Today, Leo (5) didn’t want the iPad in the car on our way to school. Before, he used to cry if he didn’t get it. Leo is the fourth of my five children.
There’s one danger when saying no to a kid for an activity that they love, but which the parent considers detrimental, and that is that it increases its desirability.
In terms of value, the mere denial of permission increases the value of the activity to the child. So I have a very different, understandably questionable strategy as a parent – I tend to favor oversupply of the craving. My theory is that if it’s always available, kids learn to self-regulate and say “no” all on their own. Eventually, that unrestricted access leads to self-control through either satiation or sheer boredom; especially after they go through an addictive phase of whatever activity or toy they wanted incessantly. In my experience, the addiction is generally to watching TV, buying toys or playing videogames.
Of course, this parental strategy takes a lot of cold blood from parents when putting up with activities that they would normally not want their kids to do. It is tough to wait until the children themselves realize that there is a point at which too much of a good thing is a boring thing.
Tom (18), used to be really addicted to going to the toy store and playing games! And many times I would comply with his wishes. Eventually, by overindulging, he got really bored of conspicuous consumption and staring at screens. As a result, now that he is 18 he wants nothing, not even a gift for his birthday. And I mean this. He is frugal and hates conspicuous consumption. Indeed, now he frequently criticizes me for consuming too much, for example my own addiction to amazing bicycles. Tom is now into being with this girlfriend, his friends, listening to his music, studying and doing whatever is fun for him. Tom at 14 was glued to videogames. But Tom at 18 doesn’t do any activity that would be considered addictive. That strategy worked with him.
I end by commenting that in the case of my three daughters, I found them to be more social, less addicted to games or toys and less prone to spending endless hours in front of a screen. It is likely that boys are more prone to addictive activities and that saying “no” might not be the solution.
Once in Baqueira, a ski resort in Spain I had a ski instructor who kept criticizing whatever I did. Not a word of praise no matter how hard I tried to improve. In the middle of the lesson after he told me that “all my years of ski lessons were futile and I hadn’t learned anything”, I looked at him in the face and told him “you are fired”.
He could not believe me. I stared at him and said “I hired you to learn, not to get trashed, please go, I would rather ski with my family”. And he left. And I had a good day of skiing.
I don’t believe that learning should be demoralizing: criticism should always be balanced with praise.
As a person who lived in USA and Spain I should add that US instructors are generally uplifting. Unfortunately a lot of teachers in Spain believe that praise spoils the student. As a result many in Spain are demoralized.
I have 5 children. They go from 21 to a 6 month baby. My 21 year old daughter, has come up with an idea for a start up. She is implementing it. This was a surprise for me because until recently she had not shown interest in the start up world. She studies history at Columbia College in NYC.
I will not go into detail on what her Internet start up as that is for her to share and she will at the right moment. What I can say is that I heard what the plan is and it looks very feasible to me. And this is only partly because I think all my children are stars. It is actually a great, original idea and she could execute it very well. But while not sharing with you what her business is I will share with you what I said to her.
My daughter, I said, what you have is the “start up bug”. It is a bug so powerful that once infected with it you carry it for life. The dream of turning an idea into a company that millions use and enjoy never goes away. I don’t know if this start up will be successful but what I do know is that sooner or later you will be. Go for it!
My answer generally centers around the fact how I have a great team of managers, that they are so good and reliable, that Fon has an amazing pool of talent, I also talk about how much I delegate, and that is all true.But there is another side to this question that I have not told journalists. I have not done it because I fear sounding obnoxious, elitist, or just weird. But this is my blog so if I don’t do it here where else? So here’s the other answer, the more private answer of how I have managed and manage my time.-I don’t watch TV, that alone gives me 14 years more of life for doing other things! If I watch anything it’s Netflix or Youtube, that’s where I get my TV content and movies from. I rarely go to movie theaters and watch all movies in our home theater with the family.
-I am not interested in professional sports, another activity that seems to consume endless hours of many people including most of my guy friends. The Super Bowl went unnoticed. I only watch the World Cup and that is once every four years. Not watching sports, nor commenting or talking about them, is a real time saver.
-I read less books, I just don’t have 30 hours to devote to each one of them. I read a lot on the net, and some magazines also short stories during flights. But just like I practice sports much more than I watch sports (I mountain bike around 8 hours a week) I write much more than I read. I read a lot in my 20s, now it’s my time to contribute to others by writing. Yes I did read the Steve Jobs bio, or some Nick Hornby, Martin Amis recently. But reading whole books takes too much time for me to be able to do it on a daily basis. I read when I am on vacation, when I sail. That’s when reading feels great and is a real pleasure.
-Personal grooming: many top business people spend a great deal of time selecting their clothes, getting haircuts, manicures, pedicures, massages, and all sorts of time consuming personal grooming activities. I instead sometimes cut my own hair, dress simply, wear sneakers and jeans, never wear ties or suit. My wife chooses my clothes. This alone saves me 83 minutes a day according to some estimates.
