Pa Excellence: Matt Purcell

Adopted as a baby by an Australian family, entrepreneur Matt Purcell has made it his life’s mission to help youth and the disadvantaged. In anticipation of Father’s Day, the TED Talk presenter and podcaster offers sage advice on what it means to be a parent.

Born in a barn in South Korea from a mother who hadn’t realised she was pregnant, Matt Purcell was adopted as a baby by an Australian couple and raised in Newcastle, New South Wales. An award-winning entrepreneur, he owns multiple media businesses, including KYU Media, is a TED Talk presenter and the host of ‘The Examined Life’, one of Australia’s most popular podcasts.

Matt’s mission in life is to help youth and the disadvantaged overcome issues such as mental health and homelessness. He’s a man with a cause and has a lot of love to give. We were privileged to have Matt at our Father’s Day breakfast and are pleased to share here his sage advice on parenting.

 “I’m going to show you a photo of my little girls. I was going to bring them today, but they would have destroyed the place. These are my little daughters [holds out phone]. I was adopted from Korea when I was a four-month-old kid. I don’t know my biological parents at all. I don’t know my mum, don’t know my dad. So, I have Asian hardware but Australian software. I’ve been a very mystery to myself. I can see what is nature and what is nurture. I can see clearly what’s from my Aussie dad and what’s from my Aussie mum. I have realised I am really creative and really musical. When my Australian dad sings, things die. Like, he’s not musical at all. Things fall out of trees. Things wither.

“So, when my wife and I had our children, I was introduced to my first blood relatives. I had never met anyone that looked like me or had my genetics until I had my kids. I have two daughters, and I’m glad I have two daughters because they keep me soft. For me, I didn’t realise that my heart had more access to love and that my heart could swell so much. It’s like an innocent schoolboy crush, you know, like when you’re in high school. You just want to see that person, you just want to be around them all the time. It’s just innocent. That’s what it’s like with my daughters. I just want to be around them all the time. But they’re a mirror. They’re an absolute mirror. It’s terrifying when you confront them with yourself. You gotta confront ideas, like how do I deal with anger? Why am I angry at these things? They mirror me as well, and I can see me in them. And at the same time, I’ve realised over the years – my eldest is seven, my youngest is four – you love them not on merit. Like, in our world, outside of family… I employ lots of people, I have multiple businesses. In the business world there are performance reviews. You don’t performance review your kids. [Laughs] Well, maybe you guys do! Imagine that… there’s a KPI on the fridge… ‘If you don’t do that, you’re not my daughter anymore; you’re out of the family!’ Boom boom!

The experience I have had as a father is that there is a love there that is unconditional. Everything they do that is good and healthy makes you proud. Regardless of what they do or who they are, you love them. That comes from a father’s heart privilege, it comes from a parent’s heart. You can only access that when you have the privilege of becoming a parent, in my view. I absolutely love it. It’s the best job in the world. There’s an old proverb that says, ‘If you spare the rod, spoil the child.’ ‘Rod’ doesn’t mean you hit them. ‘Rod’ in the Greek [language] is ‘guidance’. So, if you don’t guide your kids, then what’s the consequence? Someone else is going to guide them. It’s a much more of a responsibility on me to look at my own life and get my own house in order, so that I’m not having these official meetings with my daughters saying, ‘Hey, today’s lesson is going to be ‘don’t be a jerk to someone’’. They are just going to watch you be a jerk, or not. So, it’s a huge, huge responsibility.”