FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Equipping Your Kids to Succeed in the Marketplace

with Dr. Tim Irwin | September 19, 2007
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Dr. Tim Irwin, a Managing Partner of IrwinInc - Psychologists to Business and author of the book "Run With the Bulls Without Getting Trampled," talks with Dennis Rainey about training our sons and daughters to excel in the workplace.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dr. Tim Irwin, a Managing Partner of IrwinInc - Psychologists to Business and author of the book "Run With the Bulls Without Getting Trampled," talks with Dennis Rainey about training our sons and daughters to excel in the workplace.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dr. Tim Irwin talks with Dennis Rainey about training our sons and daughters to excel in the workplace.

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Equipping Your Kids to Succeed in the Marketplace

With Dr. Tim Irwin
September 19, 2007
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Tim: We need to encourage our children to recognize their God-given abilities and talents and really pursue those.  And I tell people, by the way, that they should do something they're passionate about, but also something that really fits their strengths.

 We all loved the movie "Chariots of Fire," where Eric Liddell said, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure."  God had made him fast.  He was a gifted runner, and when we cooperate with the way God has made us, we feel His pleasure, we enjoy it, it becomes more fulfilling and satisfying.

[Theme from "Chariots of Fire"]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 19th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  How we handle ourselves, how we do our job, is part of how we represent Christ in the marketplace.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  Can I take just a minute and brag about my son for a second?  Is that okay?

Dennis: The floor is yours.

Bob: Well, I have a son who just turned 16 back in the summer, and John, when he was 14 years old wanted to get a job.  Now, there aren't a whole lot of places you can get a real job when you're 14.  But we were able to go and get a work permit, and actually his brother had worked at a coffee shop and had been a good employee, and so his brother put in a good word with the boss and said, "You know, my younger brother would be somebody you might want to hire."

Dennis: Yeah, sure, good for him.

Bob: And so John went down, and he got a job at the coffee shop at age 14. 

Dennis: Did the brother try to get a commission on the job placement?

Bob: No, he was very good about it, but I remember picking up John one night at work, and this was right before his 16th birthday, and I said, "You know, you've worked there, what, a little more than a year, a year and a half now?"  And I said, "How many people have worked at this coffee shop longer than you?"  And he said, "There's one other employee.  There's the owner and one other employee, and I'm the second-most tenured employee."

Dennis: A lot of people had come and gone, I assume.

Bob: That's right, and I thought to myself, how many children at the age of almost 16 are the second-most tenured employee in their part-time job, and the boss is talking about them being assistant manager or closing the night shift, doing those kinds of things because they've been faithful, and they've been conscientious. 

 And I thought about your wife, Barbara, because I know a work ethic is one of the things that she felt strongly about with your children, as you were raising them, right?

Dennis: Yes, all of our children had jobs beginning at 14 – part-time jobs – not more than 10, 12 hours a week.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: But they got jobs just like John did, and we believe, like you do, that experience really helps establish habits for the future.  And our guest on today's program, I believe, is going to embrace that as well.  His name is Dr. Tim Irwin.  Tim and I go way back to the University of Colorado when I was working with high school students in Boulder, Colorado, and Tim was working with university students, both of us on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, and it really is a treat to have Tim on the broadcast.  Tim, good to see you again.

Tim: It's great to see you, Dennis.

Dennis: Tim is managing partner of Irwin, Inc.  He has been a consultant for more than 20 years of a lot of top companies around the country.  He and his wife, Ann, have two sons and live in Atlanta, and he has written a book called "Run With the Bulls Without Getting Trampled."  And I've had a lot of people send me this book.  I think I now have five copies.

Bob: Do they think you're a bull or …?

Dennis: I don't know if they're afraid I'm getting trampled or if I’m doing the trampling.  I don't think that's actually the reason it was sent.  It was sent to me because they said this is a great book, and you need to have Tim on your broadcast.  And so I took a look at it, and I thought, "You know what?  Anybody who is brave enough to go over there and run with the bulls" – you literally did that.  This title is not merely kind of a hook around careers, it really is about running with the bulls that you actually did.  All those guys in those white uniforms and red sashes.  You did that with your son?

