Wade Devers: Designer to Creative Director with authenticity and humor
Wade Devers was an Executive Creative Director and Managing Director at Arnold Worldwide. He always leaves a unique impression. When I first walked in the door at the Arnold office back in December 2013, I must have met dozens of people on Day 1. I remember forcing myself to remember all the names and faces and felt completely overwhelmed. When Wade walked by me for the first time, I remember thinking "That beard! That face! That outfit!" but most importantly, "That spirit!"
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Wade is both funny and fun to be around. He truly doesn’t look or dress like anyone else I’ve met (which makes remembering him incredibly easy). But what I like most about Wade is his spirit which I refer to as "spiritually warm" - by that I mean: you just can’t help wanting to be friends with him.
If you are listening to this episode because you come from Arnold and have worked with Wade before, you’ll likely discover many things you didn’t know about him.
We talk about agency life such as what it is like to be an Executive Creative Director in Boston (only a dozen or so jobs like this in the city) working on some of the coolest brands in the country and around the world. How has Wade transformed from a young designer to a creative director? How does Wade approach work and creativity on a daily basis? What does he look for in a new hire?
The conversation doesn’t stop at the agency talk as we dive deeper into Wade’s secret origin story. Did you know that he spent years living in Scotland and working at a Chinese restaurant? It was an experience that has forever changed his life (for the better).
I learned that Wade is a family man who has wonderful relationships with all his four children. I had to ask him about parenthood and how he remains so cool in front of his teenage kids.
"Life is a lot better if you are honest, straightforward and try to make people around you happy." [5:30]
When I met Wade for the first time at Arnold Worldwide [9:30]
What is the reason for anyone to want to work at an agency? [11:30]
Some of the creative people Wade worked with over the years [14:00]
What are the qualities Wade looks for in Creative hires? [16:00]
How do you unblock yourself? [19:30]
Let's talk about food! [23:00]
As a foodie + chef, what does Wade cook for his family and himself? [25:00]
Why are people wired so differently? [34:00]
Wade's secret origin stories - what is something Wade doesn't carry on the surface of himself? [36:00]
What is it like to be a cool dad to four children? [42:00]
What are some of the counterintuitive things Wade learned as a parent? [46:30]
What would Wade leave for his children that's not money? [50:30]
Rob Kottkamp (now at Mullen) [14:00]
Jose Luis Martinez [15:15]
John Simpson (writer) [32:30]
Transcript of Interview with Wade Devers
Welcome to the Feisworld podcast, engaging conversations that cross the boundaries between business, art and the digital world.
Thank you for stopping by for another episode of the Feisworld podcast. This is your host Fei Wu. This podcast is a platform where I ignite sung and unsung heroes ranging from world-class artists, musicians, writers, athletes, other individuals and organizations that are changing our planet for the better. I love helping these people share their stories with the world!
It a great pleasure for me to welcome Wade Devers, Executive Creative Director and Managing Director from Arnold Worldwide. Wade always leaves a unique impression. When I first walked in the door at Arnold office back in December 2013, I must have met dozens of people in day one. I remember forcing myself to remember all the names, faces, and at the same time feeling completely overwhelmed. But when Wade walked by me for the first time, I remember thinking to myself: “That beard, that face and that outfit, but most importantly, that spirit!” Wade is both funny and fun to be around. He truly doesn't look or dress like anybody else I've ever met in my life, which makes remembering him incredibly easy. But what I like the most about Wade is his spirit, which I refer to as “Spiritually warm”. By that I mean, you just can't help wanting to be friends with him.
If you're listening to this episode because you come from Arnold and have worked with Wade before, you will likely discover many things you didn't know about him. We talk about agency life, of course, such as what is it like to be an Executive Creative Director in Boston, working on some of the coolest brands in the country and around the world? How did Wade transform from a young designer to a Creative Director? How does Wade approach work creativity on a daily basis? What does he look for in a new hire? The conversation doesn't stop at the agency talk as we dive in deeper into Wade's secret origin stories.
Thank you for listening to this podcast. And please, let me know your feedback via Feisworld.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, all with the same social handle that is Feisworld. This is such a fun episode for me to record and I really hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. Without further ado, please welcome, Wade Devers!
