L3 Leadership Podcast Transcriptions: Seeing the Divorce Rate Reduced by 1/3 in our Lifetime with: Dr. Les Parrott

By March 29, 2018Transcripts

Please enjoy this transcript of this episode with Les Parrott. It was transcribed and therefore might contain a few typos. For ways to connect with Les, check out our show notes.

Les Parrott: 00:00 We have a bhag, a big hairy audacious goal, and that is to see the divorce rate reduced by a third in our lifetime or every single percentage point that we dropped the divorce rate. The lives of more than a million children are positively impacted. So that’s for one single percentage point. So I don’t know how anyone can’t be, you know, passionate about helping couples build strong marriages.

Doug Smith: 00:24 This is the L3 Leadership podcast, episode number 188.

New Speaker: 00:29 This is the L3 Leadership podcast and a now here is your host Doug Smith.

Doug Smith: 00:40 What’s up everyone? And welcome to another episode of the L3 Leadership podcast. My name is Doug Smith and I’m your host. And this episode you’re going to get to hear my interview with relationship expert Dr. Les Parrot. And it was such an honor to be able to interview him. His work has made a huge impact on my wife and I as we prepared for marriage. And now that we’ve been married for most six years, his work continues to help us grow in our relationship and we’re just so grateful for everything that he and his wife do for others. If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Parrot, let me just tell you a few things about him. Dr. Parrot is a Number One New York Times bestselling author and has written over 50 books, which is just crazy. He’s been on a variety of television shows that you may have heard of called uh, such as the Oprah Winfrey show, 2020 the view, good morning America and many others.

Doug Smith: 01:23 He and his wife, Leslie or co creators of the marriage matching function of e harmony and he and his wife were also appointed the first ever marriage ambassadors for the state of Oklahoma in an effort to reduce the divorce rate across the state, which is just incredible. He is a wealth of knowledge and again, it was an honor to interview him in the interview. You’ll hear us talk a lot about relationships. You’ll hear him share his advice and tools that he’s developed to help married couples grow, his advice and tools. It has devolved for singles. We also talk a lot about entrepreneurship, which is an interesting to hear him talk from his perspective on that. We talk a lot about writing, you know, he’s written 50 books, so he knows a thing or two about that. And so much wisdom is, is in this interview and of course as always, like every other leader, we take him through the lightning round.

Doug Smith: 02:07 So before we dive in, I do want to let you know that if you live in or around the Pittsburgh area, Les and Leslie will be coming to Victory Family Church on Friday, April 27th to put on an event called fight night, which will be a fun date night for couples of any age or at any stage. And it’ll be a night filled with humor, fresh insight and practical new tools for turning conflict into deeper intimacy. I’ll include a link to in the show notes to attend this event. I can’t encourage you enough to go. It’ll be a great night out. It’ll be a great investment in your relationship and your marriage. So please go to the show notes and register for this event. I know my wife and I will be attending and we hope to see you there. So with that being said, let’s dive right into the interview and I’ll be at back at the end with a few announcements. Well hey, thank you so much Dr. Parrot for being willing to do this interview. And why don’t we just start off with you just telling us a little bit about you.

Les Parrott: 02:59 Yeah,

Les Parrott: 03:00 happy to do it. Well, I’m a psychologist and my specialty is relationships and particularly marriage. Years ago my wife Leslie, she’s a marriage and family therapists. We’ve been married for 33 years and Leslie and I, were teaching at a university here in Seattle, which has been our home for a long time. We just come out of graduate school and a in Los Angeles, moved up here, started teaching. I was working as a medical psychologist at the University of Washington in the school of medicine and teaching at this other school across town. And some students asked us to speak on how to fall in love without losing your mind. And that intrigued us and really became a pivot point because it was such an incredible response we got from that. We ended up, doing an event we called Simbas, saving your marriage before it starts.

