These days, a lot of people are so disconnected and out of touch because we live in a digital world. We allow our kids to use tablets and devices and to play video games but within reason, because technology is here to stay and it’s important for them to be comfortable with it. It’s important to make time to spend with your children so they can learn, grow and stay curious about each other’s lives and the world around them.During dinner we like to sit around the table and play “thorns and roses” where we each talk through the good and the bad from the day. Having these family conversations on a regular basis is super important as it shows them that we all go through good and bad.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Brauer, Executive Director, Head of Operations and Production, Wasserman.Stephen joined Wasserman in mid-2013 and has spent the better part of 15 years in the experiential marketing industry. With that much experience, Stephen has seen it all, from cars sinking into ponds on golf courses, to world-famous artists refusing to go on-stage and almost losing a toe to frostbite. Focusing on the production of events across all clients at Wasserman, Stephen is responsible for figuring out how to get stuff done and keep it under budget. When not figuring out how to build a two-ton screen around a 100-year-old fountain in Bryant Park, Stephen enjoys spending time with his wife and three young sons.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I’m from New York and grew up in and around NYC. Both of my parents grew up in New York and most of my family is still there. My father was a New York City police officer and my mother was a nurse and stay-at-home mom. I’m actually one of seven children, so I’ve got a pretty big family with six siblings. I’m a true New Yorker at heart, even though I’ve lived in other places including Philadelphia and now Raleigh, NC.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I’ve been with Wasserman for six years, which is when we established the experiential marketing team. Through our time here, there has been tremendous growth and we get to work with great clients and talented colleagues here that have allowed us to grow in headcount, the work and the revenue we’re generating. The growth at Wasserman has also led to my own growth and success. As the team grows, so do my responsibilities and now I’m helping to oversee the entire department. It’s been an unbelievable six years here.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
While my day-to-day schedule varies, my wife is the one who makes our home function, keeping everyone on task. When we lived in New York, she was a physical education teacher and an athletic director but since we moved to Raleigh, she stays at home to raise the kids which is a huge help, considering the amount that I travel. With the kids, I think the most important thing in a day-to-day schedule is to be consistent with them, when possible. If I’m home and there’s a game or a school function on the schedule, I make the time to be there as I know there’s more than enough that I miss when I’m traveling for work. Additionally, because what I do can be considered fun to a kid, I try to include them. I like to constantly talk to them about what I’m doing, which makes it seem like I’m a “cool dad”. For example, I was recently in Charlotte for NBA All-Star; my kids knew where I was, why I was there, what Wasserman was doing, etc. I also try and FaceTime them when I can from an event — they love that.
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?
Your parents are your earliest and closest role models that you learn from. I certainly know it was that way for me with my parents. Not being there for them leaves a significant void that they are going to try to fill in different ways. If I’m not there physically, there is still a way for it to be positive as my kids know that I travel for work because I love what I do, and I work hard at it.
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?
These days, a lot of people are so disconnected and out of touch because we live in a digital world. We allow our kids to use tablets and devices and to play video games but within reason, because technology is here to stay and it’s important for them to be comfortable with it. It’s important to make time to spend with your children so they can learn, grow and stay curious about each other’s lives and the world around them.
During dinner we like to sit around the table and play “thorns and roses” where we each talk through the good and the bad from the day. Having these family conversations on a regular basis is super important as it shows them that we all go through good and bad.
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 story or example from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
Quality time with my children includes having dinner together a few times a week, going to church as a family and hanging out as both a whole family as well as one-on-one time with each child.
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 a few strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
Since we have three children, trying to find one-on-one time with each of them during different times of the day, week or month makes that time more meaningful. Whether it’s going to lunch or taking one of them on an errand with me — it lets me ask them what is going on in their lives that I might not know about and gives them private time to open up with me about anything that might be on their mind. Individualized time can be weaved into the day in a multitude of ways — it’s just about making time for it.
One thing I’ve also become better at is putting my phone/computer down between 7–9 pm when I’m home with the kids. When I unplug, it lets me fully focus on the kids, be present in the moment and then I can always go back to work if need be after they go to bed, or I can get up early before they do and take care of anything I need to. It’s about identifying those times that are critical to be present with them, as opposed to being distracted by work.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
There is no concrete definition of what a good parent is; I look at the term as more fluid than anything. We all go down different parenting paths, but each one is unique — I look at my college roommates, each of us are married and have kids now, and we each approach parenting differently. Personally, I think the happiness and success of your children is what will define a good parent and I try and show that to my kids by being successful at whatever I do. Whether it is my career, the relationship my wife and I have, or the friends we have around us, I like to show success. Kids are smart. They take everything in, especially as they get older. My two older ones are 7 and 10 years old, they literally see and hear everything. For me it’s important that they see positivity in how I treat people. When I go to my son’s parent-teacher conferences and they say “your son is so polite and so helpful to the other kids in the class” to me, that’s success, and what we do at home is right.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
Well, first and foremost, it’s important to lead by example. My wife and I share our personal histories with our kids and what it took to reach those milestones. For example, we both went to college and played Division I sports and naturally, there was a lot of hard work involved to be able to play at that level. As the kids get more into sports and other endeavors, sharing our successes on and off the field allows them to dream big and know they can shoot for the stars. Of course, there are some times where we have to ground them in reality, understanding that certain goals are achievable but for them to happen a lot of hard work and effort is required.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
It’s difficult to define, but the reason I’ve been able to balance career and family and be successful at it is because of the understanding and communication I have with both my family and work. When my wife and I got engaged, married and then transitioned into having a family, my job has always been a constant and supportive. There’s also an understanding between my wife and I that when I’m away for work or am working long hours it’s because I love what I do and to be successful I need to put this amount of time and energy into the business. My job could be 24/7 if I wanted it to be, but I don’t let it and that’s also important, it’s on me to find the time to unplug, even if it’s only for a little bit.
When people ask if you can have it all, I’d certainly say yes, but it’s give-and-take. You’re going to have to sacrifice on one end or the other, but it is possible to find a good balance of happiness and success in both. For me it has to do with loving what you do because if you don’t love what you do and you’re giving up family time, then you’re going to regret the decisions your making and the time you’re spending away from family. I love what I do and doing it here at Wasserman, so that makes it easier when I’m away from my family. To me, that’s how I have it all.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I’m not big into podcasts, although my wife tells me I should be. I am, however, a big reader. I read dozens of books a year, both fiction and non-fiction. The books I read aren’t necessarily of help from a parenting perspective, but I do take a lot out of reading the books I read. I love history, so I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies about historical figures and try and take things from those. Occasionally I’ll mix in some leadership books to help me be better at my job, and to be a better leader.
I do have a couple of favorite authors, from a fiction perspective: David Baldacci and Vince Flynn. Outside of that It isn’t necessarily reading books or listening to podcasts to get better as a parent, I genuinely enjoy gleaning things from any type of media, books, etc., that I’m consuming.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are two quotes that I love. My wife reminded me of this, and we share it with the kids all the time, “be a leader, not a follower” and “try to learn something new every day.” We remind the kids of that constantly.
Another one that is more personal for me is “I’m humble enough to know I’m not better than anybody, and wise enough to know that I’m different than the rest.”
Thank you for sharing your inspirational thoughts with us!