I found myself as a seven-year-old American boy in Scotland, without a father, with a funny accent, and funny clothes, and a lot of curiosity.
Life is a lot better if you are honest, straightforward and try to make the people around you happy.
Fei Wu 4:42
Welcome! I’ll start with a question about your last name, where does Devers come from?
Well, as far as I know, Devers is a variation of Devereaux, which is French. At some point, Devereaux ended up in Ireland and became O’Devereaux and then, when my great grandparents on my father's side moved to the United States, it was shortened to Devers. Something like that. You know, an immigration type thing, not wanting to seem Irish.
Fei Wu 5:32
Every name has a story. I know this happened to a lot of Jewish last names as well.
Yeah, very true, lots of names. Even the Italians (I think I know this from the Godfather), they took, like, the region that they were from.
Fei Wu 5:51
Oh, those movies! Especially the first two.
Yeah, I love mafia films.
Fei Wu 5:57
And The Sopranos… I didn’t start watching until recently, about a couple of years ago.
I think when The Sopranos was in its first season's there wasn't that much competition. It was either you watch the Sopranos or you watched what was on regular TV. There were a few shows on HBO. But now, I think when I started to watch it, I was too easily distracted because there were so many shows. I was probably just watching something that I thought was more interesting, like Breaking Bad or something like that.
Fei Wu 6:30
Breaking Bad is making the TV industry go a completely different way. It’s so good!
Have you seen Better Call Saul yet?
Fei Wu 6:42
I watched a couple of episodes.
Yeah, not bad. It's got a decent start. I like that guy, I think he's a really good character
I'll probably keep watching that.
Fei Wu 6:54
Sweet! What a pleasure thank you so much for coming.
No-no, thank YOU!
Fei Wu 7:00
So, I have a million reasons to interview you. First of all, I feel like I owe my listeners a couple of words about you. And you are Wade Devers, an Executive Creative Director here at Arnold Worldwide.
That's what they tell me. [laughs]
Fei Wu 7:18
I feel like we’re a really big agency, very well-known. And I was thinking, there’re maybe like 1000 or so people with your type of job in the entire city!
A small handful, yeah.
Fei Wu 7:33
You have so much to share! I want to give people a preview that we are not only here to talk about creativity agency, but also food, cars, parenthood, your music, your band, all that jazz.
Lots of shit going on (you told me I was allowed to swear, though).
Fei Wu 7:56
Oh, please do!
I keep it fairly mild, I am a gentleman after all.
Fei Wu 8:02
I know, I noticed that. [Wade laughs]
I had the pleasure to work with you on a pretty significant project, so far the experience has been excellent. You set the bar very high. I remember when I joined Arnold about a year and two months ago, and for about a year we didn't really work on anything.
No. We could bump into each other in the hallway, probably said hi.
Fei Wu 8:28
Yeah. You know, in the high school yearbook there's typically a couple of pages, like “the most beautiful eyes”, “the most something”. I feel like if I were to give you a title, that'd be “the most huggable”.
Oh yeah, I am definitely huggable! [laughs]
Fei Wu 8:47
Very approachable and so memorable. And, you know, I think we're all here on Earth, trying to be remembered some way, but then - I hate to say that - some people look very generic.
Yes, true. That's true. I hate to admit it, but it's true.
Fei Wu 9:06
And I am very generic as well.
Well, I'm very flattered, now I'm embarrassed. You can't see that, but I'm getting red.
Fei Wu 9:14
Oh, really? I got really excited this morning, right before the interview. And I was thinking, I feel like you have this Buddha nature to you.
It's my belly. [laughs]
Fei Wu 9:30
Actually, what I'm trying to say is, you're very spiritually warm.
So that's what you mean by Buddha? I like that. Yeah, I like to think of myself as spiritually warm.
Fei Wu 10:00
Sure. That's great. So, you know, you are sort of - what's his name from Mad Men, again? Don Draper?
Yes, I'm a more of a Buddha Don Draper. [laughs]
Fei Wu 10:25
Way more handsome and way more memorable.
I definitely want to let you tell us, really, what is the reason for anybody to want to work at an agency?
