While he's not passing the ball to his favorite wide receiver, NFL great Kurt Warner is passing along life lessons to his seven children.
Arguably one of the best quarterbacks of this generation, Warner led the St. Louis Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999 when he was also named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, and again in 2001. In 2008, he led the Arizona Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl berth. Warner retired from the NFL in 2009 after a 12-year career. Post-NFL, he appeared on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2010 and this month, Warner will host a new reality TV show, "The Moment" on USA Network, in which he surprises people with the opportunity to pursue their dream job and answer their life long question of "what if."
Warner with is his wife, Brenda, live in Arizona with their seven children Zachary, Jesse Jo, Kade, Jada Jo, Elijah, and twins Sienna and Sierra. I had the opportunity to catch up with him about his new TV show, raising kids and balancing it all.
How do you explain your fame to your kids?
"We explain our circumstances by telling our kids that often times there are burdens that come with blessings. When you have money, there are a lot of people who would love to have some. When you have a high position at work, it unquestionable comes with pressure. When you have fame, it often comes with recognition and the solicitation of your attention. But, all of these situations must be balanced by looking at both sides of the equation. You can't simply separate the burdens and allow it to dampen your outlook in particular situations, you must always keep them in the context of the blessing that goes with them. We let them know often that the position we have and the way we are blessed to live comes from the life God has chosen to give us and we must always remember that the blessings far out weigh the burdens. If we were to look at the singular moments of being interrupted, asked for autograph, approached by media, etc. we could spend a lot of time dealing with frustration. But, I often try and let them see the blessing that comes from these situations, such as the chance to impact another's life, a platform to display character, or the chance to influence the way an article is written about me simply because I offered a little bit of time."
When you were playing football and now with your new reality TV show, how did you/do you balance it all?
"For me balance has taken on a different meaning than it used to. I used to think balance was equal time for all the different things I was doing, but all this did was run me ragged trying. I've realized that no matter how few things you may do in life, there is no way for life to be balanced or equal in regards to time. So I have come to look at balance from the perspective of equal effort, not equal time. There is no way if you work eight hours a day, that you can get eight hours of sleep and eight hours with your family, it's just not going to happen. But there is a way to make sure you give the same attention to each of your priorities for whatever amount of time you may delegate to each. For instance, when I am at work I give it everything I have to be excellent at it. That may be for eight hours. Then I come home and may only have a good solid hour of time to spend with my kids, so I make a conscience effort to make sure that my kids get the same attention that I applied at work. When I am with my kids my focus is on being an excellent father, that means making sure for that hour I truly connect with my kids, I give them good quality time."
What advice do you have for families when one of the parents travels a lot for work?
"Having been and continuing to lead a lifestyle that requires time away from home, this is never an easy thing. I would tell a family that must deal with the travel of one of the parents, is to first sit down and discuss why mom/dad must be away. The importance it plays in that person's career and financial success. I believe just that understanding from the children can go a long way. From there I would tell the family to make a conscious effort to make the kids a priority as often as possible. Go out of your way to be at your son/daughter's game or school activity when possible so they never feel your career not only takes you away from them, but is also more important. No job is worth losing a quality relationship with your family, but we also can't all lead a life where we can work from home. As I spoke about above when it comes to balancing life, it must be weighed in terms of quality over quantity and no where have I realized this is more important than when you must spend a lot of time away from home."
How do you and your wife, Brenda, divide your time among all of your children?
"Having seven children is one of the greatest blessings in my life. But as most can imagine juggling the lives and activities of seven kids with differing hobbies and personalities can be chaotic. One of the things we have done in raising our children is making a rule in the house that they can only be involved in one outside activity (sports, drama, etc.) at a time. By doing this it allows the kids to branch out and develop their skills and passions, but it doesn't eliminate our family time and we don't have to spend the majority of our time together in a car. We make sure that our kids have their own things, but we also feel it is extremely important to have time (daily if we can) together focused on our family unit. I feel it allows us as parents to enjoy our kids and not feel like we are just chauffeurs. It may not be the right approach for every family, but I do believe as our children grow it is important for them to have a healthy dose of both family oriented activities and individual activities."
What have you learned since becoming a father and what have your kids taught you about life?
"The biggest thing I've learned since having children is what 'love' really is. We throw around the word love all the time, but I think often times it is out of context. One of the most amazing characteristics of love is that it transforms us from a self-serving person to a serving person. Before having children and a family I spent most of my time focused on what I wanted and my daily life was centered around how to accomplish that. Now, I would gladly sacrifice my goals for the sake of my children. I would gladly give up a successful career to make sure I get quality time with my kids. They make my world go round and I wake up every day excited about being a father and having the responsibility of showing them what true love looks like. They have taught me, more than anything else, that the most important thing in life is loving one another. They don't care how much money I make, how many records I hold, or how many people recognize me, all they care about is knowing that they have a family that loves them."
Do you encourage your kids to play sports?
"I encourage my kids to do whatever it is that makes them happy. My wife and I definitely encourage being healthy and active. We encourage all activities that will help in this process, but we are more about allowing our kids to find those activities that make them feel alive and encouraging those. Up to this point sports has been those activities for my two youngest boys. But we have had singers, actors, dancers, artists, musicians. We love to watch our kids come into their own when participating in activities with their peers and we know there are many different ways of doing that, so our encouragement is always to push our kids to find their thing. It doesn't have to be what your brother or sister does and it doesn't have to be what your mom or dad want, find what makes you happy and then do it with all your heart."