When was the last time you took a family road trip? Especially one that was just for fun?
Unfortunately, the family road trip seems to be somewhat of a dying art.
After living a life on the road, I can tell you that getting out of the city— away from all of that crazy brain zapping city energy that we’re assaulted with, all the marketing and the billboards—and into the wilderness can be an amazing reset for your body, your mind, and your spirit.
Our brain is not used to it, our bodies aren’t used to it. In ancestral terms, this is all completely unprecedented.
More than ever, it’s time to take a break. Take that risk and go out somewhere remote. Get away from those city centers, because we all know that it’s a mess out there.
Today we’re here with Chris and Holly Santillo, who are a great example of doing something that violates common sense perhaps, but also is a great example of courage and getting away from the norms, and embracing a life of opportunity, adventure and education, especially with their young ones.
Right now, they’re actually traveling the country and the world as nomads with their 3 kids.
Together they have been working with and educating children for over 35 years. They co-authored the book Resilience Parenting, and founded and instruct at Potomac Kempo, a chain of martial arts studio based in Virginia.
And today they’re joining me on the show to chat about:
- How to raise children that are strong, adaptable, and have the ability to recover from setbacks
- How to eat and train on the road
- How to turn mistakes into learning opportunities
- The power of teaching integrity through story
- And much more…
Let’s go hang out with Chris and Holly.
Chris and Holly Santillo: The Importance of Teachable Moments
Abel: Alright folks, Chris Santillo is the founder and head instructor at Potomac Kempo, a martial arts studio with four locations in Alexandria, Virginia.
Holly Santillo is the founding conductor of Mt. Vernon Children’s Choir and a senior instructor at Potomac Kempo.
Together, they’ve been working with and educating children for over 35 years, and right now they’re traveling the country, and the world, as nomads with their three kids.
So, thank you so much for joining us, especially on your trip guys.
Chris: Oh, thanks for having us.
Holly: Abel, we are so, so happy to be here with you. Thank you.
Abel: Right on. So how’s the trip going so far? You guys are kind of in the maiden voyage stage right now, right?
Chris: Yeah, we’re about 36 hours in. So it just got started.
Abel: Is that all? Oh my gosh.
Chris: It just feels like a long weekend so far, but we don’t have a home to go back to so that makes it a little more interesting.
Abel: Right, yeah.
Holly: I realize that I kind of have this ghost house, and ghost mini-vans in my mind, so I haven’t really quite come to terms with the fact that it’s not there yet.
Do you know what I mean? Yeah.
Abel: I do.
Holly: It’ll be awhile before that really sinks in.
Abel: For sure. Let’s see, back in 2014, 2015, my wife and I sold and donated everything.
And then traveled the world for about two years, living out of a fifth wheel trailer when we were in North America, and just out of bags when we were other places.
Holly: Exactly the same.
Abel: It was one of the best learning experiences of our lives. It felt like 20 years went by in two. Do you know what I mean?
Holly: Is that a good thing?
Abel: A good thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Life experience-wise. I don’t know though, we’re not bringing three kids, so we’ll see.
Chris: Well, someone has to carry the bags.
Abel: Yeah, exactly.
Holly: We have the 3 best kids on the planet pretty much so…
Chris: Just don’t tell them we said so.
Holly: Yeah, be careful.
Chris: We don’t want to spoil them.
Abel: You know, I was talking to one of my best friends recently who I had on the podcast, one of my best friends and teammates from high school, Will McDonough.
We talked about how some of the things that you get into as a kid just really stick with you. And some don’t, right?
He’s a teacher now, and when you read about geography or when you read about some place, or some culture, it’s hard to make it stick a lot of the time. Especially when you’re a kid, but when you actually go to a place, it changes everything.
My brother actually just came out like a couple of weeks ago and he’s just like, “You know, honestly, I realize that I don’t know that much about the geography of America, because I haven’t looked at it since elementary school.”
It was his first time in the West, and I was just like, “I totally get that.”
Because before we had actually driven to Kansas, and Wisconsin, and all of these places that were just kind of nebulous before, there’s no way to put it in your brain really.
So what you guys are doing just seems so important and so valuable right now. Especially for kids growing up in a very uncertain world.
Chris: Yeah, that’s right.
Holly: And I very much feel the same way, that there are things, and concepts, and people, and places out there that I hear about all the time on the news.
But yet since we have the ability, I’ve really wanted to see them, touch them, feel them right there.
Chris: And I’ve been struck very much what you were saying.
What I found interesting is seeing a place, and understanding the geography obviously helps pin that down.
You see the Capitol building, and this, that and the other. But we’ve noticed that even when we’ve been traveling before, like while in Romania, reading Romanian history. Just being in a hotel room in a country, and reading about that country, somehow it sticks more.
Even without any external clues, like I could have read this book anywhere, but I’m here now.
When we were in Cuba a couple of years back, and, “There’s the Bay of Pigs. Let’s read about the Bay of Pigs. And we just drove past it.”
It’s much more real. Everything has like a hook you can hang it on almost.
Chris: It really helps both the children, but also ourselves.
I have a much better understanding of the history that we’ve observed, just as the kids have. So, it’s a good experience.
Abel: Yeah, and I would imagine that would be one of the best things ever for kids.
But who knows? Was it difficult to get them ready for this sort of trip, psychologically? Or get them into it?
Holly: We tried to needle them a little bit for that, “Are we really devastating you guys by uprooting you?”
Like, “I know you love your neighbor, and I know you love your friends down the street.”
And they seemed pretty cool with it, honestly, they do.
