I also believe it’s completely okay to act like a kid at the right times. I think if you were to ask my kids what their favorite memories are together, they would say when we went sledding together, played video games in a fort we made or waited in the dark to scare my wife. I think many parents feel like they have to be on one side of the line of friend or parent but the reality for me has been, I think it just depends. And if you know your kids well and are really thoughtful you will know which role you need to play and when.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Nate Checketts. Nate Checketts is the Co-Founder & CEO of Rhone, a men’s performance lifestyle brand founded in 2014. Prior to Rhone, Nate worked for and consulted with some of the biggest technology and entertainment properties in the world including Cisco, The National Football League, Legends, FanVision and Sport Radar. Nate is also an avid entrepreneur who founded and launched 4 companies before the age of 30, including Rhone and Mangia Technologies, whose patents were later acquired by the San Francisco 49ers. In addition to Rhone, Nate also serves as Chairman of the Board to Beyond Type 1, a non-profit dedicated to the community of those with Type 1 Diabetes. Nate graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in Finance. He and his wife Dayna reside in Connecticut with their three young boys, Gabriel, William and Nicholas.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up being the middle child in a large family of 6 kids with incredible parents. I was always the kid who was tinkering with something. At 6 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be an inventor because I was always fascinated by people who created and invented — in fact, Thomas Edison was my childhood hero because we had a cartoon VHS of his story of inventing the lightbulb. When I was 10, I had a full-time lemonade stand, and by 14, I decided to start a summer camp for kids in my parents’ backyard that ran for 8 years. When I was in college, I entered a business plan competition and made it to the state semi-finals where I deferred a management consulting opportunity to pursue my startup dreams. Since then, I have always been involved in startups in some form or another.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
In college, I majored in entrepreneurial finance as I knew I would want to build and run a company one day. During that time, I launched a mobile software startup that created one of the early iPhone applications that used natural language processing and early forms of AI to connect concessions with consumers in sports stadiums and arenas. We sold the patents for that company to the San Francisco 49ers, which ultimately led me to working at the NFL focused on sponsorship strategy. I eventually left the NFL to join a boutique growth equity firm while trying to get Rhone off the ground in my free hours. After a year of growing Rhone on the side, I realized the potential of the brand and I left to pursue it full-time.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I wish I could! I try to organize my weeks around core pillars of focus. Our offices are in Connecticut, but I am generally in New York City 1–2 days a week for external meetings or Rhone events, combined with a fair amount of travel. So, no two days are ever really the same, but the focus is always the same — to build Rhone into a high-impact, fast-growing consumer brand that matters, and that we can be proud of.
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?
I am the son of a successful and hard-working father who often had to work late, but I always tell people, he was a father before he was a business executive. That can’t be measured in his time spent with me or my siblings, because like most people, he likely spent more time at work than he did at home. But he and my mom were “present” parents. When they were there, they were truly there. Like most activities in life, measuring simply in terms of time spent is less effective than impact made. A lot of parents mistake that simply having time with children and checking the box will achieve the goals they want of building a relationship with their kids. Relationships are forged by deep experiences and spending real time together, interacting. Case in point, if you get on an airplane for 6 hours, and you and the person next to you are on your phones the entire time, you will have built no lasting relationship — yet, there are examples of friendships that last for years but started on a long plane ride. It is about being present.
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?
I have 3 boys and am learning that they’re far more discerning than I have initially given them credit for. Like most people, they want to know that you are there for them when they need you — and like any other relationship, the time spent with them is an investment in the relationship which will always have ups and downs. I always try to remember that the most important thing I can do for my kids is for them to know that I love them unconditionally and that I love their mom unconditionally. My experience is that leads to them feeling safe, and unfortunately there are a lot of places as a kid growing up you don’t feel safe. From the research I have read, boys in particular tend to deal with a lot of insecurity or inferiority complexes. I want them to know they can make mistakes and are still loved above all else, and that my love for them will not change based on their achievement or lack thereof. I think without spending time with them it would be very hard for them to feel that.
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?
My wife is incredible at this! We try to be intentional at creating memories, and in order to do this, it takes real planning.
It may be embarrassing — more so for my kids than it is for me — but we actually try to end each night with a family cheer. It’s the same thing every night and I got the idea from a close friend of mine who was an incredible father before he passed. The kids helped us create the cheer and they love taking turns leading it.
Post family cheer, I do what we call “The Human Elevator.” I pick up all 3 kids and carry them up the stairs. It’s getting to be quite hard as my oldest is now 10 and my youngest is 4. Amazingly, they all get a big kick out of it and even if I’m struggling — especially during my marathon training — we all laugh trying to make it up the stairs — especially when my wife tried to add the family dog on top!
