Parenting is…”ideally guiding them to want to make the world a better place”, by Dr. Ely Weinchneider and Jason Ojalvo

I like expanding Zoey’s horizons through travel and the arts. Parenting to me is largely about helping your child figure out who they are, how they want to spend their time, and what they value. It’s about helping them learn to solve problems and ideally guiding them to want to make the world a better […]

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I like expanding Zoey’s horizons through travel and the arts. Parenting to me is largely about helping your child figure out who they are, how they want to spend their time, and what they value. It’s about helping them learn to solve problems and ideally guiding them to want to make the world a better place. You can’t do that from the executive suite or with money. You do that spending time with them in person, talking and learning about their life, and then showing them how you yourself act.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Jason Ojalvo. Jason is CEO of TUSHY (, a company revolutionizing and improving the American bathroom. TUSHY is known for its irreverent taboo-breaking marketing, and its first hit product is the Tushy bidet attachment, a beautifully designed sustainable product that turns any standard toilet into a modern bidet. Before that he was Senior Vice President at Audible (a division of where he launched and ran Audible Studios, the original production arm of Audible, and also built and ran the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), an online marketplace connecting authors/publishers with actors/studios to create audiobooks, which has been responsible for more than doubling the number of audiobooks created each year. In addition to his 10-year Amazon tenure, he was a corporate strategy consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers focused on entertainment and media companies, and also amassed 9 years in the music business focused on providing services to artists — from manufacturing to distribution to touring support.

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

My grandparents were entrepreneurs. The grandparents on mom’s side owned the local toy store in my Long Island town. You’d think that’d mean my sister and I were flush with toys… but quite the opposite happened. My grandparents were very frugal, plus my parents didn’t want me to be spoiled, so I didn’t get very many toys. I actually had the smallest toy and game collection of most kids in the neighborhood. My grandparents on my dad’s side were immigrants from Turkey and for years my grandfather owned a luncheonette in midtown Manhattan. My family moved from Long Island to Connecticut when I was 10, and I was very lucky to find my tribe of intellectual creative misfits — we created music, movies, magazines, and mayhem together in the ’80s. I look back now and see that a lot of my desire to work in creative industries and infuse fun and humor into my work stem from those teenage experiences.

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

Well, the abundance of creative projects in my teens, combined with getting an MBA in my 20s, paved the way for the more entrepreneurial side of my career, where I have been actively seeking business opportunities and projects with very creative people. For example, my last role before TUSHY was working for actor/musician/entrepreneur/investor Jared Leto. I’ve always held the coolest, or at least the quirkiest, jobs of all my friends.

I’ve also generally been years ahead of the trends — and sometimes I was too early, and sometimes I was just early enough to be successful. For example, I started working in digital music when 99.9% of consumers were still buying music in physical formats. We were able to secure digital rights to music when most artists and record labels weren’t thinking too seriously about the value of those digital rights. I was a ballet-barre fitness entrepreneur before that craze went mainstream; I was a business development executive for a youth social media company a decade before Facebook made social media mainstream; I became a senior leader at Audible before audiobooks became ubiquitous.

Now I’m disrupting and innovating again as CEO of TUSHY, working to popularize the bidet in America. It may sound crazy now… but wait a few years. Bidets will be everywhere. I landed at TUSHY based on my history of corporate and leadership success, entrepreneurial experience, quirky creativity, and comfort talking about pooping. Having a good sense of humor was also a requirement. The company’s founder is extremely creative, but otherwise our individual skill sets and temperaments don’t overlap all that much; they’re complementary.

