EP 96: Divorced, Happy & Successful - Interview with W Marc Watts, Divorce Coach

marc-watts-divorce-coach

"I have one hard and fast rule and it’s simply this: Always do your best. That’s my motto everyday that I wake up with respect to everything that I do, and especially with respect to being a part of team BJ [his son] and making sure I’m engaged and giving him everything I have everyday.” - W Marc Watts

We have the honor and pleasure of interviewing W Marc Watts. He has an incredible personality, and this episode will help you look at divorce - and your life - in a much more positive light. This is an inspirational episode and one of the most exciting interviews yet!

To learn more about W Marc Watts:

Website: www.wmarcwatts.com

Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/divorce/id962220391

Twitter: @wmarcwatts

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/divorcedhappysuccessful/

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Shawn: Today on the show I have with me W Marc Watts. He is a divorce coach and podcaster just like me. He has a great podcast called Divorced, Happy and Successful. W Marc Watts, welcome to the show.

W Marc: How are you doing Shawn? I’m happy to be here. I’m excited and ready to get going.

Shawn: Excellent. Well I am glad to have you. Why don’t you just warm us up. Tell us a little bit about where you’re from, your family, and just a little bit of background into your divorce and when that happened. Set the stage for us.

W Marc: I’m originally from South Carolina. So I am a southern gentleman. I take that title very seriously. I only have one kid right now. I’ve been divorced almost twelve years now. Up here in the great city of Detroit since my divorce, a lot of things have transpired. The main reason why I do what I do now –there’s multiple reasons –number one is just my past. My parents divorced when I was seven years old. Literally, my mom never spoke to my dad. When I say never, I mean never. I think I saw my mom speak to my dad or say something to him once after their divorce. That left an impression on me.

When I found myself in a position where my marriage wasn’t working and it was ultimately going to end in divorce, I wanted it to be something different. I didn’t quite know what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but I knew that was not going to be my future. So we just got the wheels turning and one thing led to another, and I just realized that when I look back on my life I was not hindered. My parent’s divorce did not hurt me in the traditional sense of the word that everyone thinks. I realized that I was really blessed in so many different ways. I ultimately just decided that I want to reshape the conversation of divorced families; parents and kids. I just want to help, because there’s a lot that I’ve been through, I have a lot to share, I’ve overcome a lot of things, and I just want to share that love with the world. So that’s why I do what I do and that’s why I decided to create the podcast. My podcast is just about that; specifically, for divorced parents. How do I live just a wonderful life in spite of my divorce and in spite of the things that are going on around me? How do I still be great? How do I live well? How do I be happy? Those are all things that I aspire to do on a daily basis, and I know that I’m not the unicorn in the room. I know many divorced parents want that very same life for themselves. So I figured I’d toss my hat in the ring and go for it. So that’s what brought me here.

Shawn: I think that’s a great introduction. Also, part of the appeal actually of why I wanted to have you on the show. Just from listening to your podcast you come with a very positive and energetic energy. You can even hear it in your voice especially when it’s coming with and dealing with, for most people, for everyone, an extraordinarily difficult topic. You’re one of the few lively and helping people with a very positive attitude, trying to help people through the divorce process.

W Marc: That’s the key Shawn. That energy and that attitude, it colors and flavors everything you do, regardless of what it is. I know what’s successful for me, I know what works for me, I know what works for other people that I deal with, I know what’s successful through people I observe, and I know what works for people who are even a lot more happy and successful sooner than me. I just try and learn and take my experience, roll it up into a ball, and I make it and use it everyday so I know it works. I know if works for me it will work for other people too. That’s the root of it. It’s how you look at things. You’ve got to really start with a positive attitude. That’s where it all starts.

Shawn: I always want to make these interviews –particularly yours –have some action steps, some insights that people can take away from hearing you. Let’s take a few scenarios and get some advice from you. Let’s say you’re getting divorced and you’re in the divorce process, what are the first steps that you should be taking or first step that you should take to start helping you recover from often the deep lows to start transitioning to and through the healing process?

