Our guest this week is Frank McKinney of Delray Beach, FL a father, real estate artist, eight time best-selling author, philanthro-capitalist & 12 time badwater135 ultramarathon competitor.
This is part two of a two part interview. In last week’s episode we heard Frank talk about the first of his his five aspirations, the importance of family. In part two we’ll hear more about Frank’s other four aspirations, the role of faith and much more.
Frank and his wife Nilsa have been married for 33 years and are the proud parents of Laura (24). Professionally, Frank has built and renovated 44 ocean-front mansions with an average selling price of $44M. He is known as a real artist with a flair for creating these one of a kind master pieces and for the way he markets them.
Frank is also the best-selling author of eight books in 5 different genres. In reverse chronologicle order they are:
- Adversitology: Overcoming Adversity When You’re Hanging On By A Thread (March 2023)
- Aspire: How To Create Your Own Reality And Alter Your DNA (November 2021)
- The Other Thief: A Collision Of Love, Flesh & Faith (September 2018)
- The Tap (February 2009)
- Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes And The Good Luck Circle (January 2009)
- Burst This!: Frank McKinney’s Bubble Proof Real Estate Strategies (February 2009)
- Frank McKinney’s Maverick Approach To Real Estate Success: How You Can Go From A $50,000 Fixer-Upper To A $100M Mansion (April 2006)
- Make It Big: 49 Secrets For Building A Life Of Extreme Success (January 2002)
Frank is also a self described philanthro-capitalist and co-founder of the Caring House Project, a 501c3 non-profit organization, which has built 30 self-sustaining villages serving 13K children and their families in Haiti over the past 20 years. Each of the villages has 50 homes, a daycare center, community center, school, clinic and church.
On a personal level Frank is a runner and has competed in a number of races including 12 Badwater135 ultramarathons, finishing seven times. The Badwater135, which takes place annually in July in the scorching summer heat in Death Valley, CA is described by National Geographic as ‘the world’s toughest footrace.’
Also, in 2020 Frank was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), which was a near death experience. One of the techniques Frank used to overcome this life threating disease was to disidentify it.
While Frank is not a parent of a child with special needs, he has a lot to offer parents and specifically dads on how to overcome adversity.
It’s a fascinating story and it’s here on this week’s episode of the SFN Dad To Dad Podcast.
Show Links –
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/frank-mckinney-b4a14332/
Website – https://www.frank-mckinney.com/
Tom Couch: Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, working tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics’ mission at HorizonTherapeutics.com.
Frank McKinney: Anytime you find your conscious or subconscious, even verbally speaking the word “wish,” you’re not willing to put in the work. I wish I had a better car. I wish I had a bigger house. No, no, no! You’re just not willing to work for it! And in this case, to get through this adversity, I wish this would end. Well, get to work! If it’s a physical adversity like mine, get to work. If it’s financial and you’re poor, get to work. If it’s relational, get the divorce over and move on with your life. And if it’s spiritual, call down the angels from heaven and move past it.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest – author, real estate developer and ultramarathoner, Frank McKinney. In addition to a stellar career in real estate, Frank has written numerous books and developed a full-service community for some 13,000 Haitians. The man is nonstop. In last week’s episode, we heard Frank talk about the first of his five aspirations, the importance of family. Now on to part two. Here’s the host of the Dad to Dad Podcast, the founder of the Special Fathers Network, David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast, presented by the Special Fathers Network, a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Thank you to those who supported the 21st Century Dads Dads Honor Ride 2023 campaign, which was a 3000+ mile bicycle race from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. I was one of the four racers and it took us seven days, 19 hours, and 10 minutes to go from coast to coast. Special thanks to the following donors for contributing $1,000 or more. In alphabetical order, they are: Kim Duchossois, Jim Duran, Chaz Ebert, John Guido, Horizon Therapeutics, Scott Marcotte, Damien Navarro, Dick Reck, Barbara and Glenn Reed, Rotary Club of Chicago, Don Stadler, Nick Topicha-Dolny, and UBS Financial Services. If you’ve not yet contributed, please do so by visiting 21stCenturyDads.org. Your tax-deductible contribution will help keep our programs free to all concerned.
