11 Questions with… Eric Novak. #bdk11Qs
25 Oct 2017
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Welcome to “11 Questions with…”. This edition’s guest is Eric Novak.
I’v known Eric for a number of years. He is a journalist who is passionate about the environment, a lover of life, a great conversationalist, and most of all, an amazing family man.
One of the things I love about Eric is his thorough, yet soft hearted approach to all that he does. If you take a gander at his auto reviews, you can see that he is not afraid to entertain his audience.
11 Questions with… Eric Novak
1. Elevator pitch… tell us about yourself.
I own/operate a media production & consulting company called Modern Media Perspectives. I also am the creator of EnviroDad.com and a part-time professor at Seneca College in Toronto where I teach mostly about sustainability in business. All the above have combined to provide me with some cool opportunities, which include being an automotive journalist and co-creator of the Canadian Green Car Award. However, if I had to crunch it all down into a few words, I’d say I’m nothing more than a professional story teller who is trying to make a difference in this world.
2. Your spouse… tell us about her.
I’ve been married for 17 years. My wife Karen is the Yin to my Yang. I’m the extrovert while she prefers to stay back from the spotlight. She is however supportive of what I do and more tolerant of my irregular, non-conformist professional life than perhaps I have a right to ask for.
3. Your kids… tell us about them.
I am the proud father of 4. My eldest son Adam is 15. He’s bright, engaging and loves to march to his own beat. He shares my passion for current affairs, plus he’s an encyclopedia for information on classic rock and heavy metal bands, as well as roller-coasters from around the world. He’s also a pretty good baseball player with a fastball that deceives many.
I have twin sons, Matthew and Jacob who are 13. They are fraternal twins and they in many ways are nothing alike. Matthew is quiet and shy with a great mind for creativity, art and can build you a super-structure out of LEGO using only his mind as a blueprint. Jacob however is outgoing and a great all-around athlete. He’s built like a Gazelle and runs like one too, which when combined with the fact that he’s super smart is a pretty wicked combination.
My youngest is my lone daughter, Isabelle who is 8. She is super-bright, super-cute and holds the power of knowing that she owns her Daddy. It’s tough to be the only girl of the bunch but she more than holds her own and probably takes comfort in knowing she has not only her parents, but her 3 older brothers looking out for her.
4. Do you have any pets? Tell us about them.
With a busy household, it’s hard to keep pets, but we’ve had some Beta Fish as well as a few Hamsters. Our current pet is “Theo” who is as cute and easy going a Hamster as you can find. He enjoys snuggles and the kids all love and respect him. We also have a few “external” pets including a neighbourhood Squirrel who has gotten used to us feeding him peanuts and visits us several times a week. We also have bunnies who like to hang around and spend their day being lazy under the protection of my chaise-lounge chair in the backyard.
5. What have been your biggest challenges as a parent?
Our children all have challenges to a certain degree. Our Twins are both diagnosed on the Autism spectrum but with different presentations. One has mild to moderate functioning Autism while the other has Asperger’s. My eldest has ADHD and while our daughter has yet to receive any diagnosis, we have picked up on some subtle signs that we are keeping an eye on.
Balancing a large family will always involve challenges, but when you add factors such as certain diagnosis, with each having unique needs and challenges – parenting becomes a very complex and always changing situation.
Trying to be an advocate parent for a sustainable future in a world that is resistant to changing its non-sustainable ways is also a great challenge. I try to be pragmatic in my teaching, for nobody wins by being preachy, but even pragmatism faces challenges when we as a society have trouble coming to terms with a very inconvenient truth.
Aside from that, being a large family comes with extra challenges. Our family vehicle must always be 3 rows by default is one example. Another relates to travel. We have never been on an airplane together as a family as it’s both very cost prohibitive, plus many vacation destinations don’t have all-inclusive packages for a family our size. You’d be amazed at how many hotels have accommodations for up to 5 people, but not 6. As a result, we tend to stay at local resorts or go camping as it’s just easier.