W Marc: It’s very simple Shawn, for me. I’ll try to break it down as simple as I possibly can. Imagine that you’ve just been hit, someone hit you with punch. It wasn’t a light punch. It was a very hard, tough punch. I don’t know about you but I’m not a boxer. If someone hits me pretty hard, it hurts. Now, what happens after I get hit is I have to evaluate. I have to stop, look, and see what happened. Am I still standing? Am I bleeding? Do I need to take a seat? What’s really going on. Do I even have my faculties? I’ve got to really just evaluate what’s going on. In the real world there’s roughly three places that you have to evaluate right away.

Finances, which I know you know very well because you talk about it and teach principles regarding finances. Your relationships; where is my family, where is my support. Then, my health. How healthy am I? Am I able to withstand this stress. Do I physically have ailments that are hindering what I’m attempting to accomplish? You’ve got to evaluate those three places and I always suggest to everybody to take the place of greatest need. They all typically will not be the same, or have the same sense of urgency. Usually there’s one that you really need to address, and it will stand out to you. Take that one spot and then figure out what you need; whether you need to get more knowledge, whether you need to get more help, or whether you need to just redo that whole area of your life. Start to focus on that immediately. That is exactly the process that I went through and that’s exactly the process that I take with everyone that I work with through as well.

Shawn: I think that’s excellent advice and probably the best way I’ve heard anyone ever break down the three major areas as you go through the divorce process and start transitioning to the other side. Looking back, what were some of the mistakes that you made and maybe wish you could have corrected, or maybe even still make today?

W Marc: The biggest one, as soon as I saw this it was obvious what I wanted to talk about here. My biggest mistake was communication. So much so that nothing else is even close. That is a constant work in progress for me. Here’s the reason why I was able. Sometimes you do things and you don’t really know why you did them. For example, I did not make a serious attempt to communicate more of the details of my life or what I was doing and what my plans were with my former spouse, simply because I didn’t think it was that important to her. She didn’t outwardly show that she had an interest, concern, or even needed to know things about what I was really intending to do. That gave me the impetus to say, “Okay, I won’t communicate these things. I will just do things.” So that, in and of itself is really the first thing that comes to my mind. If I could do it again I would start sooner with a different outlook on how I communicated with her regardless of how she communicated back to me, or reciprocated my attempts to communicate with her. The other side of it is I would look for how she is responding to me and then I could read things into that. It’s not always a warm reception. Not that she’s being mean, but its just not what you would expect when I extend my hand in friendship. So that flavored how I responded or continued to communicate with her. Over time I grew and learned and I’m challenged by my mentors, you figure out how to respond to things. Then, I started to realize that it was and is important regardless of what her response is. What I found is that higher level of communication really started to help our relationship especially in regards to dealing with our son.

Communication by far for me, was the key. I’m getting better at communicating and that is the things that I will work on for the rest of my life. In my post divorce life, it was huge, but I’ve realized how important it is in every facet of my life. It was a lesson for my post divorce life, but it was a lesson for my life as a whole, and that one thing has helped me in so many different ways.

Shawn: I want to ask a follow up of that without getting too specific. What’s an example of a time you where you should have communicated, but you didn’t? It can be something everyday or just on a basic occurrence, just to give people something a little bit more concrete to think about.

W Marc: Absolutely. A year and half after our divorce –of course we’re not living together –I lost my job. I was laid off. I was in the mortgage industry and it was the onset of the latest recession. The company I was working for closed, so I lost my job. At that time, I was in Charlotte, North Carolina which is one of the banking capitals in the United States. The mortgage industry was really diving. No one was hiring and it was very difficult for me to find a job. It seemed that things in Atlanta were still working. At that time, I had been in the mortgage industry for seven or eight years. It was very difficult to transition out of that at the drop of a dime.

I made a decision that I needed to move to Atlanta to try and stay in the mortgage industry and provide for myself and my son because at that time I was unable to provide and I was unable to find a job. So I made the decision to move. Well, I moved I and think minimally I communicated the fact that, “Hey, I’m moving to Atlanta.” So I did not make the effort. I was no wise enough to explain to her the situation and the predicament, to explain what the outlook would be and how I still envisioned my support for my son and how we would manage that. Those are things that kind of trickled in after the fact that we were able to work through. When I look back, I would have felt much more comfortable If I had taken the time to sit down, lay it out for her and then get any feedback that she had at the time, so that I could really move forward with a clear conscience, and we both could be more on the same page. We’re still part of the team. I call it team DJ; DJ is my sons name. We always have to keep that in mind and I always have to make sure that I am doing my part as a member of that team.