Tom Couch: So let’s hear this conversation now between Frank McKinney and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: So let’s switch gears and talk a little bit about the work that you and Nilsa have been doing and the Caring House Project Foundation, most of which I understand is in Haiti. And was that a result of the big earthquake that took place in 2010, or did your work in Haiti predate that?
Frank McKinney: “To whom much is entrusted, much is required. To whom much is given, much is expected.” God had blessed me with all this success. My mentor – at a very low point in my life when I was on top of the real estate world but I had lost all the heart in my soul, I was very depressed, I was literally ready to jump off a bridge or a cliff – said, “Frank, you haven’t found your spiritual highest calling. God’s blessed you with his professional highest calling. What about your spiritual highest calling?” I had no idea what he was talking about. Being a linear thinker, a simpleton, a 1.8 GPA kind of guy, I said, “Listen, I’m in the housing business for the ultra-wealthy who really don’t even need another house. Why don’t you get into the business of helping the homeless, the people who don’t even have a house?” So we started Caring House Project domestically by providing elderly, homeless people with housing for $1 a month. And then we quickly moved to Haiti, where we’ve done 30 villages in 20 years. And that to me, I mean that, God, we put family on top. I don’t know if Caring House’s work in my just gratitude for understanding that passage from the Gospel of Luke 12:48, that again says, “To whom much is entrusted, much is required.” I don’t feel better or worse about myself when I do those things. I feel grateful that I’m a responsible steward for the blessings God’s given me. I feel grateful that I’m aware enough to execute on this beautiful, spiritual highest calling. In almost every one of my books, I talk about dovetailing your professional and your spiritual highest calling. To have seen 13,000+ kids who were eating dirt flavored with bullion and lemon juice now having a self-sustaining existence, two-part protein, one-part carbohydrate meals twice, three times a day, it doesn’t make me feel good for doing it. I don’t feel any better. I just feel so grateful that I answered the call.
In my book we don’t have time to talk about is The Tap, which teaches people how to be a responsible steward, how to answer life’s great moments when God taps you on the shoulder and calls you to more. I’m not talking about more houses or more BADWATERs. I’m talking about more in the way of these spiritual blessings that we have and that… Caring House. You asked at the very beginning what will be on my headstone. It will have nothing to do with the houses. All the houses I built will be rubble, not cause I built ’em poorly. It’s just because over time the land renders the structure physically, functionally, economically obsolete and they tear ’em down. It’s gonna be the generational effect and impact we’ve had on the families of those 13,000 kids.
David Hirsch: Yeah. I think of all the things we’ve talked about besides family that probably is one of the more consequential accomplishments that you’ve had in your life to date. And I’m hoping that from your lips to God’s ears, that you’ll be able to continue to do more and more work, because that does have a generational impact because all those individuals, It’s a very small percentage of the Haiti population. 13,000 is a big number, but it’s a very small percentage of the Haiti population, are gonna have the ability to provide for themselves in many of those cases. And that means that they’re gonna be able to take care of their children and future generations in a way that might not have otherwise taken place.
Frank McKinney: And let’s be very clear that while I may believe in the welfare system, the entitlement system that’s put in place, I do not believe in the welfare mentality. So when we build our villages they are fully self-sustaining. And if you are a village elder and I’m building a village for you, I look you in the eye and say, when we’re done, we are not coming back ever. Never. We’re not there to help you. We’re not there to continue to support you with money. We’ve given you the 40 or 50 houses, the community center, the school, the church, the clinic, the renewable food, the clean drinking water and some form of free enterprise so you can be self-sustaining. Animal husbandry, a fishing cooperative, a nursery, sewing machines. And we’re not done with our 30th village. We’re 29 for 29, David. Nobody has called us saying, “Please help us. We need more.” If they did, I wouldn’t help ’em, because that just… Charity exacerbates poverty. Charity does nothing to solve poverty.
That’s why I refer to myself as a philanthro-capitalist. You take the best of philanthropy, which is the heart. You get rid of the worst, which is charity, in my opinion. You take the best of capitalism, which is money, and you get rid of the worst, which is greed. You marry the two together, you become a philanthro-capitalist, and you can change the world!
David Hirsch: You’re speaking my language now. I use some different terminology. I refer to it as social entrepreneur, which is taking for-profit ideas and bringing it to bear for the benefit of the community and essentially helping people help themselves. So anyway, we could have a whole other conversation about this.
