Ask health sciences professor Jim Weese how long it took him to write his latest book and he’ll tell you “Sixty-five years.” But the impetus to sit down and record The Grandpa Rules: Essential Lessons for Success in Life and Leadership came with the arrival of his first grandchild, Rylee.
“Her birth was the catalyst for this book,” Weese said. “It forced me to reflect a bit and to wonder if I wasn’t here tomorrow, what would I like her to know about life and leadership? I want her to dream big, be persistent and believe in herself, but I also want her to know there will be bumps along the road.”
The wisdom Weese imparts to Rylee – and readers of all ages ─ throughout the book is a culmination of knowledge he’s gained as a leading authority and academic scholar on leadership and from serving in a number of senior leadership positions, including his former role as dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
His 10 rules for a happy and successful life also draw from his experience growing up in Dresden, Ont., where he held a special relationship with his own grandfather.
“My maternal grandfather was a great influence,” Weese said. “When my brother and I needed a basketball net, he built us one. When I was training for hockey and I needed a bench press, he built me one. We put the weights in his backyard and when I would go over there to train, he’d come out and encourage me.”
This is the first time Weese, author of The 5C Leader: Exceptional Leadership Practices for Extraordinary Times, has written with a young audience in mind.
He turned to friend and Western occupational therapy graduate Paulette Bourgois, best-selling author of the Franklin the Turtle series, for advice.
“Paulette gave me such great insight,” Weese said. “A lot of the multicultural content in the book comes from her input.”
He also sought guidance from his wife, Sherri, a retired elementary school teacher, and his daughter, Haylee – Rylee’s mother – who’s a Western education graduate and grade two teacher.
Illustrations by fourth-year FIMS student
This was also the first time Weese, an academic and corporate writer, chose to incorporate illustrations to help convey his content.
He engaged fourth-year Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) student Kaya MacInnes, through a FIMS-specific undergraduate summer research internship to illustrate the book.
“Working with Jim was so wonderful,” MacInnes said. “He is so creative and took a genuine interest in my work and me. I learned so much.”
MacInnes had illustrated two other books previously, but noted working on Weese’s book forced her to expand her knowledge, working with different digital techniques, brushes and tools.
“Jim’s book required more in-depth and detailed work,” she said.
The characters in the book resonated with MacInnes, who feels lucky to share a special connection with her own grandfather.
“Both of my grandparents have always encouraged me and helped out in any way they could,” she said. “Growing up, my grandfather was very supportive, but firm. He made sure my sister and I kept up on our schoolwork and stayed on the right track, and also built a swing in his basement for us to hang out on. He had me sign and date every birthday and Christmas card I made for him just like a real artist would. I date and sign my artwork today because of him.”
The impact grandparents have is invaluable, says Weese, and speaks to his 10th rule about the importance of building and nurturing relationships that matter.
“A grandparent is often a really good listener and ‘safe.’ We often might share something with them that we might not share with our parents, and we might pay more attention to what they say when we are younger. There’s an aspect of intergenerational mentoring that’s so important. In our society, we often don’t consider older people in this way, but in Indigenous culture, elders are held in such high regard. Their wisdom is respected and passed down.”
Weese dedicates the book “to all grandparents, who may have different titles, from Papa or Nonno to Mishoomis, but all share a universal love for their grandchildren.” The last two pages of the book are designed as a special place for grandparents – along with parents, coaches and teachers – to record “other rules,” and their own advice, as a keepsake for the child.
Proceeds from book sales will be donated to four charities: Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Junior Achievement, the YMCA’s Strong Kids program and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I want to see girls and boys who may not have supportive grandfathers in their lives supported and mentored through the good work of these organizations,” Weese said.
The author’s next book, The Leadership Lifecycle: How to Prepare, How to Excel, and When (and How) to Effectively Exit, is also set for release this fall.