Chris: For posterity, last week we did some video interviews.
So Holly sat on the couch with the kids, and I videoed, and we were pretending like we were on a news show.
And they’re just sitting there on our couch like, “Hi, I’m here with such and such.” And, “I’m his mother.”
And, “How do you feel about this and whatnot?”
And so this just kind of went on, straight in the archive.
And we will pull them out in 20 years and be like, “See, you told us that we weren’t ruining your life, so you can’t be mad at us now.”
But it’s kind of neat to see. I’ll have to do more of those to see how their feeling on the subject as it evolves, and hopefully continues to be even more enthusiastic.
Chris: Because they seem pretty on board so far.
Holly: Mostly they complained about needing to clean up the house to sell it.
Chris: Yeah, that was their big complaint.
Holly: “A lot of cleaning going on, mom.”
Chris: Yeah, they had more issues than normal about this, that was the worst thing that we were doing to them.
And of course the missing friends and family can’t be overlooked.
Abel: Yeah, but then downsizing kind of simplifies things.
All of a sudden you don’t have all those dishes, or all those cars, or that giant house to worry about, right?
Chris: Well, that’s a journey that we started years and years before.
Before this became kind of our reality, we reached somewhere in our early 30s, where we’d been buying progressively bigger houses, and progressively more expensive cars and whatnot.
It hasn’t made us less happy. But there’s really no reason to feel this made us more happy.
It’s created complexity, it’s created this, that and the other.
And so we started kind of this slow, gradual trajectory 5 or 10 years ago, of owning fewer things and being more deliberate and intentional with how we spend our time, our money, and our energy.
Chris: And this was just kind of a logical extension of that, or maybe the illogical extension of that. Depending on how you look at it.
The last couple of weeks were pretty precipitous, but we had been moving in this direction for a while.
“Chris, throw it in the van, we have to take it to Goodwill and get out of here.”
Holly: So did you end up keeping some things back home when you took your trip, Abel?
Holly: And I say back home, but you didn’t have a home.
Abel: Yeah, I mean, we had a fifth wheel that was about 380 square feet. We could put some stuff in there.
And at my wife’s folks’ place, they have a small grapefruit orchard, and there was this storage container out there where we were putting some stuff. But that got flooded and we lost all of that stuff, too.
Holly: Oh, really?
Abel: It was foggy to remember. But it’s like, “Yeah, we had stuff, but nope we didn’t have that either.”
Chris: Wow. Yeah, that’s one way of going about it.
Abel: Yeah. And actually you know funny enough—it wasn’t funny at the time—but 10 years ago, Easter weekend, almost exactly 10 years ago from now, I lost everything in an apartment fire.
And that was kind of one of the things that precipitated my health falling apart to some degree, as well. And just trying to get out of that was rough, but really important.
If it hadn’t been for that, I’m not sure that we would have sold everything, donated everything and then gone on this trip.
After being a few years out of it, it gave me a little bit more confidence that you can actually do that, because everyone tells you you’re crazy, right?
Didn’t everyone say that you guys, “Oh, I wish I could do that, but you can’t do that.”
Chris: Yeah, actually I think I’ve heard that exact quote about 37 times in the last week. But you know.
Abel: What’s that about?
Chris: What is that about, about people? Isn’t that the crabs pulling the other crab back down and back into the pot?
Abel: I guess so.
Holly: I would argue that I heard a lot of support, honestly.
Chris: That’s true, we should be fair. There were an amazing number of people.
Holly: An envious support.
Abel: Sure. Well, that’s well too.
Chris: And part of our whole broader message is that we all have some choice, and not everybody chooses this.
A lot of people who are supportive of what we want to do, would also say, “That is not on my bucket list.”
Some people said, “That sounds great.”
Some people said, “I think that sounds crazy, but good for you.”
And we’re just such believers that we have the ability to make this change in our lives and do the things that we want to do. And we like to encourage people to pursue their own dreams, as well.
Abel: Yeah, even just taking a sabbatical, right?
That’s something where people are like, “I wish I could do that, but I could never do that, I could never take a vacation.”
Holly: That is hard to hear people say. Yeah, because you want to reach out and squeeze them and say, “Yes you can!”
Holly: You can!
The Transformational Moment
Abel: What does it take?
Having just done it yourselves, what are some of the steps that it took to arrange for this trip to actually get you in the car with your kids and then leave the house ultimately?
Holly: It took a bit of faith that it would work out okay.
Holly: I know Chris had a transformative moment when he realized if he stepped out of his day-to-day managerial role in the Dojo, that would allow other people to grow instead of him being there taking it.
Chris: Yeah, there was a good feeling of creating opportunities for other people.
But also there’s a game, and I wish I could remember who gave me this.
Just a simple question, “What’s the worst that would happen?”
Because everyone says, “Well, what if you lose your passports?”
Well, we don’t all die the second we lose our passports, you know?
Then there’s steps you take, and it’s inconvenience and it’s this, that and the other.
“What if you miss a plane? What if you get lost? What if… ”
And just playing the game of, what’s the worst that would happen?
What if you lost your job? What if you ran out of money? What if this? What if this? What if this?
And if you play that game and you really sit down, maybe even with pen and paper, and you ask yourself what the real honest-to-goodness worst that would happen, in each of these scenarios, you realize most of them aren’t really that bad.
And at the risk of kind of steering into our book Resilience Parenting is we we talk about being resilient, we define it as being strong, being adaptable and having the ability to recover.
Chris: And so, you kind of look at these situations of like, “And if this were to happen to me, well I’ll just be strong. We’re strong enough to overcome X.”