Frank McKinney: We should someday, we should. Because it’s for the betterment of dads and their families to understand the responsibility that comes with social entrepreneurship, or in my case, philanthro-capitalism.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thank you again for sharing. Thank you for the work that you do. So in the fifth life aspiration which has to do with you having this vision of being a bestselling author, you don’t do anything in a small way. You have a way of thinking outside the box. That’s the way I might describe it, and really pouring your heart and soul into things. So the very first of your books was Make It Big: 49 Secrets for Building a Life of Extreme Success. If my recollection was correct, it came out in 2002. So more than two decades ago now. And I’m wondering what was it that motivated you write the book and what was the reaction to it?
Frank McKinney: So let’s back up. Why was being a bestselling author one of my life’s aspirations? I’m a big fan of the underdog, and when you come outta high school with a 1.8 GPA, the likelihood of you being a bestselling author is pretty remote. And I always enjoyed writing. I always felt I was pretty good at it. As I was succeeding, David, and I was succeeding in the late ’90s doing big spec houses then. Matter of fact, we sold the most expensive spec house in the history of Palm Beach County in 1998. So, we’re doing a lot of interviews and articles and key keynote speeches and also commencement speeches.
And I was giving a talk at one of those things, I don’t remember which one. And in my top pocket, I used to carry around a single sheet of paper that had 49 life philosophies that I lived by. And depending on the audience, if I’m doing a commencement speech to a 12th grade class I would pick five that might relate to them. If I talked in front of the Harvard Club, I would pick five that would relate to those guys and women. And one person came up to me and says, “Can I see that piece of paper? That’s pretty amazing that you’ve got these philosophies that you live by.” And I showed it to him and he says, “You should turn this into a book.” I literally had all 49 in a tiny little font on one sheet of paper.
So in 1998, I started writing the book. It was rejected by 60 different publishers. Matter of fact, not even a literary agent would take the book. But I always mentioned it when I was in the newspaper. And I was on the cover of USA Today in a loin cloth on top of some big rock outcropping on one of my houses, this $30 million house I’d built. And I mentioned in that article that I had an unpublished manuscript. Somebody from Wiley & Sons read that and said that guy seems pretty interesting. I’d like to take a look at your manuscript. They bought it and 4 years after all that rejection and just trying and trying, that book came out and it’s still the bestseller obviously, maybe cuz it’s the oldest. But it’s ahead of its time, David, because there’s 49 chapters that are about seven or eight pages long. That’s how people read today. The attention spans are so short. And it still has helped, tens of… well we’ve sold well over 250,000 copies. But people refer to that today. And I actually make a point every five years to reread that book because that’s how I was thinking in my thirties, and I don’t want to lose that way of thinking.
David Hirsch: Yeah. It’s a brilliant read and that was just the beginning, right? And I love the fact that you overcame the 4 years, 60 rejections, if you will, and somebody saw something in you, right? The people at Wiley saw something and took a chance, right? There’s no guarantees.
Frank McKinney: But you know what? That chance would’ve not been taken had I not been my own carnival barker, my own megaphone, my own ring master. I never stop. I will never stop doing it. I’m trying to instill that in my daughter. There’s 50,000 people out of a worldwide population of 8 billion that can afford what I do for a living. So when my mom asked me, “Why do you have to do these elaborate, theatrical stunts when you unveil your house?” I said, “Mom, I don’t come with the house. I’m the opening act. I get the hell out of the way. And then buyers come through the door.” There’s a method to the madness. It’s the same thing with the books. I had to continue. I believed in it. I’m not gonna stop. I don’t mind the rejections. But I’m gonna keep pushing it out there until somebody says, Frank, that’s a fantastic book, a fantastic idea.
David Hirsch: Yeah. It’s brilliant. And I guess what you’re saying is that you didn’t get a degree or a master’s in marketing, but I think you could write volumes of books on marketing.
Frank McKinney: Yes.
David Hirsch: It’s partly, and you talk about this, about differentiating yourself. Because there’s just so much that looks the same, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And if you’re not sticking out from the crowd, how will anybody know that you exist or that the product or services are out there?
