Only a few days ago, I got a call from the eldest daughter of a dear friend telling me that her Dad had passed way from a heart attack. Ian was at his work, and without any apparent warning, he collapsed and died. He was comparatively young and in good health.
After the phone call, I was in a state of shock. We didn’t see each other a lot but we were close nonetheless. We shared the same mission in life: to help fathers become better Dads, so that their children could thrive and reach their full potential.
Ian Halls, along with Sugar Ratu, our joint partner-in-crime (of promoting and teaching excellence in fatherhood), were a few years ago the most qualified Good to Great Fathering Course trainers in the nation.
Ian was a Master Coach, but not only that, a truly wonderful husband to his wife Robyn and an amazing father to his three beautiful daughters.
Please find below a video of Ian’s last speech at the December 2018 Good to Great Graduation Ceremony. His speech starts at 7:40 and goes for 9 minutes. These are Ian Halls’ last words to the fathers of Australia, and his wisdom as such is well worth the listen. Full transcription below!
Hello Dads, and wives and kids. Congratulations guys. This is awesome, absolutely awesome.
Warwick, Sugar and I started the (Good to Great Fathering Course) back in 2004. My children back then were 13, 11 and 7. They’re now 27, 25 and 21. And as you go through those different times, they change and you have to change with them, but the challenges that they face and the challenges that you face, this course still provides you with the grounding for the sorts of things that you need to do to be a great Dad to them and to encourage them and to bring them on. Also as they come into relationships with their boyfriends and partners and husbands, you have a responsibility to those guys as well, because they often come from different family backgrounds, their own struggles, and you have to mentor them along. That’s part of the role that we have as Dads.
In terms of what you have done for the course, I’d just like to give you 5 takeaways.
1. Love your wife – and let your wives and your children experience that as often as you possibly can. Not only does your wife love to feel that, by doing that with your children, and they see that, that gives them a really strong sense of belonging, and a really strong sense of security. Two of the really key things that children need today is that sense of security, that sense of belonging and the surety that Mum and Dad love each other.
2. And you would have remembered earlier in the course there was a picture of a bus.
B – Being there with your kids, Being there for your kids.
U – Unconditional love.
S – making them feel Special.
That doesn’t change. It doesn’t change from when they’re a little, little tot, to when they’re in their twenties and thirties and getting older, as you would know. Being there with them and for them changes because they have significant changes in their lives. But when, and I think Jim Wallace talks about it in his talk: when everything’s fine, it’s all going well but when it hits, who’s the first person a lot of kids turn to? Dad. And Mum. The key thing is you do this together. You build each other up and you strengthen each other.
3. You have to be the change Dads. In our society it is very easy to blame other people, but you actually have to be the change. You’re the leader in the family, you’re the one who has to change. And that’s why you’ve come to do this course. Over these 10-11 weeks when you first started, holey moley, what were you getting yourselves into? Look at where you are now! And that will continue. So you have to be the change.
4. You’re going to stuff up. Don’t beat yourself up about it! It’s just who we are. If you need to apologise as a result of that, to your kids, don’t hesitate, because you are showing them love. But you will stuff up, so don’t beat yourself up over it.
As your children grow up, you’re setting a pattern for life for them. They will make decisions that you will wonder, “Where did that come from? Why did they make that decision?”
We’ve tried to put everything into them, but they still make decisions that cut to the core and in my experience, when that occurred in our family, I went back to the notes. I went back to the Good to Great notes and I read through exactly what I needed to do. My wife said, “It’s up to you. You’re the one who has to deal with it (with our daughter at the time), because you’re the one who actually has to show the leadership.”
By the grace of God, it’s all come through. It was a fantastic learning process, but it’s one of those challenges that you are going to face. She was 17 at the time, so it was a tough age.
5. You are on a journey. That journey requires community. That community is you guys sitting here, it’s the community of being involved in Dads4Kids, maybe coming back and helping with the Good to Great Course in future. There’s also an annual Fun Camp weekend, also the Men’s Leadership Summit and there’s the web page, the newsletter. Get involved with those, because that is where you continue to learn, where you continue to share and where you continue to grow.
So be encouraging to your friends, your other family members, get them to come and do the course, because this is all about changing men in the Illawarra and Australia one at a time.
An example of this. I was at a conference, an industry conference about a month ago in Sydney. I got talking to a fellow from Canada. We were talking business, and then I asked if he had a wife and family. He said yes, I have a wife and two girls, 9 and 7. I have 3 girls, so immediately I knew exactly where he was at with that age group. I just asked him, “How’s it going?” He said, “I don’t know what to do about things like social media. My 9 year old daughter has the iPad.” The funny thing was that when we first did the course, we didn’t have these things. The internet was just starting, but we didn’t have the social media like we do now, so there’s new challenges that are always going to come up.
We spent the next two hours talking about our kids, our relationships, his relationship with his wife. He was Chinese, his wife Canadian. I asked him whether he showed affection to his wife in front of his kids. He said, “No, it’s not my culture. I don’t do that.” So it got him thinking. We’ve continued that relationship with him back in Canada. He said things are changing because he’s now more aware of his responsibility as a Dad.
That’s the sorts of benefits you see from the courses you are doing. Share about it with the guys at work. When you break through that, “How’s the weather? What did you do on the weekend? How’s the Australian cricket team doing?” All that kind of stuff, then you cut to the chase, “How’s your relationship at home? How’s things with the kids? “That’s often when that charade, that mask starts to fall away, the outer exterior starts to come off and you start to find out well actually things perhaps aren’t doing so good and that’s when you can be there to help somebody. And you never know where that’s going to come from.
So guys, this is what this course will do for you now and into the future.
Once again, congratulations. This is a big ask, for you to do 10 weeks, but you’ve done it, you’ve graduated.
Such words of wisdom challenge us all. They certainly challenge me. I hope and pray they challenge you. Not only challenge you but inspire you. Your children deserve the best you can be!
PS: For some it might be a long way to come, but those who are able are invited to a Memorial Service for Ian Halls at 1PM next Friday, 7 June 2019, at the Berry School of Arts, Berry, NSW.