Tim: It really happened, and the way it happened was that my son announced he was going to do it, and my wife, Ann, said, "You have to tell him he can't do that."


 And after a while, the compromise we worked out was that I would go and do it with him.  So I met him in Pamplona.  He was studying the language over there, and so we went over, and I met him Pamplona.  We ran with the bulls.  And it was crazy.

Dennis: Now, give him an idea of how many people run with the bulls.

Tim: Well, it happens eight days in a row.  It's in connection with a religious festival called San Fermin.  And they run these bulls into the bull ring, and usually a couple of thousand fear-driven, testosterone, adrenalin, it's a pretty volatile mixture.  Guys are running through the streets with these bulls.

Dennis: No women?

Tim: A few sneak in, but they're discouraged.

Bob: I have to – because I've seen this, and I've heard about the running of the bulls, and I've always thought to myself, "Why?"

Tim: Well, that's a good question.  In our culture it makes no sense.  But it has a very rich cultural heritage over there, and it's been something they've done for 600 years, and it's become somewhat of a rite of passage for young men today.

 And I did this and had this experience, and the irony, by the way, was that you can see this on my website, because the video shows that William actually pushed me out of the way, and he kept me from getting trampled by these bulls at the last instant.  So we had a role reversal.  He ended up watching out for me.

 But I finished this experience, and I was thinking about it, and I said, "This is a metaphor for what the workplace is like.  People feel this way.  They feel like they're getting trampled.  And the corporate bulls are raging all around us.  The senior management often has unrealistic expectations about what people should do; the co-worker who is out to get me; the downsizings; the IT systems that don't work well – all these things are part of normal corporate life.

 And if you don't run wisely and skillfully, you are going to get trampled or gored or worse.

Dennis: There's really two ways we can apply what you're talking about in your book.  One, first of all, to our own careers, husbands and wives who are working both in the home and outside the home just, first of all, being wise in the marketplace.  But, secondly, like Bob started the broadcast, we're raising a generation of young people today who need to be equipped with tools to know how to engage in the marketplace and, again, not just merely, not be trampled, but be effective in their work, right?

Tim: Absolutely.  And I think one of the primary responsibilities of good parenting is to prepare your children for growing into the workplace.  I mean, all of us are going to work at something, and we've got to develop these characteristics, and I think these characteristics are primarily found in the home.  I mean, they're created in the home, the work habits and the dependability and so on.

Dennis: A lot of people don't like their job.

Tim: Studies are shocking.  I mean, I see studies that come out all the time that show that the majority of Americans really are unhappy at work.  I've seen one study as high as 85 percent of people hate their jobs.

 And it's tragic when you think about the fact that we spend more than 50 percent of our waking hours in the workplace.  So we've got a lot of unhappy people out there, and work is just not working for a whole lot people.

Bob: Aren't there a lot of people who are expecting more from their job than a job is supposed to give them in the first place?

Tim: Well, that may be true, Bob.  On the other hand, I think we should be passionate about what we're doing, and that's one of the things that I encourage people to do is find meaning in your work. 

 The studies show that compensation is important, but if you – once you're paid fairly, compensation drops pretty far down on the list as far as a motivator, and what people are looking for is significance and meaning and purpose.

 And that's what I think we should be helping our kids discover in the workplace.  Something we can be passionate about.

Dennis: Tim, is that a cultural phenomena?  When you move to other countries, the idea of significance and gaining a sense of satisfaction from your job, is that found in other cultures quite like it is here in America because we have so much?

Tim: Well, we know that in places where people are barely surviving, I mean, that's a very different context, but I think in most countries, people are looking for meaning in work.  They want to get up and know why they're going to work that morning.  They want to know why they're on the planet.  I think it's part of a deeper sense of purpose that we're all looking for.  But work is one place we need to discover that.