Well, that's a big question. I mean, that changes over the years, you know, but I think that the reason you want to work in an agency as a junior creative is completely different from why you would want to work in an agency as an Executive Creative Director, they're completely different jobs. At your younger stages, it's all about creativity, the work that you do yourself, and pushing yourself to think of things that other people haven't thought of, or to perfect your craft at communicating, art direction, internet - there's so much that goes into it, that you do yourself. Then you work your way through the business, and the better you get, the further you move away from the things that drew you to it in the first place. So at some point, you kind of have to find out from yourself, whether those things that you're now doing still interest you, compared to what you were doing before.
Like, I was an art director once, and I loved being an art director, I loved designing, I loved the notion of communication and being able to connect to people. I just had an intuition for it. I just kind of knew how to do it, I guess.
But then you find yourself in a Creative Director position, and now you're doing things that you hadn't really planned on doing or didn't even think you had in your makeup. You start to think about things that are more related to business and strategy, and then you have this whole other layer of mentoring other people.
For a long time, I think I didn't like being a creative director. I just didn't enjoy it because I didn't have my hands on the work. Like, I wasn't actually doing it, which is why I maintained a pretty decent freelance part of my life, just because I can touch things, work on things and design things. But I did realize, as a creative director, the things that I liked were seeing other people succeed and knowing that their success was my success.
To me, in particular, I remember one of the first people I hired and who really worked out was this guy named Rob. He is now a Creative Director, we're good friends, and I think when I first started working with Rob I started to realize that the input that I had in his work and working with him resulted in something because of his talent. He was able to take input in direction and make things that were really great. And I took a lot of satisfaction in his output because he was really good. I actually thought he was a better art director than I was, but I was able to help him get there. So you start to get a sense that those things can be equally as satisfying, although in a completely different way than being an actual art director.
Fei Wu 13:51
I completely echo that. On my position, I've always enjoyed mentorship in general: internships, college students, high school students.
Yeah, it's a lot of fun. We went down, Jose Luis and I (who is, for those of you who don't know, another group Creative Director here), to the to VCU brand center this week, and just had one-on-one meetings with students, talked to them about their aspirations and their portfolios.
It was great because I haven't done that in a while with students. It was really great to just talk to people who are at the very beginning of their career and have all these things to go through that you’ve probably already dealt with, it’s amazing to sort of inspire that creativity in them, to encourage them, you know.
Fei Wu 14:47
What are some of the cues you're looking for, that specific set of qualities?
Well, I think there're things that are fairly basic, like, eagerness is huge - how willing you are to put yourself out there and work hard, so that's really important.
One more thing that you're looking for is people that are easy to be around. So people that are work really hard, but that are easy to be around is a great combination.
And then, ultimately, you're looking for people that can come up with ideas, which is a very difficult thing to figure out on some levels. And it's also super subjective, but, you know, we saw a couple of students who showed us some of their work, and right away you see that they know how to take something and to turn it into something completely inspired or imaginative in a way that I never would have thought of. And it's pretty easy to recognize once you see it, but it's a little hard for some people to figure out even how to be creative.
Fei Wu 16:16
That's funny that you touch upon this because just a couple of weeks ago, I interviewed this Wall Street Journal Best Seller, Claudia Azula Altucher.
So she and her husband both are influencers, and she wrote this book called “Become an idea machine” on how to generate almost like muscle memory to generate 10 ideas every day. She said “Try it, and you'll realize that the first three to five are easy, but the last five you really can struggle with.
Yeah, I think, when you're starting out, when you're a junior creative, you're afraid all the time, you're afraid that you can't do it again. I was just so scared all the time. Like, you get a project, you just finished one, and in some ways, you were relieved because it was over. But then you have this new brief on your desk, and you're like “Oh, my God, what if I can't do it? What if I literally can't come up with an idea?”, and then out of just sheer panic and desperation, you start coming up with ideas.
And then what's exciting is you teach yourself how to come up with an idea. Like, if you're at a writer's block or a thinker’s block, you remember those sort of exercises and how to shake it loose, come through the back door of an idea, or you say to yourself “Okay, what if the world existed without this product? Where would we be?” You just ask yourself all these questions, and they lead to different avenues. And all of a sudden, your ideas become these “branches”. Your ideas have ideas, and it's quite exciting when you figure out that you have that ability, you know.