6. If you could pick any career in the world for yourself, what would it be, and why?
While I wish the income stream was better, in many ways I have to say that I have my dream job now. I am deeply committed to making a difference in this world, and the platforms which I have been given have provided me with many opportunities to do that. My days are never the same and I haven’t sat in a cubicle in 12 years. I think I’d love the chance to speak more for a living as I believe it’s something I’m very good at, and there is this book that’s been floating around in my head for some time, but I honestly love what I do.
Once upon a time I thought my dream life would be a golf pro in the summer and a ski instructor in winter. While I still love those activities, since I never have much time for them, I’d probably be best to stick to what I’m doing now.
7. Growing up, who inspired you the most?
My parents divorced when I was 7 and for many years, my father was not a factor in my life. He is today, but there was a large void for many years. That void was amazingly filled by my late Uncle Ed, who gave me his wacky sense of humour among many other things. It was also filled by my “Big Brother” Bill Gatward, whom I was paired with when I was 12. He was a Lawyer and in many ways the counter-balance to the mentorship of my Uncle. He would help me with grammar, but also watched 20 Blue Jays games a year with me sitting in the old North Grandstand at Exhibition Stadium. He taught me and mentored me on many of the subtleties of life that I value greatly today.
There is a saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and where being an advocate is concerned, there was no bigger influence than my Mom. She co-created a community organization that was instrumental in getting major industrial polluters to move away from their old factories in the neighbourhood I grew up in elsewhere and returned the community back to its citizens. I think it’s clear to see how and where I became an environmentalist.
8. How do you balance work life and family life?
I’m not honestly sure that I do. There is an old saying about being self-employed in that you are your business and your business is you. I try hard to keep my weekends to my family, but it isn’t always possible. I mostly work from home so I’m able to be with the kids in the morning and when they come home from school, but the trade off is that I often work well into the night when they go to bed.
As I often involve my family in my online reviews, such as my video travel and destination reviews, there are times where combining work and family life is a benefit, however it will always be a struggle to keep work separate from home where and when appropriate.
9. What advice would your “current self” give to your “just about to have my first child” self?
I don’t think one can ever truly anticipate and appreciate just how much parenting changes both your life and who you are as a person. Looking back, I would tell my pre-parent self to expect to be slammed with a completely different view of life the nanosecond you hear your first child cry, and that this new view will be more challenging yet completely fulfilling than you ever thought possible.
10. Has there been a piece of advice you were given about parenting that really stuck with you?
I was told that I would make many parenting mistakes, just as my parents did and all parents before them. However so long as you acknowledge those mistakes and make genuine efforts to learn from them, your children usually wind up just fine – and often better because of it.
11. What advice would you give to new parents?
Be prepared for the moment when your child is born, for from that moment onward, life won’t really be all about you any longer.
With that understanding comes a few important realities, such as the fact that we have not inherited this planet from our ancestors, rather we are only borrowing it from our children. We are simply borrowers and caretakers of this place, not it’s ultimate beneficiary. As the Chinese proverb states: One generation plants the tree, the next gets the shade.
So let’s all be planting trees instead of cutting them down. Our children are depending on it.
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Thanks for reading!
“11 Questions with…” is an on-going feature. I will be interviewing parents with the same 11 questions, who like me, live in the digital world. The goal is to examine different perspectives, advice, challenges, and experiences from how people parent their children, and live a successful work / life / online balance.
With all the challenges of parenting these days, we could all use stories from fellow parents, who may have already gone through a similar experience, or were offered advice that you could use.
If you would like to be interviewed for an upcoming edition, please contact me at email@example.com.
Craig is a husband, father, team leader, travel and food writer, senior youth group coordinator, designer, brander, community builder, volunteer, and social media strategist. He likes to travel, go camping, go on road trips, watch movies, build stuff, operate the grill, and sing with his band. Craig is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association and Travel Media Association of Canada. If you are a PR agency or brand and would like Craig to review a travel destination, vehicle, restaurant, product or service, please send him an email.