Dennis: So what would you say to a mom who is looking at her – well, a 16-year-old son who is just beginning – not his career, but he's beginning to test the marketplace, get out with a part-time job like Bob's son, John, and he's beginning to learn some disciplines, submit to authority, have some responsibilities, get paid for it.  Where should a mom and a dad begin as they look at their kids and begin to train them?

Tim: Dennis, as a corporate psychologist over the last 20 years, I've interviewed thousands of very, very successful executives.  These are people who are running Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies.  I mean, these are people who have really made it to the top of American industry.

 And as I began to reflect on the characteristics that were common to these people, they are very distinctive, and they really fall into three categories.  One is thoughtful commitment – these people generally are working with some sense of meaning and purpose about what they're doing.

 I've worked a lot in technology companies, and I've found, for example, if you go in and talk to coders, and you ask them what they're doing, a lot of them, they'll say, "Well, I'm running code."  You talk to others, and they'll say, "What are you doing," and they'll say, "Well, I'm creating software."

 And I talked one day to a person running code, and I said, "What are you doing?"  And she said, "Well, I'm reforming health care in America."

 So it's a matter of perspective in many cases.  I think we often need to be encouraging our children, first, to be committed to what they're doing.  A second thing is integrity.  In other words, authenticity, and it has to do with character, that's really what it – and where is character learned?  I think it's learned in the home.

 I mean, if you haven't learned character by the time you're 18 or 19, I mean, you're going to be struggling with that.

 By the way, I have a client that gives what they call a "$5 honesty test."  And what they do is they interview the candidate for the job, and they ask the person, what was your grade point in college or high school?  And so they write down the person's answer. 

 Well, later that day they call the registrar of that person's college and say, "What was that person's GPA?"  And if there's a big discrepancy, that's another indication that the person has a character problem, and honesty problem, if you will.

Dennis: Character does matter at work, and because ultimately leadership is a matter of trust.

Tim: Absolutely, and, you know, one of the things that I believe is that very often we tend to see a person's true character when they're under stress.  I know something about submarines, and the fact is when a submarine comes out of drydock, the first thing they do is they take it out into the ocean and go deep into the water, because the pressure of the water will reveal where the leaks are.

 And sometimes we – people look pretty good.  I mean, I interview people all the time, and they can look great it an interview, but when you see them under stress, that's when you find out what a person's true character is about.

 The final thing that I found was characteristic of these people who are very successful was that they were competent.  And I define that in seven ways, and we can talk about that in more detail.  But those competencies, I think, really are developed in the home.

Dennis: So as we train our sons and daughters, and as they look at those three – commitment, character, and competency, you're saying that their chores, what they're being asked to do around the family, the odd jobs that we give them, there can be some real training that takes place so that, like the title of your book, someday they can run with the bulls and not be trampled, and they can really get some skills here?

Tim: Exactly.  And I think – let me give you an example.  Self-management – now, this is a biblical characteristic.  We know this is straight out of Proverbs, but this is one of the characteristics that people who are highly successful in the workplace have.  They are able to control and manage what they say.  They are able to control and manage their emotions.

 It's been said, for example, that if you're in a race, very often it's more important to get ahead of yourself than it is to get ahead of others.  In other words, you've got to learn to manage yourself, and I suspect, Bob, that your son is learning some of these really important characteristics in this first job.  Those first jobs are very important.

 Another thing, by the way, that we learn in those jobs is we learn how to work with difficult people.  I mean, the workplace today has become so relational.  Most work is done on teams, we have to solve problems with others, we have to resolve conflict, we have to manage those relationships skillfully.  And that's a competency that people who are effective in the workplace, and your son, obviously, has to work with others who are fulfilling these orders for coffee or who has to clean up tonight or all those things – those are things that we have to negotiate with others.

