, is that you gave me a book that led to this discovery. And in that book, there was a story of David Packard and David Packard of Hewlett Packard. Many would either know or guess that he was a billionaire and very successful. But the part of the story that to me was really just heartwarming was that he was the type of guy who was really just at his core, really a family man. He was a rancher. He lived in the same house. Before he was a billionaire, he lived in this house that he just stayed in. And he could have bought any house. He could have hundreds of homes but stayed in this home. He loved to build amazing things. He loved to build amazing companies that serve the world. He loved to put his brain to work to help others. He just wasn't really obsessed with a lot of material things and I love that. I love when we know ourselves well enough to not get caught up into the, "Let me show you what I've got.”
Hal Elrod: Especially when you're a billionaire with a B. That’s rare.
Jon Vroman: That giant castle that we talked about already. It's like that's impressive to me when you know yourself and you're okay. Well, when we started Front Row Dads, we had said at some point it became clear when we figured out who are we. We are family men with businesses, not businessmen with families. And I remember saying that for the first time and I was like, "That's what I want in my life.” I was a businessman with a family for as long as I can remember, and I wanted to be a family man with a business. We talked about how most bios for businessmen are like, "He accomplished all these things da, da, da, da, da,” and then at the end, it's like, "Oh, by the way, he lives with his wife and kids,” as like a final thought and I really believe that who I wanted to be for myself and I'm not projecting onto anybody else. You could see yourself and see the world in any way. That's your right to do so. But for me, I know what feels like true north is to be a family man with a business. And people know, by the way, 100 out of 100 of the last people who've signed up to become a member of Front Row Dads have said something about that statement. Literally, not a single person hasn’t said to me, "Family man with a business, not businessman with a family,” is the thing that really got to my heart. I remember I was talking to Jay Papasan, who wrote The ONE Thing book and he was like, "That right there says it all.” I never forget that moment. Well, dude, the story of David Packard at his funeral, he had a sign, had a picture of him on his tractor and it just said, "Rancher, etcetera.” I was like, "He could have had a huge bio talking about all of his accomplishments and all of his money and all.”
The fact that he gave his fortune to charity and it got me thinking, "What would mine say?” And I thought, "Family man, etcetera,” and that hit me. I was like, "The minute I said that I was like, that's it.” And it says, "Family man with a business, not businessman with a family,” in just a couple of words. It just talks about priorities and like that's what this is about. It's about, "Look, I want you to work hard and make lots of money.” If that's the case, great. There's nothing wrong with that. Lots of things you can do with that type of success and power but this is a priority conversation. This is like, "What are you really building for?” And a lot of men are hiding at work. A lot of men are addicted to their jobs. A lot of men are like, “I don't know what to do with the kids. I don't bring them to school. I don't know what to feed them. I don't know what to do.” And they just go, “I'm just going to go make money. My wife will handle all that.” Or maybe the roles are reversed but the simple point is our kids need us. And as our friend Dan Martell says like, "Everybody's homeschooling their kids, whether they realize it or not.” So, you're all a teacher, you're all a guide, you're all their example. There's no more important person in a child's life than their mother and their father. So, we need to step up and get our priorities right. So, family man, et cetera. That's it. Priorities.
Hal Elrod: I love that. I want to end it on that note.
Jon Vroman: Awesome.
Hal Elrod: Jon, this is great. I love talking to you. And it helps me to be a family man, etcetera. Every time we get time together, I get time with the Front Row Dads, the brothers, yeah, it's been one of the most beneficial things in my life, dude. So, thank you. Thank you for realizing what mattered to you and then paying it forward for the rest of us.
Jon Vroman: Yeah. Well, thanks for helping me build it, buddy, like some of the greatest dudes have made it to our community because of you, because you've always been vocal about things that you love. You've always been really open and transparent with your audience about what matters to you and what part of the journey you're on. And, dude, we've all been part of this incredible journey for you and watching you navigate life from just your overcoming and now your, well, I don't know what you would call it, but when you went through your cancer journey and where you landed now and then releasing your movie to the world and to see what continues to happen with you as a person and how you show up, like the thing that I've always loved about you is you live your core values. The minute you have a breakthrough, you start changing something about how you live. I watch you in conversations with either me or other people. Something will hit you and you'll write it down in your affirmations. I'm like, "What are you doing?” You're like, “I'm adding it to my affirmation.” Like in the moment, you're like, “I'm adding that.” I remember we were at the trampoline park and we were talking about kids and you added something to your affirmations about children. What I love about us too, buddy, is that we're just doing life together. To me, it's like I love doing life with you because it's real. We're real about our challenges. We’re real about what's working. To me, it feels very real. And so, I love you, man. I love that my kids get to call you Uncle Hal. That means a lot to me. I love that you get some time with your family this summer and I can't wait to talk on June 1st. Like that's going to be an awesome call, guys. We're going to have a good time. Please be there, June 1st for the…
Hal Elrod: Yeah, everybody, and thank you for all that, Jon. I'm looking in the eye and I'm receiving it all. June 1st, it's going to be 11 a.m. Central, 12:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 a.m. Pacific and FrontRowDads.com/Hal. This is a free group video chat if you will. You could call it a training, you can call it a webinar, you can call it a masterclass, call it whatever you want. We're calling it Family Man Mastery as of today. So, I know it's going to be a good time and it'll be a continuation even further deep dive of what we had today. So, Jon, love you, brother. I'll talk to you real soon.
Jon Vroman: Talk to you then, man.
Hal Elrod: All right. Goal achievers, thank you for tuning in today. Hope you enjoyed this conversation. I love you, guys and gals, so much and I will talk to you all next week.
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