How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents: “I define success through happiness”…

How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents: “I define success through happiness” with Lisa Chu and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

I define success through happiness to be honest. No matter how much money you make, it’s never going to be enough. What matters to us is that we’re happy, and our kids are happy. I’ve actually talked to my son Ellington about that before, and asked him how he would feel if we had to suddenly move to a small one-bedroom apartment. His first reaction was “‘okay this is how we would sleep, and we would have to sleep in this order, so the baby doesn’t fall off the bed.” I don’t feel like it’s about how big your place is or how many expensive bags you have because the material things come and go. To me, it’s more about having great experiences with our kids and creating beautiful memories for our children.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Lisa Chu. Lisa is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Team Epiphany, a full-service marketing agency that specializes in positioning brands at the heart of emerging culture and influence. Bringing nearly 20 years of production experience and expertise, Lisa oversees development of all creative concepts behind experiential event activations and manages the company’s event production team. In addition to these duties, Lisa helms the financial and operational aspects between the company’s offices in New York City and Los Angeles. Prior to Team Epiphany, Lisa produced photo shoots for clients such as Style.com, Ralph Lauren, and Ann Taylor. She also produced tours and events for some of music’s most celebrated acts including A Tribe Called Quest and LL Cool J. Additionally, Lisa was instrumental in developing marketing programs for Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, and Bacardi. In 2015, Lisa was named a BizBash “Event Innovator”. Team Epiphany has received multiple accolades as a media and marketing industry leader every year since 2009, including Inc. Magazine’s elite list of “Fastest–Growing Private Companies”, the Clio, Event Marketer, Shorty’s, PR Daily, PR News and more. A California native, Lisa now resides in New York City with her husband (fellow agency managing partner and co- founder) Coltrane Curtis, and their two sons Ellington and Count.

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

Thank you for having me! I come from a Chinese-American family, but I am the only member of my family born in the United States. Throughout my childhood, my mother raised us in Northern California during the school year and we spent our summers in Taiwan. My dad always worked in Taiwan but would visit us every couple of months. Mandarin was my first language.

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

Sure! I attended college at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, with the initial goal of becoming a fashion stylist. I interned at Time Inc. for Teen People, and although it was an amazing experience, I realized I wasn’t as passionate about fashion styling as I thought. As I searched for my final internship during my senior year of college, I found an internship at a digital photography studio, which at the time was one of the first studios dedicated to digital photography. It was at the dawn of the “dot-com” era, and I had the privilege of learning under a great producer. I worked on a variety of different shoots from LVMH, Ann Taylor, Polo Ralph Lauren, and even Swiffer ads.

While producing photo shoots were amazing and I learned so much about photography, I started to feel like photo production became redundant, it was like…here’s your shot list, here’s your models, here’s your casting, here’s your shoot date, do it again, and again, and again and I craved more variety. I then moved on to marketing and started building ambassador programs before they were known as such. I helped define these programs for a variety of brands under the Coca-Cola House and Bacardi. From there, my husband, Coltrane Curtis had the idea to start Team Epiphany, and when he scored his first client, Sapporo Beer, the client was interested in Team Epiphany producing events. We figured since I had a background in production, that I could handle events and I started to take over from there — and now Team Epiphany is in our 15th year.

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

I wake up my two beautiful children: Ellington, 7, and Count, 1, and we try to head out of our home before 8:30. After drop-off, I usually head to my office by 9:30. The actual day to day schedule at work often varies because I oversee our production team, who works on a myriad of projects — -and manage the finance and operations of Team Epiphany, so it’s busy!

My husband and I make it a point to have downtime with our children every evening before bedtime. Our weekends are dedicated to our kids.

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 first think that balance is important. I feel that I wouldn’t be as great as a mom if I were with my children all the time. I 100 percent respect the moms who are around their kids 24/7 but I believe that balance would allow for us to cherish the time we have with them and to be fully present for them. I do believe that not spending time with your children is detrimental because they wouldn’t have the opportunity to know their parents and would spend their time vying for your love and attention, which is unhealthy and damaging to their emotional development.

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?

It is important to spend time with your children so that they can get a sense of you and know how much you love them. The love between a parent and child is the first love any person is introduced to in their lives and it’s important for both parent and child to have those quality moments. We sometimes forget that our children don’t stay small for long, and those are the moments that pass by the quickest. It’s imperative for them to have those memories, and for us as parents to have them too.

