Hank McLarty – How This Dad Overcame Hardship And Always Put His Sons First

Hank McLarty | GratusCapital.com

#82: Hank McLarty - How This Dad Overcame Hardship And Always Put His Sons First

"I think your kids knowing, and you knowing, that they are the priority allows you to be more confident, stronger, and healthier in other areas of your life."

-Hank McLarty, talks about why it’s so important to prioritize your kids.

Hank McLarty | GratusCapital.com
Hank McLarty

Hank McLarty
in 10 seconds

In today's conversation, you'll learn 3 key things:

Clip: The Greatest Lesson My Dad Ever Taught Me
Watch Time: 2 minutes

Hank: I called my dad, who was working in Las Vegas at the time, and I said “I think I’m out. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to quit.” 

And, you know, they should’ve been running me. You don’t turn on a coach, but I was an immature kid at the time. And so, I told my dad, I’m out.

He said, “don’t do anything.” And within ten hours, he was at Auburn, and I was sitting in the car with him. About 250 pounds, just crying like a baby, saying, “these coaches, they hate me. I don’t need to be here. I need to move on.”

And my dad said to me, probably the greatest lesson anybody’s ever said to me.  He said, “it’s your scholarship. And if you want to, go somewhere else.”

And we didn’t have a lot of money at the time, so it’s not like I could’ve just transferred  and he would have picked up the tuition.

But he said, “It’s your scholarship. If you want to quit, I’m not going to keep you from doing it, but, I want you to know, that if you quit now, then as you go through life, when times are tough, you’re going to find it easier and easier to quit.  And I hope that you don’t make that decision.”

And of course, he put it right back on me, which is what he should have done. I got out of the car angry because he didn’t give me an out. And I realized, you know, I can’t.  There’s no way. How can I walk away from this with what he just said to me? I’m basically setting myself up for failure later if I did.

Hank McLarty & Dad
Hank and his Dad at the Auburn/Alabama game

Clip: The Struggles That Made Me A Better Person
Watch Time: 2 minutes

Hank: I literally almost overnight went from being on the cover of magazines, the up-and-coming 34-year-old superstar in this business, to not knowing what my next job was going to be.

Going through a divorce process, going to court, having all my previous year’s tax returns looked at to determine what child support and alimony was going to be.

Just going through an experience that I would not wish on anybody. And I’m not saying that other people have not gone through worse experiences, but for me, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

But at the same time, I don’t wish it on anybody. It’s putting your kids to bed at night in bunk beds in a hotel and trying to keep a smile on your face.

While at the same time internally feeling like you’re going to explode because you literally have no idea what you’re going to do. It’s what I felt every day.

I did not want my kids to see me crying or upset, so once I got them to bed, I would go sit outside on the steps and that’s where I would do that.

It was the first time in my life where I had no direction. I did not know what to do. And, I’m usually really good if I’ve got a plan, I can execute a plan, but I had no plan.

And, so it was a very humbling time, but again, it’s a time that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

It made me a a much better father, a much better friend.

I think the team that I work with now at my company, I treat them in a way that I was probably not capable of treating them before, because I was so full of myself.

I think in every area of my life, it made me a better person.

Clip: Divorce – How To Let Go Of The Past
Watch Time: 2 minutes

Hank:  When I finally quit wanting things to go back to the way they were, and realized that where they were going might be even better, that was a massive transition point. 

When I quit wanting to have my old clients back and quit wanting to have my team back, even though they had never done anything wrong.

When I quit living in the past of what used to be and started thinking about, okay, that’s over now, what am I going to make of it in the future? That’s when things really started to change. 

And then I started looking at my ex-wife, who’s obviously my partner in raising these children. I started treating her like a partner rather than the enemy.  Then everything in our relationship dynamic shifted. 

Obviously that took time — I mean, that doesn’t happen overnight — but, I consider her one of my close friends and her husband and I would probably be best friends if they weren’t married. He’s an amazing guy.

When I needed to write a check for an expense or something, and it was something that I probably could have contested, I just bit my tongue.

If she needed time and if she wanted me to have the boys, I took the boys.  I just tried to make things easier, unless it was a big issue that I needed to put my foot down.

I tried to take my ego out of it as much as possible, and just be gracious towards her and my sons.

Clip: Coaching My Son’s Football Team
Watch Time: 7 minutes

Hank: I’ll tell you another massive turning point was, I told my kids, because I played college football, I said, if either one of you ever want to play football, even though I’m not pushing you to, but if you ever want to play football, I’ll coach your first season.