Fei Wu 18:20
How do you unlock yourself? I remember, a few days ago I was at the grocery store and I experienced decision fatigue just trying to choose the right shampoo for myself. For you, there's got to be creativity fatigue as well, because we can’t be creative all the time.
I don't know, I think you need to take a break from it. I mean, for me, it's important that I get away from it. Because I find that coming at something fresh, rested, and not having thought about it for a while is really, really important. That varies greatly from person to person. As I said, I think some people actually thrive on constancy, like they're constantly going and going and going. And you've seen agencies that are actually set up to take advantage of that kind of dynamic, like Crispin, for example: seems to have been or still is an agency that really thrives on constancy, being there all the time, and thinking and thinking and thinking.
For me, I find that it's important that I have a life, and that helps me do better work. I really think that's important for me, like, I probably would never have gotten hired to Crispin nor kept my job there because I need things outside of my job to keep me interested in my job. I always say that I really like my job because I really like my life.
Fei Wu 20:14
I couldn't agree more. I try to stop myself for saying the word “agree” or “completely” or “absolutely” on my podcast, but on this note, I really do agree - it is extremely important for us to have passions, interests or hobbies outside of what we do.
Yeah, I think so. I definitely think it's important. I mean, we're here once. And I think, you should sort of figure out what makes you happy, and then do those things really well. I mean, if what makes you happy is being at an ad agency all day every day, that's fine. Do that and do it well. But if you find that what makes you happy is having a great balance in your life between the things that you're just interested in and the work that you do because you're interested in it, then do those things well! Figure out what you like, that's it. I think that's really a key to being happy, and advertising is to figure out, where are you the happiest? Are you happy when you're home? Are you happy when you work? You know, you got to figure that out for yourself. And it really changes from person to person.
Fei Wu 21:37
I think all that you do outside of this agency environment, it's really fueling into your creativity. So yes, I completely understand.
Now I want to talk about food if that's okay. So I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver and if I were so creative today I would have brought my four or five hard-cover Jamie Oliver cookbooks. I watch all of his shows, I started with Jamie's Kitchen when he was like a kid, 19-20 years old.
Was that before The Naked Chef?
Fei Wu 22:22
That was The Naked Chef.
Oh, I love that show! I thought that was just so different and simple, that's what I loved about it.
Fei Wu 22:30
And it costs nothing to produce. I think, literally a friend with a $200 camera…
In his kitchen, in his apartment! [laughs]
Fei Wu 22:36
And people would just like literally show up.
I love the way he talked to the person holding the camera, it was really fun! It was a great show, he's a good character, he's a great TV personality.
Fei Wu 22:49
I'm a foodie, and I grew up in Beijing, my dad's Cantonese, my mom's Mandarin. Food is a ritual for people with my background. And I'm so glad that you have the same shared vision. You’re a family man, you have kids. I assume you cook at home.
I do now. Because I work in Boston and I live quite far away, and my kids are pretty active in sports, they eat actually pretty early in the day. My wife cooks for them during the week. But I cook when I'm home, I cook on the weekends or if I take a vacation. I cook all of the meals and then I cook every night for myself.
Fei Wu 23:38
What do you cook?
You know, I kind of pride myself on being able to make something good for me with whatever's there. I love doing that. But that just comes from practice. I mean, I've worked in restaurants. Until I was in my early 20s, I worked in restaurants. My entire youth. I worked at a ton of Chinese restaurants, actually.
Fei Wu 24:04
What did you do at Chinese restaurants?
I worked in the kitchen and I was a waiter.
Now listen, I can cook a degree of Chinese, and I wouldn't consider it necessarily Chinese, I couldn't tell you whether it was a Cantonese or Mandarin influence, I don't know! All I know is it has an Asian flavor. And actually, if I could pick one category of food to eat for the rest of my life, it would be Asian flavors, because I love Asian flavored food.
Fei Wu 24:34
We got to go to Chinatown.
I was actually going to ask you, let's go to lunch together!
So here's a crazy thing, right? I'm an American boy in Scotland in high school, just because of my parents, and I work part-time in a Chinese restaurant as a waiter. So when you come up to the table and you say “Can I take your order?”, they look at you like “What the hell is going on? None of that accent should be anywhere near this”.