Frank McKinney: So you’re speaking to the personal branding section of Aspire! Personal branding is nothing more than amplifying your essence to the point where your customers, either current or future, become subliminally intoxicated, with you first then your product or service. And it’s a must in today’s society, I don’t care what line of work you’re in. You’re not Coke, you’re not Pepsi, you’re not Apple. You’re David. I’m Frank. So I need to amplify the fact that my presence is in front of my product and then I get out of the way. And listen, plenty of sizzle, David. Plenty of flash. But if I didn’t have substance, I wouldn’t be talking to you 30 years later.
David Hirsch: Yeah. You wouldn’t know this, but I do have a master’s degree in marketing from Northwestern. And one of the very few things that I remember from that degree – this goes back 30+ years – is the best way to kill a bad product is with good marketing. And that’s what you just said.
Frank McKinney: Yeah.
David Hirsch: If it’s all sizzle and there’s no substance, that’s the best way to kill a bad product.
Frank McKinney: Very true.
David Hirsch: Is to get the message out quickly and so everybody finds out that there’s nothing there.
Frank McKinney: Yes.
David Hirsch: So anyway, so you wrote two books during COVID: Aspire! How to Create Your Own Reality and Alter Your DNA, which came out in 2021. And then the second book which just came out earlier this year, Adversitology: Overcoming Adversity when You’re Hanging on by a Thread. And I’d like just to ask you a couple questions about each of these books.
So I don’t know if it was connected to Aspire!, but you did something, and I don’t even know why you own a Yugo, but something called the “Yugo We-go Tour.” And first of all, what was that about? When did that take place?
Frank McKinney: Okay, so that was me doing some research for Aspire! That was during the peak of COVID. Really Adversitology came out after COVID was done. I wouldn’t say I wrote two of ’em during COVID but Aspire! was definitely during COVID. And I needed to get my finger on the pulse of Americana in terms of certain chapters in that book. There are two chapters in that book that are posed in the form of questions: What legacy do you aspire to leave behind? And the very end, share your Hebrews 13:2 story. We won’t get into that. But anyway so yeah, it was a 6,633-mile trip in my Yugo. For those of you who don’t know Yugos from the way David said, I don’t know why you own ’em. I have two of ’em. Because they’ve been rated one of the worst cars if not THE worst car ever made. And I’ve had one since 2006 and my convertible I have had for six or seven years. I did that whole pre-release tour in my 1988 Yugo that goes from zero to 60 in absolutely never. [David chuckling] And it forced me to slow down, obviously, and stopping in… I think we stopped in 24 cities to just take the… we, I don’t know who we is, me and my Yugo… to take the pulse of America. And some of the stuff that’s in that book is a result of that “Yugo We-go Tour.”
As a side note though, I’ve done well for myself so I don’t stay at Motel 6’s, I stay in really nice hotels. And I would pay the $50 to put that car up front. So here it’s parked next to the Ferraris and the Lamborghinis and the Mercedes, and there is this little Yugo that I had wrapped to look like it was found in a barn 30 years ago and neglected. This wrap I designed is very rusty. It’s patina… it’s hilarious. And that thing sitting in front of a Bentley and behind a Lamborghini was a sight to see so many people out there taking pictures of it. But that was the purpose of the “Yugo We-go Tour” is to take the pulse and have that reflected in my book, Aspire!
David Hirsch: Yeah. I love the book. There’s so many different things that we could discuss, but the things that stood out and we talked a little bit about emulation that was early in the book. There’s individuals that you emulated, right? You wanted to not be them or like them, but take some of the pages out of their playbook, if I can call it that. And then when you talk about legacy, the one that really touched me was about the legacy of service. And I’m wondering if you could drill down a little bit on that.
Frank McKinney: That question that I posed, “What legacy do you aspire to leave behind?” And I asked it of 100 people let’s say ranging from 16 years old all the way to 88 years old. It’s a morbid question. You really begin to think about your mortality and what have you done in your life. And it didn’t matter if it was leaving a beautiful herb garden or being the best builder of spec houses in the history of history. That legacy, more often than not, when I got the answer, was tied to some form of service.
It was beautiful the answers that I got! There was one man in Albuquerque who was maybe 19, 20 years old who said, I wanna leave a wake of empathy. I wanna leave a wake of empathy! When somebody read that they made bumper stickers, “Leave a wake of empathy” and they mailed me like 1,000 bumper stickers to pass out.
