July 2012 Profile: Ann Morgan James
PROFESSION: After more than 20 years as an award winning marketing professional, at age 50, I decided to follow my dream and reinvent myself! Writing my book, How to Raise a Millionaire, immersing myself in positive parenting; I emerged on the other side of my journey able to live my passion of helping parents. The rewards I get from helping parents transform their relationship with their kids are priceless. I am able to coach parents on how to give their kids a purpose and mentor them to grow their children every single day. Life does not get much better than that. howtoraiseamillionaire.com is our website.
Q: What does your son think of your work? How do you balance spending time with them and your active career?
A: I am lucky because my son Jack is part of my work. One of the best decision I ever made was to involve him in my new career. When the idea of Jack writing a book came to me, I half thought I was crazy. Have you ever gotten such a cool idea it almost scared you? That was me. I was almost afraid to ask Jack, I mean this was the kid who hated homework.
When I did ask him I was surprised how he jumped at the idea. That told me I was on to something. You see, as I was writing my book, I realized, I could only tell half the story. I could tell parents what I experienced and how I saw our journey. Jack was the one who could tell the other half. He could tell kids what it was like to be a business owner. He could tell kids how cool it was to do something most kids haven’t done. He could tell kids these things not because he was something extraordinary, but because he was ordinary—an ordinary kid.
And beyond what Jack’s message can do for kids, when Jack speaks to parents, he can show first-hand what is possible in any child. I don’t ask Jack to speak to parents to impress them, but rather to impress upon them what is possible in their own child.
All this said, I am big on separating my work time from our family time. Yes, we do things together for the business, we co-host a radio show, travel to conferences, write articles together, do media interviews, but when it is our time, we turn that other world off.
We are not time-wasters either. When we are in the car whether we are driving to school, drum lessons or an outing; we are in the car together. Jack sits up front with me and we are both present. Maybe we are talking about plans for the weekend, having deep discussion about life, listening to an audio book, or just plain rocking out to the latest tune on the radio. Regardless of what we are doing, we are doing it together. You will almost never see me on the phone. I make a point to make my calls when Jack is not in the car with me. On the occasion I have to take a call, I tell Jack what it is about and ask if it is OK. This is my way of showing him respect and guess what…he reciprocates. My teenager does not have his head buried in his iPhone. J He does not TWD….Text While Dining either.
Q: What was your motivation for writing your book? What is the takeaway you most want parents to have from it?
A: When I realized the magic I had stumbled upon in my journey with Jack, I had to share. At first, it was the notion of helping kids start a business so they can learn life skills; but as I was writing, I realized what I discovered was far more than profound than just life skills. Unlocking the entrepreneurial spirit in your child unlocks the doors to their potential.
What does every parent want?
They want their kids to have a better life then they did.
They want to have an open and rewarding relationship with their kids.
They want their kids to respect them and listen to them.
They want to know if their child is having issues or needs help, they will be the first person their child turns to because their child trusts their advice and support.
What do most parents have?
They struggle to connect with their kids.
They fear their relationship with their teenager will be one of strife and struggle.
They worry. Are they doing the right things for their kids?
What do I want parents to take away from my book?
It’s not about the money, it’s about teaching kids to live with a purpose; a purpose of their own making.
You are not a coach. You are not a parent. You are more.
You are helping them grow every day; you are giving them developmental assets they will use for the rest of their lives.
When you help your child start a business you transition yourself from the “don’t do this”, “don’t do that” parent to the parent who helps your child achieve something they didn’t think was possible.
You will learn to redefine your own meaning of the word potential where your child is concerned. You’ll learn how to interpret and move through the maze of myths that stand in the way of your child experiencing the real value of self esteem and confidence. You can become the parent of possibilities!
Q: What do you see as the positives and challenges of having a child at age 35 or over?
A: I had my son when I was 39 years old. The same age my mother was when she had me. Because my parents were older, I knew it was possible to be an older parent, and I was not in a panic to get married and have kids.
If I had to list positives, I would focus on three key areas:
Jack’s dad and I were successful, established business people, so we could afford Jack. Let’s face it, kids are not cheap. It can be a struggle or it can be affordable. It all depends on where you are in your career.
Jack has had all the advantages of having older parents. We were calmer. We had more life experience. We were ready for kids–mentally ready for kids.