Doug Smith: 03:54 And that grew into a book and that grew into interviews with Oprah and Barbara Walters and Tom Brokaw and all the rest and just kind of opened up this incredible field of opportunity to speak around North America and beyond and to do more writing. And so we’ve written several relationship books, maybe as many as 50. And so, and then I guess one of the pieces of the narrative is that a, we were at the kitchen table with Neil Warren and his wife, Maryland when he said, hey, I wonder what would happen if we started to match people online? And that was 20 years ago and that became a company. Everybody knows is the eharmony. So we were with that company for the first 10 years. So that’s a little glimpse into who we are. We have two boys, both teenagers and, yeah, that’s who we are.

Doug Smith: That’s great. Now I’m just curious as a leader, and now you’re known all over the world, but what do you wish people knew about you and your wife’s journey that they may not know about what it took to get to where you are?

Les Parrott: 04:54 Well, a lot of delayed gratification. You know, you don’t, get a phd and just because it’s easy, it means, you know, kind of putting life on hold and making some sacrifices to get there as well as writing books. It’s always better to have written and to be writing. I love writing. It’s in me, it’s in part of my DNA, but it’s always a challenge. It’s always fun and optimistic on the front end and then you get into it and it’s late night hours and it’s slogging through it and it’s tough. It’s just putting, like I said, a lot of delayed gratification. I told Leslie once years ago, I said, I, I feel like I really got a phd in delayed gratification because that’s what the hard work does, but it’s always fruitful. It’s always rewarding. We love what we do and, it’s just so fulfilling. I tell everybody, it’s like waking up on Christmas morning for me to read my email because there’s so many folks that are kind enough to say, Hey, this book changed my life or this seminar or this assessment that you developed and that’s fun. That’s fulfilling.

Doug Smith: 05:59 Yeah. Can you talk about, you talked about writing. Can you, what advice do you have for young aspiring authors? You’ve written over 50 books, you said. So I’m just curious, I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but what’s your best advice for those?

Les Parrott: 06:10 Well, publishing these days is different than it was when I started, you know, 25 years ago. That was kind of the golden age of publishing back then. And it was easier to get published as just a first time author. These days there’s so many outlets for people to publish themselves. And so it’s a more crowded market. And so the big time publishers, my publisher, Harpercollins doesn’t take on too many new publishers. So you kind of have to prove yourself, build a platform out there in order to do that. And so I guess if someone is really passionate about writing, my word of advice is build your platform. If you want to get a traditional publisher to look at you.

Doug Smith: 06:51 Yeah. Do you have any advice or thoughts on on how to build your platform these days? Again, you’ve kind of built years over a few decades. I’m just curious.

Les Parrott: 06:59 Yeah, that’s a challenging thing. I mean, we have these, you know, Internet stars that, that do one piece. I have a friend, Jefferson Betskey who does spoken word stuff and he did one incredible piece and just blew up and it has an incredible following to this day. Those are really unusual. Most people that build a following and do it because they have an incredible blog or they’re doing exactly what you’re doing and they’re building an audience this way. And, so, or you know, the old fashioned way, get it out on the road and, you have your candy stick, you do your speaking and he draw an actual build a list from an actual audience that’s in front of you.

Doug Smith: 07:41 Yeah. I want to talk a little bit about relationships and sense what you’re known for. In fact, I thought it was interesting in your bio that the governor actually made you statewide ambassadors for marriage. I think that’s just incredible. And I’m just curious, why are you so passionate about marriages in general?

Les Parrott: 07:57 Yeah, that was the governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating years ago. We live in Seattle, but, the governor heard us speak someplace and I think we’re in Washington DC at an event. And that’s how that happened. He said that his state had the highest divorce rate, and he wanted to do something about it, not because, it was really all about marriage. It was really about economics. You know, when a state has a low divorce rate, the economics of that state, education, all kinds of things, birth out of wedlock, a lot of things converge in that situation. And so to build a stronger state, they wanted to build stronger marriages. And so we became their, marriage ambassadors. You asked the question, why are we passionate about it? We have a bhag, a big hairy audacious goal, and that is to see the divorce rate reduced by a third in our lifetime or every single percentage point that we drop the divorce rate, the lives of more than a million children are positively impacted. So that’s for one single percentage point. So I don’t know how anyone can’t be, you know, passionate about helping couples build strong marriages. And here’s the other thing. As a professional community, we know more than we’ve ever known before about lifelong love. How do you achieve it? So it’s not a guessing game. It’s not, we don’t have to wonder what do we do to do that? We have the tools to make that happen. It’s a matter of helping couples access and put the cookies on the bottom shelf and actually put them into practice.

