Use every available minute. I love my time in the car with them. Whether I am driving them to school or picking them up, the focus is on them. It’s practical (school stuff) but they also know that I am interested in knowing what’s happening in their lives. My son doesn’t like to share but once in awhile, these opportunities give him the space to open the floodgates. And sometimes it’s hard to get him to stop sharing.
remely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Scott Amyx. Scott is the Managing Partner at Amyx Ventures. He is a top 10 global keynote speaker, Singularity University Smart City Accelerator mentor, SXSW Pitch (formerly SXSW Accelerator) judge, IBM Futurist, Tribeca Disruptor Fellow, National Sloan/ Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Wiley author, and expert in smart, sustainable cities, climate change and renewable energy.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I had a humble childhood as an immigrant and eventually a foster child. My last name is Welsh but I am South Korean. Go figure. I share some of my story in my featured book Strive, which has been endorsed by Tony Robbins, Forbes, Tribeca Film and other major publications.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
As I share in my TEDx talk and in my book, it was an authentic desire to make a global impact, specifically my passion is creating sustainable economic development to spur innovation and job growth in OECD and non-OECD (and least developed) countries in the world, with focus on exponential technologies and renewable energy to develop smart, sustainable cities for millions.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
Because my scope is global, I usually spend 2–3 weeks out of the month traveling internationally. I live out of my suitcase. It’s everything from giving keynotes at prominent conferences and events, advising governments, NGOs and corporations on their innovation roadmap to evaluating the most promising startups.
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?
Let me speak from my personal experience. I grew up without a father or siblings in South Korea. My mother had to go work and she didn’t want me causing trouble so she would literally lock the door with a padlock from the outside. I spent hours at home alone without any human interaction. Though only 7 or 8 years old, I was expected to have dinner ready by the time my mother came home.
It was a lonely childhood. I share some of my experiences in my book Strive: How Doing the Things Most Uncomfortable Leads to Success.
I grew up shy, hesitant and distrustful of people. It’s taken years to overcome challenges from my childhood.
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?
Raising my kids, it was important for me to have a healthy, loving relationship with them, including quantity and quality of time. To the point, for many years, we homeschooled our children to spend that time and to instill important values and principles.
When they eventually transitioned into public school in tweens, they were confident and self-assured. Now in high school and middle school, respectively, they are strong people who know their worth. Unlike some peers who regularly struggle with self-doubt, high anxiety and peer pressure, they can stand on their two feet and express their opinions and viewpoints without apologizing.
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?
When my wife was pregnant with our oldest, we decided jointly that she would stay home to care for our children. We both grew up without parental involvement. She sacrificed her peak career phase to invest in our children.
The other intentional decision was to homeschool our children. Tested for giftedness, we wanted to give them the flexibility to pursue their interests. We also socialized them with other homeschoolers in our community and through church and co-op programs.
When my travel began to spike regularly, we decided to travel together as a family. In some cases, we even temporarily lived abroad (up to 3 months) for language and cultural immersion. From Seoul, Paris, Singapore, Beijing, Phuket, Vancouver, Toronto, Boston to DC, they have embraced their global citizenship. They have incredible memories that even now they talk vividly about. We have a treasure trove of happy memories of eating delicious foods, sightseeing and even attending local public schools.
We maintained something called the “Happy Memory Book” for years. It was a family scrapbook that we could write, insert or glue things unto pages, from opera, museum and musical tickets, special admissions (the Eiffel Tower), photos, descriptive stories that captured our experiences, emotions and our state of being at that moment. The reason that the Happy Memory Book was so important is that it served as a coping and healing tool. For our kids because of their giftedness, sometimes they would have extreme emotional states. For instance, my daughter was 5 years old. We went bowling for the first time. She came home and cried profusely for 4 hours straight because she didn’t bowl a perfect 300. When they were experiencing extreme emotions, we would refer to the Happy Memory Book. It calmed and grounded them. It served as an emotional bank account.
Now that they are older, the focus has been building a toolbox of coping skills. From journaling, regular exercise, yoga, breathing techniques, self talk, emotional Aikido to self-care, the quality time that I spend is very much dedicated to helping them develop their toolset.
After days or weeks of traveling, upon return, I schedule 1:1 dates with each of my family members. On the date, I don’t talk about homework, chores or productivity matters. I give them the space to share whatever that is most important to them, without judgement. It’s an open invitation. It’s a plus that I spoil them with sweet treats.
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?