The real advantages of being an older parent kick into high gear when your kid starts school.
When your kid starts school or sports or anything where another adult is in charge of your child’s world there are bound to be tense moments. When you have lived longer, you have more experience with handling difficult situations. You are better at it. At least you should be.
This older wise thing really helped when Jack was in elementary school. Jack has a learning disability, Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that makes reading or interpret words, letters, and other symbols difficult.
Dyslexia has made school a challenge for Jack, especially in elementary school. It simply takes a Dyslexic longer to learn to read, as a consequence, Jack does not read at grade level. Not reading at grade level means lower standardized test scores.
If I were younger and a less seasoned person, my experience with our public school system would have been much different. I feel for parents whose kids are struggling with learning disabilities because you need to have your wits about you when you deal with the schools. Without the maturity to handle yourself in tense situations, the schools and their administrators can be intimidating. You have to remember, you are the only real advocate for your kid and often have to push for services the school will have to pay for which they can resist.
Parents who are much younger (10-15 years younger) often don’t have as much experience dealing with adverse situations and they can get railroaded by the school administrators.
The saddest part is; the kids suffer because of it. They suffer not because their parents didn’t have the desire to get the services they deserve, but because their parents just didn’t know how to demand the services available. Because of their age, they often look at the school’s administrative staff as an elder. I looked at the staff as contemporaries. We were largely the same age and at times, I was their elder. This simple fact can be a game changer.
I also knew what I didn’t know; so I educated myself. This is where my age made a huge difference. My network (friends and colleagues) came to my rescue. Most of my friends have older kids, they have been there…done that. If they hadn’t had the experience themselves, they know someone who did.
I sure am glad I was older and wiser when it came to dealing with my son’s learning disability! I am also glad I am able to pass on to Jack the special gifts only an older parent can give their kids. He keeps me young at heart, and I give him life’s wisdom..
What are the draw backs? I think it is all perspective. For some it might be that you’ll be older when your kids are older. I guess the one thing is I won’t live as long as other grandparents. That is really the only drawback I can think of.
I don’t mind being the oldest mom in the room. I kind of like it.
Q: Your parents had you later in life. How old were they, and how did it feel growing up with older folks?
A: My mom was 39 when she had me and my dad was 50. Yep 50.
It actually was pretty cool. My parents were easygoing. They were not worried and freaked out like lots of my friends’ parents. By the time I was aware of my parents being older, I really liked it.
My parents included me in a lot of their activities. I did a lot with them and their friends. I was an anomaly. Most of my parents’ friends had kids who were grown. I was usually the only kid around, so I was kind of special.
I knew I was lucky from the way my friends talked about their parents. For the most part, they didn’t get along. That was not the case with my parents and me. There is a difference between loving someone because they are your family and actually liking them as a person. I liked my parents. They liked me. I think a lot of that had to do with their age and how they approached parenting.
Q: What do you love the most about being a mom?
A: Seeing the potential grow and flourish in the little guy who is my son.
Knowing he is as crazy mad in love with me as I am with him.
Knowing now, how my mom and dad must have felt about me. I get it.
Q: What do you most want to teach your son?
A: There is a story of Walt Disney which I love. Lots of people tell the story, but the truth is, it is best told by Mike Vance, creative director of Walt Disney Studios, in his book, Think Out of the Box. Here is the story in Mike’s words:
“At Disney studios in Burbank, California, Mike could gaze out of his office window across Buena Vista Street to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where Walt Disney died. Mike was talking on the telephone when he saw the flag being lowered over the hospital around 8:20 a.m. His death was preceded by an amazing incident that reportedly took place the night before in Walt’s hospital room.”
“A journalist, knowing Walt was seriously ill, persisted in getting an interview with Walt and was frustrated on numerous occasions by the hospital staff. When he finally managed to get into the room, Walt couldn’t sit up in bed or talk above a whisper. Walt instructed the reporter to lie down on the bed, next to him, so he could whisper in the reporter’s ear. For the next 30 minutes, Walt and the journalist lay side by side as Walt referred to an imaginary map of Walt Disney World on the ceiling above the bed.”
“Walt pointed out where he planned to place various attractions and buildings. He talked about transportation, hotels, restaurants, and many other parts of his vision for a property that wouldn’t open to the public for another six years.”