Doug Smith: 09:24 Yeah. Can you talk about tackling this issue on the front end? Right? While people were dating, while they’re preparing for marriage, what is your best advice for people looking for that that’s significant other they want to marry to set themselves up. So to be successful over the long term and marriage.

Les Parrott: 09:41 So for a single adult or somebody that’s already in a relationship?

Doug Smith: 09:45 Either, right, so they’re single, they’re pursuing marriage, what’s your best advice for that?

Les Parrott: 09:48 Well, for the single adult that’s looking for lifelong love, couple things come to mind immediately. And the first is to work on yourself. Your relationships can only be as healthy as you are. That’s maybe the most profound sentence that I will utter in this interview. Your relationships can only be as healthy as you are. Therefore, one of the most important things you’ll ever do in your life is work on who you are in the context of your relationships. And when you become a healthier person, you draw healthier people to you. And so that’s, that’s number one. Don’t, you know, there’s nothing wrong with making your shopping list and thinking, how do I find this person? But first, make sure you look in the mirror and be the best person that you can be. But speaking of a shopping list, that’s not a bad thing to do either because, if you know what you’re looking for, you know, I believe everybody that’s a single adult looking for lifelong love should have a list of dealmakers and deal breakers.

Les Parrott: 10:49 These are things that, you’ve got to have in a person that you would spend the rest of your life with and things that you know, you can’t stand in that person. And so knowing that you should be able to determine whether someone is worth pursuing in two dates or less, you really should cause you know that. And then the third thing is I’m focused on the skills. Relationships are built on skills, especially when it comes to communication, number one. And number two, conflict management. If you can hone your skills on being an effective listener and communicator and also managing conflict well you will be miles ahead of the average Joe out there when it comes to relationships.

Doug Smith: 11:32 That’s so good. And on the other end, for people who are listening to us that are already married, I love you guys have a goal of equipping 1 million marriage mentors that will go out and mentor less experienced couples.

Les Parrott: Yeah.

Doug Smith: Some people listening that are married may have said marriage mentors. I’ve never thought of getting a marriage from my mentor or a mentor for my marriage. Can you talk about why you guys have that goal and why

Doug Smith: 11:54 people need mentors in their marriage and the advice you have for getting one?

Les Parrott: Sure. Like a mission. We wrote this book saving your marriage before it starts and it’s, it’s uh, been used by more than a million couples in most of those are on the front end of marriage. And, uh, we always wondered, hey, does it stick? Does it make any difference? You know, not just five months from now, but five years from now, 15 years from now. And that’s when we came up with this concept of marriage mentoring where you take a seasoned, experienced couple, link them with a less experienced couple. And as we did that just in our own little community of Seattle, on the college campus where we were teaching, it began to grow and churches were hearing about this and going, we want to have a marriage mentoring team too.

Les Parrott: 12:37 And so we eventually built a curriculum for that. It was originally on VHS tapes back in the day. Now it’s online at marriagementoring.com. And so a couple can go through that training online and it’s really just people helping skills, but learning how to do that as a couple. And, the research is very clear on this. When you come alongside a less experience couple, let them learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. The tide rises for both of you. There’s a boomerang effect to marriage mentoring and it does sometimes more for you than it does for the couple of year administering to, but obviously it helps that couple as well. And that’s very different than having mom and dad walk alongside you. This is a more objective couple and they have that different perspective on the relationship then others that know you well, that are related to you.

Les Parrott: 13:30 So anyway, we’ve trained about a quarter million, so far and yeah, that’s our dream to see a million marriage mentors.

Doug Smith: That’s amazing. And I know officer for marriage and married couples that are married, you’ve also recently developed a resource called Deep Love. And can you talk about that and how it will help couples and how people can get ahold of that?

