We need to let our children know that “they have infinite worth”, with Blake Clark and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

It’s important to encourage them to dream big and give them space to fail, as big dreams are never easy to achieve. We also want them to know that their value as humans is not derived from their accomplishments. They have infinite worth, and as such, failure is simply a learning experience. We do our […]

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It’s important to encourage them to dream big and give them space to fail, as big dreams are never easy to achieve. We also want them to know that their value as humans is not derived from their accomplishments. They have infinite worth, and as such, failure is simply a learning experience. We do our best to inspire courage in our children. It’s a joy to hear about their dreams. One of my kids has already caught the entrepreneurship bug. It will be fun to see them pursue big dreams.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Blake Clark. Blake is the General Manager of Software Advice, the leading online service for businesses navigating the software selection process. Blake has more than 15 years experience managing eCommerce businesses, leading product strategy, and customer experience across a diverse range of industries including gaming and hospitality. At Software Advice, he leads the company’s strategic vision and oversees day-to-day operations. In addition to running a 250-person team, he is a proud father to five kids ages 2 to 14. Blake is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in Irving, Texas in a close-knit family. My father was an airline pilot for Southwest Airlines. My mother stayed home with my brother and me during our early years and later became the executive director of a trade association, and then the mayor of the town. My father would typically head out on Monday morning and return home on Thursday afternoon. I missed him while he was gone, but there was nothing quite like the anticipation and thrill of Dad coming home on Thursdays. Many times he would bring something home for my brother and me — a pack of baseball cards was always a treat! It was a small gesture, but it showed me that he was thinking of me even while he was away doing his job. As a teenager, my mother would bring the family with her to the major convention she organized. My brother and I would help out however we could, and it was fun to see Mom running such a complex and successful event. Both of my parents were incredible examples of hard work, determination, and commitment. I constantly find myself reflecting on their example.

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

I always had a compass but never a map. I didn’t have a specific destination in mind (map) but I knew the direction I wanted to head (compass). After a brief stint in finance, I landed in a product manager role, although I’m not sure I had any clue what a product manager actually did. I loved the problem-solving nature of product management and was energized by creating experiences customers loved. From there I continued to pursue any opportunity that gave me a chance to solve interesting problems. I jumped at the chance to join Software Advice as the General Manager because the team is amazing and the market opportunity is enormous.

There were several people along the way that invested in me and gave me opportunities that I was in no way qualified for at the time. The impact those people had on my life is immeasurable.

My wife, Erin, and I have been married nearly 18 years. We had our first child, Luke, while I was completing my MBA program. My daughters Lana and Gillian followed soon after as I was starting my post-MBA career. Henry and Mary came several years later to give us a complete basketball team. Career choices become more complex with such a large family. The opportunity has to be great for all of us, and the Software Advice role definitely is.

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

The alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m. I’ll quickly review and respond to last night’s emails and then enjoy a cup of coffee with my wife before the kids are up. With five kids you have to seek out quiet times! I frequently get breakfast going for the two little ones while Erin gets the older kids to school. I have a 30-minute commute to the office that I actually really love. I try to use that time to listen to podcasts or books on subjects I find interesting outside of work.

I love being in the office around people. I am not much of a work-from-home person. As a GM, much of my time is spent meeting with various teams to problem solve issues or brainstorm ideas for growth. I love the fast-paced nature of the role and the constant context switching. There’s never a dull moment.

I try to leave the office by 6pm each night to be home for dinner. Dinner is the one time each day that we are all together. While it can be chaos, it’s also a joy. My main evening gig is getting the little ones bathed and ready for bed, which I love. If we have time, our family loves to play games. Henry is currently obsessed with Candy Land.

With the kids in bed, my wife and I like to spend some time relaxing. Frequently, that means Netflix. I also like to take time in the evening to work on the bigger, more complex work projects that I can’t get to during the day. I tend to do my best thinking in the evenings.

Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Consistency is so important for children. In my experience, children understand and can appreciate a parent’s commitment to a career, but they have to see that they are a priority in your life. Time is our greatest asset, so it is important to invest it in our children to help them grow. If we don’t nurture them, they are less likely to feel valued and thrive.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

First, spending time with my kids is fun! Our nightly conversations around the dinner table are a highlight for us all. Everyone tries to talk at the same time and there’s not always deep conversation, but I get a chance to check in on their daily lives. I’ve found that my children value any time with me, even if we are not doing anything of major importance. Just being there helps nurture them. The key for me is to really give them my full attention, regardless of what we are doing. Full attention communicates that I value our time together.

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?

Each of my children is at a different stage of life, and as such, quality time looks different with each of them. With my 14-year old son, we love to go on a hike or fish. We both love to be outdoors. My 12-year-old daughter loves to eat new foods and shop for clothes. We recently moved to Austin, so there’s a whole new culinary world for us to explore. My 11-year-old is currently obsessed with making slime, so we will frequently be in our garage (aka the lab) tinkering with new activators to get strange new slime consistencies. She recently won first prize at her school science fair for her slime experiments. My four-year-old son loves to play games, especially Candy Land or Uno. Right now we’re working on holding the cards so that only he can see them (he used to lay them all face-up on the table!). Our two-year-old loves to go on walks and sing songs. I may never be able to get Baby Shark out of my head. Collectively, we love to travel with our kids as often as we can. There’s nothing like getting away from the routine and having a shared experience doing something new and interesting.

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?

This is easy for me to say but difficult for me to do. I have to put my phone away. My children will actually call me out for being more involved with my phone than our conversation.

I also keep a shared family calendar with my wife. For big events, like a band concert or basketball game, I schedule it on my work calendar just like I would a meeting. It’s a great way for me to ensure I keep that space free. Pro tip: Schedule time to drive from the office to the event.

While planning is key, I like to push myself to be spontaneous when opportunities arise. If I have a light afternoon, I will occasionally try and get home just a little early to create more family time.

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

A good parent loves their children unconditionally. When I was a child, I wanted to play football, but I really didn’t have much talent for it. I was on the B team and still barely played. Nevertheless, each week my parents would sit in the stands and cheer. My father would tell me he was proud of how I played. That meant a lot to me.

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

It’s important to encourage them to dream big and give them space to fail, as big dreams are never easy to achieve. We also want them to know that their value as humans is not derived from their accomplishments. They have infinite worth, and as such, failure is simply a learning experience. We do our best to inspire courage in our children. It’s a joy to hear about their dreams. One of my kids has already caught the entrepreneurship bug. It will be fun to see them pursue big dreams.

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

Success to me is all about making a meaningful difference in people’s lives: family, coworkers, customers, and society. We all have limited time here, and success to me is about impact.

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

I honestly don’t consume much parenting literature. I rely more on people in my life that model how to do great work and be a great parent. Those relationships have provided me with coaching and encouragement. Becoming a better parent is a journey, and it’s important to have people walk alongside my wife and me to help us along the way.

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

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. -Ferris Bueller.

I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek but it also rings true, especially as a parent. I have never regretted making tough trade-offs to be with my children. My youngest child is two years old and is a joy to be around. I only get 52 weekends with her as a two-year- old. I try my best to stop and enjoy her.

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?

I would love to inspire a movement to put down our devices and be present. In meetings at work, dinner with friends or family, and in each interaction you have throughout the day. I know I could benefit from that in my own life.

Thank you so much for sharing your inspirational thoughts with us!

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.

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