“We told this reporter’s moving experience, relayed through a nurse, to our organizational development groups, . . . the story of how a man who lay dying in the hospital whispered in the reporter’s ear for 30 minutes, describing his vision for the future and the role he would play in it for generations to come.”
“This is the way to live—believing so much in your vision that even when you’re dying, you whisper it into another person’s ear.”
As if the story alone is not enough, here is the kicker. As we know, Walt Disney died before Disney World opened. It literally was nearly five years before the place opened that Walt laid out his vision to that report.
On the day it opened, someone commented to Mike Vance, “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?”
Vance’s reply was simple, “He did see it. That’s why it’s here.”
We have to teach our kids they can dream. If we don’t, we are limiting their potential.
Once they Dream It!, they have to Believe It! with all their heart! There will be people who shoot them down. There will be people who make fun of their dreams. Tell them they are crazy. They have to have the self-esteem and internal strength to believe in their dreams especially when the world around them seems like it does not believe.
Passion is a learned response to a dream. Your enthusiasm for life and all it has to offer will teach your kids passion. Be a Love It! role model; teach your kids passion with free abandon!
No one, but no one gets anywhere in this world without knowing how to Work It! Look at the lottery winners; have most of them still got their millions? Did they manage their fortunes well? No. Why? They didn’t work for it. They were handed it.
When we make mistakes, we need to Own It! Teaching this skill is hard, but perhaps one of the most important! Be transparent with your kids. Do things with them. Show them you are a life-long learner.
When I wanted Jack to learn how to goal set, I wrote down my own goals with him. We have them on the wall in our hall way, so every day we pass by them we are inspired to go after our 101 goals.
Show them you make mistakes, own them and learn from them.
This is perhaps one of the most precious gifts you can give your kids.
With success comes the responsibility to give back. When we teach our kids to Give It!, we are coming full circle with them and they will learn to be a whole human.
Q: What have you learned from him thus far? Do you have any thoughts re: having an only child?
A: I learn from Jack each day. His gracious loving spirit is my inspiration. His ability to bounce back even from the harshest of things gives me strength. He is undaunted. He is unflappable. He is amazing.
There are times when I regret having an only child. I think about when I will be gone. My wish is he will have married by then and have a family of his own. He has so much love to give; whoever gets him will be lucky! They will also need the patience of a saint because I have fired this boy up!
Q: What influence, if any, has your own mother or father had in your life and in your parenting?
A: My mother was a pistol. She was an established woman when she married. She had a wonderful career and to a large extent turned it all in at age 32 to be a mom. She quit her job in corporate America and worked to support my dad in his business.
My father was every contradiction you can imagine. He was serious. He was silly. He was tender. He was hard-nosed. He was a man’s man. He was all those things and more, but he was unwavering in one singular area: his love for his family. He adored my mother. He loved his son because he was the answer to his prayers. To the day he died, I was his little girl.
My parents taught me what unconditional love is. Perhaps this is why I was so thrown when my husband of 18 years asked for a divorce. I thought he loved me unconditionally like I loved him.
Q: Where do you turn for support as a mom?
A: I have friends and family who HYBF. Ha! Ain’t I the cool mom now? Have Your Back Forever. I won’t admit that my best gal pal had to teach me that one only 2 weeks ago! No, I won’t admit that one!
Regardless of who I have in my corner, I always turn to my mom. She might be gone. I can’t pick up the phone and call her every day, but she is there in everything I do. The memories of her lessons are as strong as the days she taught them to me. She is my strength.
Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a parent, particularly if they’re 35 or older?
A: Go for it. Your love, your wisdom and your strength will give your child all the nourishment they need to thrive. Don’t let your age stop you! Don’t ask the world for advice, because you’ll get a zillion opinions, and the only opinion that matters is yours.
Q: Do you recall anything from your own upbringing that really stuck with you that you’d like to pass on to your son or other parents?
A: Life is what you make of it. You control your day. You control your destiny. Regardless of the crap that happens along the way; you are responsible for how you act and how you react.
We all hold the power to create the lives of our dreams. We need the courage to go after it, the resilience to bounce back when we get knocked off track, the wisdom to recognize our dreams can change and the internal drive to take action to make those dreams come true!