And then, if this were to happen to me, “Well that’s not something you could stand and meet head on, but we could adapt. We could change. We could go this other direction.”
And if this other thing happens that’s something even more severe, “Well, that might knock us flat.”
“But you know what? We have gotten up when knocked down before, and we have faith in our ability to do so.”
And once you feel confident in your strength, your adaptability, and your ability to recover, the world opens up to you to a large extent that you could do anything if you’re not afraid of, “But what’s going to happen?”
Abel: One really interesting thing that happened when we went on the road, because we were hearing once again, just like, “You can’t do that. I wish I could do that,” or whatever.
But then all of a sudden, at these national parks, state parks or even just on the road, you start meeting and running some of the same people.
You start making the same rounds, and you meet these people and they brought their kids, and it turns out they’ve been living on the road.
They sold their house five years ago, or whatever.
Then you meet someone else and their friend, and it’s this whole community of people who have taken control of their own destiny, not just for themselves, but oftentimes for their whole families.
Not to say that having a house in suburbia is a bad thing, necessarily, but they’re just like, “You know what? We’ve tried that. Let’s try something else.”
And you meet this whole community of people who are kind of doing it this way like a nomad.
Holly: You’re absolutely right. We thought we were kind of unique.
We’re not but it is so fascinating, right? Once you’ve focused your lens on a certain site, then guess what?
Out of the forest, out of the woodwork comes that which you’re looking at, right?
Chris: And I think the broader message is intentionality.
And that’s a big part of our message, and I know that that’s something that comes through in all of the great work that you do is being intentional.
And if this is the house you want to live in, and this is a job you want to have, and this is the life you want to live and that’s intentional and chosen and deliberate, then that’s wonderful, and glorious.
And if you’re living a particular life because you haven’t given it enough thought, because you haven’t considered alternatives, well that’s kind of where we want to nudge people a little bit and say, “Hey, you could do something different if you wanted to.”
So, it’s not a question of whether a person’s traveling or not traveling, or lives in a house or lives in a fifth wheel or lives out of a backpack.
The question I think is, “Are you doing something intentional? Are you living a life that you have chosen deliberately?”
Abel: Do you guys know where you’re going? Are you going to move back, like definitely?
Or have you talked about like, “What if we fall in love with some other place?”
Because that’s scary too, right? That’s scary in a lot of ways.
Chris: We’re a little circumspect in our answers, but back home we have all of our friends, all of our family, all of our community.
There’s just so many people we left back there, it would be hard to not be back.
We won’t be back in the same house because we don’t own it anymore. And we might not be in the same neighborhood, but we’ll be in that radius so that we can be close to all those great people.
How to Bring Your Own Culture on the Road
Abel: Yeah. Which brings up, because community is so important, how do you bring your own culture on the road?
Because what happens is your community just becomes your family, because you’re the only ones with those shared values on the road.
So how do you help protect the values that are important to you guys?
Holly: Actually, when we got in the car on the first day, I said, “Alright family, time to start brainstorming our new family credo.”
We have a credo that we say three times a day before meals. It’s a reaffirmation of the things that we are looking for or seeking to be.
And we’ve had this going on in our family for about 5 years, and about every year we remake it just to be sure that we are continuing to stay intentional, right?
Because we can end up just numb to the automatic process of it all.
And my youngest one complained, he said, “But I know that credo, mom. I don’t really want a new one.”
Chris: He didn’t want to memorize a new one. It wasn’t that long.
Holly: It does seem like as we’re experiencing this extremely revolutionary change in our life, that it would make sense that we might want to adjust what we’re thinking and focusing on.
So that’s the answer to that. We started working right off the bat with being intentional on how it is that we want to face every day on the road here.
Abel: Were there any particular things that changed for this year?
Holly: It’s still in the works.
Abel: Oh, okay.
Holly: But I was really intrigued to hear my kids say a lot about sticking with it and standing strong despite adversity.
Chris: We’ve just brainstormed so far, we have:
- Present focus
- Home is where family is
- Just ask. Which is the idea of like, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to go there.”
Or, “I don’t know if I’m allowed to experience this.”
“Well, let’s just go ask.” Like, there’s no harm in asking.
Holly: Keep striving.
Chris: To keep striving. That was from our eight-year-old.
Chris: Find a way through, persevere, explore, never get lost, it just goes on and on.
And so it gives us a starting point, and we’ll continue working on that and developing that.
And hopefully, we’ll have something great in a couple of weeks.
Abel: I love that. Now, why do you think that’s important to have a family credo?
Chris: Well, that’s the definition of a culture is having a set of shared values.
And if we want to build a community, like you said, within our family first, and then in a broader community, we need to know what those values are.
And we touch on this in our book a little bit, the idea that most of us—I certainly know it’s true for us—don’t have as good of an understanding of our values as we think we do.
Chris: So when we’re young, you’re in your 20’s or whatever, you don’t have kids, and you just kind of have a vague sense of right and wrong. But you only really feel out your values, in my opinion, when they come into conflict.
And a super simple example is you’re headed somewhere and you want to be on time, but you want to write a thank you note.
And this service associated with writing a thank you note, but punctuality is having good manners which is also an element of integrity. So which of those wins out in this really tiny, not terribly consequential scenario?
When you start drawing those out into larger and larger scenarios—and I don’t think either of those answers is wrong, but if you don’t know how you would choose that, how can you choose, how can you make a decision on a bigger issue?
And if you happen to be a parent, how can you communicate your values to your kids if you don’t know what they are?