You know that legacy question, it is tough, but it’s easier to answer if you go backwards a little bit. And who do you aspire to emulate? If you can get to that answer, the whos – these are actual people or fictional characters in my case – do you aspire to emulate? That helps you answer that legacy question.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Let’s just leave it at that. There’s some amazing work that are included in the book Aspire!, and I can highly recommend it.
Tom Couch: We’ll be back with more of the conversation on the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast in just a few moments. But first, this quick message. Please help 21st Century Dads gather research on families raising children with special needs by having them complete the Special Fathers Network Early Intervention Parents Survey. A link to the survey can be found in the show notes. As a token of our appreciation, each person, mom or dad, who completes the survey will receive a Great Dad Coin. Thank you. Now back to the conversation.
David Hirsch: So the third book, and another book that I had a chance to go through from start to finish is the most recent book that came out earlier this year, Adversitology: Overcoming Adversity When You’re Hanging on by a Thread. And there’s this image on the cover of the book of a hand literally just hanging on by a thread. And I know that the person that does the covers to your book, you get the image first, and then you work on creating the book. So to make sure that the title… which is not very conventional way to do things. Usually you put a manuscript together, you shop the manuscript around and somebody else figures out what the title of the book is based on what might sell. So I know that your process is a little bit different, but it’s a very impactful cover. And before we get into it, I’ll mention that you dedicated the book to your friend Mike Magi, who died of AML about the same time that you were diagnosed with CML. And I’m wondering if you want to just speak to Mike for a moment.
Frank McKinney: Mike was on my crew at BADWATER. Mike was one if not my best friend. I remember even giving him the coveted BADWATER belt buckle that we win or we are awarded if you finish BADWATER. That’s like the Lombardi trophy. You walk around with a BADWATER buckle on, the Red Sea parts when you walk into a room full of runners. I gave him that. He had planned on being on my crew when I was gonna go back in ’21. I watched him fight the battle. I watched the whole process. I was there the day he died. And so I was that close to his family, and so I wanted… There was that guilt, David, that he had AML, I had CML, and I won’t say the word, I don’t say the word what I had. I choose not to give it any energy. Chapter 2 talks about disidentification and how to… the demons we fight are the demons we empower, the things we renounce are the things we give energy to. So I don’t say the words. So that’s why I dedicated it to him. And to this day, after I get communion at church, I always pray for a bunch of people in heaven, and then I always squeeze my hands just a little harder together because he meant that much to me when I pray for him.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. It’s palpable. Another thing that I remember, and this had to do with the prior conversation we had, you were still on your book tour, so it wasn’t that long ago. You went to 25+ cities. You were in prisons, drug rehab centers, homeless shelters, and I was like in disbelief when you told me that. I’m thinking you’re going to the Union League Club here in Chicago. You’re going to this club, you’re going to that club. You’re doing the book circuit in a more traditional way. And I’m wondering what was the idea behind the stops that you did and what were some of the takeaways, the experiences that you had?
Frank McKinney: So your listeners really must either buy a copy of the book or just go to Adversitology.com and look at that image. As you said, all my book covers, ALL my book covers, I design those and I come up with a title obviously. Design the book cover, write the back copy before I write the first word, because that part’s actually easy after you’ve done that.
So I always try to deliver on the promise of the title and that title, Adversitology: Overcoming Adversity When You’re Hanging on by a Thread, who might that apply to? It applies to everybody going through adversity, but in a very acute way, the homeless. So yes, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food pantries, detention centers, abused women’s facilities, veterans facilities, treatment facilities. Those are the people that need to hear the message of hope contained in Adversitology. Because David, financial, spiritual, relational, or physical adversities, we will all encounter them, but some of these people have encountered them in a big way. So yes, we did 26 homeless shelters, soup kitchens, et cetera, in 27 days over 4,300 miles delivering that message of hope.
And I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life. We’ve touched on a few of them. This is the top five, up there with BADWATER. Oftentimes I would walk into a room of 100 homeless people, 200 homeless people. By the way, I was in front of over 3000 on that tour. And I’m often, maybe not the only white guy in the room, but I’m in the super-minority. And to see the questions, that look of concern on the face of the, let’s call them, the guests. Here’s this guy, a white person with longer purpleish hair with these odd looking clothes. What in the world is he going to teach me or talk to us about? And to see their hearts melt like an ice cream cone in the middle of BADWATER, within seconds, they are absorbing. The spark turns into a sparkle in such a short period of time. It was something to behold.
