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Adrian Shepherd: “Growing up as a mixed kid”

I’m a productivity consultant and the one thing I can’t stress enough is time is not created equal. If you spent 3 hours with your kids at the park but the entire time, you’re checking your phone, you have wasted those three hours. Worse, because you ignored your children, your children feel worse than you […]

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I’m a productivity consultant and the one thing I can’t stress enough is time is not created equal. If you spent 3 hours with your kids at the park but the entire time, you’re checking your phone, you have wasted those three hours. Worse, because you ignored your children, your children feel worse than you had not been there. So, strategy one is schedule them in. Set aside time on your schedule for your kids, just like you would an important meeting. After all, they’re just as important, if not more so.


As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Adrian Shepherd.

Adrian Shepherd started his career as an ESL teacher in Japan, but today focuses on consulting with individuals and companies on productivity. His background in education helped him develop the One-Bite Time Management System (TMS), a revolutionary new system based entirely around simplicity: small bites that people can digest easily. He is based in Osaka, Japan.


Thank you so much for joining us Adrian! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was lucky enough to have a good foundation. My father was often away during the week, so it was often just my mother and I. He was away for a large chunk of my childhood. Despite this, I didn’t feel he wasn’t around because he dedicated his weekends to us. He was also a great storyteller, and would regale us of his adventures during the week, which made me feel as if I was almost there. From the age of 11 my father was able to come home for dinner almost every night. He worked hard, but made sure to carve out time on the weekends and holidays for the family. My mother, not to be outdone, was always busy doing something. She did PTA, volunteer work, and later on in life she earned her undergraduate degree at the age of 65, then her masters in her 70s. Hard work was something my parents weren’t afraid of but they also made sure they were there for me. My mother taught me reading and writing, my father math and sports. They both instilled in me a sense of hard work in me, and I always felt loved.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I remember a few weeks before my 9th birthday and my parents called me downstairs for a “family discussion.” They told me that they were thinking about our summer vacation that year and wanted my input. I asked them, “Where can we go?” I clearly remember their answer, “Anywhere.” That single word changed my life. My answer was, as you might expect for a young kid was “Disneyland.” It was my first time to the States, and our schedule was hectic. We only had four full days in LA, and I clearly remember the first day was Knotts Berry Farm, day two Disneyland, day three Universal Studios and the last day was Marineland (which is no longer around). What I learned from that trip was it’s not how much time you have, but rather how much you get out of what time you have. Parenting’s the same way. It’s not about how much time you spend with your kids, but what you do with the time you have with them. Business is the same way, it’s not how much time you spend on a project, but the results you get. As I learned from Jim Rohn, “Don’t mistake movement for achievement.”

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I have worked hard to create time for my family, so these days, I cram my work as much as I can into four days. Mondays are my writing day; emails, articles, projects. Tuesdays and Saturdays are dedicated to meeting with clients one-on-one as well as interviews. Wednesdays are reserved for my follow-ups and planning.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Today, so many kids are on anti-depressants and are diagnosed with ADHD in the West and given all sorts of treatment. To me, It’s insane. I know there are kids that need help (some of my best friends have ADHD), but having lived in Asia most of my life, I can’t believe it’s close to what the statistics say they are.

The question we need to be asking is why are so many kids on treatment? I’m not a doctor, but I believe a lot of kids’ problems stem from not getting enough love from their parents. It affects them in so many ways. The greatest thing any parent can do for their children is to love them. We need, no scratch that, yearn for our parents’ love.

Back in my parents’ time, many fathers could support their families. Today, more and more families have both parents working. I respect that, but kids value time with parents much more than an iPad or Nintendo Switch. One of my friends got his son a Nintendo DS at the age of four and they both agreed it was the best thing ever, because their son would focus on it and leave them alone. Fast forward a few years, and their son’s eyesight was deteriorating fast. Doctors warned my friends that it was possible he might even go blind in one eye. They got rid of the DS that day. Thankfully, they managed to reverse the damage that had been done. What seemed to be a blessing turned out to be a curse. Kids love toys, I get it, but they’re short-lived. What kids do remember is the time they spend with their family.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

It’s easy to see the children that are loved. They are happy. Children can handle hardships; they are stronger than we give them credit for. They’re also adaptable. But that comes from a place of love.

Before I became an entrepreneur, I used to teach at a kids’ school and taught thousands of kids. The one consistent thing I saw was that, almost without exception, the kids whose parents attended every sports event, every parent-teacher day, and any other school event had little trouble making friends, doing their homework or coming to class on time. The reason for this — their support group, aka their parents, was always there for them.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

1. My son has always loved water, so when he turned four, I asked him if he wanted to learn how to swim. He did so I went out and hired a teacher and then every Sunday, we would head to the local pool together. I would swim in a lane nearby while he had his lesson, and after his lesson we’d play together for about 30 minutes. Just daddy and son time.

2. Growing up as a mixed kid, one of my fears was that he would be bullied lived in a monocultural country such as Japan so around the same time, I suggested he learn a martial art. I gave him a few options, but his mind was made up — Karate. A few weeks later, me, my wife and my son enrolled in a Karate dojo. What was funny was that my wife and I were the only adults in the class. I clearly remember my first test. The average age was six, the oldest kid being in his early teens and me, being 38 years old. I felt like Kramer in Seinfeld. Fast forward a few years, and both my son and I have black belts in Karate, and will also get black belts in Aikido this year. Don’t just send your kids to learn something, do it with them. It’s ever so much more rewarding to do it together.

