A huge part of what drives me to work hard every day and to strive for success comes from my sense of responsibility for my family and my love for my children. If I didn’t spend time with my children, I would lose the drive to work hard and to strive for success. This would also lead to me being a grumpy parent and even if I spent a lot of time with them, I would probably not be as effective as when I am engaged, feeling fulfilled with my life, etc.
Michael Choi is the CEO of Coding Dojo, a leading Coding Bootcamp with campuses in Silicon Valley, Berkeley, Seattle, LA, Dallas, Chicago, Tyson’s Corner, and Tulsa, and an online program. Coding Dojo is unique in that it teaches students the skills to quickly learn any new coding language, in addition to rigorous training in 3 full stacks in 14 weeks. As a result, their highly sought-after graduates hit the ground running in any company they join and are immediately impactful.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
Although I was born in Provo, Utah in 1980, when I was 7 years old my family decided to move back to Korea. My dad, being a professor, felt that he received a lot from the US and he wanted to give back to his own country. This is where I started to learn Quick Basics, C++ and then a bit of Assembly by creating games with my friends. It was a long process but also very fun and rewarding for me.
My family moved back to the US when I was 14. I continued my passion for programming throughout high school and kept at it through to college where I studied at BYU, CalTech and Stanford.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
A passionate coder since I was a kid, I knew early on that understanding and writing code for computers would be highly prized skill that could take individuals farther in their careers. However, instead of kicking off my own career as a coder, I opted instead for entrepreneurship as I wanted to help others reach self-sufficiency through some type of education.
My first two businesses didn’t work out, but my passion for computer science and education never left– prompting me to think about how I could equip any type of worker with the most future forward tech skills by finding a better way to teach. I started with a small group of cohorts and grew Coding Dojo to where it is today!
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I usually wake up around 4AM and start working, focusing on the most important items for the day. I do this till around 7AM. From 7AM — 8:30AM, I spend time with my four kids and drop them off at school. I arrive to the office around 9AM and I am there usually till 6PM or 7PM. I then spend about two hours with my family and then from 9PM-9:30PM, check my emails as I have a team overseas I need to communicate with.
Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
A huge part of what drives me to work hard every day and to strive for success comes from my sense of responsibility for my family and my love for my children. If I don’t spend time with my children, I would lose the drive to work hard and strive for success. This would also lead to me being a grumpy parent and even if I spent a lot of time with them, I would probably not be as effective as when I am engaged, feeling fulfilled with my life, etc.
It’s not just the fact that it’s important for me to spend time with my children so that they can get whatever they need from me, but also just as much as they may need me, I also need them in my life to stay engaged, and feel fulfilled at work and in my life. In some ways, I don’t spend time with my children for any specific goal that I want them to do or have; I spend time with them and like to spend time with them because I need them in my life and they bring me so much joy and happiness that I want more of them in my life.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?
I want to be there when my children need me and know the time spent with them while they are young will be critical in how strong our relationship becomes. Some of the side benefits of spending time with my children are, 1) they help me see what’s really important in life (relationship, connections, family, etc) especially when I am so swamped with work, 2) they uplift and bring joy in my life, which makes me a happier leader which also affects people in my organization as no one wants a grumpy boss either!
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 go on outings with my kids about once a quarter. I have them build a schedule of what they want to do together and try to do what they want to do. Sometimes we go eat ice cream, play games at Chuck E Cheese or go to Target to buy some toys. I also bought some board games recently and to play with my kids on the weekends.
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?
Some things that worked for me are:
1) I do not work on Saturday or Sunday. Saturday is my time for my wife and family. Sunday is reserved for God and when I am not doing my church duties, etc, I then spend the rest of the time with my family. Having this mentality that I am not going to do any work on Saturday or Sunday has really helped with my sanity. All of my employees know this too and know they are not to send me any emails or call on the weekends, unless it’s an emergency.
2) I don’t watch TV on Sunday. I did this since I was a kid but now that I am a parent, this really helps me and my wife spend more time with our children.
3) I go on a biweekly date with my wife. As my children are now all in elementary schools, I do this during weekdays so that we don’t have to get a babysitter. Every other Thursday morning, I take my wife out for a biweekly date and spend time together. This has really helped.
4) My wife and I give our kids chores where they can earn their own allowance. With their allowance earned, it makes it fun as they want to buy things and it’s a good time to teach them about financial goals and how valuable money is.
5) Sometimes, we go camping or intentionally go to areas where there’s no internet. This forces me to recharge, as I am away from work, and also helps me to fully focus on my kids.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
Good parent = parent that cares and gives 100% to take care of the family. I think parenting becomes mis-aligned when parents have certain expectations for the children. I don’t set expectations or specific goals for my children. I try to just love them for who they are and think more of myself as their guide (when they need me). Setting any type of goals can be unhealthy as it creates unsafe expectations.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I don’t think it’s my responsibility to inspire my children. I believe each child wants to do something special in each of his/her life and my job is to support them and help them achieve what they want to accomplish in life. Also, thinking that my child is not dreaming big I think is an ill-conceived judgement. Maybe the child is thinking big but your definition of big doesn’t match up with what the child wants to do. I believe that each child all has something deep that they want to achieve in life and purpose for them coming here on earth and my job is to love and support them with their mission (and not impose any of my mission on them).
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
There are multiple aspects of success: financial, spiritual, emotional, physical, etc. For me, “success” means I was helpful to people and that I gave my time and energy to help people in this world.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Bible and Book of Mormon — those built my spiritual pillars and my deep desire to help others.
Being out in nature — I think nature teaches you about what’s most important in life and humbles us especially when the world pushes us for financial success.
My parents — as they unconditionally loved me and always supported me, whether I was doing good or bad. That unconditional love they had for me have really inspired me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” This was a big lesson for me and something that has influenced me greatly. Everything starts in our mind and our beliefs matter. A lot of times, I felt that my perspectives on “success” or “happiness” were more dependent on my previous conceived beliefs and I could affect how “happy” or “excited” or “sad” I felt by having another perspective introduced.
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. 🙂
Applying lean methodology makes it possible to bring high-quality education to everyone in the world, while still introducing 1:1 relationships that are so critical between a teacher and a student. If I have a part in making this possible, it can help a lot of people, especially those in many countries where education materials and access to great instructors are limited.
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment. An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits. Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”. When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.