Shawn: I think that’s a great explanation. Let’s transition actually to speaking about your son and more parenting in general. There’s a perception for a lot of people that divorce is always bad for your children. What do you think about that? Do you think that’s true? Not true? How have you navigated that process with your son?

W Marc: First and foremost, I definitely cannot agree with a blanket statement of how divorce affects children. Is it the best case scenario for children? Absolutely not. I’m on board with that. Again, I’m one of four kids. When I look at myself and my three older sisters, we have all maintained good lives. We’ve never been in jail, we all graduated, we all have some sort of higher education whether it be college or technical school, we’re all gainfully employed, we’re all loving individuals and three of us have kids. When I think about people saying divorce negatively affects kids I do my research, I do my homework, and that’s one thing that I’ll always do. Always rely on what I can figure out and experience and what I know as opposed to just what someone’s saying, talking loud, or just that you see it so much that it must be true. I look across the landscape, not only in my family, but in my environments; my friends, families of friends, I talk to people, I observe, and I look at the whole landscape. Could it be a bad situation for a kid? Absolutely.

Parents who are married can have such a toxic environment as well, that can be bad for kids. It’s not solely because of divorce. It’s more about the individual situation, the environment, and their major influences. Then again, part of that is on the kid as well. Of course age is a factor, of course you can’t expect a three, five or seven year old to really have a lot to do with that process. As the kid starts to get older they develop things that they learn, and so then they become a part of the equation also. Divorce being negative across the board, I will never agree with that because I’ve lived it, I’ve seen it, and I’ve talked to so many other people and worked with so many other people where I’ve seen the contrary.

Shawn: While we’re on that path I want to talk about a negative that I hear, or that many people read about in society which is that being a divorced dad is a bad thing, you’re not a good parent, and maybe you’re a failure in some regard. Why don’t you address that?

W Marc: I take exceptions with that one as well simply because again, I do my research, I look back on my path, I look at my present, and I talk to and see men of all colors, shapes, and sizes across the landscape and I say, let me evaluate this. What do I see? What do I feel? What’s my gut? What’s the energy behind that topic? Yes, are there some fathers who do a real crappy job in their post divorce lives? Absolutely. On the flip side, are there fathers who do a really good job, and they work hard at it? Absolutely. So that’s the angle that I always approach it with. You’ve got two sides to this coin. By and large though, my research shows that the numbers are, more men work hard, do their best, care about their kids than the ones who don’t. And so that’s what we really have to focus on. In terms of how I really deal with it on my personal level, and how I suggest that the people that I work with deal with it is, I have one hard and fast rule and it’s simply this. Always do your best. That’s my motto everyday that I wake up with respect to everything that I do, and especially with respect to being a part of team DJ and making sure I’m engaged and giving him everything I have everyday.

Now, when I know that I’m doing my very best every single day, I’m not concerned with what anybody else has to say, I’m not concerned with statistics, I’m not concerned with what tomorrow’s going to bring, I’m definitely not concerned about what happened yesterday because that’s over and I can’t do anything about it. There’s a quote floating around and I’m not sure who said it. It was simple put like this, “Someone else’s opinion of me is not my business.” And I live by that motto. My first rule of every single day is always do my best. Shawn, as long as I know I’m doing my best, there is nothing else I can do, and that’s how I go to bed every night. I give it everything I have and I go to sleep. When my feet touch the floor the next day I start it all over again. What am I going to do to give my best today? When I know I have that clear of a conscience about what I’m doing everyday –and that’s not to say I don’t make mistakes because trust me I’ve made my share of mistakes and I still make mistakes to this day and I know I’m going to make mistakes as long as I’m a human being, that’s part of the journey –when I fall short, how do I give my best from this point forward. That’s what I live on and that’s the way I’m going to keep it until I’m no longer here in this plane.

Shawn: So how have you navigated parenting and team DJ, when you’re not in the same house everyday?

