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“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Dr. Ely Weinschneider & Caleb Silver

Ultimately, you want your children to know and love themselves. You also want them to be loving and kind people who are generous, thoughtful and happy. Spending time together and doing things you enjoy teaches them to appreciatelife, family, and themselves. They learn to value themselves and what they have through shared experiences. They learn […]

Ultimately, you want your children to know and love themselves. You also want them to be loving and kind people who are generous, thoughtful and happy. Spending time together and doing things you enjoy teaches them to appreciatelife, family, and themselves. They learn to value themselves and what they have through shared experiences. They learn their identities by being part of a family. That identity is shaped throughout their lives through friendships, teachers and other mentors, but it begins at home. As we all know, experiences are not always joyful. Tragedy, sadness, remorse and fear are also important learning experiences that we all go through. Having a strong and supportive family helps children learn from those experiences and helps build their character. It also helps adults continue to build their characters too, especially when they endure them as parents.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Caleb Silver. Caleb is a business news journalist and the Editor in Chief of Investopedia. He began his career as a documentary producer, but quickly moved into business news for Bloomberg as the dot-com bubble was growing. He then went to CNN to run its business news coverage and spent 10 years at the network as the executive producer for CNNMoney, the director of business news, and a senior producer on the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. Caleb came to Investopedia in 2016.


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

I would describe my childhood as a Tale of Two Cities, both literally and figuratively. My older sister and I were raised by two loving and hardworking parents in New York City until I was 9. My dad was and still is a venture capitalist, and my mom was a public school teacher in New York who went back to school in her 30’s to get her Masters of Social Work to practice family therapy. When I was 9, my folks decided to move out West, and let my sister and I help choose which city we’d move to. After we took a family trip to Santa fe, NM, we know we were home. The sunsets, the culture, the connection to the land, it all just fascinated me, even as a kid.

We were fortunate enough to attend a great prep school in Santa Fe, but I always felt like an outsider coming from New York. I learned pretty quickly about discrimination, even though I knew we were privileged. It took a while to gain acceptance from the locals and establish real friendships, but I eventually did through sports and going to work at a young age. I started working as a busboy and a prep cook in some of Santa Fe’s busiest restaurants from the age of 13. It was the 1980s, and labor laws were loose.

I was an all state soccer goalkeeper and a lacrosse player, and I was pretty active in high school. I was a good, not great student, but made up for it with effort and extracurricular activities like the Boy Scouts, Model U.N., school theater and volunteering.

Santa Fe turned out to be a wild and incredible place to grow up. We had a lot of freedom, but I always had a sense of responsibility imbued by my parents and my work experiences.

When I started my college search I was recruited by several schools to play soccer. One of them was Colgate University in the middle of New York State. I had never really heard of it growing up in Santa Fe, but when I visited the campus in Hamilton NY in the middle of the fall as the leaves were peaking, I knew it was the right place for me. I studied Art and Art History, pledged a fraternity, worked part-time, spent a semester in Italy, made lifelong friends, and really just enjoyed the college experience.

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

After college, I went back to New Mexico for a relationship I had left behind, but when that didn’t work out, I was a little lost. I was managing a restaurant, working really hard, and staying out way too late with the restaurant crowd. One of my first bosses was an older Greek woman who owned several restaurants. She would walk the floor during dinner, dressed to the 9s, greeting guests and making sure her customers were happy. But when a pipe broke in the kitchen, she was the first person under the sink with a wrench, making sure it was fixed correctly so as not to disrupt service. I never forgot what she taught me about leadership and responsibility.

I loved the restaurant business, but knew I didn’t want to make a career out of it. I was drawn to story- telling and journalism, mostly through documentary films from masters like D.A. Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman. I also cared a lot about environmental protection, having grown up in the beauty of New Mexico. With the money I made in the restaurant business, I bought a television camera, tripod and some microphones, and started stringing for the local news stations in Albuquerque New Mexico. I would pitch them stories on environmental protests and activities in Northern New Mexico and drive my truck into the mountains to cover those stories, then sell my footage to the news affiliates. This was all before the days of the cell phone or sending video clips over high speed internet.

In time, I got good enough to fund an expedition through Central and South America, shooting documentary footage for environmental groups like Greenpeace, Ancient Forests International and regional NGOs. I’d exchange the footage for room, board and incredible experiences, like chasing illegal loggers through the forests of Southern Brazil, or profiling inindgenous environmental activists throughout Central America and South America. It was actually on this trip that I met my wife in Montevideo, Uruguay as she was studying to be an evolutionary biologist focusing on conservation.

