“Children have the remarkable ability to force you to reflect on the kind of person you are and the type of person you aspire to be” with Damian Bazadona and Chaya Weiner
I firmly believe that not spending time with your children is detrimental to your own development. Children have the remarkable ability to force you to reflect on the kind of person you are and the type of person you aspire to be. Children are also the ultimate guidepost for how you ultimately live your life — whether that’s at home or your place of work.
I had the pleasure to interview Damian Bazadona, founder of Situation. From the Super Bowl to Broadway’s biggest brands, Damian has worked on some of NYC’s most epic events. In 2001, he founded Situation — a digital agency that is best known for helping brands build passionate communities through digital-first marketing strategies. Over the years, Damian has worked with some of the world’s leading brands including Stoli Vodka, The Metropolitan Opera, HBO, Major League Soccer, National Geographic, and The Ad Council. His agency has also been honored with numerous workplace awards from Crain’s, Best Companies Group, Cynopsis, Digiday, and Fortune. Damian himself was honored by Cynopsis with the Social Good Leader of the Year and HR Visionary of the Year awards. Outside of Situation, Damian acts as a speaker and thought leader, and has organized one of the longest-running TEDx events — TEDxBroadway. He also passionately invests in arts education and community involvement — he founded the 501(c)(3) corporation Situation Project, the Situation Cares/Ian Bennett Memorial scholarship, and the Situation Interactive Prize for Experience Research at SUNY Albany. His 501(c)(3), Situation Project, was even invited to participate in the White House’s inaugural SouthxSouthLawn in 2016. Damian believes that the power of the human spirit is remarkable, and he brings that conviction into his company and to his clients.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
I’m one of four from an awesome, caring family (and the 3rd youngest kid). I grew up in and around the state of New York my entire life. I’m also a lifelong public-school student from elementary school through college — graduating from the University at Albany’s Business School.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
When I was 24, I took a leap of faith into entrepreneurship and joined two other partners in launching a digital marketing company. It was the first time in my life I went from getting a steady weekly paycheck to getting sporadic paychecks that were dependent on sales from the business.
For the years that followed, I led with my gut instinct and ended up starting a second company on own. I then took that company of 1 and built it to a company of 100. It took stamina, lots of coffee, and support from incredible mentors and friends. Today, I’m proud to lead an agency whose mission is to help brands build passionate communities.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
A typical day-to-day reflects a combination of addressing short-term tasks where my help is needed and long-term goals where my focus is most required. This balance is tough to juggle because without addressing short-term pains, the long-term needs can be significantly impacted. At the same time, without addressing long-term planning (while spending time on short-term issues), the business will never see the forest through the trees. It’s a tricky balance, but one I’m inspired to lead through each day.
From communicating with clients to curating thought leadership events to deciding the best health insurance for an agency of 100 people — no day is ever the same (or ever boring). Some days I’ll be in all day meetings, some you’ll find me running around New York City, and some you’ll find me chatting with our latest new hire in the office kitchen. My schedule is always changing.
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 would flip it the other way — I firmly believe that not spending time with your children is detrimental to your own development. Children have the remarkable ability to force you to reflect on the kind of person you are and the type of person you aspire to be. Children are also the ultimate guidepost for how you ultimately live your life — whether that’s at home or your place of work.
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 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
As the owner of a business, for better or worse, I carry the brunt of risk (and reward) at my agency, which means everything, little or big, ladders up to me. Because of this, it can be hard to fully disconnect and access quality family time. With that said, I’ve come to learn what helps me to disconnect and be more present with my family, and that is spending our time engaging in experiences together. Our quality time consists of things like going out to eat dinner together, camping through the Boy Scouts programs, traveling on vacations, and playing ball or any sports activity. I also try to limit screens as much as possible in quality time spent with my family.
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) Be in environments that aren’t conducive to distractions. I think “experiences,” particularly live experiences, are good for that — traveling, spending time outdoors, going to see a show or sports game, etc.
2) Create traditions like saying, “every Friday we throw a ball around after work.” Routines create a good rhythm that you ultimately begin to plan for (and look forward to), which makes it easier to make room in a busy schedule.
