“Having an open discussion without judgment can be enlightening to both you and your children” with Stuart Wilensky and Chaya Weiner

Remember to talk about what they want to talk about. Don’t ignore the signs and signals. They have interests that might not be yours. Ask them questions about what they are interested in. Take the time to research their interests so they know you care about what they care about. Be open to their ideas, […]

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Remember to talk about what they want to talk about. Don’t ignore the signs and signals. They have interests that might not be yours. Ask them questions about what they are interested in. Take the time to research their interests so they know you care about what they care about. Be open to their ideas, even if you disagree. Let them know their ideas matter to you. Having an open discussion without judgment can be enlightening to both you and your children.

I had the pleasure to interview Stuart Wilensky, President and Founder of Wilensky Fine Minerals and Wilensky Gallery. Stuart started the company twenty-five years ago with his wife, Donna Wilensky. Together they built a small mineral collecting business into an renowned international NYC gallery. Stuart, along with their sons, Troy and Connor, and daughter-in-law, Erica, opened Wilensky Gallery of Fine Minerals in the heart of the Chelsea Art District in NYC. Wilensky Gallery presents fine minerals among the world’s great art galleries, displaying minerals as works of art. Achieving the impact of art through natural mineral specimens is Stuart’s goal. He works closely with collectors around the world to provide the finest known examples of mineral specimens. Stuart’s role is advisor, expert, and connoisseur to his clients. He has published six books detailing and archiving many of the world’s most noteworthy mineral specimens that have passed through his hands. Stuart has helped form nearly every significant mineral collection in the world, including the MIM Museum in Beirut, The Houston Museum of Natural Science, and The Peter Via Collection at James Madison University.

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

Born in Brooklyn, NY, my family moved to the Hudson Valley when I was five. I have lived in this area ever since. I was very fortunate to be raised in a home where art and culture were highly valued. My parents were art and antique dealers so travel, museums, art auctions, art galleries were a large part of our life. I was, and still am, very close with my father (my mother died when I was 30). I joined my father’s business when I was 18 and I traveled extensively with him throughout Europe on business. During this time I was also in college and earned my Master’s Degree in Art History.

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

The recent opening of our NYC gallery was brought about by my two sons, Troy and Connor, joining me in my business. When they made the decision to be a part of my business it was at that moment that I felt it was time to expand upon what I had built over the past 30 years. This was a defining moment. The desire and need to help my sons take the next step to growing my business for their future.

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

Previous to opening our NYC gallery my days were largely spent in my home office. Mornings were spent answering emails, phone calls, then moving on to keeping in touch with clients and suppliers. In our business it is critical to understand the direction and interests of clients and to match those with suppliers. Due to the unique nature of what we offer this is very time consuming and complex.

It has always been my nature to try and master every task to successfully run my business. I designed our advertising, worked on bookkeeping & accounting, shot photographs, and visited clients and suppliers…all while studying the history, and trying to predict the future of the direction of our business. To be successful at what we do we need: a deep knowledge of minerals, to understand the science, as well as the aesthetics of fine minerals, and have curatorial skills, as well as sales skills. I work very closely with my clients and they, in turn, expect me to guide them with integrity and knowledge.

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?

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?

Not spending time with your children is a concept that actually makes no sense to me. Why did you have children if you do not want to spend time with them?

Children begin life with their parents and it is from their parents that children learn and understand the world around them. Children are constantly absorbing knowledge and experience; spending time with them increases the likelihood that a parent can help them develop in positive ways. The decades of experience a parent can transmit to a child is exponentially increased by the time spent with their children.

A parent’s responsibility is to help children navigate the world and to teach them the skills that will make them successful. But, as a parent, I can attest to the fact that we learn from our children as well. As adults we are viewing the world dictated by our experiences, good and bad. Children allow us to once again see the world anew, with fresh and unadulterated sight. If we allow ourselves as parents to be open to how children see us, and everything around us, we too can benefit greatly from this shared experience.

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 work with all three of my children. My two sons and I work together at Wilensky Gallery in NYC, and I also work with my daughter in her business, AfterEden Gallery in Beacon, NY. Working together lends itself easily to spending both quantities of time and quality time.

When all of my children were young and in school I would always make time every evening to help them with school work and school-related projects. We learned a lot about each other during these sessions; it wasn’t always easy, but it was rewarding. Often, school-related topics led into other areas of interest that they each had. It was this sharing of information and listening to their views that created a great interaction between us. It was how I learned what they were interested in.

I have always tried to encourage my children’s specific interests. Taking time to discuss their direction in life. My daughter, Shana, has always had a strong interest in television production and screenwriting. We often discuss the story lines of shows we like and the character development. When she decided to go for her graduate degree in screen writing we spent time together researching the best programs, and meeting with people in the entertainment industry. I am fortunate to be friendly with several, and together we would meet with them and then discuss together her future in the field.