There was an abused women’s facility. There’s 20 women there. I think okay, I can do that. But they all brought their kids, each of ’em had three kids! So there’s 3X… There’s 60 children, plus 20 women! And David there’s no stage. I’m standing on chairs, I’m standing on coolers. I’m thinking, there’s no way. These children, they’re gonna make my life… They listened! They weren’t understanding what I was saying, but they were so attentive. I turned to my… Obviously, by now your listeners know I’m a Christian. I turned to my guy who was traveling with me and I said, the Holy Spirit was present this whole time. How in the world did these 60 children sit perfectly still? And then when we’re done, it turns into chaos. So being able to deliver that message, to deliver that message of hope to people who really needed to hear it.
Last thing I’ve gotta tell your viewers, cuz this is something that was amazing. If you walked in the door at one of these talks, you were given a ticket, like a raffle ticket. And we made this thing like a very exciting game show. So let’s say there’s 100 people. There was 100 tickets passed out. There are nine winners. We always made sure there wasn’t just one winner. There was always nine winners. You had your choice. If you were a winner, you had your choice of cash money that you could walk out of that homeless shelter and buy drugs with, a gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or a grocery store that you can go buy food with, or a copy of Adversitology. 71% of the time they chose a copy of the book cuz they knew the book would feed their mind. The gift card would feed their stomachs for a day or two. The cash might feed a bad habit and they didn’t want to do it. That to me was mind blowing. I did this very same thing with Aspire! and the number was 64%. So it just goes to show you people want to feed their mind and everybody’s going through some form of adversity.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Brilliant. And just so many insights. Let me just also mention before I ask a question about the book so our listeners have a crystal clear idea. The book exists in a number of different formats, obviously a regular book, and then it’s also on Audible. I use the audible version. I don’t know what it’s like just to read the book because I listened to you talk in the third person. They’re both Nilsa and Laura’s perspectives, which I thought was brilliant which just demonstrates the relationship that you have with your wife, you have with your daughter, and the strength that your family has. And then you read from your journal entries from the experiences that you were going through at certain points in time in your battle with, we’ll call it the intruder.
The story, if I can just frame it, is your encounter with a life-threatening killer type of leukemia. You chronicle your experience with this life-threatening disease, and you broke it up into these chapters, which spell the word adversity. And I just want to dive into one of these because I think it relates to this audience. Remember, our primary audience are families raising children with special needs. And I can tell you almost to a person that this is the life they lead – hanging in by a thread, not knowing how they’re gonna get the strength to try to figure out how to move forward.
And many days it’s just trying to figure out how to get from one day to the next because the experience can be so overwhelming with a child, or in some cases multiple children with special needs. Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, rare disease, blind, deaf, missing a limb or limbs. And I’m wondering if you can talk about the chapter, the “I”. About “I Am Not Alone” and the importance of that.
Frank McKinney: Well David, special needs children and their parents. It’s the parents, right? It’s not the children. Children are some of the happiest people on Earth. I can only imagine accepting the fact I have a child with Down syndrome or some disability and then disidentifying and violating faith. You get to the “I Am Not Alone” chapter. So the “I Am Not Alone” chapter for me was the spiritual chapter. It was the chapter that spoke to my faith. Matter of fact, there’s a very peculiar disclaimer at the beginning of that chapter, if you remember, that says if anything I say in this chapter offends you because of… I am a Christian. I’m not gonna evangelize, I ain’t gonna throw the pulpit or throw the Bible down your throat. But I’m gonna talk to you about how my relationship and my faith with God helped get me through this and relate it to other times in my life when I felt very challenged by an adversity, or very alone other than Him.
First of all, framing. Everybody’s gonna go through adversity. If you have a child that has special needs, I would consider a blessing. I’m not here to compare one adversity over the other, but at the very beginning of the book, I talk about the adversitology quotient that says in the end we all pretty much suffer the same amount of adversity. The people that have special needs children, you know by now you’re not alone. You have a network of people around you. I’m leaving my faith out of the discussion for right now. You have your faith. It only amplifies the fact that you’re not alone. But that network of people… David, we must mention that I chose to tell nobody about my diagnosis. My family didn’t know. It was my wife, my daughter, my spiritual advisor, my therapist and my mom, cuz I needed my mom’s love. But my brothers and sisters didn’t know, my best friends didn’t know. At the beginning I felt alone because I chose to go through this by myself for a reason that you’ll have to read about in the book.