3) Create larger blocks of time when possible — take a Friday or Monday off. Assuming you work a Monday to Friday work week, a long weekend can give you an extended period with family. The further you plan this out, the better. Planning in advance allows you to set expectations with yourself, your family, and your team.
4) Set boundaries and communicate authentically to those most likely to distract you from your intentions. Telling your team “I’m going to be off the grid,” planning for absence ahead of time, and trusting they’ll have your back while you’re gone is a great way to do so.
5) Create a specific intention to leave your work at work. While this can be much harder than it seems, making it a specific, daily intention is what’s most important. I’ve had many days where, even though I left my laptop at work, one annoying conversation consumed me mentally and emotionally for the next 24 hours. Finding balance is part of running a business, and by setting an intention habitually you build a strong foundation for following through and bouncing back on the days it isn’t possible to leave work at work.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
To me, being a good parent means caring deeply about your children and doing the best you can with the resources you have. Being a good parent also means acting on the judgments you think are right for your children based on what you know at that moment in time. Judging parents solely on the amount of time they spend with their children is not fair to them, not healthy for the cultural conversation, and not an accurate assessment of their quality of parenting. Something I always try to do is make each of my kids feel special. I have a secret handshake with each of my sons, and we always exchange these handshakes when I drop them off at school. This is just one small and simple way I think I make my kids feel special consistently.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I hope to inspire my kids to dream big by leading by example in everything I try to do. To me, dreaming big is usually in line with having the courage to try things I don’t know how to do, launching new ventures (both personally or professionally) outside of my comfort zone, and remaining transparent about my insecurities in all these avenues with my family. I hope that my actions will inspire my kids to reach for their highest potential while always remaining authentic.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Success to me is being able to sleep at night with the choices I make (with the information I have at that time) and with the effort I put into things I hope positively progress. I don’t focus on the output as much as I do on the inputs of what I did (or didn’t do) to make things happen. For that reason, I don’t see success as an end goal; instead, I see success as incremental wins.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
· NPR‘s Life Kit is my go-to podcast. I find it digestible, thoughtful, and full of practical advice that’s easy to listen to no matter where I am.
· The Headspace app is great for meditation. I admittedly don’t really know if I’m doing it right (if there is such a thing), but the time and space I create trying to meditate makes me feel better when I do it. I think this is a great example of doing things outside of your comfort zone — especially things that help you disconnect from the day-to-day. It’s also a great example of trying things in the short-term that may feel uncomfortable but will have positive long-term benefits.
· A personal hack I have is nesting all my social apps on my phone into a folder that isn’t on my home screen. This significantly reduces my screen time simply by creating more work to get to the apps — out of sight, out of mind.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have many quotes I love like “what’s the worst that will happen?” which my mother reinforced to me many times over the years, particularly in moments that felt risky. It is baked into my thinking daily at this point. Another one of my favorite life lesson quotes is “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” My father-in-law shared this with me, and I’ve always appreciated the sentiment. I’ve had a long road of feeling both “less than” and “invisible” at different parts in my life for a whole range of reasons. That quote always reminds me that the race of life is a long one and doing my best can close that gap (especially in phases when I sometimes lose faith).
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. :-)
The movement I would inspire is to empower everyone in the world to use the excess capacity of their superpower (we all have something) as a force for good to help others in need. I do this at my non-profit, Situation Project, where we are on a mission to stimulate and expand the imaginations of students in local communities by increasing their access to arts & culture experiences. Years ago, we discovered that too many seats were being left empty at many arts & culture institutions each year (2 million seats go unsold on Broadway alone). With limited programming and reduced arts funding in schools, we realized there was something we could do to connect both worlds — by empowering organizations to take advantage of their untapped inventory to nurture the cultural capital of students. Situation Project set out to raise awareness about the many benefits an arts-rich education can have on the leaders of tomorrow while increasing our students’ access to those cultural experiences. I hope that this type of program motivates others to see their untapped equity and the communities they can reach. I encourage everyone I know to get involved with whatever resource, talent, or passion they have. The world needs your superpower now more than ever.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.