…..I think in general, as parents we are our children’s first role model. Our actions form the foundation of their beliefs and morals as they are soaking up everything we do and say. The only way to instill a favorable foundation is to be highly involved while building their self-esteem with continuous positive reinforcement — and face to face time is the only way to succeed at this.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Vivek Jain, a seasoned entrepreneur, finance executive, actor and dedicated father of two.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in the prairies of Canada in a very close family environment and spent most of my free time playing sports, that is until I first became interested in business. I first caught the business bug in my early teens when I traded my first stock — it happened to make me money and I was hooked. From then on, my table in my room had two magazines, Sports Illustrated and Fortune Magazine, and I couldn’t wait to get into the business world for myself.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I think like most entrepreneurs, I’ve come to this point in my career with a journey that’s been a long and windy road. I started out obtaining my CPA, but had always dreamed of breaking into the investment banking/venture capital world. A few years after working as a CPA, I caught my break landing a job at a boutique venture capital firm based in Bermuda (with a crazy story behind how I got the job — that’s too long for this article — but let’s just say it involves getting locked in a bathroom for longer than I’d like to admit!). After this stint abroad, I moved back to the Canadian Prairies to start a family. I spent some time bouncing around in different positions until I found myself at home as an entrepreneur. My first foray into this world was as a co-founder to what has now become the Fan-Controlled-Football-League (FCFL), which is the first fully fan-run professional sports league. While working on bringing the FCFL to fruition, I stumbled upon the idea of LOKO in wild and wacky fashion. LOKO is the world’s first video-only online dating app, and is where my professional time is focused. LOKO all began with a comment my daughter made during a movie night: “Daddy, you always take care of me and my sister, but who takes care of you? You should get a girlfriend.” Being a single dad was never a big deal for me, but this hit hard. It made me realize that I needed to make finding a significant other more of a priority in my life. I’ve always been skeptical of dating apps, and up until this comment I’d been trying the old fashioned way. But with my busy schedule as an entrepreneur and being a parent of two girls, it became evident that I wasn’t going to meet someone out in the real world. So I fired up the popular dating apps, and it’s safe to say I was underwhelmed. I went through online dating’s vicious cycle: I went into the process optimistic, gave it my full effort, became dejected, and then shut down the apps altogether to focus on family and career. One evening I went over to my friend Norm’s house — the comedian Norm MacDonald — to vent about my recent first dates that went nowhere. We both came to realize, the underlying problem was first dates. They rarely go well. They seemed like an inefficient use of time, when free time was so precious to begin with. We wondered how we could we make an app that would lead to more meaningful dates. We talked well into the night and in the end LOKO was born. The idea behind it is to eliminate the biggest frustrations with online dating, and to help people make sincere connections.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
A normal day for me begins around 7am to get the kids and I ready for work/school. After I’ve dropped them off, I go to the gym. By the time all of this is done its usually close to 10am. This is when my workday starts and usually involves a steady dose of calls and meetings until about 4pm, when I pick up my girls from school. The evenings are family time; making supper, doing homework with my girls and any other evening activities we have planned. Once the kids go to bed, I make their lunches for the next day and tidy up as necessary. This is generally done by 9:30pm, after which the second round of work begins. In general, this goes on until somewhere between 2am and 3am — I find its a really great time to work as there is no distractions, just me and my laptop in total focus.
Let’s 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?
There is so many ways to answer this, but I think in general, as parents we are our children’s first role model. Our actions form the foundation of their beliefs and morals as they are soaking up everything we do and say. The only way to instill a favorable foundation is to be highly involved while building their self-esteem with continuous positive reinforcement — and face to face time is the only way to succeed at this.
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?
I make a concerted effort to have engaged time with my children. To find the right activities took some trial and error in order to find things that the 3 of us all enjoy. I think its key to find common interests, so there is a genuine enjoyment of the activity from everybody involved. I’m a huge tennis fan, and the girls have also grown to love the game, so our summers always include time at the tennis club. We also make time for movie nights, which in all honesty is probably my favorite. its usually our last activity before bed, so its such a nice way to unwind after a hectic day, cuddling on the couch with a table full of junk food. Now that the girls have become a bit older, another regular activity we do is “date night”. The girls will spend a good chunk of time getting ready, from doing their hair and picking out a fancy dress, to me putting on a dress shirt and tie (and sometimes a jacket if the girls give my the puppy dog eyes!). We’ll go to a fancy restaurant and generally try and go to the movie theatre after. I learned early on that as a Dad, it’s not really possible for me to teach them how to act like a women, but I can show them how a women should be treated and that’s why these date nights have become not only a fun way to spend time together, but also really good teaching moments.
