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Jim Sheils is CoFounder of Board Meetings International, a company that specializes in retreats for entrepreneurs and their children to deepen the parent and child relationship. In his 20s, Jim partnered with best friend Brian Scrone and went on to create a multimillion dollar real estate company that generates over $15 million per year.

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Jim’s dad was dying from kidney failure. The solution: gift his dad one of his own kidneys. It literally saved his dad’s life and gave Jim a new lease on life at the same time.


The entrepreneurial spirit, a life-long best friend, a passion for experiential education, and a love of surfing. These four things are what led Jim Sheils to co-found Board Meetings International with his business partner and best friend since the age of three, Brian Scrone.

In their 20s, Jim and Brian’s lifelong friendship naturally progressed into a successful business partnership that brought them from New Jersey where they were born and raised to California where they began their successes in real estate.

But it was over ten years ago as Jim and Brian were growing their real estate business that they experienced something truly inspirational and life-changing. Surfing, experiential education and an exciting new business.

Jim and Brian, along with a group of like-minded friends and business partners, started organizing surf trips. While on these trips, they would discuss everything from business ideas to parenting and would support and advise each other. Jim quickly recognized that these retreats were leading to innovative ideas and breakthroughs for those who attended – business breakthroughs that never could have occurred in a board room.

The true power of the surf trips became apparent when some of the members, all busy entrepreneurs and business people, started to bring their kids along with them. This was an amazing opportunity to spend some quality time together away from home and work. It wasn’t only a bonding and learning experience for the parents, but was one for the kids as well. The children were learning things that weren’t being taught in books or classrooms, and the parents were getting a powerful insight into their kids’ goals and ambitions.

Now, every year, successful entrepreneurs come together with one of their children to surf and learn from each other through Board Meetings International’s 6 Pillars of Experiential Education. These 6 Pillars are what, upon reflection, helped to bring Jim and Brian so much success. They focus on improving relationships, planning for the future, and establishing conscious contribution. Through these principles, they’ve found a unique way to grow a thriving business as well as foster healthy, growing families.

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Raising Entrepreneurs

UPDATE sent by Jim:

UnSchool Semester Review

I promised an update for our 12-year-old son’s first semester of homeschool…unschool…new ed….not sure exactly what to call our style of learning.

Overall, the results were positive with no regrets. Still, we have plenty of room for improvement and we are looking to further fine-tune. Alden and I spent the day together last week and we got to discuss the last 90 days of his education. He really opened up in ways I wasn’t sure he would, but I am very glad he did. I’ve shared some of his responses below, leaving out certain private details of the conversation.

Again, teaching the lessons taught in traditional schools but just doing it at our home was not our goal. Our goal was to change the priority and focus of what is taught to better reflect what we believe will make the biggest difference in Alden’s life in the future. We still included the normal core curriculum of traditional school but it was in a secondary position to what we consider the most important core curriculum:

• Personal development
• Relationship/people skills
• Financial intelligence/ entrepreneurship

What Did You Enjoy?

Flexibility: Alden really enjoyed the flexibility of his schedule. When I asked him to explain this, he cited how he could do his work at various times depending on what was going on in his day. He named occasions in the last 90 days when he took a day off because a friend of his had off from school or his cousins were in town visiting, for example. He said he likes that he was able to enjoy these times without constraint and just worked longer the following day to catch up on assignments. He also liked that he was able to participate in the Board Meetings International retreat we hosted in October, instead of going to school (his brother had to attend school during parts of the retreat). The dreaming room exercise we did at our retreat revealed some extraordinary inspirations and truths around Alden’s talents that encouraged us to keep going on the new education path as well.

The Subjects:

Alden really liked the subjects we added for core curriculum. This was VERY encouraging for my wife and I to hear. Especially at that crazy age when hormones are starting to burst and identity is tough to decipher. We feel we are giving Alden the best gift we can – the space and priority to get to know himself, to learn what makes him tick, his strengths, his fears and his values (not the ones we choose for him, but his own values). Ever since I was a kid, I felt I was always being forced to learn about everyone else in the world and never allowed to focus on learning about myself. Alden is getting the space and materials to help to do this. Only time will tell the results but, from what I see so far, it’s working well.

Alden dug deep into personal development and relationship skills by reading/discussing Sean Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” and completing a workbook that supported the book. Furthermore, he kept up with his Five-Minute Journal, which is a great tool that has resonated with our whole family. Alden also worked to grow his financial intelligence by reading the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad for Teens” and continued to play the financial game “Cash Flow,” which is something we found to be both effective for teaching financial intelligence and enjoyable. At the end of the semester there were no tests or quizzes on these subjects. All we asked of him was to put together a presentation on each of the books and discussions we had using PowerPoint, which he was learning in his business keyboarding class. Then, he would present it to our family. He was nervous to do a presentation but I told him to just pretend he was having a conversation with us and to remember that each of us was eager to learn from him. He did a great job. I’m not saying he’s ready to lead a Toastmasters class but he did very well with both presentations and we were thrilled with the conversation and examples given. The organization of his thoughts was clear and easy to follow. Yes, my 12-year-old son has already surpassed my PowerPoint skills!

One thing worth reiterating is that I believe the conversations we took the time to have with Alden on these books and subjects really helped concrete the lessons and push him to go deeper into them. I encourage any one of you wanting to teach similar lessons to be really involved, know the books and engage in the conversations about them.

