Steven Vannoy (Executive Director) has spoken on parenting, grandparenting and leadership in every state in America and in over 30 countries worldwide. His clients range from Fortune 100 companies such as Nestle and Proctor and Gamble to school districts, hospitals, churches, associations and civic organizations. He has been the opening keynote speaker for The American School Counselors Association, The American Pediatrics Association, The American Housing Authority Directors and numerous others. He has made hundreds of television, magazine, newspaper and internet press appearances. Vannoy is the author of numerous books on family and leadership, including one of Simon and Schusters all-time best-selling parenting and grandparenting books, The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children (over 500,000 copies in print).

“In my work worldwide, there has been one constantly occurring theme which has united all races, cultures, creeds and faiths: We’re all passionate about raising children who grow up with solid character and priceless qualities and values such as honesty, responsibility and self-esteem, most especially, children who grow up feeling safe, valued, whole, joyful and happy. We all want to give our children a solid and loving family foundation that prepares them for a healthy and productive life.

The research for my best-selling book, The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children, included over 400 focus groups, and thousands of private interviews. The results we collected were surprising and ground-breaking. We often heard about tough family challenges:

  • terrible twos
  • caustic teens
  • sibling rivalry
  • cheating
  • homework and scholastic issues
  • drugs and alcohol
  • irresponsibility
  • cheating

Yet,  we found that about 10% of the families surveyed and interviewed were not having big problems with these issues. These families had consciously or unconsciously discovered two key premises:

  1. The more they tried to fix these issues, they more they perpetuated the same issue.
  2. When they were proactive in nurturing core qualities and values such as honesty and responsibility in their everyday interactions, their families were not near as afflicted by these typical challenges and issues.

These are the families I studied, and this book is their story. The same core 10 Greatest Gifts concepts were soon adapted and expanded to serve families and organizations all over the world. Again, core themes have risen to the top:

Barb, Steve, Ali, and Emmy in the British Virgin Islands

  • Out of all of the approaches our client organizations and families have tried, this one has worked the best.
  • This is the only approach that has stood the test of time and is still being used decades later.
  • The 10 Greatest Gifts concepts are universal and impact all ages and all situations, both at home and at work.

This communication approach is the way we’d all like to be treated, with dignity and respect, honesty and directness.

In spite of this extensive research, my greatest discoveries have come from my own family. Two of my daughters, now 33 and 35, are from my first marriage, and my new wife and step-daughter, now 27, joined my family 11 years ago. I fully acknowledge unconsciously falling into old habits and patterns and making numerous mistakes, especially in my early parenting years. But my family’s rocky road, just like with most families, has become one of my greatest teachers. The challenges, lessons and hard work have paid off, and I now have the peaceful, joyful family I always envisioned.

Moving the dream forward

Steve and Barb celebrating at home

A few years back, at the ripe old age of 62, I sold my consulting and training company to one of my long-term senior employees and literally sailed off into the sunset. My new life of sailing, trekking, biking, exploring and music with my wife Barb was sweet…and still is. But then, my daughters started to talk about children, and I started to dream about making a difference as a grandfather. I again realized I had much to learn. And just like 25 years earlier, I started a new round of interviews and focus groups. Soon, a new book was taking shape, The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Grandchildren.

Deep into my research, I was on the phone with a friend who was sharing how she volunteers one weekend a month alternating between a prison and a homeless shelter. She said her work was about helping these people feel whole and valued. She went on to say that if these same individuals had been raised in families where they were listened to, respected, and felt whole and valued, and grew up with core qualities and values like honesty and responsibility, almost none of them would be in prison or a homeless shelter. And then she shared one more thing. “Steve, it is endlessly more cost effective and productive to build healthy children and future citizens upstream at the family level than to try fixing the problems once they’re in here.”

Steve and Barb in Bern, Switzerland

We all want to serve others and create a better world. In my case, I volunteer at my church’s food bank. We all need help from time to time, but our food bank can only help a family for a week. We wanted to supplement these daily needs with a long-term vision. After engaging conversations, a dedicated like-minded team came together. Our vision is to go upstream and help families for generations. Our dream is to create a groundswell that will rebirth healthy families across the world. We did the math and started to realize that with the right team, a clear mission, and by delivering great results, we could impact over one million family members per year, which would start to profoundly impact our future world.

That dream is now a reality. Our nonprofit, The 10 Greatest Gifts Project, offers a two-hour, high impact, tool-based, inspiring and entertaining session for parents, grandparents and educators all over the world. After decades of serving parents and grandparents, and doing family programs, we also realize that a two hour program probably won’t instill lifelong habits without strong followup and support. Therefore, our team has developed a one of a kind app that families will use after the session to make sure the 10 Greatest Gifts tools and concepts are adopted long term to build their healthy children and our future citizens. Our team and the participants we partner with at our sessions do this work of building healthy children and families because it feeds and serves families for generations. We discovered that to make deep and lasting change, we had to go completely upstream to the family level; this level is the core of our society and the core of our healthy future. Yes, our government leaders are important, as are our community leaders and our organizational leaders, but the most important leaders in the world and the only leaders who can get upstream and build our healthy families and future healthy citizens are our parents and grandparents.

Our 10 Greatest Gifts presentations are designed to serve all races, creeds and faiths. The 10 Greatest Gifts tools and concepts work well for families who are already doing well in nurturing their children’s qualities and values and want to do even better, as well as for families who are struggling. All family structures will benefit, including single parent families, blended families, traditional and non-traditional families. All types of families will see amazing transformation by using these tools. The common denominator is that these tools and concepts are for families who want to create more joy in their family and give the gifts of upstanding qualities and values to their children and grandchildren. The evidence and research are clear: when children grow up with these gifts, they do well in school as children and teens and with their future families and careers.”

Personal background

Wagon fun with brothers (back and center), Steve (front)

Steve (left) and brother in one of his first bands

I grew up on a family farm in Nebraska. With responsibilities of caring for cows, chickens and crops, I learned about hard work, responsibility, building fences and hay racks, running a small business, and taking care of our planet. After graduating from the University of Nebraska with a B.A. in Business, I moved to Colorado and started my first company, Vannoy Talent. This company represented actors, models and speakers for movies, soap operas, catalogs, and TV and print ads in magazines and newspapers. During this time, I married and had two little girls. With the advent of a very visible business failure and a consequential divorce, I lost my daughters for a precious year of their young lives. With my life stripped clean, I realized that doing a good job raising my daughters was the most important work I could ever do. That revelation was the seed that ultimately birthed the 10 Greatest Gifts Project.”