And so, it’s so important for us to know what they are, know how to communicate them to our kids, like I say, if you happen to be a parent.
And as you meet new people, whether you’re traveling around the world, or whether it’s a new neighbor, or a new co-worker, or someone you interact with.
If you don’t know what your values are, how do you know if they share your values?
Holly: That’s a good angle. We haven’t really considered that in the book, because we were thinking more about in a family unit, but, boy, that’s absolutely true.
Chris: If you want to build your community, you build community by drawing people around you that share your values.
Chris: But that presupposes you know what they are. And I, at 22, I didn’t know what my values were.
I had a vague sense, they were kind of this nebulous mass, and I wasn’t robbing banks so I obviously had some integrity.
But if you tried to pin me down, I couldn’t have told you what was important. So being intentional has really transformed how we live our lives.
The Importance of Stories
Abel: And you mentioned integrity and the value of teaching it through story. I think a lot of people just think of story as something that’s entertaining or kind of a throwaway. You don’t really pay attention to it and analyze it and see it as something that’s valuable.
How and why do you see it that way?
Holly: People love stories. I was going to say kids love stories, but really, people love stories. That’s why we all still watch television shows and movies.
It’s why we read books. We love stories.
So much more interesting than just getting a fact out of the dictionary, is to be pulled along into a tale, and we can relate to it, right?
Holly: We see ourselves in the story, and then it becomes real. It’s vivid.
Chris: And it’s been a pillar of classical education since time immemorial.
We teach through stories, through allegory. Religious texts teach their message through story.
Chris: And so, when you read a story or watch a story or discuss a story, there are lessons in there and sometimes it’s lessons of, “Hey, look how the protagonist made the right choice.”
And sometimes it’s, “Look how the protagonist made the wrong choice, or started to make the wrong choice and then made the right choice.”
And whatnot. But there are lessons in there.
And again, if you have a strong sense of your values and you’re reading this book or watching this movie or whatever, is that you have a very gut reaction.
You’re like, “Whoa, I don’t like the way that person behaved.”
The goal is to have a good sense of what that is, and again, be able to communicate that clearly to yourself, to others, to children, and be able to really draw out.
There’s a lot to be learned. Without creating a bunch of crisis in your own life or integrity conflicts, you can discuss them and feel them and learn from them without having to actually go through the act.
You don’t have to go rob a bank to discuss that robbing a bank is a bad moral choice. You can read a story about it, or watch a movie about it, or just talk about it.
And that lets us play with all these different experiences without having to have them exist in our own life.
Holly: Well, concepts are tricky. I felt such a great success yesterday.
First, I felt failure as I was trying to explain the moral questions to my kid. And I really felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Like I was just getting the like, “uh-huh, uh-huh.”
Holly: Alright. So like, “Okay, let me tell you a story.”
And I went into the story of the first time I ever stole a sticker. I stole a sticker from a friend’s sister.
And I explained how I walked into the bedroom, and I knew I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but there it was and I was really into stickers. This was in 3rd grade.
And I took it.
And I knew it was wrong and I was like, “Oh no, it’s okay, it’s okay, I’m sure it’s fine, it’s just a sticker.”
I talked myself into it, and I put it in my sticker book.
I committed to this false, this lie, this horrible thing that I had done by taking off the back and sticking it in there.
And the kids are riveted. They are like, “And then what happened, mom? You actually did this? I can’t believe it.” Right?
And it was so much more illustrative than me saying, “You can’t steal things.”
Chris: And if she did a good enough job telling the story, they can learn from her shame in having done that without doing it themselves.
And then I shared a story that I’m not going to now share, of a similar experience.
Chris: Publicly that I shared within our family. And so if we do a good job communicating those things, we can teach children the lesson so they don’t have to do it again.
We don’t have to learn on our own, we don’t have to figure this all out on our own.
We can, if we do a good job, we can learn the lessons of the previous generation.
Chris: Progress. We can move forward. That would be ideal.
Abel: Well, it’s interesting because there’s a natural resistance to that, because it’s showing your vulnerable underbelly to your kids instead of this like model of perfection.
Some parents are like, “I never stole anything, and you should never steal anything either.”
So could you compare, contrast those approaches maybe a little bit?
Chris: I think that’s really common. I think people feel very uncomfortable exposing their weaknesses, their failures, whether it’s a business failure or a moral failure or whatever type, because they want to come off as perfect and powerful.
Holly: As an authority figure whom you should trust.
Holly: Because that authority figure always has the answers.
Chris: But there are two positive things that come out of letting that go and being real with your kids and everybody for that matter.
When you are honest about your shortcomings, and your foibles and your mistakes, first of all, you create a door for a person to create connection. And now you’re real.
Now it’s not this front, there isn’t this wall between us anymore.
Like, I’m a real person, I made mistakes and I’m just doing the best I can, just like you are. And it improves our ability to connect.
Chris: Again, whether we’re talking parent-child or whether we’re talking friend-friends or co-workers,or spouses, or anyone.
And then the second by-product, and this might be a little more specific to the parent-child relationship, is that when you show your truth, that they now realize it’s okay.
Like, mom did this, mom stole a sticker and she’s still a good person.
So when they invariably fail to be perfect, because they’re going to live their lives failing to be perfect, just like the rest of us.
That doesn’t mean to them I’m an utter failure, it means I made a mistake like mama and then I’m going to rectify it, or I’m going to do better next time just like she did.
We take that from them when we have this impression, we create this impossible-to-follow example.