But the best part about that was I got to be really friendly with the waiter staff, the kitchen staff and the owners of the restaurant, so I would get invited to everything: to weddings that they hosted, to Chinese New Year. And I’d eat the best food because of that, the staff meals were always super authentic because they were cooking for themselves. None of that was on the menu. Really. I remember this thing that I don't know what it's called, but it's a big bowl of really hot rice, and you put raw meat in it, and then green onions and sesame oil. And then they had these dried fish sort of flakes that you mixed in with it, and it would cook the meat in the rice.
Fei Wu 26:00
I can’t believe you had the chance to eat that!
Oh, it was so good. It was ridiculously good.
I mean, I've always been a big food fan. My mom was a great cook. We traveled all over the world, and she was picking up recipes from where she went. So I was really into food. And my brother's a chef, so we're like a real food family. But working in those restaurants, I got to eat the best food. It was insane!
Fei Wu 26:32
How long did it last?
While I worked there. I worked at that restaurant probably for three years.
Fei Wu 26:40
Did you live in Scotland for 3 years?
I lived in Scotland twice. I lived there when I was a kid and when I was very young, because my mother's from there. Then I moved back there when I was a senior in high school, and then I went to college there. I worked in that Chinese restaurant the entire time. Yeah, it was awesome.
Fei Wu 27:00
We are five minutes away from China town, we have to go there.
Let's go to lunch next week. We'll just take a walk over there, you can drag me anywhere you want, and I'll eat it. That's the thing – I’ll eat almost anything. I love trying things I've never tried.
Fei Wu 27:14
It's interesting. Sometimes, I discovered that people only order a turkey club sandwich for lunch every day! Man, I just couldn't always eat the same thing…
I have to have a constant diet of interesting things, and if I find myself getting bored with the choices that I have, I'll just make my own thing.
Fei Wu 27:40
What is the one thing that you made recently? What kind of ingredients did you use?
Well, the thing that I made recently, one of my favorite dishes that I make, is like a version of a pho-type soup.
Fei Wu 27:59
Oh, I love it!
It's like my version of that. I make it with meatballs, they’re pork and ginger meatballs. So pork with ginger and garlic and, you know, five spices in there. There's like a lot of stuff in the meatballs. And then I'll just roast the meatballs in the oven and put them in the soup, so the soup is really simple. It's like canned or boxed chicken stock, low sodium version. It'll have fish sauce in it, sesame oil, soy sauce, and probably rice wine vinegar or lime juice for some acidity in the broth, and then I'll just use ramen noodles. But the secret, I think, is that I buy this little container of roasted chili paste and I'll cook that chili paste with garlic and ginger before I make the broth. So the broth has all of that stuff in it, and then you put it all on the ball and then big handfuls of herbs.
Fei Wu 29:16
Yes to all ingredients!
Then I add a little Sriracha at the end or a little chili oil (I prefer the first), and then that's it, that's the whole thing. It's actually really easy to make, you can buy all the ingredients at a shop, you don't have to go to fancy food markets to get it.
Fei Wu 29:34
Like an Asian Aisle.
Yeah, there's an Asian Aisle, there’s a couple of really good brands that have prepared Asian things like chili paste, chili oil, roasted chili paste, and stuff like that, so it's available.
Fei Wu 29:50
I was going to ask you if you are that one white guy…
I am the one white guy in the Asian grocery store. [laughs]
It’s s actually a great place, here, under a parking lot. But it’s super sketchy in it. Like, you go in there and it smells like fish! But it's great. I mean, it's so good! Have you've been there?
Fei Wu 30:23
It's so good! And they have a lot of such a weird shit [laughs], like dried shrimp and dried fish, but it's all so flavorful!
Fei Wu 30:35
Sometimes I even surprise myself because there's a huge Chinese influence in Boston, and there's a mix of very different cuisines (China is a big country). I remember ordering this like duck dish and it was really strange looking and tasting…
Yeah, you know, the thing is, I don't get really easily grossed out. I think it's probably because I worked in restaurants, but a lot of people are really easily grossed out, even raw chicken grosses people out. I find it all kind of interesting.
