How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents, with David Eastman

“How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents”, with David Eastman & Dr. Ely Weinschneider

We have a rule about screens. The rule applies to all of us. For a set period of time in the evenings and weekends, or at mealtimes, none of us will look at or use any screens. So, phones, iPads, TV’s, laptops, etc. I think it’s more difficult for the adults!

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview David Eastman. With twenty years of digital transformation, leadership and strategy experience working with some of the world’s best-known brands, David has held global leadership positions at multiple independent and holding-company-owned digital, integrated and creative agencies, with P&L management experience up to $350M. He is currently Partner and Chief Executive at advertising agency BSSP. Previously, as managing partner of MCD Partners, he led corporate strategy and the eventual sale to the M&C Saatchi Group. Prior to that he was CEO North America and Worldwide Head of Digital for J Walter Thompson. David is a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a Webby judge, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He has held board positions at the 4A’s, the Ad Council and the AEF. In addition to published articles and TV appearances, he is a regular conference speaker on themes such as the future of social media, digital transformation, and brands in a digital world. David was born and raised in the UK and has lived and worked in London, Amsterdam, New York and now California where he currently resides with his partner and young son Luca.

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

I was born and grew up in South West London. I lived in the same house until I left for college and 90% of the vacations my family took were within the UK. We lived on the flight path to Heathrow airport. My mom bought me an air-band radio when I was 11 which let me listen to pilots talking to air-traffic control. I used to listen in bed at night to aircrafts coming in from all over the world and that sparked my interest in travel. It made the world seem very accessible. I’ve lived and worked in London, Amsterdam, New York and California.

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

An opportunity presented itself in 2017 to move to California (from New York City) to run and part-own a much-admired advertising agency. On both a personal and professional level it was too good an opportunity to ignore. My partner works at Facebook, so the move worked for her. We have family in the UK and Australia. Now we are a single flight from both places.

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

Each day is different, but at the center of them are people. I spend most of my time working with clients, their other agency partners and the talent inside our agency. So, if I’m not traveling for business then I am in the office working with clients and our teams to sell great ideas that solve business problems, and then get them made.

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?

I’ll give you my N of 1 experience. My dad got up for work at 3 am every morning and returned home around 1 pm. When I got home from school he was having a mid-afternoon sleep. He’d wake around 5:30 pm and then go to bed at 8:30 pm. At weekends he wasn’t (understandably) super-energetic and napped in the afternoons. Consequently, I didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time with him and didn’t really know him. He died suddenly when I was 15 and I’m now older than he was when he died. Looking back, I can’t subjectively say that it was detrimental to my development, but I’m 100% sure that had we spent more time together it would have been better for both of us.

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 love Tim Urban’s (waitbutwhy) blog piece called The Tail End. It’s worth reading the entire thing, but one of the insights is that by the time you graduate from high school you’ve used up 93% of your in-person parent time. Based on that fact alone you can see why, as a parent, if you don’t make the most of that time there isn’t much more of it left!

As a child it’s great to have a parent who imparts a skill that you may not have come to on your own. My grandfather spent a lot of 1:1 time with me and I picked up his passion for photography and magic tricks. He also taught me chess and how to fish. However, what he instilled in me more than anything was a sense of playfulness, which I carry with me as an adult. Spending time actively playing with your children, entering into their imaginations and worlds is a beneficial thing for their own creativity as well as great bonding time.

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?

Sure. It’s mostly based around play. My son Luca is currently obsessed with Lego. Most weekends we go to the local toy store and he’ll spend his pocket money on a Lego set. Typically, he’ll buy one that is too difficult for him and we’ll build it together. It’s great time to spend together.

Last year for his birthday he got a magic trick set. I spent time teaching him a bunch of the tricks. I think I may have enjoyed it even more than him.

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?

We have a rule about screens. The rule applies to all of us. For a set period of time in the evenings and weekends, or at mealtimes, none of us will look at or use any screens. So, phones, iPads, TV’s, laptops, etc. I think it’s more difficult for the adults!

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

My belief has always been that with the right application, anything is possible. So, it’s about instilling a sense of self-confidence that lets your child’s imagination run free. For a 6-year-old that might mean talking about being an astronaut, a plumber, or a racing driver. Having said that, most of my conversations with Luca right now are about whether he would become Spider-Man if he got bitten by a radioactive spider.

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

The Making Sense podcast and Waking Up app, both by Sam Harris. Aside from being one of the best podcasts period, I have learned what it means to be in the present moment. I consciously try to think about this when playing with my 6-year-old son.

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

“The man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance” Hunter S Thompson at 20 years old.

I’ve carried this quote in my head for a long time. I think about it in relation to matters great and small. In a world filled with accelerating choice, thinking, and being intentional about what you want to spend your time on, and why, is time well spent.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents, with David Eastman was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.