And when they fail to live up to it, they feel like true failures. And that’s I think something terrible that we sometimes do to children.
Show Your Kids How To Be A Novice
Abel: Yeah, another point that you guys bring up is the importance, and I don’t remember exactly how you phrased it, but as a parent modeling being a beginner in something, right?
Because, not just parents, but so many adults don’t want to be seen as novice in anything.
It’s like they’re fully formed now, they’re a person, and I’m not beginning at anything. Don’t call me a novice, right? What’s wrong with that?
Holly: What a shame, right? Because that’s announcing that you’re done.
Abel: Right, it is.
Holly: You’re done learning, you’re done growing. And how sad is that?
And don’t we all wish, part of us, to be a child and be able to experience and see the world afresh and anew for the first time.
It makes me think of the martial art studios, and a lot of what this book came from is seeing the world in this microcosm of the Dojo.
And it makes me think of a tournament.
So we run a tournament twice a year, and the parents are like, “Come on kids, you really got to challenge yourself to be a part of the tournament.”
Now, these are parents who are actually training in the studios, so they’ve already taken the step of saying, “Alright, I’m going to announce to myself that I am completely not good at this.”
Chris: Put on the white belt as it were.
Holly: A friend of mine just recently did this for her son, she put on the white belt because she wanted to partake in what her son was doing. Just so admirable, right?
And she feels completely awkward, and she knows that he’s like wiping the field with her, so to speak.
Okay. But when it comes to tournament, boy, that is just a whole extra level that adults are not willing to put themselves at risk.
Chris: Yeah. “Little Johnny, you should go register for tournament, get out there in front of people, and potentially embarrass yourself.”
“But I’m going to take pictures from the stands. That’s where I’m going to be, if you need me,” kind of thing.
And so it’s hard. But again, it’s the same thing.
We joke about it. They make toy lawnmowers for a reason, because kids want to do what their parents do.
And so if you want your child to be a life-long learner, and for that matter, if you want to encourage the people around you to be life-long learners, then you should model being a life-long learner.
And you don’t need to be shy about it.
It’s like, “Hey, guess what? I just started this and I’m learning a new language. And I found a tutor, and I’m not any good, but I’m doing this. I’m learning this.”
Or, “I’m taking this class.”
Or, “I’m going back to school.”
Or, “I’m reading a book, and I’m trying to better myself and grow on an ongoing basis for the rest of my life.”
And that’s what we should all do. It’s how you got to where you are. It’s how we got to where we are.
It’s how we grow and evolve and become something more than we were yesterday, by continuing to seek out mentors, and seek out resources, and grow.
And we need to be really, I think again, going back to intention, we need to be really intentional about that.
And then we need to make sure we share that with our kids and with our community, and encourage them to do the same.
Abel: Yeah. Living in several RVs for a while made me realize that, number one, they break down all the time. But number two, there’s kind of a reason for that.
It’s like, once you start traveling, especially going on the road, you can’t protect yourself like you can at home from challenges and new opportunities, and different things, and failing publicly sometimes, right, just horribly.
Chris: It’s the best way to fail.
Abel: Yeah. So, it forces it upon you. But I realized, my dad is a Mr. Fix-it type, and I’m just like, I don’t have that as much, I don’t have that natural drive to want to fix those physical things.
But on the road, with an RV that’s breaking down or a truck or whatever, it’s like, I am on that thing and it’s the only thing I’m focused on.
That just doesn’t happen at home. And that’s a personality change, you know what I mean?
That’s a fundamentally different thing. And so kudos to you guys for not only doing that to yourselves, but also with your kids.
You’re all going to be failing together, and there probably isn’t any better bonding than that, right?
Chris: That’s our new motto.
Holly: Let’s fail together.
Chris: We’re all failing together. I like that, I’m going to get t-shirts made that say that.
Holly: But it’s so important. I think a big part of this book, and the problem that made it come to be, is that we are afraid of failing, and especially of letting our children fail.
Chris: We as a society.
Holly: Yeah, we as a society. That where we find ourselves now, with kids who just maybe aren’t as resilient as we like them to be.
They seem to be stuck on the sofa, long through age 26, past the time when the insurance has run out. Or just unable to even say hello maybe to a stranger out from behind a parent’s legs.
It’s that we haven’t given them an opportunity to fail enough, we’re so worried of what’s going to happen. And they’re going to be okay.
As you put it, watching your entire apartment burn up in the end made you stronger, it forged you into a new being.
Chris: Yeah, and we, those who are most successful amongst us, are not successful in spite of their failures, but in often times because of their failures, that they’ve learned things, they grow, and are able to move on more powerfully because of it.
Holly: Comfortable is not the goal. Would you write that on our list?
Abel: That’s a good one.
Holly: Comfortable is not the goal.
Abel: No, its not.
Holly: Go ahead.
Abel: One thing I just wanted to bring up because you kinda mentioned it, it was emotional reading through your book, the story of your son dropping the plate, and how you guys handled it.
If you don’t mind, would you mind just telling the cliff-notes version of that story?
Chris: Sure, we had a son… we still have him, sorry. Our son, he’s still around, I swear.
I think he was about six at the time, and he’s our middle child.
And we were at a buffet at a reasonably nice restaurant, I want to say we were in Daytona Beach.
Holly: That’s right.
Chris: And in the middle of winter, the place is largely empty. And we were working our way through the buffet, and we turn our back for a while, and we hear a plate crash.
And I turn around, and there’s our six-year-old with a plate of food.
And he’s a little bit mortified, and a little bit uncomfortable and what not. And so we kind of look, there’s a smorgasbord of, a buffet, if you will, of options of how you can respond to this.