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

I wake up early naturally, no matter when I go to bed. So I aim to go for a run or to the gym three to five times per week. I’ve been doing that for close to 20 years now. While our daughter Zoey has breakfast, I try to sit with her even if I don’t eat then myself. Zoey’s been a vegetarian since age 5 and I have celiac and must eat gluten-free, so we all eat different things in our household. I’ll almost always whip up a healthy smoothie — usually some combination of greens, frozen fruit, a milk substitute, protein powder, and extras like chia seeds, hemp seeds, or flax powder. We have more smoothie ingredients than some juice joints in NYC! It’s no wonder I’ve gravitated toward the health and wellness industry with TUSHY and also at an earlier point in my career with Fluidity Fitness.

One day a week, I meet with the company’s founders in the early morning to go over progress and strategize about the future. The other four mornings I’ll do a little work at home or have a business meeting over coffee, and then get to the office at around 9:45 or 10:00 am. My office is in a different part of Brooklyn, and I commute by a combination of bicycle and ferry — although on cold winter days I often take a car. My work day is an equal balance of setting strategy and priorities for the company, talking to potential new business partners — whether potential investors or new marketing partners — and mostly solving the day-to-day problems and removing roadblocks that arise. We’re a very small team, so almost every hour I experience a shift between viewing the landscape from 40,000 feet and getting on my knees to pull up some weeds. It’s both exhausting and exhilarating.

I try to get home between 7:00 and 8:00pm, and we usually order in from one of the many awesome restaurants nearby our apartment in Brooklyn Heights and sit down for a family meal. I used to spend more time with Zoey in the evenings when she was younger, but since she entered middle school, our weekday time together has dwindled. For one thing, she doesn’t want stories read to her (no matter how good my character voices may be). But mostly she has after-school activities and homework, and she’s 100% focused on that. When she goes to high school next year, I worry I’ll rarely see her. In the evenings I’ll occasionally see some live music or get dinner and drinks with friends, but mostly I’ll stay home and talk with my wife, read the news, peruse a travel magazine, and then I almost always do a little more work between 9:30 and 11:00pm.

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?

When I see hardworking parents not spending time with their kids I always think, “Why did you have a kid if you’re not going to set time aside to spend time with them?” It makes no sense to me. It’s natural for kids to look for role models, and their parents are the first people they naturally look to first. So be there and be present.

I spend a lot of time with my daughter Zoey. As an only child she gets lots of attention. But, that said, I am not fond of the parenting style where 100% of life becomes centered around the kid from birth until they leave home. My daughter knows she is loved unconditionally, and we are deeply bonded, but Zoey also knows that that my wife and I had deep lives both as individuals and as a couple before she was born, and we continue maintain adult lives, friendships, and careers that are separate from her.

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 like expanding Zoey’s horizons through travel and the arts. Parenting to me is largely about helping your child figure out who they are, how they want to spend their time, and what they value. It’s about helping them learn to solve problems and ideally guiding them to want to make the world a better place. You can’t do that from the executive suite or with money. You do that spending time with them in person, talking and learning about their life, and then showing them how you yourself act.

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?

Oh, wow, we have a lot of ways we spend quality time together.

First, we love to discuss ethics and moral quandaries. My wife used to teach philosophy, and nowadays we enjoy reading and discussing the Sunday New York Times columns “The Ethicist” and “Social Qs” as a family. We read the questions readers send in and discuss how we’d each answer them and why before reading the columnist’s answers. We’ve been doing this since Zoey was about 7, and she’s 13 now. I recommend this to anyone and everyone trying to raise a thoughtful child and a future mensch. But note that some of the questions are not age-appropriate, so definitely skim them first before diving in.

Second, we love to travel the globe. It gets you away from the day-to-day logistics of work, chores, and other personal commitments and into a new headspace. Our daughter’s been to more countries at 13 than I had at 33. We are just back from a trip to Thailand and Laos; the prior year we’d gone to New Zealand; the year before that to Bali in Indonesia. And lots of countries in Europe and South America before that. We explore the culture of a city, travel by boat, motorcycle, or tuk-tuk, hike the beautiful countryside, take local cooking courses, learn about their culture and religions, etc. Just soak everything in and get to hang out. We generally prioritize travel spending over other spending, and tend to travel fairly frugally (why get an expensive hotel when you’re out all day exploring?) and independently (never do package tours!). When we travel, everyone in the family is pretty much on equal footing — we’re all visitors trying to figure things out and see how people from different cultures live. Our trips my wife and aim to avoid working and checking email constantly (although a few times one of us has had to make it a “working vacation,” which is an oxymoron if there ever was one), so we are 100% focused on being a family. It’s perfect bonding time.