Bob: Do you think that young men and women today in their 20s are approaching work differently than we did when we graduated from high school or college back several years ago?

Tim: There are certainly characteristics of generations that we all read articles about.  I mean, the baby boomers are one way, and the gen-Xers are another way, and gen-Yers, and so on.  And I certainly think there are characteristics.  But, Bob, I really don't think so.  I don't think that people are being that thoughtful about their work, and they're sort of getting into these jobs, and I do think that gen-Yers seem to really want to do something that is meaningful.  I mean, that seems to be a characteristic.  They are trying to find jobs that they feel have real purpose, and that may be something that's distinctive about their generation.

Dennis: You've counseled CEOs and Fortune 100 companies – I'm just curious – as a consultant, when you came to your own children, give us the top two or three things that you did best in raising them to think about their careers, and then give us a couple of things you wish you could have done differently as a parent.

Tim: Well, those are – particularly, the second list is the long list.

Dennis: Even as a consultant, huh?

Tim: Absolutely.  I think I wanted my boys, number one, to be challenged.  I wanted them to really reach to their capabilities, and, to me, that's, as a parent, we need to be sending messages all the time about "Go for it, push hard, use your talents, don't settle for second best.  I mean, use the gifts God has given you, be a good steward."

 Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, "Run in such a way as to win."  Run to win.  We're in a race.  Don't just get out there and flail around.  Actually run to win, and I think that's an important message, and so that's one of the things I always encourage my boys is to really get out there and make an effort.

Dennis: Let me illustrate that quickly.  The other day I was having a conversation with my 22-year-old, Laura, who recently graduated from college and is getting ready to begin her official career.  Now, she's worked all the way from the time she was 14 all the way through high school and college, but she's about to begin in earnest.

 And I asked her, I said, "Laura, what percent would you say you are challenged?"  And she thought for a little bit, and she goes, "About 50 percent" – all the way through college.  And I said, "You know what?  I have a hunch that was right.  You need to go for it.  You need to step out and find something that gives you a challenge to maximize our life."

 And it was one of those casual conversations that, frankly, it – Tim, I kind of hate to admit this – it was not an intentional conversation, it was just one of those things that just kind of occurred, but when she wrote a letter to her family and friends recently, she told that story of how she had been reflecting on my question and had really shown some maturity in reflecting upon her life and thinking, "You know what?  I do want to be one of those 110-percent people that really does go for it."

 And so I think regardless of how old our children are, we need to be careful we don't diminish our role in their lives to really say a word that can really help guide them along the way.

Tim: Absolutely, we need to encourage our children to recognize their God-given abilities and talents and really pursue those.  And I tell people, by the way, that they should do something they're passionate about but also something that really fits their strengths.

 We all loved the movie, "Chariots of Fire" where Eric Liddell said, "When I run I feel God's pleasure."  God had made him fast.  He was a gift runner, and when we cooperate with the way God has made us, we feel His pleasure.  We enjoy it.  It becomes more fulfilling and satisfying.

Dennis: Okay, so there's a couple of the things you did right.  Real quickly, what are a couple of the failures you had as a parent, things you wish you could have done a little differently with your sons.

Tim: Well, that would be a very long list, if we went into detail, but one of the things that I think is always possible for any working parent is to bring stress home.  I mean, the workplace is grinding, it's difficult.  I was waiting in the security line this morning in the Atlanta airport, and I thought about, "This is really stressful."  I mean, the things that we're having to go through.  It took probably 45 minutes to get through this line, and travel and work can wear you down.

 And so I certainly think there times, there were moments when I would bring stress home, and I wouldn't be as emotionally available to my wife and children as I would like to be.  And sometimes stress wears us to a place where our temper is short, and we're edgy, and so I think I certainly have those kinds of regrets.

Bob: And I think you've touched on something here that is a tension for a lot of us in the workplace.  You've talked about being invested and having passion for what you do and commitment to what you do, and yet the more passionate and committed we are to what we do, the more it may drain off some of the passion and commitment that needs to be invested at home.  How does a guy find that balance?