But then I realized that there He was, my God that was there to walk me through the valley, walk me through the low point of the valley. We’re all gonna walk through that valley, that low point. The valley of death is referred to in the Bible. I found solace in the fact, cuz I thought I was gonna die. My friend died, so I’m gonna die. I’ve had a good life. But I realized really early on, David, I was gonna die, but it wasn’t gonna be from that and wasn’t gonna be there. I needed God to help pull me through what was about a year and a half of hell. Again, it’s too bad this is audio only. This hair that I have, this is real, but there’s a picture in the book, which you didn’t get to see, where I’m pretty much bald! Like I’ve lost it all and I was wearing these goofy looking wigs. Thank God my hair is goofy looking to begin with because nobody could tell the difference. [David chuckling] So just know that as you’re, as… You already know this! You know you’re not alone. You have the network and if you choose to walk that walk with God, my goodness, is it a wonderful feeling to know that there’s somebody next to you as you walk through that valley!
David Hirsch: Yeah. I wish we had more time to go through the book in a little bit more detail, but I’m just gonna pick on one more aspect and it has to do with the “Every Single Day” chapter, the “E” in Adversitology. And the image that you used is the fellow who had this vision for creating Mount Rushmore by hand with a chisel, and it was like a 14-year endeavor. He didn’t get to see it finished, but it was finished by a family member from what I remember. And I’m wondering if you can emphasize what you were trying to get across, what message you were trying to get across by the “Every Single Day” message.
Frank McKinney: It’s so interesting that you bring that up today because my journal entry of yesterday… I’m an old man, like I’m getting up there and I love sharing my wisdom with my journal. And I realize that things in life happen so much quicker than you think they’re gonna happen. That the important thing is to get started. When I started training for BADWATER, I thought, I’ll never get there. When I walked my daughter to school on the first day, did I think I’d do it for 10 years? When I started these beautiful, big mansions, I thought, oh my God, this is gonna never get done.
And even writing a book, it’s 15 months from start to finish. So that story of Mount Rushmore, do you think that after even three months that he could make out the eyebrow in George Washington? There’s no perceptible progress, but if you just pack that lunch pail, in his case you pack that bag of tools, and you just show up day in and day out. And I’ll tell you, a guy with a 1.8 GPA, that’s all he can do. He can’t rely upon intellect. He’s gonna show up every day. And I look back, I’ll be 60 in June. I look back and I think all the things I did was just because of perseverance. Just four years to get that first book out there.
So I’m imploring people, if you’re going through adversity, there are certain things you must do “every” – that’s the “E” word in adversity – every single day. Now, here’s the feedback I’ve gotten. For me, that’s one of the easiest chapters because I’m pretty disciplined and I can stick to things every single day. For other readers, that’s the most difficult chapter. Frank, I just can’t. I just can’t. I wish I could, I wish I could. Do you know what the word “wish” represents? Anytime you find your conscious or subconscious, even verbally speaking the word “wish,” you’re not willing to put in the work. I wish I had a better car. I wish I had a bigger house. No, no, no! You’re just not willing to work for it! And in this case to get through this adversity, I wish this would end. Well, get to work! If it’s a physical adversity like mine, get to work. If it’s financial and you’re poor, get to work. If it’s relational, get the divorce over and move on with your life. And if it’s spiritual, call down the angels from heaven and move past it. So that’s what I was trying to implore. And I look back now, when my doctor said I’d have to be on this medicine for three years and I’m like, oh my God! I remember hitting rock bottom and I look at my sink, in the shower, the drain. It’s full of hair. It’s all behind me now because I applied the “every single day.”
David Hirsch: Yeah. It’s a must read for anybody who finds themself with more adversity than they might want to have or experience. So I’m thinking about advice now and I’m wondering if there’s advice you can share with parents, perhaps specifically dads, who are on a journey raising a child or children with special needs.