-Logistics and commute (this part is only useful for entrepreneurs): I sometimes drive, but I have a driver and while I go anywhere, I work in my car. I don’t need to look for parking. This is clearly a luxury but it is a time saving luxury. Also by design my home is 10m from my office and 20m from the airport, also near my kids schools. I pick up my kids from school every day and spend the afternoon with them. When I travel, we have homes in New York, Paris and London. This is partly because I don’t like to pack nor check in hotels, in those homes I find all I need. I can go in and out quickly. I also have another special luxury which is a small private jet and therefore spend much less time at airports and travel more efficiently point to point. The Citation V increases my environmental footprint but I have built a lot of wind farms to pay for my sins
-Even though my company’s name is Fon I rarely make phone calls. I communicate over every imaginable platform, Facebook, bbm, whatsapp, Skype, Google Talk, you name it, but phone calls are for family and friends . In business I prefer electronic media or in person meetings.
-I don’t drink. Yes this one is a shocker but I rarely drink, if anything a glass of wine with a meal. I dislike beer and liquor. Drinking is something that consumes an incredible amount of time in the lives of other people and renders them useless for a lot of other activities for a significant percentage of their lives. Not drinking has put me in difficult positions doing business, especially in Japan. Same with drugs, I tried many, but didn’t like any. Cigarettes, cigars, I don’t like any drugs. Being sober at nights, on weekends, already puts me ahead of most of the population in terms of productivity.
-I rarely do business lunches and dinners and spend most meals with family and friends who I really care about. Business meetings are at the office and in the morning. I work from 9 to 2. Afternoons are for family and sports. Evenings for family and friends. My business meetings instead are invariably short. I am always online and work online. But I don’t like to be at the office just for being at the office. When I am at Fon, my door is open and people can walk in for short meetings. People at Fon know that I treasure my time, but they also know that I am there every time when I am really needed. Of course I do show up for emergencies, road shows or those moments of the year when I am needed all day. But that is an exception not a rule like with anyone else who does spend their afternoons at the office. Being CEO allows me that benefit. If I was anything else I would have to be at the office all day.
-I am punctual and have little patience for those who aren’t. I don’t make others wait, I don’t wait for others. The word must have gotten around on this because we all tend to be on time. I don’t waste time waiting.
-I make social media work for me, sometimes people say, how do you get work done if you spend so much time on social media, but I use social media to take notes, like I have an idea for a business and I blog it, I share it, I work collectively with people, social media looks like a waste of time for others but it saves me time, I recruit on twitter, I brainstorm on Google+ or my blog, I work inside social media, get ideas, its a sanity check many times, crowdsourcing saves me time. When tweeting I use Tweetdeck to time my tweets so they appear at different times of the day when I am doing other things. This allows me to tweet across time zones although sometimes it angers people when they think I don’t answer and I am asleep. I also developed an Android app to listen to my social media on my bike. It’s called Radiome and it reads your social media while it plays music, it’s perfect for my bike.
-Against what many think I sleep and I sleep well, 8 hours or so. Sleeping is an important time of the day. I sleep much better with my wife than alone when I travel without her. Lately I sleep with our 5 month old baby and I still manage to sleep reasonably well because we are lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps 11 hours almost every night. She sleeps much better than my older kids and I think it’s because we adopted co sleeping.
-I go to a couple of conferences a month. What I like about conferences is sometimes the content, like at TED, but mostly the fact that I get to see a lot of people all at once there. Many think conferences are a waste of time. I find them a very efficient way to have a lot of in person meetings in the same place.
-I say no to a lot of formal invitations, events, dinners and business meetings. I see time as sailors see wind or photographers see light, as something to use, manage and shape, not as something to be a victim of, or to see go by. I rather stay at home with my wife and kids than go to some useless business meeting.
-I take a lot of vacations. Around 10 weeks a year of vacation. But only one week in which I am truly disconnected and on vacation. My other 9 weeks of vacation are devoted to family, friends, sports and meditation. Meditation in the sense of thinking deeply about some problem that I am trying to solve. Like my best ideas for work I have while on vacation. Maybe because I think my work is a vacation. Because I love what I do.
And yes, I do have a great team of people who work for me and help me out and I am very, very thankful for what they do.
Little kids want to believe. Teenagers don’t want to believe. We are Jewish but we are not religious. I am glad we aren’t, especially for the upbringing of my 5 children.
