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“Being a good parent means teaching your children all about your successes, and more importantly, about your mistakes” with Denise Gosnell and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

To me, being a good parent means teaching your children all about your successes, and more importantly, about your mistakes. I want my daughter to become better than me, to take what I have done and build upon it and have a fast track to avoiding the same mistakes that I’ve made. For example, my […]


To me, being a good parent means teaching your children all about your successes, and more importantly, about your mistakes. I want my daughter to become better than me, to take what I have done and build upon it and have a fast track to avoiding the same mistakes that I’ve made. For example, my daughter knows from my mistakes that you should never pursue a career just for the sake of the money, and that happiness is far more important in the scheme of life. Of course, there is nothing wrong with finding a career you love that also pays well, but if you must pick, choose happiness over money.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Gosnell. Denise owns 3 companies: a coaching/training company, a law firm, and a real estate company. Through her company, The Vacation Effect, Inc. (www.vacationeffect.com), Denise helps busy entrepreneurs and executives learn how to use some unconventional scheduling and growth strategies to grow their business by working up to 40% less and having a lot more fun. In fact, those same strategies are what allow Denise to work an average of just 3 days per week running her 3 companies in 3 different industries, while having 2 business days per week for any creative or other pursuits she desires. But life wasn’t always like this for Denise, who used to be a workaholic spending 80 hours per week running her companies. Denise has been featured in dozens of media outlets over the years, from television, radio, newspaper, magazines, blogs, and more. She also has a new book and podcast coming out in late 2019 called “The Vacation Effect”.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

As the daughter of a scrap-dealer, my parents taught me and my 4 brothers the importance of perseverance, being kind to others, and standing up for what you believe in. We didn’t always have a lot, but we shared what we had with others. I was teased as a kid for being poor — for not having the nicest clothes, or the nicest house. At a young age, I was driven to succeed so no one could ever tease me again. All I ever wanted was to be a millionaire and thought that was the secret to happiness. Long story short, I became addicted to the success ladder and growing my companies, and temporarily lost sight of what really matters in life. That is, until one day, everything changed for the better.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

On June 20, 2011, there was a terrible storm, and my house was struck by lightning. Shortly thereafter, I heard a knock at the front door. My life was about to change forever. Standing before me was a fireman, informing me that my house was on fire. He then asked me the most powerful question I’ve ever been asked in my life. He said, “What do you want us to retrieve in the next 5 minutes before your house is destroyed by fire and water?

What surprised me more than the fire itself was how I answered the fireman’s question. As my 8,000 square foot dream house was burning, I asked the fireman to retrieve all sentimental things, and surprisingly not the expensive stuff.

I had been working 80 hours per week running my 3 companies (a law firm, coaching and training company, and a real estate company). So, there I was, the “unhappy millionaire”. I was providing a wonderful lifestyle for my family, but there was one thing missing — ME. I was there physically, but I was never truly “present”. I had been working non-stop doing work I hated to pay for a bunch of “stuff” that I didn’t even care about when it was burning. My then 5-year-old daughter was growing up way too fast, and I didn’t want to look back with regret.

After the fire, I stopped doing work that I hated and started doing work I enjoy. I focused on being a lot more “present” with my loved ones and cherishing our time together. But I still hadn’t figured out the seeming contradiction — how to have plenty of free time AND have a great income.

I was stuck…until one day I was inspired to try a certain time experiment. The results of the experiment astounded me. I made more money that year and had surprisingly worked 40% less. But more importantly, I was truly happy — the happiest I had ever been. I reverse engineered exactly what I did that worked, which included a combination of forced hyper-efficiency, time hacking, delegation hacks, and mindset shifts.

These powerful principles are now what allow me to be a 7-figure entrepreneur who runs my 3 companies by working an average of just 3 days per week in the trenches of those companies.

I’m forever grateful for the lightning bolt from God that turns out to have been the best gift that I have ever received.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

When I’m not traveling, I arrange my schedule to run my companies on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I keep Tuesday and Thursday for myself for whatever brings me the most joy. I call those business days my “Freedom Days”.

On my Freedom Days, I don’t schedule any meetings or work in my companies, but instead allow myself to wake up and say: “What do I want to do today that will bring me the most joy?”. My life has become so much more fulfilling now that I have made space for whatever makes me happy, which includes spending a lot more time with my family and friends.

