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9 Quick Questions for Dr. Phil

TV host launches cable network, writes new book, ‘We’ve Got Issues: How You Can Stand Strong for America’s Soul and Sanity’

spinner image doctor phil against blue ombre background
Photo Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: Merit Street Media)

Phil McGraw, 73, didn’t have plans to write another book but says he “really felt strongly that I needed to talk about things that I saw happening in the country.” In We’ve Got Issues: How You Can Stand Strong for America’s Soul and Sanity, he offers his trademark no-nonsense advice and strategies “to restore and support our country’s collective mental health.” He’s also relaunching his long-running talk show as Dr. Phil Primetime, premiering April 2 on his new cable TV channel, Merit Street Media. He shares his take on “cancel culture,” how challenging life experiences have shaped his results-driven attitude, and how he’s prioritizing life in his 70s.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s the motivation behind your new book and cable TV venture?

spinner image book cover that says number 1 
new york times bestselling author, phillip c mcgraw, p h d, we've got issues, how you can stand strong for america's soul and sanity
In his new book, Dr. Phil offers his opinions on how Americans can restore core values, fortify families, and re-embrace self-determination and self-governance.
Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions

Robin [wife Robin McGraw, 71] and I were sitting in the kitchen one night … and we were flipping back and forth between the news and this channel and that channel. And I was just kind of lamenting about, “Why won’t anybody just talk about what's going on instead of trying to spin everything? Spin, spin, spin, spin, spin. Just talk about the facts and talk about what’s important. The media’s driving me crazy.” And without even looking up from her plate, she said, “Well, you are the media. Why are you complaining about the media? Why don’t you do it?” That really kind of stung, and I realized that’s right.

What’s the one thing that you feel would help our country right now?

Learn to listen. You know, this “cancel culture” we’re in — I think it needs to be a “counsel culture.” We need to listen to one another instead of judging one another. Some people say stupid things. Sometimes we all do. And sometimes we get out over our skis and say things that seem like a good idea at the time. If we would sit down and say, “You know what? Let me talk to you about something, and see if I might get you to change your position.” We alienate so many people that could be great allies. If [only] we would just listen and have a dialogue instead of being judgmental and declaring somebody an enemy. So many people are willing to learn if we would just take the time to do it.

Have things shifted for you mentally in your 70s?

I’m a pilot, and I have been since my teens. There’s this old saying: One thing a pilot can’t use is the runway behind them.... You [get] to your 70s, and look over your shoulder, [and] there’s a lot of life behind you, and not very much ahead of you. It changes the way you value time.... It makes you say, “I’m not going to waste time doing things that I don’t really value or focusing on things that I don’t really care about.” It’s kind of paradoxical. It makes you a little selfish in that you want to do the things you want to do, but you also want to really spend time with the people you love and care about. The good thing is the things I care about happen to be the people I love, so I want to spend quality time with them.

Like your grandkids?

Exactly. I’ve got four, and I’m so blessed. We have two boys and they’re 44 [Jay McGraw] and 37 [Jordan McGraw] and they’re both fine young men. They’re both married and have two kids each, and they’re both very successful financially, very successful as citizens and as loving and caring fathers and sons. I look at that and I think, I have won the kid lottery. It wasn’t by mistake. Robin’s a wonderful mother. I get to talk to both of them pretty much every day. We’ve got several businesses together. I kind of got into things where [there is] a reason for them to talk to me every day. We usually get along really well. And the two brothers get along great. They’re each other’s biggest fans.

What do you like to do with your grandkids?

They’re so into their team sports [and] I love to watch Avery [13] play volleyball, and London [12] plays football and basketball, and so I get to go to all their games. And then they love the water. We go to the Bahamas a lot and the Mediterranean, and they both scuba dive and water-ski and wakeboard. I have two other [grandkids]: Row just turned 3 and her little brother, Grey, just turned 2, [and it’s] so much fun watching their personalities develop. Row is so funny. I come in and she finds everything she can find and puts [her toys] in my lap, and Grey’s got his cars, and I have to get on the floor and play cars with him.

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Do you also scuba dive, wakeboard and water-ski?

I don’t wakeboard, but I water-ski, scuba dive [and] snorkel with them, and that keeps me young. I love scuba diving. I’ve probably done 500 dives, and I’ve been down with Avery and London both, and we just have a ball. It’s so fun to show them things for the first time.

What else do you do to keep in shape?

I play tennis probably six or seven days a week. I’ve got a clay court at my house here in Dallas and a clay court at my house in Beverly Hills, and I’ve got a group of friends that I’ve been playing tennis with for 30-plus years. Tennis is my social life, my exercise life, my tension release. It’s everything. I love it so much. The guys I play with, most of them are nationally ranked in [the] 60s and 65s [age groups]. They’re all Division I college players or have been on the [pro tennis] tour. So it’s a really good brand of tennis.

That’s pretty physically demanding. Have you had any injuries? Maybe pivot to pickleball?

I actually have played pickleball some. It’s fun. I've had three rotator cuff repairs. I’ve replaced my left knee totally, and I was back hitting [tennis balls] within three weeks. They said it would be six to eight months [before I could play again following the knee replacement], but I was hitting ground strokes at three weeks and played a match at four weeks. It wasn’t much of a hiccup at all. I’m so glad I got it done. It was so much better afterwards. They say, “You know when you need it.” Boy, was that true.

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You’ve been publicly giving advice since you first appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show back in the ’90s. Who gave you your best advice? 

You’re making me feel old — but you’re exactly right. When I was growing up, my dad was a really bad alcoholic. [When] I say bad, I mean half the time we had to get up and go find the car because he had no idea where it was. It was a really chaotic home. I spent some time in my teens living on the street, frankly, [with] just no home at all. All of those things did two things: It kept me from ever being judgmental of somebody else. And it taught me about creating your own experience. I got into athletics and I had coaches who taught me: Look, you create your own experience. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or don’t have. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are. It matters what you do. I think that’s the reason that I got to be so straightforward and call it like it is, because you get on the field [and] it doesn’t matter who you are, or who you know, or how nice of a car you rode over there in. It matters how fast you can run, how high you can jump, and who you can knock down. I got to be really results-oriented. It’s results that count — what you get done.

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