If we had been religious Jews I could not have dressed as Santa and brought gifts to my kids at a young age. I would have missed their faces of delight, and their smiles when they knew it was me, but pretended not to know. I can understand Jews refusal to celebrate Christmas because of Jesus who said he was God and we did not believe him. I can side with anyone who refuses to believe that a certain person is God. The whole story of Jesus is very alien to Jews and to many Europeans who have abandoned religion in the last decades, especially in Spain and Italy. But most religious Jews fail to realize that in many countries Jesus has lost its prominence to Santa a much simpler and easier to like character. Yes I know Santa is also about consumerism and I do feel sorry for the parents who can’t buy toys for their kids (my kids know this and we donate toys for them). And the world sucks in many ways. But you have to agree with me that there is something beautifully simple for young kids about a man who comes from the North Pole with lots of gifts. Especially if they have been good kids .
And later on, with my older kids, not being religious spared me of trying to convince them of the literal interpretation of the Bible. A struggle that many still go through, especially in USA the only developed country in which most people are still religious. This would have been painful for me, as the Bible has so many absurdities in it that I would have been unable to defend it as true. I am so glad I did not have to tell my kids that we believe in all the absurdities of the Bible “because we have faith”. Starting with the universe being but a few thousand years old most of what I read in the Bible is of no scientific value and what is even worse, frequently of dubious ethical value.
During the Jewish holidays I have manage to explain to my kids that we celebrate because we are part of the Jewish people who share a common heritage as a people not only as a religion. We celebrate as many of my non religious Christian friends celebrate, as a tradition not as a literal belief. I also explain that most of the founders of the State of Israel were not religious and that most of the achievements of the Jewish people are way outside the realm of religion, mostly in literature, entrepreneurship and science. I frequently like to tell the story of Golda Meir, one of the founders of Israel who was an atheist and when asked if she believed in God she answered wisely “I believe in the Jewish people and the Jewish people believe in God”. In our home there are only two kinds of answers to any question a child may pose: the most likely to be true answer and as frequently, the I don’t know answer. I don’t know feels better than religion to me.
So today, right here in St Barts in our sailboat, I will dress as Santa again, this time for our baby and 5 year old. I can’t wait to see how happy they will be. And yes, they are also getting their Chanukah gifts. We celebrate all that there is to celebrate. And we are happy this way.
I am a father of 5. I also built 5 companies. Building 5 companies of which 4 did very well is a very rare accomplishment. Yet having 5 children is something that many more people could do if they wanted to..
If I have to compare, what gave me more satisfaction in life, as much as I have enjoyed building my companies and I now enjoy being CEO of Fon, being a father is just another level of enjoyment and satisfaction. Alexa, Isa, Tom, Leo and Mia they make me happy every day of my life. Parenting has tough moments but overall it is the best thing I have ever done. I am not recommending that everyone has 5 children. But many people I know have none. In Spain where I live, the native population is shrinking. Even having 3 children is very rare and most couples have one or two. People say having children is expensive but health care is free, education up to university level is free and these are the two biggest costs in USA where people have more children. To me it’s a mystery why people have such few children in this country. I still hope to have my 6th one. When I was growing up we were also 6. Our home was an ongoing party.
My 17 year old son Tom was sick for Roshashana the Jewish New Year that we celebrated last night. I felt sorry for him and asked him if there was anything I could get him that would make him feel better. He answered “I don’t know Dad, all I want I get on my laptop”.
When I was his age being sick meant book, magazines, videos and TV. Now all that comes over the internet.
But then I thought that everything I could possibly get him I could get him thanks to the internet. That our home, our car, our vacation home and whatever we have we owe to the companies I built that deliver the internet to people. That my career has been all about companies that deliver the internet to everyone, including my son Tom. He gets his internet via Jazztel and Ya.com and Fon (the two Spanish telcos that I founded and deliver internet via DSL, and Fon WiFi).
So there we were, a son who anything he wanted while sick was on the internet and a father who anything he could possibly buy him was thanks to the Internet.
We are a good fit Tom and I.
I don’t really like Marc Anthony, the salsa I can take, but those romantic songs are too much for me. But not for my wife Nina and therefore I accepted the kind invitation of Emilio Azcarraga to go and see him and worked on these pictures taken from the second row on a Canon S95. Working on the photos and the video I had a good time anyway. And afterwards we all went for a great dinner. I was married twice before being with Nina, once for 12 years, once for one year. If the last 4 years with Nina have been the best married years of my life is because of her and how much in love I am with this amazing woman. But it’s also because I have learned to be more patient and try to make the best out of situations, case in point the Marc Anthony concert.
These photos are from the last day of our summer vacation. We spent it on Aphrodite, the family sailboat. We have been sailing Aphrodite for 11 years. We have gone as far East as Beirut and as far West as Mexico. Aphrodite is a 92ft Ketch designed by Andre Hoek and built by Vitters. And don’t ask me why I still work so hard at turning ideas into businesses like Fon and just don’t spend my life sailing
Aphrodite is a blue water sailboat that has crossed the Atlantic 10 times. What they say about boats is true, they are incredibly complex and expensive to maintain. But they are also great fun to sail.
In this video I show Aphrodite sailing.