My oldest son, Troy, developed a strong interest in my career as a dealer in fine mineral specimens. Since that time we spend a lot of time together talking about our shared enjoyment of these amazing natural works of art.

My youngest son, Connor, has several interests which we share. He too is strongly interested in minerals but he also has a strong interest in the world of comics and Superheroes. Several years ago he and I worked together on developing our own line of superhero sculptures, spending endless hours together designing and creating. Now we spend more time discussing our shared love of minerals.

With my two sons I spend quite a bit of time together discussing the future strategies and logistics of growing our family business. Even though one might consider this more of a business oriented interaction, we will often discuss many other topics. This time together is so much more than sharing ideas, it involves lots of family history, and often veers off into other topics where we share interests.

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?

It is not always easy to put aside all of the daily demands and stop whatever you are doing to create a focused environment to spend time with your children, but it is necessary. I have learned to try and do what is absolutely necessary every day so that when I want to, or need to, I can take the time to spend with them. I find if the most pressing things are accomplished, by prioritizing what must get done and what can wait, I can then feel relaxed and focused on taking the time to talk and be with them. For me this is the number one strategy.

Another strategy is to travel with them. When I am away from home and my office I can focus better on listening and being present. Being away from the daily chores is freeing your mind up to being able to truly hear what your children are saying and feeling.

Putting limitations on your work life is very important. Placing more weight on spending time with your children than your work is very important. Thinking about the importance of your influence on their lives and how it will serve their well-being versus the importance of making another sale or paying another bill. Thinking back to my own childhood I remember the great times spent with my parents. These memories are really all we truly own. I would like my children to remember their father as being there when they needed him and not as the guy who put his clients and his business before them.

Remember to talk about what they want to talk about. Don’t ignore the signs and signals. They have interests that might not be yours. Ask them questions about what they are interested in. Take the time to research their interests so they know you care about what they care about.

Be open to their ideas, even if you disagree. Let them know their ideas matter to you. Having an open discussion without judgment can be enlightening to both you and your children.

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

A good parent is almost not definable. As parents we try our very best. A good parent must understand that no matter what they do or how they raise their children they will often feel like they could have done more. We will always regret our mistakes. A good parent is someone who can accept this and always try to do better. Parents do not have to be perfect. If you make a mistake, or do something wrong, always apologize and try to do better next time. A good parent must have respect, concern and above all patience with themselves and their children.

A good parent is one who cares about their children and their children’s future. Guiding their children through life with the wisdom and experience they possess. Loving them unconditionally is of the utmost importance.

For this I cannot give any one example. Being a good parent is a daily, sometimes hourly event. There should not be one example, they are countless and endless.

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

I don’t know if my interpretation of “dream big” is the same as others. I have always tried to inspire my children to dream whatever they choose to dream. Dreaming “big” has a connotation that does not necessarily line up with my concept of a successful life. A happy life. I have always encouraged my children to follow the path they feel most inspired by.

I believe that bold decisive decisions in life are important. Follow that path, do what it takes to achieve your goals and do not be scared to leap into the unknown. For each of my children that would have been a different example but the basic concept remains the same. Never fear the future and never regret the past.

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

I have always defined success by being able to achieve my goals without sacrificing my family. That has sometimes meant following a more difficult path, creating a work environment wherein I could achieve both. Honestly, this question makes me feel disingenuous — “masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family” — without the endless support of my wife, and their mother, Donna, I could never have achieved this level of success. Knowing that she was always there, usually teaching me how to be a better parent, I could not have done this without her. Having Donna as my partner in everything was the most successful thing I ever did. Anyone who believes they achieved success in both family and career alone is not being truly honest.

Defining success by how much money you have earned is easy, that’s just mathematics. Judging success by creating a life within your career is far more challenging and rewarding. That has always been my definition of success. For me the ultimate success was having the respect of my peers and the love of my family.

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

I have never relied on books or other materials to inspire me. I was inspired by my own parents, and later by my wife’s parents. It was their example that inspired me. I learned from them how to be a better parent.

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

“Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.” -Golda Meir

It is this concept of creating the life you want which connects with the self that you will be happy with.

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 do not see myself as a person of influence outside of my sphere so this question is a bit difficult for me to answer. Art and beauty inspires me. Both the wonder of what we are capable of and the amazing art that surrounds us

I would like to show the world the beauty and wonder that surrounds them every day. We do not just live on the earth, we are part of it. The art of nature, specifically the art of natural minerals and crystals, give me a sense of peace and happiness. If I can impart this to others and have them feel and see what I do that would make me feel I have done something worthy for the world.

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

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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