I think it’s just being present for your kids. It’s important for us as parents to help them understand that our careers are not an excuse to ditch them, but a vehicle for us to provide for them and give them the

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?

I try to do as little work on the weekends as possible to devote time to our children. I ensure that we have dinner together as a family on Friday evenings, and it is crucial for us to be present during their big moments such as karate, performances, basketball games, or musicals.

We like to bring our kids to the office some days and take them on little adventures throughout New York City. When we’re home in the evenings, we block out at least 90 minutes to spend time with the kids. My husband and I also try not to travel for business at the same time. We usually take turns so that at least one of us are with our children, especially since we don’t have a lot of family in New York City. Coltrane’s mom lives in Charlotte and my mom lives in Taiwan. My husband is an only child and my brother lives in Shanghai.

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?

1. Set family time and stick to it to the best of your ability.

2. Phones should be off, and all attention should be paid to being in the present with your kids.

3. Find common activities for you and your children to enjoy together.

4. Be present for events that are important to them, not just physically…but emotionally too.

5. Work with your significant other and/or supportive family members to create a supportive environment with balance for both you and your children.

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

While there are no concrete methods to “good parenting”, I believe a good parent is one that teaches their kids values, respect, and hard work. One of my biggest fears is for my sons to grow up and feel entitled to everything without having to work for anything. I think being a good parent is having the ability to teach your kids the difference between right and wrong and being good while doing good for others. Teach them how to take care of the world we live in, and to be considerate of others. My son’s school did a project about immigration and made blankets for kids who lived in orphanages in Greece and that’s important to me because it allows children to learn compassion and the values of working hard to achieve their goals.

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

Inspiring our children to dream big is one of our parenting qualities that we’re proud of. The trickle-down effects of owning and running Team Epiphany shows our sons that you can run a business, have a marriage, raise and support a family while having a strong sense of self-identity. Team Epiphany was like my husband and I’s first baby, it was our first collaboration together and we work hard to ensure that the company stays afloat and thriving. We hope that our children would have the chance to intern for TE one day!

My son Ellington wants to be a basketball player, so we instill in him that it’s important to get up, practice, and eat healthy to achieve his goals. Ellington plays in two leagues, one where he is one of the best players on the team and the other, he is one of the youngest and the worst. We believe that this gives him balance, because while we don’t want him to feel as if he’s better than anyone else, being one of the lowest ranked players in the second league inspires him to raise the bar. There are a lot of games where he doesn’t play and instead of feeling dejected, he’s learning to be a supportive teammate, which is just as crucial as having skills on the court. We believe that this has pushed him to be a better player on the court and better teammate overall.

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

I define success through happiness to be honest. No matter how much money you make, it’s never going to be enough. What matters to us is that we’re happy, and our kids are happy. I’ve actually talked to my son Ellington about that before, and asked him how he would feel if we had to suddenly move to a small one-bedroom apartment. His first reaction was “‘okay this is how we would sleep, and we would have to sleep in this order, so the baby doesn’t fall off the bed.” I don’t feel like it’s about how big your place is or how many expensive bags you have because the material things come and go. To me, it’s more about having great experiences with our kids and creating beautiful memories for our children.

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 really big on parenting books and podcasts but my favorite parenting resource is my close core group of friends. We’re really tight knit and our kids are all friends. One of my closest friends live in our building and our sons are best friends. We discuss stressors, balance, advice, and we even travel together with our families. We learn from each other while facing very similar experiences. Our children are growing up in very contentious times in society where there are fears of police brutality and them being judged harshly for the color of their skin. It feels comforting to have a group of friends who have the same concerns and we could provide support for each other.

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

“Karma moves in two directions. If we act virtuously, the seed we plant will result in happiness. If we act non-virtuously, we will suffer the results.”

I don’t practice Buddhism, but I was raised Buddhist. I believe that it is important to put out good energy and to treat others with kindness.

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. 🙂

I would love to get a collective together to raise massive funds for orphaned children. It’s always great to donate to nonprofits and foundations but the impact of doing things within your professional network, I find especially intriguing and one that I am looking forward to organizing in near the future.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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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 .

Dr. Ely is available for speaking engagements, and can best be reached via drelyweinschneider.com.


How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents: “I define success through happiness”… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.