And I said this long before this downfall, so I had much more time on my hands at that point.

But of course, in 2005, right when I started my new company and started to build a plan for the future, my older son said, “Dad, I want to play football at NYO”, which is a youth organization in Buckhead.

I said, “Oh my gosh, if there’s ever a time that I don’t have the margin or the capacity to be a coach.”

I had never coached little league football in my life. I didn’t even know what was involved or anything. So I paused when he asked me that.

And 30 seconds later I said, “a commitment is a commitment, I’ll do it.” And he jumped up and down and said, “okay, well I know the coaches are supposed to be there tomorrow night to start drafting their team.”

So I went over and got some of the other dad coaches there to show me the ropes. It was eight-year-old football, and these guys were serious about this. It was much more serious than I thought it would be. So with some help, I drafted my team.

We had two practices a week and a game — three nights of the week committed to football. And I would go to work every day. I had my new company with one assistant, it was just me and her. That was it. I would go to work every day and then I’d have to leave at 3:30 to get ready for practice.

And I’m in a panic mode every day because I don’t have any clients yet, and I’m starting this company with no revenue. I have no business leaving the office to go coach little league football practice. I am in desperation mode. I need to work more than 24 hours a day to get this thing going.

I would drive over to the local coffee shop, run in there and change from my suit into my coaching clothes, drive over to the field, throw out the blocking dummies and the equipment down the hill on the field, and run down there with my brain going a million miles an hour about how I don’t need to be here, because I need to be working.

And then as soon as those kids would get out on the field, I would get engaged. And coaching them, watching my son looking at me while I’m coaching his team — just so, so happy that I was there. It was a really huge turning point for me because the three hours that I was out there coaching, I didn’t think about anything but coaching.

And I don’t know that there’s anything else on this earth that I could have gone and done that would have taken that stress off of my brain for three hours. I don’t think anything else would have done it. And so what started off as a huge burden that I felt like I had no business doing — I did not have the privilege, the margin, the time, I had nothing. I had no reason to be coaching.

It turned out to be one of the things that saved me, because the clarity that I had, the peace of mind that I had when I would leave that practice, I would enjoy it so much and I would get this sense of peace. I would leave practice, not thinking about how I had no clients, no revenues.

I would drive home from practice and for a few minutes, I would think, somehow this is going to be okay. Like the stress was gone. And of course, by the time I woke up the next morning, it was all back. But that experience was worth $5,000 an hour of therapy.

We ended up going undefeated that season and we lost in the championship. But it was just amazing. It was the highlight of my life at that time, and when I committed to do it, I thought, this is going to be the end of me.

It ended up being the thing that gave me the clarity when I was in the office to make the right decisions, and to say the right things, and focus on the clients as they slowly started coming in.

Two massive things happened:

1) I quit trying to relive the past, and started focusing on what the future was going to be.

2) I made my kids the priority, because I think for somebody that cares about being a dad, making your kids the priority gives you such a sense of confidence as a dad, that carries through into other areas of your life.

And when you don’t feel like you’re doing a good job as a dad, and you feel like you’re letting them down, or letting yourself down, that carries through into other areas of your life as well. It deteriorates your confidence in business and in other relationships when you don’t feel like you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing as a father.

Making your kids the priority, is one of the keys to someone that cares about their role as a father. Because it will carry through into other areas.

And I think there are some dads out there that think ‘it was my company, even though it was suffering I had two employees and no revenues, I could set the hours that I wanted to. And that sounds good, but I don’t get off until this time or that time.’

But I don’t think you have to coach. If your son wants to play football, then go out and make sure you’re in the yard throwing the football with him, make sure you’re at the practices. You’re talking with him about it, you’re engaged in it.

I don’t think it has to be putting yourself as the head coach if you can’t live up to your other responsibilities, but I think your kids knowing and you knowing that they are the priority allows you to be more confident, stronger and healthier in other areas of your life.

Hank McLarty | GratusCapital.com
Hank and his son

Clip: My Sons’ Speech – It Crushed Me (In A Good Way)
Watch Time: 2 minutes

Hank:  I turned 50 this year and we had a party at my lake house with 30 close friends, family, and my sons were there. 

At some point at the dinner, I stood up and thanked everybody for being there. Somehow the microphone started going around the table and these friends of mine were saying overly gracious things to me about my character, and being a dad. And it was all very rewarding and a bit overwhelming.