We agreed to move to the States together and attend graduate schools. I attended NYU’s Carter Institute for Journalism for my Masters degree, and she attended Columbia for her phD. This was the late 1990’s, and the internet bubble was slowly starting to grow, and financial media was coming to life. I was hired as an intern by Bloomberg Television, which was in its early days. Because I could shoot, edit and produce news, I found myself with a lot of opportunities to pitch stories and put them on the air. I was hooked.

After NYU, I went to work for a human rights television production company for two years, making documentaries with Amnesty International, working on a show for PBS, and other pretty interesting projects. Eventually, Bloomberg Television offered me a job as a TV producer, and I leapt at the chance to join a world class news organization and earn a real paycheck. I spent eight years at Bloomberg, rising as a television producer and improving my business journalism. In 2004 I was recruited to CNN to help run CNNfn, it’s now defunct business news channel. I spent ten years at CNN, helping launch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, running CNNMoney’s video channel, and eventually running all of business news for CNN.

I left CNN in 2014 to form my own production company to work on documentaries, branded content and live events. I teamed up with another production company to produce five documentaries for CNN, Al Jazeera America and PBS, in addition to several corporate projects and a live speaking tour. I also began consulting with financial technology firms on their content strategies. That’s when I noticed that Investopedia, a website I had depended on throughout my career in business news, was looking for a VP of Content. I called some friends who worked for IAC, the parent company of Investopedia, and asked about the site and if they thought I’d be a good fit. They were incredibly enthusiastic, so I arranged to meet the leadership of Investopedia. Their passion and vision for the site aligned directly with mine: creating great educational content across multimedia to educate the modern independent investor. Four years later, I’m still there as Editor in Chief and SVP of Content, and having a ball.

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

I write two daily newsletters, one in the early morning and one at the end of the day. These reach about 500,000 people, so I have to be well read in global business news, trends and developments that impact individual investors. I start reading around 630am every morning, and the first newsletter goes out at 8am.

On a personal level, I attend a conditioning class three days a week, 5:30am on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 8am on Saturday. Thursdays and Fridays I either go do my own workout at the gym or go for a bike ride. I’ve always been an early riser, and I like to get workout in early, before I get to the office. I bring my wife a cup of tea every day at 6:45am, and I make breakfast and lunches for my daughters, 13 and 15. We’ll have a quick breakfast as a family before we all set out.

I ride the subway with one of my daughters every day, depending on when I need to get in to the office. When my youngest and I ride together, we’ll share my headphones and listen to our favorite songs from our shared playlist. It’s one of the best moments of my day, every day.

I’m in the office by 8:30. Several times a week I do television segments as a commentator on cable news channels and business news outlets. I prep for those appearances by scanning industry news coverage and analysis, while gathering material for my afternoon newsletter and columns. I also speak at a lot of conferences as a presenter or a moderator, so I am always preparing for the next event.

By 9:30am, all our editors gather for a stand up where we review process improvements we’re making or deciding on new topics we think will be useful to our readers. Throughout the day I’m either writing, attending meetings with my team on various projects, or working with our sales team on campaigns for our sponsors.

I try to file my afternoon newsletter by 5pm, review the drafts and have it sent by 5:45pm. I take care of emails or return phone calls until about 630p and then head home to Harlem.

We always eat dinner together as a family, whenever possible. My wife or I may have an evening event or work dinner to attend about once a week or so, and one of the girls may have a late after-school activity, but we generally sit together 5–6 nights a week. I’m usually in bed by 10:30 and out by 11p most nights.

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?

Children need to connect and communicate with their parents. They learn most of their values from them and how to have a reciprocal relationship. The basic rules of give and take are built into being a family. Love should always be unconditional, but learning about empathy, morality, and ethics is the most important gift a parent can give to their child. Those lessons and connections do not happen if you don’t spend time together as a family. When you get to be a parent and as you get older, you realize how similar you are to your parents. You recognize how they influenced your approach to the world, for better or worse. You have to spend time together, find things that you can enjoy as a family and use those experiences as a foundation for communicating and learning how to appreciate the things in life that really matter. It requires presence, time and transparency.

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?