W Marc: It’s really forced me to do these two things; plan and schedule. It’s really made me a much better planner. It’s really made me look in the future. It’s really made me consider his feelings. It’s really made me consider his mom’s feelings. It’s really made me consider, how do we structure this so that we can give equitable time, we can share vacations, he can visit here, I can visit there. He has everything that he needs. It really just starts from a physical standpoint; clothing, food, health insurance, all the way down to the emotional side the spiritual side. How do I do that? How do I teach him those things? How do I support him when he gets a D? Which he did a few years back, and now he can’t be on the basketball team. What’s that look like? I just don’t want to run into that head first and then just find myself lost. I was able to figure out that you now have to look at this thing as a parent, very seriously.

You’ve got to start scheduling things out more consistently because that’s a key for kids in post divorce lives. Many of them are more successful when you’re able to have a more consistent schedule, regardless of what that schedule is. You need to come up with some kind of schedule that they can rely on because now you can start to build on everything else around that; practices, recitals, school, doctors visits, what have you. Start to build a schedule so that now, it’s a lot easier for you to manage that schedule as needed. Planning again, can’t emphasize that enough. The saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Shawn: That’s right.

W Marc: You’ve got to start with the plan because if something needs to be adjusted or doesn’t work you have something to start with. Now you can make that tweak and adjustment, and it’s a lot easier as opposed to being just haphazard. You don’t know you are, she doesn’t know where she is, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and now everyone is in a tizzy and a chaos than if you just had something simple that you could communicate it. Now you’ve got a totally different conversation. Those are two key areas right there. The other one is just staying connected. What does connected mean? It’s more than communication. Connected is when you truly have empathy for the other side, the other party; you truly understand and you’re engaged.

I start my morning every morning with a morning text to my son. “Good Morning. How are you doing?” Usually I’ll say champ or say something funny, or I’ll send him a picture. I want him to know, as soon as he wakes up that morning. That text usually goes out about six, or six thirty. As soon as he wakes up I want him to see on his cell phone, dad saying good morning to me. So that’s a way to stay connected right away. Let him know that you’re there, you thinking about them, make them feel the love. You try to eradicate being outside of that home. The way you do that is you connect with them, “How was your day?”, “What’s going on in school?”, “Hey I saw this happen, what’s up with that test score?”, “How did basketball practice go?”, “How’s your girlfriend?”, “How’s Isabella?”, everything and anything you need to talk about.

You just stay so connected that they, number one, know you’re there and number two, that you’re engaged, you’re curious, you’re asking questions, and then I always open the table up and say, “Hey, anything you need to know from me?”, “Anything bothering you?”, “Anything on your mind we need to discuss?” and then I also constantly offer things that are going on in my life; “Hey, I’m doing this interview with Shawn tonight.”, “Hey, I’m working on my website.”, “Hey I’m doing this with my business.”, “I’ve got an interview over here.”, “I’m doing a meeting here.” Keep them incorporated in what you’re doing so that there is no gap. It’s in the gaps where things fall apart. So I they to eliminate as many of those gaps as I possibly can. That’s what I mean when I say stay connected.

Shawn: I think that’s awesome advice. For the people who are listening right now, perhaps overwhelmed, some of them just thinking about divorce, some of them just filing and might have a very long road ahead of them before this process is over, what advice or words of encouragement do you have for them?

W Marc: Oh there’s several things Shawn. Number one is, you have to remember that this is temporary. Even though it doesn’t look like it right now, because many of us go through years; one, two, five, ten years of this relationship degradation. So now, when we get to the point where we are now where it’s really going to take that shift, or take that bit of finality as far as the paperwork drawn, it seems like it’s such a long road to hope, it seems like it’s going to last forever, but it’s temporary, it’s once chapter in your life. It’s a relationship that’s actually ending and changing.