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?
I think this all starts with a genuine want to spend time with your children. In my circumstance, I share custody of my children so I regularly have to experience the want to spend time with my children, yet there is a real barrier that simply won’t let me. It’s been 6 years since I became a single parent, and I can tell you I’ve never got used to days I know I won’t be taking care of them. For this reason, I’ve made time with my girls of the utmost importance, and everything else fits around them. With that in mind, here are 5 strategies I would suggest:
- Find motivation from your children — Like everyone, no matter how passionate you are about your professional pursuits, there comes many times when you simply wonder how you can continue to do this. I think to be able to keep going, you have to have an underlying motivation that truly drives you. For me, this is my children, and specifically to open up every door I possible can for them, so they can chase after whatever dream they may have. Having your children as your underlying motivation also helps me make better decisions in all aspects of life, as you make those decisions with their well-being in mind.
- Make time for your health — This may be a bit counter-intuitive when looking at how to spend more time with our children, but this may be the most important strategy of all. I am regularly on a 20 hour schedule, and the only way I can make that work is by taking care of my health. I eat as healthy as I can and make sure I allocate time for exercise. This way, I have the energy to be “fully present” when its time for being with my kids.
- Give less importance to chasing after materialistic goals — We are bombarded with messages from an early age that success and happiness is defined by fancy houses and cars, when in fact this is simply not the case. Success and happiness should be defined by having the ability to spend time doing things we are passionate about with people we care about. If we can align our goals with this principle, we can make more time in our day to spend quality time with our kids. This goes back to my first strategy, but if your kids provide you with motivation, spending time with them will add fuel to your fire, and this will help you make decisions that better align with them.
- Make your social circles smaller — Time is so limited as it is, so having a smaller social circle can free up more time. Having a social life is of course important, but keeping that time available for a select few that share common beliefs in life is a good way to prioritize your time, and make more available for your children
- Share your experiences with your children — In order to make it all work, you may have to mix business and pleasure. For obvious reasons, this might not be an option, but being open to it might allow you to spend more time with your children. For example, I spend a lot of time travelling, and I bring my children with me when possible. Not only does it allow me to spend more time with them, but it also allows my children to experience more of the world, by meeting new people and doing interesting things.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
I think it’s really hard to define a “good parent” because everyone’s situation is a bit different. But having said that, in general, I’d say being a good parent revolves around being human. Not hiding behind your emotions and admitting when you’ve made a mistake. Sometimes, as parents, we try to portray an image of being perfect to our children and not wanting to show weakness. But I think we need to do the exact opposite. I vividly remember a time where I was going through a lot of stress for personal reasons outside of my children, and I would try my best to put up a good front around my children. And then one night before bed, my daughter gave me a bigger, longer hug than usual. I asked her if something was wrong and she said “No Daddy, I just think you need a really big hug”. This made me realize that children are very smart at reading their parents, so there is no reason to try and hide things. There are times we are stressed from factors that have nothing to do with our children, but we can take out our frustrations on them. In these cases in particular, I think it’s important to apologize to them and show them you have a human side and can’t always be perfect. It also shows them that its okay to make mistakes as this is a part of life. This will help the children be able to be more honest with themselves and you when they make a mistake.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I absolutely believe in a quote that Walt Disney made famous, “If you can dream it, its possible”. I try to instill this belief in my children everyday, and try to do so through my actions as opposed to my words. As for a story, my kids and I are huge fans of the NBA, and my kids have talked about wanting to meet some of their favorite players. As a result of one of my businesses being tied to professional sports, I have been fortunate to make a lot of contacts in that world. So I brought my children along with me for one of my business trips, and they were treated to hanging out courtside at an NBA game and saw some of their favorite players up close and personal.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Success is being able to have control of our time, to spend it on projects we are passionate about and with people we care about.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“My job as a father is not to tell my daughters how to live their life, but rather its for me to live my life, and let them watch me do it”
I find this quote so profound, as I think a lot of parents feel that having children means they have to put their dreams on hold in order to successfully raise them. But in fact it’s the exact opposite. Having children should give you even more reason to chase your dreams, and showing them your dreams are possible is one of the greatest lessons we can teach them.
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 would love to bring more awareness to the concept I discussed in the above question re: my favorite “Life Lesson Quote”. Can you imagine what an amazing world we could build if everyone was chasing their dreams, and raising their children in that sort of environment, while along the way embracing the time they have with them as something that is so motivating. I think you’d have a new generation of children with an excess amount of self-esteem all trying to make the world a better place!
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!