Ultimately, you want your children to know and love themselves. You also want them to be loving and kind people who are generous, thoughtful and happy. Spending time together and doing things you enjoy teaches them to appreciatelife, family, and themselves. They learn to value themselves and what they have through shared experiences. They learn their identities by being part of a family. That identity is shaped throughout their lives through friendships, teachers and other mentors, but it begins at home. As we all know, experiences are not always joyful. Tragedy, sadness, remorse and fear are also important learning experiences that we all go through. Having a strong and supportive family helps children learn from those experiences and helps build their character. It also helps adults continue to build their characters too, especially when they endure them as parents.

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?

We’ve brought up our children to appreciate and enjoy traveling. We have been fortunate enough to show them parts of the world from a very young age and enjoyed experiences together that we will never forget. Traveling as a family is a great way to get out of your element and face the challenges and unique experiences that help everyone grow.

We also love road trips. We’ll create playlists or alternate who’s DJ in the car so everyone gets to share their favorite music. As a parent, nothing makes you happier than introducing your kids to music from your own youth and having them fall in love with it.

My youngest daughter is an oyster and sushi fiend. She is not what you might call a “cheap date”. But, whenever it’s just the two of us, we’ll have dinner at a sushi or oyster bar and throw down like pros. We’ve had some memorable feasts, and it’s our way of doing our special thing.

My oldest daughter is really into music. She tries out new songs that she writes for us at home, and puts on small concerts when we have family or friends over for the holidays. It’s pretty special. We also introduce each other to music we enjoy.

Some of our best moments, however, are when we are outside throwing a frisbee- she’s really into playing ultimate frisbee too. It’s like a conversation that has no words. Just the flight of the frisbee between us and the joy of seeing her make a great catch or a toss. I grew up playing golf with my dad, so those moments of just being together playing a sport you both enjoy are some of my most cherished.

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?

  1. Put down your phone!
  2. Be spontaneous and get everyone excited to break the routine. Dash out to a diner for french toast in the evening, grab last minute tickets to a show. Routine can get boring for anyone, especially kids. And who doesn’t like a pleasant surprise?
  3. Dedicate a few hours each weekend to doing something together as a family. Go for a hike, check out a museum, go thrift shopping (big winner with teenage girls), but you have to dedicate the time and get buy in.
  4. Instead of just asking them how their day was, ask them to name one positive and one negative thing that happened to them that day.
  5. Tell them stories about your childhood. It’s a great way for them to get to know you better and helps them relate to you as people, not just parents.

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

Good parenting expresses itself in different ways, but to me, it’s all about knowing what works between you and your child. For example, when I was in high school and crossed the line with my parents one too many times, they responded by shifting the responsibility to me by removing my curfew instead of grounding me or making it earlier. They knew that I knew right from wrong, and if I had to answer to myself for my actions, I would take it more seriously than if they put more rules on me. They were right. As soon as I realized that I was responsible for my decisions and their consequences, I made better decisions. I wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but I was more responsible, respectful and self aware because they put the onus on me. That doesn’t work for all kids and parents, but it worked for me.

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

Introducing your children to inspirational people, those that you know personally or admire from afar, is a good way to get them to dream big. My wife and I are fortunate to know some pretty accomplished people through our careers, and even some of our own family members. Making sure our children know them and why they are so impressive helps them relate to their own dreams and ambitions to make them seem possible. Just knowing that a real person in your life was able to accomplish something makes it feel so much more real.

We also talk to our kids about our own career paths and the challenges we faced to get to where we are today. You have to share your failures and successes equally, though, so they know that achievement is never a straight line.

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

Success is a state of mind that comes with being content with what you have and the people you surround yourself with. Being content is different than feeling pleasure or instantaneous joy. It is a general feeling of satisfaction that lasts longer and shapes your outlook on the things that happen in your life, both positive and negative.

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

Podcasts like “This American Life” and “Radiolab” are rarely about parenting but we love to share them with our kids because they are great examples of storytelling. They inspire curiosity and creativity, and when your kids enjoy them as much as you do, you know you are on the right track.

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

“It’s like a finger pointing to the moon. Don’t focus on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”

– Bruce Lee

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 make financial literacy a requirement in high school. But I wouldn’t just teach the basics of savings, spending and investing. I would want to teach financial literacy in a way that makes us rethink the basic premises of the 20th century economy that are based on fossil fuel extraction, profit at any cost and the proliferation of income inequality. We need to rebuild and rethink capitalism in a way that protects the planet, takes care of the less fortunate and creates success for all stakeholders who participate in it.

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

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