You could punish the child for having done this, you could console the child, there’s so many different things that you might consider. But obviously, part of your action needs to be predicated on their reaction.
The, “Where are we, and where are they?”
So we went over and we talked and what not.
And so the first step, of course, was finding somebody and offering to help clean it up, and minimizing the mess, and making appropriate apologies to the staff for the mess and the waste that we created.
And then we talked about it, like, “Why did this happen?”
It’s all about the educational experience. “Why did this happen?”
Well, it’s a buffet designed for adults, and he’s not tall enough. And so he was trying to balance things in ways that he couldn’t do.
And so, “How can we do better next time?”
Well, we can place a plate here, or we can ask for help, or we can get a stool. There’s a handful of different things. So, we kind of brainstormed options.
Holly: I want to interject. Part of the “why” also was, why did it matter to us that this not happen? Why is it even a big deal?
Chris: Oh, thank you. Yes.
Holly: That in order to make a lesson have any kind of weight, just like, “Oh, you know you’re not supposed to break plates.”
No, it’s, “Let’s talk about it. It’s not good to waste these materials.”
Chris: “We made work for other people.”
“We want to tread lightly on the earth than we do. We want to minimize the waste of food, and the waste of materials.”
“And then obviously the inconvenience that we’ve created for the people. And so that’s why we want to avoid that.”
So, there’s kind of the why, and the how.
So we talked about why we didn’t want this to happen again, and then how we could go about making sure that it didn’t happen again.
And that was kind of like round one, and he ended up with a plate full of food and had a great breakfast.
Holly: Yeah, and it was important that he be part of that process.
Like, “Okay, you help us brainstorm. What could we do better in the future?”
So he owned this thing. It wasn’t a lecture, but a conversation, right?
And that’s the sign of a good teaching moment.
But we could tell that it wasn’t over. We ate the meal, and he was not himself.
So we said, “Well, what’s going on? What are you feeling right now?”
Chris: “What’s eating at you?”
Holly: What’s eating at you? I like that. Some of these buffet metaphors go flying by.
Abel: Smorgasbord of metaphors.
Holly: He was embarrassed.
He was painfully embarrassed that everybody was watching him and looking at him and thinking bad things about him, because he had made this mistake, and he couldn’t shake it.
So then Chris had a genius, wonderful teaching idea. He’s a great teacher.
He said, “Alright, I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to tell me, just describe any person in this room right now, any one of them. Not the family at the table.”
And he couldn’t. And there was a pause and a moment and we waited for it. And then the light bulb went off.
He opened his eyes like, “I get it. Nobody’s looking at me. Nobody saw me. Nobody cares.”
Chris: And with that realization, he gained the space to kind of be himself and not worry quite so much.
And so you kind of take this lesson about how to not break plates and then you turn it into how we shouldn’t be wasteful in general.
And then you kind of take it up one more notch.
And you turn it into, how can we be more comfortable with our interactions with the world and how we can kind of create a greater degree of independence and not so dependent on other people’s opinions of us?
Holly: Yeah, we thought we just needed to increase his skills at a buffet to make him a more independent human being, but in the end he needed the independence from worrying too much about what other people think about him.
Abel: I think we all need that.
Holly: Right, yeah. I agree completely. Exactly.
Why It’s Important to Talk to Strangers
Abel: Well, how about this? There’s another piece that you kind of mentioned, as well.
I think it takes place in the Dojo of the child that won’t get out from behind her mother’s legs. And then what happens when that person’s 18?
What happens down the road and how that actually manifests? It’s actually not so different, but having you explain it that simply, I thought was really powerful.
Chris: I appreciate that. Yeah, we saw this, gosh, I must have seen this 1,000 times.
It’s common, and what’s interesting is the parental reaction.
So you have this three-year-old or four-year-old or five-year-old, and obviously the older, the more awkward it seems.
Child hiding between his mother’s leg or his father’s leg or whatever, and refusing to come out to meet a stranger, even one that has been vouched for by their parents.
Come out. Say hi. High five or fist bump or shake hands or whatever. Make eye contact and what not.
And it almost feels like every year, a larger percentage of the young people are unable to do this.
And the pandering that parents tend to give to this, there’s a sense that it’s cute or it’s adorable or whatever.
And this is where you get into this dichotomy between connectedness and independence.
And as parents, we want our children to be very connected both to ourselves and to the rest of our family and to the community at large.
We also want them to be independent. We want them to be able to go out and work and interact positively and do the things that they want to do.
And I think there is this myth that these two characteristics are mutually exclusive. That a person is either connected or independent, like there’s a finite quantity.
Chris: And part of our message is that’s just simply not true. That a person can be very independent or very connected and ideally, they can be very both. Very both? Can I say it that way?
They can be both very connected and very independent.
So, what we want to do is look at that child who is obviously very connected to mom or dad, and realize that child right now needs to develop independence.
The best thing a mom and dad can do for that child right now is encourage them and help them and give them the tools necessary to become more independent.
And that, it feels like in this era, in this 21st century parenting environment, that’s where more people are, and perhaps, it’s a reaction to the way that kids were raised in the ’50s.
But again, I feel it’s held onto by this false belief that if I encourage my child to be independent, I will decrease their connectedness, and that’s just not true.
The more independent you can help them to be while simultaneously cultivating your connectedness, the stronger they will be.
And you can only, truly have a wonderful connected relationship between two people who are independent.
Like if you think about the best amongst us, they are both independent and connected.