One time I was traveling and my friend John Simpson was actually with me (he's a writer that works here), we were in Corsica, shooting. And they had this local ham, a prosciutto type ham, but the thing was cured with maggots. I'm not kidding. They basically cover the thing in something, and then the maggots basically eat the outside of this thing. It's a form of curing. And I had never heard of this, they told me about it. I was like “Wow, that's kind of fucking weird”. And then, when they brought it to us, it was in really thin slices, so you could see the shells of the maggots outside of this thing. But I was like “I'm totally eating this” because I thought, it has been cured like this for probably thousands of years, how bad could it possibly be? It's gotta be great. And it was amazing! But most people would never ever get over the fact that there were these maggot shells all over the place. They couldn't see past that. So I think it's a big benefit that I'm not easily grossed out. [laughs]
Fei Wu 32:43
You know, I wonder sometimes, it's like nature versus nurture. Why are human beings wired so differently? Sometimes I feel like I have this preconception: if you’re from big cities like Boston, New York, you're exposed to a lot of variety, so you think differently. But it's not always true, people who grew up in small towns often are also very open-minded. Why is that?
Yeah, I don't know. That's a good question. I think there are people that have just a deeper appreciation for a range of tastes, and they have a need for it. Like, you have this desire to eat things that taste different or remarkable in some way. And some people just don't have that in them at all, they eat food to fuel themselves, it's kind of a basic need. And they have other things that make up that need for them, whether it's sports, or reading, or whatever it is.
I'm just probably a lot like you. The chance to taste something is really exciting to me, I love that. I love making it as well. I love all things about food: I love the equipment, I love the food, I love the feeling of it, I love the satisfaction of it, I love the creativity of it, the art of it, the community of it. I love all that.
Fei Wu 34:10
Yeah, I think you all of a sudden you get sort of that national exposure to different cultures, different communities. People can come together and talk about their stories.
My favorite memory as a child is sitting together with family, friends, it’s very welcoming, people sit down and share their stories. I’ll always remember that.
I want to ask a secret origin story of yours. It is my new favorite question group, which I stole from James Altucher, it was actually from comic books, like, secret origins of superheroes.
I wonder if you’re always like this, or is there something that you don't carry on the surface, on yourself? I’d love to hear.
That’s a great question! That's such a good question.
I think a big reason why I am so open, easy to get along with and make friends very quickly is, I think, the fact that when I was seven, my father left me, my mom and my brother. He just left. [laughs] And we moved to Scotland because that's where my mother was from. So she was a young Scottish woman, slightly under-educated, no means of making a living, all of a sudden with two boys and no husband. So we moved to Scotland. This all sounds very tragic but actually has such a happy ending.
So she basically moved back home, which I'm sure was difficult for her to deal with. I found myself as a seven-year-old American boy in Scotland, without a father, with a funny accent, funny clothes, and a lot of curiosity. I got beat up a lot. And I found that the more I blended in with people, the easier it was to communicate. I kind of mastered this art of mimicking local accent, I could speak like a local Scottish boy. I can still actually do it really good [laughs].
When I did that, I felt like I got along with people quicker. And I just became easy to get along with, I didn't really get into fights. So I mitigated the stress in my life by not getting into scuffles, and arguments, and things like that. I was very, very mellow, and I made friends very quickly. Then the other thing that happened was my mother met my stepfather, John, who is a great guy. He was in a business that kept us moving around the world, so by the time I was 20, I had moved every three years my whole life.
So I had this horrific childhood experience, when my father left, and all of a sudden we had a stepfather, who was a great guy, and we moved around, we kept moving. So my ability to make friends became an imperative because as I got to know people and started to have a system of friends, we would leave. So the only way to survive something like that without going crazy is to basically land at a new place and start to make friends quickly. I think it's helped me in advertising because you're constantly meeting new people. And it's such a relationship business, your ability to get along with people, understand them and not judge them is very important.
So I feel like that's my secret origin story. I think my success in advertising, in relationship business, is born out of these experiences that I've had. Some bad and some great, but this need to constantly be open and friendly, which I love, is a fundamental part of what I do. So that’s my secret. [laughs]
Fei Wu 39:09
Great story! How many people in this agency know this?
A handful, probably. I mean, you know, it's not until someone asks me a question that results in me having to tell them. Like, once someone learns that I lived somewhere else, they will ask me more questions, and then eventually that story comes unfolded. But usually, I don't have the opportunity to talk about it. It's really no reason to talk about it, you know.
Fei Wu 39:36
Do you speak different languages?
