Even though everyone is feeling anxious, we are spending more time together as families than most of us probably have in years. A friend of mine who is in the midst of divorce conversations with his wife said the other day this might actually be their chance to spend time together, to listen to one another, emotionally support one another and actually see each other again. Our lives are so full and busy and stretched. For him, a forced time together at home just might save his marriage.
As a part of my series about the the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Weissferdt.
Tom Weissferdt is a German-born filmmaker, perennial optimist, and most importantly a father of one. He is the Creator and Managing Director of the newly launched children’s educational app, All the World. Tom resides in Venice Beach, California where he is also the Founder and Executive Producer of an award-winning commercial production and documentary film company, Slim Pictures.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
The first and foremost reason that brought me to the job of creating a children’s app is that I am the dad of a 6-year-old.
When Sam turned 4, I was looking for entertainment for him that goes a bit deeper, stands out. Something that he would truly enjoy yet would challenge him, let him grow as a person, further his social intelligence and reflect the real world. But mostly, what I found was loud, fast, animated shows and classic math and science classes. So, I set out to make a show myself — All The World. That’s how I got here.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I have to admit, I was never much of a reader, but more of a visual person and what has made a significant impact to me as a person is public television in Germany- where I grew up.
And thinking of what I do now, my favorite storytellers were a few grown-ups on German tv who would explain to us kids how the world works. Sounds simple, but it was huge to my generation, because they talked to us kids like we were equals, never underestimating us, never talking down to us. We learned how pocket knives are made, how roads are constructed and what water surface tension is. Sure, the focus was quite industrial back then. (You know us Germans- we are productive) But it was the tone the show took, the way they approached us, that made us connect with it so much. It’s still on the air 40 years later!
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Well, It seems like China is able to go back to their normal way of life after about two months or so. Hopefully, that’ll be the case for us also. And with All the World pulling on the same string to find a vaccine, there is hope we’ll do it faster than normal. Those are the best two reasons to be hopeful. And I think they are within the realm of possibility. Humankind is very inventive when we put our collective mind to a problem. We are all in the same boat like we have never been before. That unites us in a very unique way.
Also, there is always a silver lining to everything and as a glass half full person, I believe there can be positive aspects to us having to stay at home.
Even though everyone is feeling anxious, we are spending more time together as families than most of us probably have in years. A friend of mine who is in the midst of divorce conversations with his wife said the other day this might actually be their chance to spend time together, to listen to one another, emotionally support one another and actually see each other again. Our lives are so full and busy and stretched. For him, a forced time together at home just might save his marriage. Let’s hope for him.
Of course, schools being closed is a huge burden on many families. A lot to juggle and learn. Not just for our kids, but also for us parents. Other than conversation with their teachers, we usually get little insight as to what kind of learners our kids are, where they might struggle and what their socio-emotional growth looks like. Now that we try to teach them, we might just get an opportunity to witness their strengths and weaknesses, understand what kind of learners they are, and honestly just “get” our kids a bit more.
Was that 5? I could go on…
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I think that starts with conversations; with your single friends who are cooped up in their apartment, your grandma, parents, siblings. If they own a tablet or smart phone, Facetime them as often as you can. Show them they are not alone at home — that you are there for them — even if they are far away and alone. To talk, connect, share, listen. To me that seems to be the most important support we can give right now.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Usually, we are feeling anxious because of the unknown. Personally, I feel less anxious when I am in the know, so I watch the news once a day, in the late morning. I try to stay away from privately owned outlets to get a less dramatic version of the truth. To me, PBS and BBC are the most trusted sources of news. I would recommend them.
I can also recommend Headspace as a great app to calm your mind. In times of high stress a good meditation can alleviate anxiety.
And last not least the app we created is not just for kids but enjoyed my many adults too. I like to believe our films instill hope in the world and inspire us to get creative. Plus, All The World features experiments kids and parents can do together and at home to pass the time and learn a fun thing or two.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Oh, it so clearly is “Follow Your Dream”. It’s not easy to do so, and yet I feel it does not have to be everything in life. Here is something that has stayed with me in the 20+ years I have lived in the US. I remember first coming to Florida when I was 19 years old, meeting Americans who introduced themselves to me as artists, writers, jugglers, preachers etc.. They did not identify with their 9 to 5 job, but rather with their dream! Their dream was part of their life!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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 have to say it would have to be the movement of creating empathy and understanding in the world. Only if we have the skills to SEE each other can the world live together in peace and prosperity. A lofty goal. But worth starting today!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Find us and follow our journey to create better understanding through social intelligence on Instagram at @alltheworldapp and www.alltheworld.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!