And if you think about the best relationships, whether it’s a parent-child relationship or whether it’s spouses or best friends or whatever. Each of those people can interact with the world independently and will do so, but they have this deep connection built from that.
Frankly, I believe the correct term is ‘co-dependence’, is that person who can’t interact without the other person. And that’s not what we want for our children.
We want them to be independent and connected, both.
Holly: Indeed. We make a point in the book that the best way to do that is to approach your relationship with your child as a teacher.
Holly: A lot of parents are afraid of that, like, “I could never teach my kids.” I want to hold you and shake you.
So I say at the beginning, “Yes, you can! You have been doing that since they were born.”
“Think about all the things you have taught them and are teaching them.”
And we truly believe being teachers in many ways, that the best way to create independence is by giving them strength through learning, right?
Teach them whatever it is that you need them to learn, and then by doing that in the good way, you know, you want to be a good kind of a teacher right there.
There are the good ones and the bad ones. And if you can manage to be a good teacher and go out and learn that skill, there are ways to learn it, then you’re going to find the connection that you develop with your child or with whomever you wish to be better connected is going to just be wonderful.
So, I think that’s what the path to get to where Chris is talking about, of being both independent and connected.
You can do that by being a teacher to your child.
How to Balance Technology with Connection
Abel: I love that. What about technology, though, because every year it seems to get a little bit hairier?
And not just technology itself, because obviously it’s a great thing.
It’s allowing us to do this right now, you from a public library on a phone, and I’m up at 8000 feet somewhere in Colorado.
It’s amazing, but culture and friendships have been quantified.
Abel: Now they compete against each other. This world didn’t exist 10 years ago or so, but now it definitely does and there’s no getting around that.
So how do you see managing technology as a tool as opposed to something that’s leeching the light from us and the next generation over the next few years?
Chris: Well, like so many things I think the answer is a balance.
To the extent that we can use technology to have a conversation from thousands of miles away and someone can travel around the world with their kids and they can still Skype with their grandparents on a regular basis, that’s powerful.
Holly: That’s awesome, yeah.
Chris: And to the extent that you have unique hobbies that you can find your tribe, find your community virtually around the world, is powerful and wonderful.
I think the problem becomes when we start substituting virtual friends for real friends.
Holly: Or, if I may, when we’re with real friends and we allow the desire of technology and whatever it has to offer, pull us away from those times.
Holly: We recognize when we are here now. We use technology to get here and now we just need to be here.
Chris: And so we want to help our children and then obviously going back to our point on modeling, we want to do it by living our life this way and finding a way to get all the good and none of the bad.
And I don’t think that’s an unreasonable expectation at all, is that we’re going to use it to communicate with people who are far away.
We are going to use technology to build our tribe worldwide and find the people whose resonate with our message and find people whose message resonates with us, and then we’re going to stop there.
And we’re not going to use it incessantly and nonstop, and we’re not going to prioritize our Instabook friends over our real friends.
And we’re going to make sure that we teach our children, yes, to use technology for the things that it’s great for, but also to make sure that they develop the interpersonal communication skills that are critical to everything that we do.
And if you want to have a successful, functional life, you need to be good at working with people, talking to people, communicating with people, empathizing with people, whether that’s socially and building your connections and your relationships that are going to make your life meaningful, or just from a practical standpoint.
If you want to be successful in your career, regardless of what that career is, you have to interact with people positively even if it’s just your boss, and/or your clients and/or the HR department.
You need to know how to do that.
Holly: And in full sentences.
Chris: In full… Did I not use a full sentence?
Holly: No, no, I just…
Chris: We need to stop talking in acronyms, right?
Holly: And memes and emojis.
Chris: I want to figure out…
Holly: I like emojis.
Chris: Yeah, that’s my one caveat, asterisk, is that I want to be able to use emojis in my daily communication. Like I want to turn to someone next to me and be like, “Smiley face.”
Holly: You read an email this morning, including all the emojis.
Chris: Oh yeah, just articulated them.
Holly: And it was beautiful.
Chris: Yeah, right. “It was really great meeting you yesterday, smiley face.”
Holly: Smiley face with tears.
Chris: The only positive thing, and my absolute favorite thing about the 21st century is emoji. I just want to lay that out there.
It’s true, it’s true. Yeah, you go back, if you go back a little ways, you get indoor plumbing, huge advocate of indoor plumbing. Then there’s all this stuff I don’t…
Holly: The germ theory, though, don’t forget that.
Chris: I’m not a big…
Holly: It’s something.
Chris: It is, okay. Indoor plumbing, the germ theory, and then emojis. And I think those are kind of the pinnacles of man.
Abel: I think that’s fair. That might be fair.
We’re almost out of time, but just really quickly, especially Holly, if you wouldn’t mind, but actually both you guys because it’s almost like not just self-defense, but a lot of things have been kicked out of schools—arts, music.
Why do these things even matter? But I know these things do matter for you guys, and myself.
I often wonder where I learned discipline, not in the sense that I was disciplined, but I have learned how to learn music, athletics, and other things like that.
And I think a lot of it was from Kempo in the Dojo when I was a little kid, and I didn’t even do it past Junior High.
Holly: You studied Kempo? That’s great. Sorry, your question?
Abel: Yeah, I did Kempo, I played in little bands, and a lot of stuff that seemed like it didn’t matter because I was too little for it to matter to most people. Because how could you possibly be changed by that?
But anyway, just a few words on why this multi-disciplinary education is so important for kids, and adults.
Holly: Absolutely. Okay, well I, like you, found my discipline within martial arts and in music, for sure.