Speaking of conversations, in the past few weeks, I had a conversation with a 16 year old and 17 year old. When school came up, I lightly asked some questions to try and engage them in these subjects. Listening to their responses, I became almost depressed by how blind they were to both personal development and financial intelligence. I even caught Alden looking at me during the conversation in half shock when he heard some of the responses of his older peers. I think right then and there Alden understood how far he’s come and the importance of what he’s learning. I also think he better understood the repetitive statement I use to encourage him:

“I don’t care about grades, I care about learning.”

Funny thing, even with me saying this, Alden is scoring good grades in all his traditional classes, which was not the norm in the past for him in traditional schooling. A lot of people have voiced concerns about us taking focus off the importance of grades in the core classes we’ve added to Alden’s curriculum. I don’t blame them, I used to have the same concern but, luckily, my wife, Jamie, has taught me a lot about the Montessori philosophy and that grades can play very little or no importance in results.
The more I move away from this old programming of valuing by grades, the more I feel good results will continue for Alden.

What Could We Improve?

More interaction with other kids: this was Alden’s only request. This is a concern my wife and I shared as well. Social life is important, who’s going to doubt this? We still haven’t found a homeschool meet up to match what we wanted and, in all fairness, we could have put more time into this aspect. Increasing social interaction more consistently will be a huge goal for the next semester. If a meetup group cannot be found, we are going to form our own, both local and virtual if needed. We will also continue to play a local sport in the coming semester. Last semester was soccer, this semester is flag football.

Jamie also suggested we add a little more structure to his schooling, nothing too rigid to take away flexibility, but a little more order to make things run smoothly. We never did add a tutor to the mix; my wife stepped in on this part. The verdict is out as to whether this will remain for semesters to come. I will continue to step in and help with the new core curriculum classes but will have very little to do with the traditional classes.

We also plan to put “experience day” in a more flexible position and not as a permanent day on the calendar as things come up on different days for experiences. We will rotate it in as opportunities arise.
Surprises and Business

How is Alden’s egg business?

As some of you remember, a big part of Alden’s education this semester was a chicken egg business. He picked a business to start and chose an egg business after seeing his friends have a successful model in Australia.

He researched the feed stores that sold chickens and interviewed a “chicken expert” at one of the stores with a good reputation. My wife and I backed him in the supplies needed and in buying 15 chickens. Alden helped build the coop, which took some time.

All in, we spent about $800 in chickens and supplies. I’m still not convinced this egg business is going to produce financially but I’m happy either way because the lessons are going to be priceless. One example, about two weeks ago, the chickens suddenly just stopped laying eggs, which is a problem for an egg business. Alden was concerned. I asked him to focus on the issue and how it could be fixed. He stated the issue again, that the chickens had stopped laying eggs, and then sat for a few minutes thinking about a solution. He then broke his silence and said, “I can go back to the chicken expert and find out if he knows how to fix this!”

The chicken expert explained exactly how to fix the issue, which was that we just needed to do some de-worming. I gave Alden the thumbs up on his initiative and reflected back to him that the problem-solving and analytical thinking he displayed in dealing with this issue was a skill set of huge importance and would continue to help him down the road.

We did not baby him through this issue, nor did we try to give him the solution. However, we did continue to remind Alden that he needed to get the chickens laying eggs again since he had payments he had to make to repay the business startup funds. We did this without pressure but still in a matter-of-fact way. He responded well and I believe it helped keep him focused. Some people may find this harsh but I feel it teaches financial responsibility. If we truly want to train our children for the practical affairs of life and business, I think we need to start serving it up in real doses now.

The best surprise from the egg business was the teaching and mentoring opportunities that it created. Let me explain. Two different neighborhood friends had talked to Jamie about Alden’s new schooling and asked to stop by with their young sons, ages 4 and 5, to see the chickens. The kids loved it and as weeks followed, we’d run into them on the beach or in the neighborhood and Alden, age 12 and being his compassionate self, would take time to entertain these boys by playing in the water with them or helping them build something out of sand or Legos. Soon one of the youngsters, Benny, began asking his Mom, “Can Alden have a play date?”

She laughed, not thinking a 12 year old would have the patience or will to do this. After talking to my wife, both families hired Alden to be their “mother’s helper.” I like to call it his first mentoring job. For several weeks now, Alden has been going over one to two times per week to help these two neighborhood families just by being Alden.

Another surprise for me was Alden’s involvement in walking dogs at the no kill animal shelter in our town. Last week, he asked me to go with him to help walk the dogs. It was my first time doing this and it was a huge eye-opener for me. I was impressed with the way Alden handled the dogs, the way he had gained the respect of the people running the shelter and even the lessons he ended up teaching me about our own dogs. This is a whole writing piece in itself that I will go deeper into another time, because the lesson is good for all ages. All I will say for now is that great things come when we give our children the time and space to do volunteer work that aligns with their passions.

The last surprise was lifeguard training. Alden and I trained together two times per week up at the beach and in the pool to help strengthen our abilities in the water and overall fitness. Of all the events from this past semester, some of my best memories came from these sessions. The simple enjoyment of training together, surfing together and the chats we had half-winded on the beach afterward is something I will never forget.

So, what’s ahead for our next semester?!

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