When I’m traveling, I just adjust my schedule to give myself Freedom Days on the other days that I’m not traveling, so that I get an average of 8 business days per month for myself. Now, in order to make this schedule work long term, I did have to include a 2-hour emergency buffer on the Freedom Days so that I could have a placeholder for handling company emergencies, when they happen to arise. But if they don’t come up, that time is all mine. And if a true emergency does come up in my companies on a Freedom Day, I give that time back to myself on another day.

Let me ask you an important question. Have you ever noticed how you become super-productive right before you go on vacation, where you get like a month’s work of work done in just 2 days before you go? Have you ever said to yourself, man, I sure wish I could be that productive all the time? Well, the secret that I discovered is that you can be that productive all the time.

By only allowing myself to work an average of 3 days per week in the trenches of my companies, I basically force myself to be super-productive and focus on what really matters — like when I’m about to go on vacation.

That is how I came up with the name “The Vacation Effect” for my newest company, where I’m now teaching other busy entrepreneurs and executives how to implement these strategies in their lives like I have done in mine.

I know you might be thinking that you could never pull off a schedule like this. But even if you aren’t a business owner or executive like I am, it is still possible to rearrange your schedule to become super-productive and create plenty of time for everything that really matters to you. But you also must be willing to change your mindset.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Children get a significant amount of their self-worth, confidence, and identity from the time they spend with their parents. If you don’t spend quality time with your children, they can feel isolated, like you don’t love them, and like they don’t matter to you or anyone else. They may also feel like they aren’t seen or heard.

I believe that quality of the time spent with children is more important than quantity of time, but if you can give them both, that is certainly better. But if you must pick between spending quantity of time versus quality of time, choose quality time, hands-down.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Children can bring you the greatest joy in life and can also be your greatest legacy for generations to come. When you are on your death-bed, you will never wish you spent more time at the office, but you will likely wish that you spent more time with your children and other people you cared about the most.

Life is precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I know you’ve heard that before, but it is so true. In my case, the house fire that I mentioned earlier could have gone a totally different way if the lightning bolt had struck at 4am versus 8am. The fire had started above my then 5-year old daughter’s bedroom. Can you imagine what could have happened if we weren’t awake at that time? My precious daughter (and my husband and I) could have all died in that fire if it simply happened 4 hours earlier instead.

But thankfully we didn’t. And I learned to never take a single day for granted again.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

Now that my daughter is a teenager, we like to do things together that we both enjoy.

For example, when she turned 13, I took her on a mother-daughter trip to London and Paris. We had hair and makeup done at Harrods Department Store, went to all the famous sites, and had a blast observing the craziness of those two cities during all the historical events that were happening at the time we were visiting.

We also do a lot of things together that aren’t expensive, since something doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable. One of my favorite recent activities we did together was having a girl’s night out where we test drove some Tesla cars, and then went shopping and had dinner at the mall afterwards. We will remember that day forever, since it was so fun.

As a family, my husband and I love spending time with our daughter at the local bookstore most weekends. We sit there together reading our own respective books and enjoy each other’s company as we sip on our favorite Starbucks drink from the bookstore café.

No matter how much money you make in your life, I’ve learned that you can create experiences and memories with your children that will last a lifetime.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

1. I recommend limiting the amount of time you are willing to spend on work and scheduling a lot of time with family (and for yourself) on your calendar like you would any other meeting. Limiting the time you are willing to work naturally forces you to become hyper-efficient and get the most important work tasks done first (like when you’re about to go on vacation). It sounds counter-intuitive, but if done properly, you can literally create time out of thin air for your children and whatever else matters most to you.

2. I also recommend putting your phone away when you want your children to feel your true “presence”. When I put my phone away when I’m with my daughter, it lets her know that I’m totally focused on her and not my clients or my work.

3. Another great strategy for creating space in your life is to leverage the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone. I have mine set so that phone calls and text messages won’t come through during certain family and nighttime hours. This seems simple but can make a huge difference in freeing yourself from all the constant interruptions that cell phones cause today.

4. It is important to learn to say NO more often to the things you add to your plate (personally and professionally). So many times, we are quick to say yes to a task or commitment that we really don’t want to do. I’ve learned that it’s better to be honest and say NO than commit to something your heart isn’t in.