Holly: It’s funny you mentioned all the technology. I think that the need to have information in our minds is rapidly decreasing.
It’s at our fingertips at all times. It’s not fascinating. Even more so, we’re going to need a little less of that book learning stuff.
And I don’t want to downplay how important it is, of course, to know your reading and your writing and your arithmetic.
But in the end, those lessons that really formed me were the ones that I got from those extracurriculars, it’s absolutely true.
Chris: And if I can add to that, I think that we have so many resources at our fingertips now that as parents, it’s very tempting to start farming out the raising of our children.
We have great schools and you send your kids to a great school and you send them to a great soccer team and you send them to a great Kempo program, your martial arts program, and you send them to all these things.
All of that’s wonderful, and all of that is part of what makes you you, and me, and all of the things that we developed.
But we as parents need to also make sure that we are the glue that holds all that together, and we need to make sure that our child’s getting what they need from all of those things.
I believe it’s part of your message, that you are the expert of you.
Chris: And there are great resources out there, and you should avail yourselves of them, that you should learn with people, right?
And learn what doctors say and learn what’s available.
You should read The Wild Diet and you should see all the wonderful things out there, but then you need to figure out what works for you.
So as you’re raising your children, you should put them in martial arts and you should put them in music and you should send them to a great school, you should do all of these things.
But then you need to take ownership of the most important things, which is going to be the developing of their learning and their service and their integrity.
Holly: Their values.
Chris: Their values and their discipline. There’s some things you can’t farm out.
You can reinforce with these outside sources and should, but you need to make sure that you guide it and that you control it and make sure that it’s going in the direction that it needs to go for your child to have a successful life.
Holly: I like that, yeah.
Abel: I do, too.
Where to find Chris and Holly…
Abel: Well, we’re just about out of time, but please tell… And congratulations, your now bestselling book. Where is the best place to find that and the rest of your work?
If they’re curious about our sabbatical, they can jump onto fivebackpacks.family.
Holly: We would love to hear from people about their experiences like yours, Abel.
It’s so amazing, and your encouragement will absolutely be helpful as we go along on these wonderful challenges.
Yeah, say hello from time to time. It’d be great.
Abel: Love it. Well, your work is so important, the world needs it right now. Thank you so, so much for joining us.
Holly: Thank you.
Chris: Thank you. Abel, it’s been a pleasure.
Before You Go…
I want to share a note that came in from Clara. She says:
Hello Abel & Alyson – I found you this year by chance and I am so happy I did.
All of my life I have been very interested in health. When I was younger I was obsessed with losing weight, but I always found it difficult to find reliable information, and I know that is what I always get from listening to your podcast.
You have many great guests along with your insights and great questions, in a very understandable format.
I have hypothyroidism and I have learned that I really have to keep a balanced lifestyle, even when taking my meds.
I feel that we as a society have to always keep well informed about our food sources, because the food that we take in can be harmful to us personally, our family, society and the environment.
So thank you so much!! Please keep going forward with your work!
Clara, thank you so much for writing in, for the kind words, and for sharing this.
Some of you might not be aware that hypothyroidism actually runs in my family.
My mother is a holistic nurse practitioner and herbalist, and a big influence on me doing this show. She was also an early guest on this show, who’ll be appearing again.
She has struggled with hypothyroidism for years now. And I struggled with my thyroid in my 20s.
I definitely have to keep an eye on it because it does run in the family, so I can definitely empathize and sympathize there.
And there are a few things that we’re discovering. Red light therapy and near infrared light therapy can actually help stimulate the thyroid, especially for sluggish thyroids.
Definitely go listen to the recent episode of Fat-Burning Man with the co-founder of Joovv.
And if you have a question or you just want to get in touch with me and share some of your results, then sign up for the newsletter, and reply to my email.
Of course, we are here to help.
And if that’s what you’re looking for, then check out the Wild Diet 30-Day Fat Loss System.
In the program, you’ll get the art of meal and nutrient timing to best stimulate fat loss and muscle recovery, ridiculously tasty recipes and meal plans, so you can enjoy Chicken Parmesan, chocolate pudding and even cheesecake while dropping fat.
You’ll learn the truth about how much protein you really need each day.
You’ll get 30 days of fat burning wild diet meal plans to get you rapid results and tons more.
So go and get your listener discount and start shedding fat with delicious food today.
You can also go look at the store here on FatBurningMan.com and find our courses, books, some of my music albums, and other crazy projects.
Some of you may not even be aware that I have whole other projects, especially the more artistically focused ones over at AbelJames.com. Definitely check that out.
And if you’re looking for a deal on our favorite supplements in the universe, then make sure to visit wildsuperfoods.com.
Right now, Wild Superfoods is only available in the U.S., but hopefully,we’ll be able to get this out to you international folks as well soon.
But in case you’re in the U.S., head over to wildsuperfoods.com. We’re throwing deals on Future Greens, Mega Omegas, our Vitamin D Stack and many more immune boosting goodies that are coming up soon.
Every purchase from there directly supports this show. My family, my wife and our closest friends have been taking these supplements for many years now, and I really do believe that they’ve done us good.
One of the most critical parts of health, as we talked about on this show with Chris and Holly, is being prepared, and having the right foods around you, and the right nutrients around you at the right times.
So be sure to stock up on Wild Superfoods, especially when we have sales going on.
Like right now, you can get a big discount and save over $128 off our Ultimate Daily Bundle.
What did you think of this conversation with Chris and Holly Santillo? Drop a comment below to share your thoughts!