If you look back in your lives there have been relationships that no longer are a part of your life right now, so you’ve had this experience before. There’s a lot more emotion potentially involving this particular transaction. Get that, but it’s still at its core as a relationship that is now changing. Once this is written, you have to be willing to flip the page. The other piece is that, it does get better. Sometimes it can be a nightmare. It can be rough. You get lawyer involved and you get the constant bickering and fighting, and sometimes the kids are part of it and they’re thrown in the middle, they’re emotional. It can get really ugly. But again, it’s temporary, it’s going to get better. It might get worse before it gets better. Trust me it does get better. The emotions start to swell. You can’t stay that upset over a long period of time. At some point you’re either going to wear yourself out, our you’re going to get smarter and do something different. One of the two of those things are going to happen, and I know that your audience is real smart. They would pretty much want things to get better, and that’s where I want to focus. How do we make things better? I have another saying that I always write it down. I have it in my home and I keep it in my email all the time. I think the Dalai Lama said this but I’m not sure. It’s “Be right or be kind.” You make a decision. For me I make it simple. There is no choice. I’d much rather be kind than be right. I’m going to stay on the side of progress. If we focus on being right all the time you are going to bump your head on the wall so many different times. People aren’t interested in being right. Some people aren’t even interested in being kind. I know I sleep better, I feel better, I get more accomplished when I’m kind, and that’s what I live by, and that’s what I always try and go back to as much as possible.

The last thing was super huge for me, a mentor early on brought this to my attention, a few years after my divorce he just told me, “Accept 100% responsibility for everything in your life.” Now my eyes are wide awake like, whoa, what do you mean by that? What’s going on? That’s one thing that has really transformed my life more than anything else. Not that I blamed everybody for everything else in my life up until that point, but the negative things we tent to not want to take full responsibility for.

Let me go a little deeper with that. Often times when I say that, I have people in the crowd who say, “Mr. Watts, my wife cheated on me”, “My husband walked out and took all of our money.”, “He wanted a new young thing at his office.”, “So and so was a drug addict”, “So and so was an alcoholic. How am I responsible for that?” Great question, and here’s the answer. You’re not responsible for that person’s actions. Your responsibly lies in the fact that you attracted that relationship into your life. The responsibility comes when you now have to reevaluate and say “I am a part of these types of relationships, what do I now have to do differently in my life, to get a better result?” That’s the responsibility. In still accepting 100% responsibility, yes I was in that relationship, now this has happened, I see it, and how do I move forward in a different direction if I want a different result? That’s the responsibility. So regardless of what has happened to us there’s always a responsibility. Whether you’re the perpetrator or whether in this case it’s your job to take the lesson and do something different going forward.

Shawn: What is the best place for people to learn more about you, and to listen to the podcast, and all your other resources? How do they find you?

W Marc: So the website is www.wmarcwatts.com, podcast is on iTunes, it’s Divorced Happy and Successful. Of course there’s several other places, I think it’s on iHeart radio; really trying to broadcast that thing out to as many places as I can. iTunes is the main place to catch that; as far as learning more about me and what I do, right now.

I’m just focused on my coaching services and different meetings. I really just want to connect with more and more people, share what I know, do what I can to help, and that’s just where I’m playing right now. So if anyone is really interested, really ready to take another step to have something different or have something that they’ve dreamed about, and make their life easy. I just want to have such a peaceful life. Peace just doesn’t happen because you wake up in the mornings and you just want it to be. There are things that you have to do every single day. It’s work. I don’t sugarcoat it with anyone that I work with.

Having what you want, being happy, doing the things that you’re responsible for on a daily basis, managing things when they happen in your life, that requires work. We’re going to work but I’m going to have fun. We’re going to enjoy it, and I’m going to do the very best I can to love any an everyone that I come into contact with. That’s what I would impress upon your listeners. At the end of the day it’s all about love and as long as you are connected to love and living from a place of love, being kind and forgetting about your mistakes because we’re going to make them, the bumps in the road are going to happen, there’s no way to get around them so understand that you can deal with them, you’re built for it, and let’s just have a ball and really accept how blessed we all are. That’s what I’m all about, that’s what I’m engaged in. I just really want to reach out to people and connect with them, and just really enjoy this journey. There’s so much greatness going on that it’s just overflowing. I just want to kind of touch someone and hopefully something that I’m doing and feeling will rub off on them.

Shawn: W Marc Watts, it’s been an honor and a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you so much for doing this.

W Marc: Shawn, it was a pleasure. Thank you for having me on to the show man. I’m looking forward to working more with you in the future.

Thank you for listening to the Divorce and Your Money Show. Visit us at www.divorceandyourmoney.com for a full transcript of this episode. You will also find 1-on-1 coaching and be sure to check out the NEW courses Steps to Take Before Divorce and How to Get a Divorce without Losing Everything.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.