Les Parrott: Yeah, I can talk about deep love all day because I am crazy passionate about this. One of the things we know from our research is that when a couple can take an assessment where they can more accurately understand how they’re hardwired is individuals. There are two personalities. It, it is a game changer, a complete game changer. And, it’s, you know, there’s an adage in psychology that says awareness is curative. Once you become aware of something, then you can do something about it. And so, I think that, this is probably the most effective way of doing that.

Les Parrott: 14:26 That’s why we designed it. We couldn’t find anything else they’re out there in the marketplace like it. Deep love and go to deep love.com you take about 15 minutes to answer a series of questions. You both do that individually and in less than 14 seconds after you’ve both done this, cause we’ve timed this with our analytics, less than 14 seconds you will receive a 10 page personalized report on your relationship.

Doug Smith: Wow.

Les Parrott: And some people listening to us right now, we’re gone. Oh, that’s the last thing I’d want is to be graded on my relationship. It doesn’t grave you, you don’t pass it or fail it. It’s just an exercise in self awareness. And so it’s upbeat, it’s positive. There’s no blame, there’s no shame, there’s no guilt. It’s just fun. And in fact, the way we’ve designed it, so you can unpack it in your date night and if you really want to do it well, you do it over four date nights. We have a booklet that you download with it called the deep love action plan, but a, that’s really what it’s about. The deep love assessment, go to deeplove.com and by the way, it’s not expensive. It’s $35 for the couple, not per person, and it gives you just a mountain of positive momentum to help you in your relationship.

Doug Smith: 15:42 Thank you so much. I look forward to going through that with my wife. So thank you. Yeah. I’m curious on the entrepreneurship side, so you just talked about how you and your wife had this little idea of, hey, let’s get marriage mentors to mentor other couples and now that scaled and you guys have over 250,000 marriage mentors. How can you talk about this, what you’ve learned about entrepreneurship and taking an idea that you have and actually building it to scale, where now it’s impacting literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of people?

Les Parrott: 16:13 Well, I don’t get asked that question very much, but, I appreciate it. The, it’s tough, right? It’s just, it’s hard work. And probably the most important lesson I have learned in my entrepreneurial efforts is to surround myself with people that are smarter than me. And I know, you’ve heard that before, but it is so true. I know what my gifts are. I’m a content producer and communicator of that content. That’s what I do well. And, I’m not the kind of guy that can get into a room and talked to a bunch of developers, a bunch of engineers to build software, but I have a guy that works with me that is a genius at that. And so I need that kind of person in my life. So it’s, understanding, what I need around me in order to succeed in those dreams.

Les Parrott: 17:04 Cause it’s one thing to have the vision and even have the resources to make that vision real. But if you don’t have the brainpower to do that in a smart way, you’re really failing right from the outset. So that’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learned in the whole entrepreneurial field. And then I’m, I’m always curious. I am you know, always asking people. I once spoke for the entrepreneurial organization here in Seattle, young entrepreneurs and in fact it was at the space needle and there’s about 150 of them and we had this dinner and that was, man, that was over 10 years ago. And I have really cultivated a lot of relationships from that speaking because I was personally just so fascinated. Really, you, make a living making soap out of your house. How does that work? You know, I want to know all about that and or you made a living by making credit card processing easier. How does that work? You know? And so when I, when I encountered an entrepreneur, I have a million questions for them and I learned a lot from them too. So, those two things, definitely have served me well.

Doug Smith: 18:17 Yeah. You talked about developers, so developing websites and things for content. I’m just curious, what are other key business relationships that you’ve had to have yourself surrounded by it to be successful?

Les Parrott: 18:28 Well marketing online marketing is a, is such a sophisticated thing these days and there’s a certain level of magic. It’s an art as well as a science. And I don’t even begin to understand it, at the level that these professionals do. But I know that’s, another area for sure. Graphic design, I have a pretty good eye for that kind of thing, but I don’t have the tools to make that happen nor the bandwidth to make that happen. I have to have someone like that in, you know, on the team. And then sales, people that, you know, we have, another, enterprise, it’s called symbols, Symbis that stands for saving your marriage before it starts in our Symbis assessment. We have tens of thousands of facilitators really around the world now that use this assessment where they get trained. It’s a three hour certification course, to use this assessment with the couples that they are ministering to or counseling. And in fact, we just had terrific news this last summer and that is the US military. Every chaplain, that’s a part of their required training now is to get Symbis certified. And so it takes a team to build those kinds of tools. And it may have been my vision and my idea, but man, I stand on the shoulders of all these other folks that know how to do things that I don’t.