Something that my foster father (I was later adopted by this family) did was no matter how busy he was he would set everything aside and sit down with me. I never felt bad for interrupting. Moreso, he was so non-judgmental that I would voluntarily share my teenage mishaps. I never felt judged so there was no reason to hide anything from him.
I fall short in comparison to my father but I practice that approach with my kids. I let them know “hey, I’m not mad at you. I only want to know the truth.” They trust that I am there for them. When I consoled them through a difficult time, my daughter and son would tell me “you know how to make me feel better”. That means a great deal to me.
- Give focused attention especially for matters that are important to them. The goal is for them to feel that they are heard and that even if it’s 2 minutes, they are more important than the deliverable that you’re rushing to finish
- Set boundaries. It could be time or a place in the home. I refuse to do work in the living room. That’s designated for family time. Saturday evening if no work time.
- Share hobbies or activities. After 20 years away from Taekwondo I went back to train with my kids now that one is a black belt and the other is a brown belt. It’s our special time together. We exercise and sweat together.
- Use every available minute. I love my time in the car with them. Whether I am driving them to school or picking them up, the focus is on them. It’s practical (school stuff) but they also know that I am interested in knowing what’s happening in their lives. My son doesn’t like to share but once in awhile, these opportunities give him the space to open the floodgates. And sometimes it’s hard to get him to stop sharing.
- Travel together. Even though many teens avoid traveling with their parents some of the best lifetime memories are on those trips, especially the difficult ones. I still remember my trip across the country on Amtrak with my adopted family.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
That’s difficult. I would say a parent who puts the child’s welfare, happiness and health above their own needs.
I have had many “parents” in my childhood. My biological mother who had less than 4th grade education sacrificed her life for my betterment. Her difficult circumstances eventually led to mental breakdown. I was provided with food, housing and encouragement to do well in school. But, yet my early childhood felt hollow?
One of my foster parents were overachievers. They pushed me to excel academically. So I did. But there was no love. After three years, I asked my social worker to move me.
My last foster family was dysfunctional in so many ways yet my father showed me how to love others and myself. Academically and everything else, he couldn’t care less. I went as far as competing with my foster brother to get the lowest grades. The first semester I failed — failed to get lower grades. I needed earmuffs to drown out the classroom teaching. In the second semester, I earned lower grades than my brother. I emphasize earned because it took a tremendous effort to not learn. So I celebrated in my failure.
In these examples they are all “good” parents but what I needed was holistically care, not just an aspect.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
My problem is perhaps too big. I am forthright with them that I am raising them to become world leaders. I challenge them to buck the stereotypes as Asian Americans.
Dream big on a global scale and dream even bigger to become a sharp instrument for God.
It’s a given that they should do well academically, in sports and artistically. Where I challenge them, since tweens, is to build a global platform, a personal brand that will help them in life that elevates their message and work. They are both experimenting with Amazon Alexa and slowly ramping up their personal voice through their Alexa skills — -“Gen Z with Mackenzie” and “Little Da Vincis”, respectively.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
For me it’s global impact + relationships. Success sometimes isn’t a dollar figure but a special moment or an experience. The way that I preserve these “successes” are through memories. After all, on my death bed, it won’t be my net worth, assets or fame that I will miss but the lifetime of happy memories with my loved ones.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
The Bible, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman and Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour.
As evangelical Christians, our spiritual guide is the Bible. Everything cascades from our faith.
I was first introduced to The Five Love Languages when I led a small group for married couples. It was life-changing for many. The book tailored for teens is a great reminder to emphasize the love languages that’s most important to them.
Dr. Damour’s guide to teenage girls is based on research and science and reminds us that teen behavior is healthy and necessary in some cases. Some parents over-intervene, increasing the likelihood that girls develop anxiety about being anxious and stressed about being stressed. It’s helpful to understand what’s acceptable and what’s not healthy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Some of my favorite quotes are from the famed poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau:
- Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
- It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
- The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
Some of these quotes were the very inspiration for my book Strive. It’s taught me to be courageous even in the face fear and to be willing to sacrifice my very own life for something that I truly believed in.
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. 🙂
Climate change. This is critically important to humanity and life on Earth. I launched an Amazon Alexa skill called “Climate Change with Scott Amyx” to inspire a grassroots movement to not simply march or protest but to put their money in what they believe. Something as big as climate change requires an active participation of hundreds of millions of people around the world to demand clean energy (and transition away from fossil fuels), willing to pay for clean energy and to invest in clean energy.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!