No, it's all accent. I only speak English. I speak the tiniest bit of French only because I was there for five weeks once, but I only know how to say, like, “bread”, “ice cream”, and “beer”. [laughs]
I just have the ability to do accents. I also do impersonations. I did the voiceovers for Fidelity for a while, but it was just me on the end of the commercial. Like, I would just say “Fidelity Investments. Smart move”. That was it, that's really all I did! [laughs]
So it's fun to do. What I've always really wanted to do was a character in a cartoon. I think that would be awesome! I've never pursued that way, but I've always thought that would be so much fun to do that
Fei Wu 40:32
Maybe we can work on that together.
That'd be great. I'd love to do it. I love doing characters. Actually, in high school I loved being in plays and acting, I loved all that. I thought it was just fun.
Fei Wu 40:44
So I tend to stalk my guests a little bit before the show, and what I find to be really stunning, is you are so close to all of your kids. I see you swimming a lot.
Yeah, that's my life [laughs].
We have four kids. My oldest is 21, it's my son Connor, he's a great guy. They're all swimmers. It's a longer story, but they all ended up getting into swimming and they're all pretty good at it. So my oldest son Connor is 21. I have two daughters, Aiden and Ripley, they're 18 and 14, respectively. And then my youngest son is 11. And they're all swimmers, so I spent a lot of time around swimming pools [laughs].
Fei Wu 41:37
Really quickly - are they inspired by their older siblings, or…?
My two eldest and I, we used to go to this pool that was down the street, and we got to know one of the lifeguards there. He said “Hey guys, want to come and try out for the swim team?”, and that was literally the start of it. So they started it, and the more they did it, the better they got, and the better they got, the more they liked it.
And you know what? My two youngest ones, they were around the pool all the time, because there were the older ones. So they ended up doing it, and they're all really good at it.
Fei Wu 42:24
Wow, yeah, that's fabulous. Yeah, I love looking at photos of you and your kids. There's a pretty big age difference. You know, as we all know, teenagers don't want anything to do with their parents, but look at these pictures - they're hugging you, taking selfies with you. And I was really shocked. Why do you think you have such a different relationship with your teenage kids?
I don't know. We just get along. I think we all have a similar sense of humor. I don't know what it is, I really can't explain it. My kids are just really nice to me. I think I'm very lucky. I mean, I hear some horror stories about the parents whose kids are just really nasty to them. But I think it's got a lot to do with how we are as parents, like, you know, my wife Mary is the best mom ever. I mean, she is so good with the kids. And she's really smart, she taught them everything. She taught them all how to read at an early age, and she was super engaged as a mother. Everyone has their own method for parenthood, there's no right or wrong way, but Mary was always really involved with the kids. We never had a nanny, we never had someone who was providing the parent role. At the same time, we were just very lucky that we were able to do that because I've worked outside of the home and Mary sort of maintained all the hard job of working as a mom and raising kids.
So I can only point to just us as parents and our personalities, that has rubbed off on our kids. And we just get along really well. My kids are all pretty easy going, they're all quite funny. And certainly some of it’s nature and some of it’s nurture, but I think they’re a real product of just a good upbringing. I think we're decent parents and I don’t think we're overly strict, but we don't take a backseat, we expect certain things of them: good grades, trying hard, no lying, and all these normal things. So I think they're kind of just a product of that.
Fei Wu 44:58
I think many of the younger folks out there who we work with don't have kids yet. I'm not married yet, but I definitely want to have kids, maybe two of them.
I wonder, because I feel like you've been doing this for a little while [laughs], what are some of the counter-intuitive learnings you’ve learned as a parent?
That's a tough one. I'd have to think about that. I think I just want to be really supportive. Like, even the swimming thing, I couldn’t care less if my kids went to the Olympics. I mean, I think it would be awesome, don't get me wrong, but I really just wanted them to be healthy, that's the only reason I got them involved in swimming. And then once they committed to it, we said: “Okay, well, you can't just quit during the middle of the season just because you don't like it, you have to finish the season”. So there's a little bit of doing what's good for them, but also, there are lessons to be learned along the way, about commitment and things like that.
I want my kids to be really supported. I want them to be happy, I want them to feel like I will do anything for them. You know what I mean? Because it's so unconditional.