Doug Smith: 19:50 Yeah. And it just thank you personally on behalf of everyone listening to this, I know you’ve impacted my marriage greatly and I just thank you for all the work you’re doing for families all over the u s it really does make a difference.

Les Parrott: Well that’s very kind of you. Thanks. I appreciate that.

Doug Smith: With the few minutes we have left, I want to dive into what I call the lightning round. Just a bunch of fun questions for leaders. And so I’ll just start off by asking what is one belief or behavior the changed your life?

Les Parrott: 20:15 Empathy, the behavior of empathy. I think it’s the single most important skill set we have as human beings to see the world from somebody else’s perspective. Imagine what life must be like to be lived in their skin. If that’s all you do, you will reduce your level of tension by about 90%. That’s not armchair psychology. We know that from research. And if you want to build a stronger marriage, a stronger friendship, a stronger relationship with your colleagues at work, hone the skill of empathy. I wish we could bottle, I wish we get back at it and say, here, take this box of empathy. It’ll change everything for you.

Doug Smith: 20:52 If you could put a quote on a billboard for everyone to read, what would it say?

Les Parrott: 20:57 Love, one word. Love. That’s what it all comes down to.

Doug Smith: 21:03 What was the best purchase you’ve made in the last year for $100 or less?

Les Parrott: 21:07 Oh, $100 or less while I was going to say my phone, but that’s more than a hundred dollars hundred dollars or less. The things in technology I seem to appreciate the most are my phone. Tivo, my laptop, oh, maybe $100 or less. These headphones that I’m holding up are those, are those $100 or less? Is there 150? Man, maybe. I don’t buy anything less than a hundred dollars.

Doug Smith: 21:36 Other than your own books. I’m just curious, what are the top three, maybe two books that you find yourself giving away most often?

Les Parrott: 21:43 Oh, that changes based on the season. These days have been given away a lot of Dave Ramsey’s books, encountering couples that are struggling with debt. Bob Goff’s book on Love Does, it seems like I’ve been giving that book away a lot. A book that has probably been one of my favorite books to read, over the years has been, Martin Seligman’s book Learned Happiness. Do I have that right now? Not learned happiness. Man, it’s, so ingrained in me, but it’s a, book that a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania did in state, I think, who did this incredible study on delayed gratification as well as learned helplessness and Oh, learned optimism. That’s the title I knew it would come to me. Learn, learned helplessness, learned helplessness was the kind of the research study. But, that’s been a game changer for me in my own life as well as emotional intelligence. I think that that book is incredible as well.

Doug Smith: 22:53 I don’t know if you’ve listened to podcasts often, what are your top two podcasts that you listen?

Les Parrott: 22:58 You know, I don’t listen to podcasts very often. It’s kind of like people send me, I don’t have like one that’s part of my routine or our groove that I’m in. So I, I don’t have a great answer for that.

Doug Smith: 23:10 When you get to spend time with a great leader, I know you get to spend time with a lot and you have one or two questions that are your go to that you ask every leader that you’re curious about?

Les Parrott: 23:19 Oh yeah, that’s an easy one to answer. I always ask them, what’s your biggest challenge? Cause I always like to know what, are they facing and what are they doing about that? And then I always ask, what are you reading? And then the third question I always ask is, what’s most energizing to you these days? You can learn a lot with those three questions for me, any great leader and it’s, always a fun discussion. I’ll all those by the way, they will never have a quick answer to any of those. So set aside a good a half hour for each one of them.

Doug Smith: 23:49 Oh, I was just going to ask you one. So you go into your chest and your deepest challenge right now. As a leader, what’s your worst, most worse, worthwhile investment of time and money right now?