3. Some of my most memorable vacations for me as a kid weren’t at five-star hotels and luxurious adventures, and I wanted the same for mine. When kids are young, camping, rivers, mountains and beaches is where it’s at. One of the best mini-adventures we had with our son was going on a day-trip to do what is called in Japan “Doronko Asobi” which translates as “Mud play.” Essentially it was like sports day in a rice field. I still can’t believe my wife agreed to it, but it was s day we never forgot. Covered in mud with the sun beating down on us, we had a whale of a time. It’s something we still talk about today. Never underestimate the power of nature when it comes to building a strong bond with your kids.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

  1. I’m a productivity consultant and the one thing I can’t stress enough is time is not created equal. If you spent 3 hours with your kids at the park but the entire time, you’re checking your phone, you have wasted those three hours. Worse, because you ignored your children, your children feel worse than you had not been there. So, strategy one is schedule them in. Set aside time on your schedule for your kids, just like you would an important meeting. After all, they’re just as important, if not more so.
  2. Superman had his Fortress of Solitude, so too must we create distraction free bubbles when we are with our kids. Unless you’re a brain surgeon on call, putting your phone on airplane mode for a few hours most likely won’t be devastating (there are always exceptions). Your kids will thank you.
  3. I hesitate to call this a strategy but board games are powerful. Turn off the tech and pull out Monopoly, Yahtzee, Clue or any number of new creative games. We started playing board games with our son around the age of four, and did not pull our punches. He earned his wins. I naturally offered advice and suggestions, but I did make him work for it. Board games are a great way to spend a few hours with the family.
  4. Be a kid. Often times when families get together, the kids are sent off to play in another room while the parents enjoy chatting over beer or a glass of nice wine. One thing I love to do, is actually sit down with the kids for at least 30 minutes on these occasions. I consider it a learning experience. It’s remarkable how much “street cred” you can earn from doing this simple strategy.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

A good parent is simply a parent that is able to do what they can to meet the needs of a child. First step, be able to provide for your child. We need to give our children food and roof over their head, so that means money aka work. Second step, we need to meet their emotional needs and that’s trickier because each child is unique, but one thing’s for sure, we need to be there for them. This is incredibly important as a young age. That doesn’t mean giving them everything they want, in fact, just the opposite, parents must be willing to lay down the law even when they are tired. That’s the third step, teaching them right from wrong. A lot of parents today give their kids free reign — big mistake. There are other parents who believe in time outs, I’m on the fence here. What I believe is you need to get angry when your kids do something bad, they need to learn. But getting angry is just the first part of the equation, the second is the explanation. After I have calmed down, I always took the time to sit down with my son and explain WHY I was upset. Even if he didn’t fully understand, he appreciated that I took the time.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I started my career at a small school teaching kids from the ages of three to 12. I suppose I’ve taught thousands of kids over the years and the one thing that amazes me is their potential. Kids can do the most amazing things, the kid sitting at you at McDonald’s could one day be the president, a doctor who discovers the cure for Alzheimer’s or the next Olympic champion. Never before in history have kids had better access to information, and yet, too many use their smartphones to play Fortnite or watch TikTok. You’ve got to instill a sense of achievement in kids when they’re young. That was another reason I wanted my son to join Karate. Every year, he’d move up one or two belts. I remember our first competition, we stunk, but my son kept asking me where his trophy was. Sadly, I told him we weren’t getting any. But we went to work. Our second competition, they gave out tiny participation trophies for kids four and under. A nice gesture I thought, but it lit a fire under my son. Now he wanted a big trophy. Little by little he got better. Today, we have 14 karate trophies sitting in our room. It didn’t stop there. When he was seven, we enrolled him in his swimming school competition, which he won. No doubt all his Karate competitions had helped. We eventually decided to focus on swimming, but again, it wasn’t smooth sailing. His first official competition despite winning his race, when we checked his rankings, he came in 37th. It was a bit of a reality check. But again, like he had with Karate, he went to work. A few years later in that very same competition, he came in 1st in 6 races, and came in 2nd in one. He also went on to make it to the Junior Olympics in Tokyo twice. The first time, his relay team came in 16th, not bad considering they had entered the race ranked 23rd. The second time, they came in ranked 6th, yet managed to walk away with the bronze narrowly beating out the 4th place challenger by .1 seconds. Sports are great ways to inspire children to dream big because they teach us hard work is rewarded, and no dream is too big.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

There are times when someone just says something that is hard to improve upon. I think this is one of those times. Tony Robbins once defined it this way, “Success is doing what you want to do, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want.” Don’t think I could say it any better than that.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

Being a better parent means simply means to be a better person which is why I’m such a huge fan of personal development. There’s something magical about books. Books make us work harder, and challenge us to be better. Here are a few I would recommend parents take a look at are: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Mindset by Carol S Dweck, The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. That being said, Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy have tons of incredible audio programs that are worth many times worth their cost. Brendon Burchard and Marie Forleo have incredible YouTube channels filled to the brim with powerful ideas.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote has to be Jim Rohn, “Don’t wish it was easier wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge wish for more wisdom.” I’d never thought of it that way. That was the day I decided to be the best me I could be.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m a big believer in education. That’s where it all starts. If we want a better tomorrow, we should invest more into our children’s education. I’m not talking about trig, literature, or ancient history, but reinventing education from the ground up. Japan does a great job in elementary school giving children a great foundation, but from junior high it becomes all standard memorization of dates and facts. Our world has undergone incredible changes over the past 25 years, yet the education system as a whole hasn’t adapted. Despite the incredible advances in technology and our access to knowledge, students’ scores are dropping, teachers are leaving, and the whole environment isn’t conducive to real learning.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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