5. In order to have plenty of time for what truly matters, you also must train yourself to look for the leverage points in your business. That means thinking carefully about what activities on your list will produce the greatest results with the least amount of effort, and then focusing on that first. Always looking for the leverage points will allow you to accomplish more in your day than you used to, so you can carve out even more time for your family and yourself.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

To me, being a good parent means teaching your children all about your successes, and more importantly, about your mistakes. I want my daughter to become better than me, to take what I have done and build upon it and have a fast track to avoiding the same mistakes that I’ve made. For example, my daughter knows from my mistakes that you should never pursue a career just for the sake of the money, and that happiness is far more important in the scheme of life. Of course, there is nothing wrong with finding a career you love that also pays well, but if you must pick, choose happiness over money.

I believe that being a good parent means that you will encourage your children to form their own opinions, even if they disagree with yours. I’m always telling my daughter what I think about a given subject but reminding her that I want her to form her own opinion, and it doesn’t have to match mine.

Good parenting also means teaching your children that it is OK to fail, and that failure means you are one step closer to success. Failure means that you now have more data than you had before to make better decisions moving forward about what works or doesn’t work. I now make it a regular part of my conversation with my daughter to also ask her what she failed at today, and not just what went well.

I learned that approach from meeting billionaire Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx, at one of my CEO Mastermind Group meetings (Maverick 1000). Ms. Blakely shared how her father always asked her what she had failed at today, and how it fueled her to never give up when she was building her Spanx empire when everyone kept turning her down in the beginning stages. I’m so grateful to Ms. Blakely for this insight, as it has shaped the conversations that I now have with my own daughter regularly around failure.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I’m always telling my daughter, “You can do anything you set your mind to.” It’s to the point where she is annoyed with me saying it to her and responds with, “I know mom, you’ve told me that a million times.” That tells me I’m getting through to her.

She has told me that one of her goals is to have a TV show one day about flipping houses and that maybe we could be on the show together (like that other mom and daughter team on HGTV). I encourage her and tell her that it would be fun to do a show like that.

It makes me proud to know that she has big dreams and doesn’t see anything as impossible. I hope she never loses her ability to dream big.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

To me, success isn’t about how much money you have in your bank account, but the impact that you’ve had on the people around you. Don’t get me wrong, money is a wonderful tool. It can buy nice things and provide a nice life for your family. And money also allows you to be generous to other people and help them in their time of need. But at some point, more money isn’t worth sacrificing your happiness and wellbeing.

I measure my own success by how much I’ve impacted the lives of my friends and family, and whether I have made a difference in helping entrepreneurs and executives overcome their addictions to working all the time.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

My favorite parenting book is “The 5 Love Languages for Parents, by Gary Chapman”. In the book, Mr. Chapman reveals how each person has a unique way that they like to be treated and loved, for it to mean the most to them. He calls that a “love language”. He then ties this into being a parent, and how you can be a better parent if you know your child’s love language and communicate with your child in the specific way that brings them the most joy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is one that I came up with myself from my life experiences:

“Freedom is a mindset, not a destination. You simply DECIDE to have freedom.” — Denise Gosnell

I used to think that freedom was a destination that I would arrive at someday when I had more time, or when I had more money. I thought that when those things finally happened, I could have freedom to do what I wanted. I realized that freedom is instead a state of mind. Freedom is simply a decision that you can make to step into it, and then everything in life (especially work) can be arranged around it.

Stepping into what I now call “the Freedom Mindset” has been the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself, and it can work for anyone, whether they are entrepreneurs or work for someone else. Even if I ever lose money or a client someday because I put freedom of time first in my life, I’ll be OK. The joy I have gained from living a life based upon freedom and happiness is worth more to me than any one project or the money that goes with it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would really like to inspire people around the world to live their lives based upon freedom and happiness and plan their work life around it. You truly can have it all — plenty of free time while making a good living for your family. You just have to DECIDE to claim your freedom and start taking the steps it takes to make it a reality. If I can go from working 80 hours per week down to 40 while running my 3 companies in 3 different industries and still make a good living, anyone can do it. You just have to be willing to make some adjustments in your mindset and find your own hyper-efficient sweet spot.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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