Les Parrott: 24:02 I will go back to your question because I can’t answer it in a brief form. And my greatest challenge is scale. How do you scale? I know that we have a tool that is working. Take for example, the deep love assessment that we talked about and we spend an awful lot of time and energy and money on promoting that thing, but how do you scale that in a way that can really change the culture? Because I really believe that it can, that’s the biggest challenge. So to answer that question, sorry, now your next one.

Doug Smith: 24:30 No, that’s great. Just what’s the greatest investment, what’s the greatest, most worthwhile investment of your time and money right now?

Les Parrott: 24:37 Oh, without a doubt. It’s in my family. So I have a boy who was a freshman in college in Chicago and another boy who’s 15 and a freshman in high school. And, Leslie and I know that, man, these, these are the years where, you know, it seems impossible. How could we be edging three more years close to a, an empty nest when they’ll both be off to school, in college. And, so we, soak up every minute. I have a, I have a billiards table in my, in my study and a, that thing is getting worn out these days with my 15 year old because we play that almost every night. And, it’s just fun. We play music, we joke and I love those moments. And, you know, it’s, the routine. It’s the, going out to dinner on Friday night when we’re not traveling or speaking and having fun with family.

Doug Smith: 25:28 Hmm. For time’s sake, I’ll just leave this. Well, I’ll ask one more. If you could go back to and have coffee with your 20 year old self, what would you tell them?

Les Parrott: 25:38 Without a doubt. Relax. Take it easy brother. It’s gonna, it’s all gonna turn out. You don’t have to drive so hard. You don’t have to be driven by so much anxiety. You’re going to be just fine. I think that I, I pressured myself so much in my early years of graduate school and trying to control life and life is uncontrollable. You do what you can, but it eventually unfolds before you, and the key is to treasure the time, you know, be fully present and do your best in that very moment. And that’s the advice I would give.

Doug Smith: 26:13 That’s so good. I’ve actually, I’ve interviewed a couple of leaders with a platform similar to yours and they’ve all said pretty much the same thing, which is comforting. So just relax, it’ll all be okay.

Les Parrott: I suppose

Les Parrott: 26:24 that’s easy to say. You know, a couple of decades later after you’ve kind of achieved some of the things you set out to do. But boy, I do feel like I could have been easier on myself.

Doug Smith: Anything else you want to leave leaders with today?

Les Parrott: Awareness is curative. Once you become aware of things about yourself, then you can change them. You can do something about it. And so, that’s, that’s the path that I’m, trying to travel down myself. It’s just become more aware every day of who I am so I can be the best person possible.

Doug Smith: Thank you so much for your time today, I appreciate it.

Les Parrott: My privilege. Thanks for having me on.

Doug Smith: 27:02 Hi everyone. Thank you so much for listening to our interview with Dr. Les Parrott, you can find ways to connect with him and links to everything we discussed in the show notes at L3leadership.org/episode188. I want to thank our sponsor Henne Jewelers. They’re jeweler owned by my friend and mentor, John Henne, my wife Laura and I got her engagement and wedding rings through Henne Jewelers. And we just think they’re an incredible organization. Not only do they have great jewelry, but they also invest in people. In fact, they give every engaged couple a book to help them prepare for their marriage and now we just think that’s incredible. So if you’re in need of a good jeweler, checkout Hennejewelers.com I also want to thank our sponsor Alex Tulandin. Alex is a full time realtor with Keller Williams Realty and if you’re looking to buy or sell a house in the Pittsburgh market outs is your guy as a member and a supporter of L3 leadership.

Doug Smith: 27:48 He would love to have an opportunity to connect with you and you can find out more about him and connected Pittsburghpropertyshowcase.com as always, if you enjoyed the podcast, it would mean the world to me. If you would subscribe and leave a rating and review and share this on social media, it really does help us grow our audience. So thank you for that and thanks again for being a listener. I’d never take one of you for granted. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. And if you want to stay up to date with everything we’re doing here at l three leadership, just simply go to our website at L3leadership.org and sign up for our email list and you could check out everything that we’re doing. And as always, I like to end with a quote and I will quote Earl Nightingale today. He said this, he said, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” Thanks for listening and being a part of l three leadership. Laura, and I appreciate you so much and we will talk to you next episode.