But the most overwhelming thing that happened, was when my oldest son stood up.

He said, “There are a lot of things that my dad, my brother, and I have been through that most of you don’t know about.  But the one thing I can tell you is that there’s never been a day in my life that I didn’t know that I was my dad’s number one priority.”

Obviously when he said that in front of all these people, it crushed me, in a good way.

But then I thought, to be turning 50 and have my sons feel that way, that means I’m a billionaire.

I’m a billionaire. I mean, I’ve won because no matter what I have in terms of net worth, lack of, or more of, I’ve got two sons that, on the day I die, they’re going to look at me and say, well done.

And that makes me a very, very rich man.

Hank McLarty and sons
Hank and his sons

Clip: The Great 8 – Surround Yourself With Friends Who Root For You
Watch Time: 4 minutes

Rob: I think a lot of dads can get lost as they hit 30 or 40 with kids, in that we lose that kind of connection we used to have with our friends.

Why is that so important to you? And who are you choosing to spend your time with?

Hank: I have a group of friends, we call ourselves the great eight. We get together for dinner every month, and we set goals for our business, we set goals with our fitness, and we hold each other accountable as fathers.

We probably get 25 texts a day within our group about, “How did this meeting go? How did your workout go? Did you hit your goal?” And I think the most important thing about this group is that whenever I’ve had success and they’ve been around, they almost seem more happy about my success than I do.

I think having that group, that core group of people in your life that literally want more for you than you even want for yourself, and are genuinely happy and excited when you have achievements, and they’re sad or they’re let down when you don’t, and they want to help.

Having people that are not envious of success. We all have friends that would much rather have us out drinking with them or doing things that are going to pull us away from our focus or our goals. But, you’ve heard that statement: You are the top five people you spend the most time with. You become those five people.

So if your top five includes people that are pulling you down and could care less about you becoming a better leader, a better father, a better husband, then that’s what you’re going to gravitate towards.

If you are surrounding yourself with people that literally inspire you and challenge you, and you don’t want to disappoint them because you care so much about their opinion of you in a good way, in a healthy way. You care about their opinion of you and you want to succeed because they’re going to be literally more excited about your success than you are.

Then you’re going to push yourself. I don’t want to disappoint these guys. If I break a personal record at the gym, the first thing I do is update them. And I get seven responses back almost immediately, “way to go!” I start getting phone calls. “How did it go? How did you feel?”

It’s a critical component of my discipline, my habits and not wanting to disappoint this group. And I say disappoint in a healthy way, not in an unhealthy way.

I think if I’d have had that going on when I was living in a hotel. If I’d have had this group of men in my life at that time, then the pain and everything that I was going through, if I would’ve just had this group to push me and to bounce things off of, it would have made things significantly better.

Great 8. Great Friends.

Sponsored by: KickstartReading.com
Watch Time: 2 minutes

Hank: One of the tips I talked to a lot of my friends about (who have much younger kids than me): never sacrifice being a dad for the sake of being a friend.

And what I mean by that is, kids — even my kids at 23 and 21 who are about to graduate — kids desperately want leadership. I think they want discipline, fair discipline. I think they want to be led.

They want to be taught, they want to know what your rules are. They want to test your rules, but they want to know that you care enough to enforce the rules. That gives them a sense of security. It gives them a structure.

It’s much easier to just give in to things, and not have those tough discussions, or not take their keys or PlayStation away.

It’s great to have fun with your kids and it’s great to laugh with them, and play sports with them, and see movies with them, and go fishing with them.

But I think if you sacrifice that leadership quality that they need so desperately from us as parents, for the sake of just having good times with them, then I think you’re letting them down.

You’re not making it easier for them. You’re preparing them for life to be very tough later when they have to understand what discipline and responsibility, all of those things that we all know as adults, come with life.

They need to learn from us by being leaders and parents rather than just friends.

Clip: Rapid Fire Questions with Hank McLarty
Watch Time: 3 minutes

Rapid Fire Questions with Hank McLarty:

– What was your first car? 1984 Ford Bronco

Favorite meal to eat for dinner? Lasagna (if I’m going to cheat)

– Favorite dramatic movie? Gladiator

– Favorite comedy movie? The Longest Yard

-Favorite live concert you’ve seen? Elton John

Favorite athletic memory? 1989: Running out of the tunnel for Auburn vs Alabama 

Thank you Hank, for showing us how we can bounce back from setbacks, and why Dads should always prioritize their kids (even when it’s not easy).


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