Someone was actually talking about this recently, that there's this assumption that the love between parent and child is unconditional. It’s not completely true. I think your love towards your kids is unconditional, but it's not true the other way. You can't be a shithead as a parent and expect unconditional love, you can't be unsupportive and you can't be an overlord to your kids and berate them and belittle them and expect that to be unconditional the other way, it's just not the case. You have to be a good person, and then you get the love back. But your love towards your kids is unconditional, and I think it should be, you know [laughs].
Fei Wu 47:45
I was arguing with someone who said: “I think that the best gift I could give to my three kids is no college loans”. I said: “You know what, I disagree”. I feel like that's a great goal, but to me, when I have kids, I want it to be balanced. I want to be a happy and supportive person first, before trying to seek that energy out of them. Then consider it as an extension. So just be happy and be kind.
Yeah. I had such a tough part of my childhood, it was really hard for obvious reasons, you know, and I remember being anxious a lot, being sad a lot, and being confused a lot. And I didn't want any of that for my kids. I wanted them to be so really happy, I wanted them to look back on their childhood and say “Yeah, I had a great childhood. It was a lot of fun”. We don't go on trips a lot, we've never been to Disney World, I don't have a dog, so there's a lot of shit that my kids would say about “You suck as parents!” [laughs], but I think they'll all be able to look back and say “No, we had a happy life, happy house, my parents were tough, but they were fun”. Like, I think just being happy is such a big deal
Fei Wu 49:16
I love that answer.
I'm going to wrap up with one last question. I love this question, it was asked to a billionaire woman with 3 kids.
What would you leave for your kids that is not money?
Of things that I own or…?
Fei Wu 49:48
Not money, the things you own or something like wisdom.
I really think the thing that I would hope to leave with them is that life is a lot better if you're honest and straightforward, and you try to make the people around you happy. And honesty and directness is key to that. And just having good humor.
I actually think of my uncle Bill, he was a very profound influence in my life. Like, when my dad left and we moved back to Scotland to live with my grandparents, my uncle Bill was my mother's older brother, and he was the most fun guy I've ever met in my life. Always good-natured, always funny, always teasing you, but the main thing that I learned from him was that maintaining a sense of humor and a sense of lightness to your life is really important. He had this ability to make everyone around him happy, or laugh, or just feel at ease, and I think that's something that I hope I would leave with my kids. I hope they’d always say “Well, he was just a fun guy to be around”.
Wow. Just listening to you… I feel like everything disappeared [Wade laughs] and extended out.
There is a funny anecdote about my uncle Bill. He actually talked a guy out of suicide once, just by joking with him.
My Uncle Bill was a medic on oil rigs, and this guy was going to kill himself by jumping off of the rig. And in Scotland, if you jump off that you’ll basically have three minutes in the water, and so it's so cold, you'll die right away. So my Uncle Bill talked to him for a while, he said: “Well, look, if you're going to do this, then I'm going to do it with you. So let me go get my shorts”. And the guy basically just started laughing. So he basically talked the guy out of doing this by getting him to laugh, to feel good. You know, it's amazing. And I've always thought, what a talent to have – to be able to make people completely change their mind about taking their life.
Fei Wu 52:44
Is uncle Bill still around?
No, he died a few years ago. Very unexpected. But what a legacy he left! Everyone who knew Bill just knew how great he was.
Fei Wu 53:02
He could have been a great guest on the show too.
He would have been awesome. He was so funny. Yeah, he was the funniest guy [laughs].
Fei Wu 53:12
Yeah… Thank you so much for your time! I look forward to lunch in Chinatown multiple times.
Yes! Let's go to lunch and then we will schedule Round 2 where we can talk about - what are we talking about? –oh yeah, cars!
Fei Wu 53:25
And the band.
Oh my god, the band!
Fei Wu 53:30
High five! Big hug! Hugging like a Buddha!
[hugging and laughing]
Fei Wu 53:38
I know you got to run, so…
That was great, I really enjoyed that.
Fei Wu 53:44
Fei Wu (Outro) 53:47
Hey guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode with Wade Devers. I also want to let you know that I have a new audio editor on for the Feisworld podcast, his name is Matt. Matt is new to podcasting, but I have been so impressed by his instinct and I love how he puts his thoughts into action.