Frank McKinney: How about we stay inside of Adversitology and we talk about savoring everything and clinging to nothing? And again I’m trying to walk a mile in your shoes. I’ve never had your shoes on, and I understand if you say how dare he give advice to me when he doesn’t have a special needs child. But if I did, knowing what I know about savoring every moment with that child, and not clinging to the good days, the days where the acting out wasn’t present, that it seemed like you had a “normal” child. This is the hardest chapter for me to accomplish because I cling to the fact I’m a real estate artist, or I’m an ultramarathoner, or all these ego-identity things. You are not a parent of a special needs child. You’re a parent of a child! Don’t cling to the special needs aspect. It’s almost like the alcoholic, David, that after 10 years he still raises his hands and says, hi, my name’s David, I’m an alcoholic. Why do you keep associating with that? You’re not an alcoholic. You haven’t had a drink for 10 years. You’re not an alcoholic anymore. Okay? I love AA, but I think that’s the most flawed concept I’ve ever heard. The same thing with a special needs. You’re the benefit of a special child. So savor that and don’t cling to any part of their growth or lack thereof, and you’ll find yourself combining that approach with the “I am not alone” and almost every day you’ll see as a blessing. Cuz some day will come when neither he, she nor you will be around to savor that.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks. I think it’s maybe easier to say or talk about and like you said, to implement or to execute on that. Maybe take some experience or some practice.
Frank McKinney: Yep.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Frank McKinney: Let’s just close with maybe a quote out of my first book and one out of Aspire! My first book, Make It BIG, talks about exercising your risk tolerance like a muscle. Eventually it will become stronger and able to withstand greater pressure. It doesn’t matter if you’re the head of the Tupperware Club or you are a base jumper and love parachuting every day. Life involves risk. And believe it or not, I was pretty risk adverse when I first left the tennis court and got into real estate. But as I exercised my risk tolerance like a muscle, my risk threshold, it became stronger and to the point where doing a $50 million house felt no different than doing a $50,000 house. So exercise that risk tolerance like a muscle.
And then I mentioned already each one of us who’s listening to this is blessed with the ability to succeed at some level, and those blessings aren’t meant for your sole benefit to put more cars in your garage, clothes in your closet, food in your pantries. Drop back to if you’re agnostic, atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew… “To whom much is entrusted, much is required” is a great life mantra. If you’re a Christian, it happens to be a passage in the Bible, Luke 12:48. I think that those two things have gotten me further than any other practice in my life.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. Pearls of wisdom. Let’s give a special shout out to your colleague Pamela Leland, and Dr. Richard Shuster who is Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast interviewee #105, for helping connect us.
Frank McKinney: Oh, yes! Thank you, Richard. That’s right.
David Hirsch: If someone wants to learn about your work, your books, to contact you, what’s the best way to do that?
Frank McKinney: So, PC Mag – not PC Magazine, they call it PC Mag now – a couple years ago called my website “Disney on a desktop” [David laughing] because you can go there and you can… We’ve been talking about my books. There’s free chapters to read. There’s free audible chapters you can listen to. You can go take tours of the houses I’ve built. You can go take tours of the villages we’ve done in Haiti. You can read up on what’s happened in BADWATER. There’s videos there. So I’m gonna give ’em the easiest thing to remember. And if you go here, you can go to the dropdown tabs, and go to all these places. Adversitology.com. Go to Adversitology.com. Of course, you’ll land on the Adversitology page. You can read about that. But then if you’re not interested in that, go up to the top. Oceanfront Artistry, BADWATER stories, other books, Caring House Project work in Haiti, where there’s a whole interactive map you can see. So I think the best thing to do is just use Adversitology, which is a made up word, by the way. It’s a great word. I made it up. It just seems to work. Go to Adversitology.com and you can take… it’s like visiting that Disney on a desktop.
David Hirsch: Okay. We’ll be sure to include that and some other information in the show notes, so it’ll make it as easy as possible for somebody to follow up with you. Frank, thank you for your time and many insights. As a reminder, Frank’s just one of the dads who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. As you probably know, 21st Century Dads Foundation’s a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax-deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support. Frank, thanks again.
Frank McKinney: Thank you.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other dads. To find out more, go to 21stCenturyDads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to Facebook.com, groups, and search “dad to dad.” Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David@21stCenturyDads.org.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch.
Thanks again to Horizon Therapeutics who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics at HorizonTherapeutics.com.