Third, and this is related to number two, I like to take daddy-daughter trips every year. During these trips, I am solo-parenting away from home, so I am forced to be 100% present and focused on her… happily! We’ve gone skiing a number of times, but our favorite bonding trip, which we did a few times when we lived in LA, was spending weekends at Joshua Tree National Monument in the California desert. We’d go rock scrambling for hours, drive deep into the desert to see the stars (once fearing a wolf attack!), crank tunes and sing along as while driving through the desert with the convertible top down, and then curl-up in bed to watch ’70s comedies — just having a blast being buddies.

Fourth, we bond over music. I am a total music junkie, especially for music from the mid-60s to the late-80s. So I play her songs and tell her about why the band or the song was innovative at the time, or where it fits in pop/rock history. We went to see lots of live music when we lived in LA. She was usually the youngest person in the audience (was 11 and 12 during that time) and I was usually the oldest.

Fifth, we watch Supergirl on TV. It’s great for her to see a badass young woman take on big challenges both professionally and personally with the other characters. There are many strong female characters on that show, as well as gay and transgender characters, which are all great for a newly-teenage girl to see. We don’t watch much TV is our home, but the three of us set aside an hour for Supergirl on Sunday nights.

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 wish I could say I never glanced at my phone around my kid. But I can’t… because I do. But when I do the five things I mentioned above, I am fully present with my child. I recommend to any parent to carve-out a few activities, hobbies, or past times with your kids that become “yours”. Could be an every Saturday morning you go to a farmers market to pick out fresh food for the week (and let them do a lot of the choosing and picking!), or work on a giant jigsaw puzzle every Saturday morning, or find an old TV series on Netflix that you want to watch together over the course of a few months — ideally a series that sparks good conversation rather than just a silly, shallow show. And I can’t recommend reading and discussing “The Ethicist” and “Social Qs” in The New York Times enough.

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

Giving presence and support is vital. For example, after never acting, Zoey got a lead role in her eighth-grade play this year. So I went to both performances. There was never a question that I’d prioritize that. She killed it on stage, but who knows if she’ll act again; this may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As another example, Ozzy Osbourne is playing his final show at Madison Square Garden in June. Again, we have to go… no question. (I’ve never been a metal head, but somehow Zoey got into Ozzy and Black Sabbath a few years ago!)

Whatever we do, I aim to connect on her level — making song playlists on Spotify, sharing cute cat videos, figuring out which kicks will look best with her Bat Mitzvah dress, or her favorite: telling awkward stories about weirdo me at age 13.

Being a good parent is often about showing and not telling. So I hope the work I am doing serves as an inspiration to her in two ways. First, Zoey is excited about the work I am doing because she is a bleeding heart and cares passionately about human rights and the environment, and my company TUSHY is all about sustainability. Today, 15 million trees are chopped down every year just to make paper for Americans to wipe poop from their butts. Think about that: it’s totally insane and wasteful. Our bidet product minimizes the need for toilet paper. Even our toilet paper is made from bamboo, a weed that has been found to grow up to 35 inches per day, so it’s very sustainable. Zoey is also excited about my job because she loves TUSHY’s ads, which are almost always irreverent and funny. We write and film them ourselves, not through a big agency or anything like that, and we create new content every month, so she hears me discussing what’s going on all the time. Last year, she came to our pop-up shop in Manhattan — we called it a Poop-Up Shop — and spent hours playing in the giant toilet ball pit and snapping photos in the port-a-potty photobooth and at our Everybody Poops display. She always sees me having tons of fun at work. Which brings me to the second way I hope that my work inspires her: she sees that work can be fun and not just a slog to earn money to pay your bills and buy useless stuff.