My wife and I also try to spend one-on-one time with each child doing “date nights” where we will jointly plan something with each one. We’ve tried new restaurants, seen a movie or tried something new like bowling or the batting cages. We also have a tradition that when they turn 8 we take them on a 3-day individual trip of their choice with both parents. I want each of them to get the chance to feel like an only child.
I also believe it’s completely ok to act like a kid at the right times. I think if you were to ask my kids what their favorite memories are together, they would say when we went sledding together, played video games in a fort we made or waited in the dark to scare my wife. I think many parents feel like they have to be on one side of the line of friend or parent but the reality for me has been, I think it just depends. And if you know your kids well and are really thoughtful you will know which role you need to play and when.
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.
Here are 5 strategies to creating more space to give our kids more quality attention:
- Find the screen time app or the equivalent on your phone. Determine where you are spending the most time on your phone and delete your top 3 apps for at least a week. Don’t feel like you can do that? Take a look again at how much time it is costing you and that time is likely coming more from your kids than you want to realize. After a week, ask yourself if you feel more present in general and if you have had any wins as a parent as a result.
- Before getting home or before your kids get home, take a deep breath and remind yourself “this is the most important work I am going to do today.” Sometimes when I’m stressed out with work, it is easy to bring that into the home. Taking a couple of deep breaths before I arrive and saying (out loud if possible) how important the work at home is, it helps to center me and give me the energy I need to lift my family.
- Try to build a template of an ideal calendar. Block off time for important things like date nights with your significant other, time with your kids, etc. For me, if it’s not on my calendar I tend to fill that with other things quickly. By putting it on my calendar I am committing to spending the time there and making sure I give the appropriate time. My biggest fear is to wake up in 20 years after my kids are gone and realize I missed far too much of their growing up years. Having a template can also get you back on the right track after you travel or when you get into a rut which happens to me from time to time.
- Make some decisions or principles about some things you will and won’t do and honor them as a parent. For example, one of my principles is “No matter where I am, I always try to reach my kids every day and let them know I love them.” If you know it is a principle it is easier to do 100% of the time than 90% because then it saves you having to make the decision each time.
- Give your kids things to look forward to doing together. Be interested in their interests, not just yours. I have spent a night learning how to play Minecraft because that’s what my son wanted to play. I have found by showing an interest in their interests they are more open to trying things I am excited about.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
Parenting is likely the hardest job there is, and it’s not my place to judge what makes a good parent. But I think the easiest metric to judge oneself is on effort. I always ask myself, am I putting in the effort to be a great father. For me, it takes a lot of hard work, intention and focus. For others it may be completely natural, but I have yet to meet a great parent who doesn’t care deeply about their children and doesn’t make them a priority. Ultimately, I think the way a child will judge a parent is based on how much love they feel as an individual.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I think dreaming big requires creativity, so one of the biggest ways I can encourage the kids to dream and think big is to encourage their own creativity. We read the entire Harry Potter series together out loud and then after each book put together a Harry Potter party with them before we watched the movie. We are also big Dr. Seuss fans and one of my favorites is reading them “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
I definitely do not masterfully straddle career and family, but I work very hard to balance it and it requires effort. The truth is work life balance is somewhat of a myth. I am never perfectly in-balance, but the goal is to minimize the imbalance by constantly making micro and sometimes bigger adjustments. It takes time for self-reflection and a willingness to make a change when one needs to be made. Success for me is based 100% on my wife and my kids knowing I love them and feeling that. Everything else is second.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
My favorite book that I have gone back to time and time again is The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. It is foundational for building a life of meaning for me. There is one made specifically for families –The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Families — but understanding the first makes the second less of a need to read. I also really love and recommend the book Grit by Angela Duckworth for all parents.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is the Rhone mantra of “Forever Forward.” We all make mistakes, take steps backward or get lost at various times in our life. And that is okay. It happens. But, if we just keep on focusing on moving forward and making progress in whatever we are pursuing, that gives life great meaning. Life isn’t like a road where you can be stationary — I’ve found it’s much more like an escalator and you are either moving forward or backward. It starts with focus and intention then a lot of work and self-reflection.
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. 🙂
Right now, I think there is a great opportunity to reinvigorate and inspire men as perhaps for the first time in human history men are having a bit of an identity crisis in society. It’s showing up in the stats on male suicide, anxiety and depression. I think encouraging guys to open up and speak about what they are struggling with is incredibly empowering. Men historically struggle with being vulnerable and open about their challenges, and as I think about my 3 boys, I want to teach them it is okay to struggle, to cry, to try and to fail. That there are good days, bad days and all shades in-between. But the key is to love yourself no matter what, serve those around you and “when given the choice between being right or kind, always be kind.”
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!