Tim: Well, that's a huge topic in and of itself, is how do we balance what we do in our primary vocation with our commitments to our families, and I certainly think our commitment to God and our commitment to our families supercede what we do at work.  But work is very demanding and often very fulfilling.

 I mean, one of the things that if we get in the right job, we're going to feel that passion, and we're going to sense our purpose there.  And with technology it's so easy for work to encroach on our lives in so many different ways.  I mean, how many times do we see guys sitting around a table in a restaurant with their family checking their Blackberries.  I mean, it's fairly common today.

 And we take work home with us.  I mean, with the Internet …

Bob: All right, we're going to have to end today's program now.  I'm sorry, you've gone to meddling there, I'm afraid.  But you're exactly right, it is easy for that to become dominant in our lives, and pretty soon there is no margin left for our wife, for our children, for our church.  Work has consumed us.

Tim: Absolutely, and, certainly, that would be one of my answers to your question about what I regret about, and certainly work is demanding in that way, and we get home, and we say hello, and then we get on the Internet.  We start answering e-mail for another three hours.  I've been at work for 10 or 11 hours, and then I'm going to spend another two or three hours answering e-mail.  It's very, very easy.

Dennis: You know, I'm going to use this as a segue to just turn to our audience and let them know that FamilyLife is looking for a few good men and women to invest their lives here.  Personally, I believe this whole issue of career has prepared many of our listeners to invest their talent, their abilities, their experience, their passions, their strengths, like you were talking about, Tim, and invest it in the Kingdom work and full-time ministry.

 Now, I believe everybody needs to be in ministry regardless of what their vocation is, but I do believe God does call people out of the workplace into a vocational setting where they use their talents and abilities and, right now, because of ambitious plans and dreams we have to equip families here in America and around the world, we are turning up the gain in terms of going to our listeners, those who attend our conferences, those who go online at, and we're saying to them, "Is God tapping you on the shoulder?"  Is there something stirring within you where you say, "You know what?  I want to move from success to significance.  I want to move from using my talent in corporate America to using my talent to help rebuild the most important unit in America – that's the family."

 And we're looking for a few of those people, and I'd like you to pick up the phone or go online and let's talk about how you might be able to fit in here at FamilyLife.

Bob: Well, it's interesting, because a lot of the folks who are a part of what we're doing here at FamilyLife come from very diverse vocational backgrounds.  I think some of our listeners may think, "Well, I couldn't work at FamilyLife.  I'm trained as a chef," or "I’m trained as a law enforcement official," or "I'm a CPA," or "I've done computer work."

 Well, we've been able to put a lot of people to work in a lot of great areas, and any of our listeners who would like to find out about working at FamilyLife full time, becoming a part of our staff, you can go to our website,, there is a red button in the middle of the screen on the home page that says "Go," and if you click that button, there's a link on the next page that will take you to an area of the site where you can get more information about becoming a part of the FamilyLife staff; how you can join up and be part of the team.

 Again, our website is  You can also call us for more information at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, and we'll get you the information you need so that you can find out more about becoming a part of the FamilyLife staff.  Again, the website is, and the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and you'd use that same Web address or that same phone number if you wanted to go to our website to get a copy of Tim Irwin's book, which is called "Run With the Bulls," and it's a good book for parents to read as we think about preparing our children for the workplace. 

 And I know that wasn't primary in your mind, Tim, when you wrote the book, but I think as moms and dads, as we look at how we get our children ready for their vocation, this is a good book to help us think through what we need to be doing.

 Again, there's information about Tim's book on our website at, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, and you can either order the book online, or you can talk to somebody, and we'll make arrangements to have a copy of the book sent out to you.

 Well, tomorrow we want to talk about how important it is for our children to have the right kind of character if they're going to be the right kind of employees.  Our guest, Dr. Tim Irwin, will be back with us to talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be back with us as well.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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