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

I think her growing up with two working parents — hard-working parents, at that — is important. My wife and I both have had diverse and interesting career paths, so Zoey knows that is possible.

Because we have a solid family foundation and live somewhat frugally, we have been able to try things out in our career and take some chances. Life is about trial and error. They say you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. Take a chance on a new job or a new product or a new way of doing things. What’s the worst thing that could happen? It fails and you learn something? No big deal; life goes on and you’ve built some character. We are all works in progress, at any age.

Our move to LA was all part of that. It turns out it was more of a one-year adventure than a whole new life. It didn’t work out, we all missed Brooklyn, and so we came home. That experience, plus travelling abroad annually (and she knows that her parents lived abroad for a bit before she was born) shows Zoey that she can think and dream about a life for herself in terms of what the whole world could offer her, not just what her city or state or country can offer for her future.

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

Success for me is simple: happiness. When I am enjoying the company of my family, and I see my daughter make a smart decision — whether it’s something simple for herself like ordering a salad instead of french fries, or something good for the world like marching for women’s rights or against gun violence — then I feel I have been a successful parent.

In terms of career success, I am reminded of my first job after college, which was for a music company, Disc Makers, that helped independent musicians and small indie labels. My definition of success for our clients was that they were able to make a living from their music. I still view career success the same way. Success in a career means having the money to do what you want to do. Depending on who you are and what your dreams are, that could require $50,000 or $5,000,000. I live fairly frugally — with travel being my family’s main extravagance — so am certainly closer to the lower-end of that spectrum.

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

Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek was an inspiration. Although much of Tim’s advice is impractical for a company executive or a family man, it’s still inspires a way of thinking about work/life efficiency and controlling how and when you’re working rather than having others control your work week. Doing this, of course, allows you have more time to spend with family.

Seth Godin’s books are great marketing primers that always remind me to be customer-centric and do remarkable things. You can just as easily apply that to your entire life. You must remember that everyone is the center of their own universe, the star of their own movie, and approach them accordingly. I admittedly often forget this with my daughter and (wrongly) expect her to be interested in the things I’m interested in… just because I’m her dad.

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

My favorite life lesson quote is actually a picture. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, published a Venn diagram with the 3 circles labeled, “dream big,” “get s**t done,” and “know how to have fun” … with the intersection being labelled “people I most enjoy working with.” That describes me perfectly both in my work life and personal life. Possessing only two of the three qualities may make for a fine person and a nice colleague, for sure, but not someone I need in my inner circle.

I also am often reminded about a quote by Jerry Garcia talking about his band, The Grateful Dead: “We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.” You don’t have to appeal to everyone, but you want those in your tribe or your circle to really like and appreciate you. That said, it’s kind of funny that I quote that line so much, because I actually hate licorice.

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 want people to appreciate the beauty of our planet and not harm it. I hope my work with TUSHY is one of many movements toward sustainability in America. First grocery stores in California stopped using plastic bags, then plastic straws were banned in many states, and now we aim to portray toilet paper as the next wasteful and harmful product that gets eliminated — or at least greatly reduced — in our society. 15 million trees are chopped down annually just to make toilet paper for Americans. There is a new study about how over the last 20 years an area roughly the size of Ohio was logged, mostly for toilet paper and other paper products. The logging process also emits hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, dramatically accelerating the pace of climate change. We have to stop killing the forests. Use a bidet to wash your butt, rather than just smearing it with dry paper. It makes sense in terms of both hygiene and sustainability, right?

Beyond that, I honestly just want everyone to love each other — or at least find something interesting and inspiring in everyone they meet. I wish the world would spend more time listening to each other and appreciating one another’s differences rather than fearing or fighting them.

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

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