Interview: Heath W. Black

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This week we’re happy to have an interview with Heath W. Black. I met Heath very much by chance. Somehow I started following him when we moved to Portland last fall. I happened to see a tweet mentioning he was looking for guys to play basketball with. I got in touch and that’s how we met. When I learned that he, and his family, were moving to Salt Lake City, I was excited for them and bummed for me. Thank you Heath for the brief hoops adventure and for joining us for this interview.

You can follow Heath on Twitter and Instagram.

Heath W. Black

Where do you live and how many kids do you have?
I currently reside in Salt Lake City, UT. We moved here in late May of this year with our only child, Jebediah.

What do you spend your days doing?
I am a product manager for reddit. Specifically, I work on the redditgifts platform, where we power these enormous gift exchanges between strangers on the internet. Last year, we hosted our annual Secret Santa, where over 120,000 people participated. It’s pretty amazing to build a company that is solely focused on making people happy! I really love my job. I don’t consider it work, so I guess it’s a good hobby I get paid to do.

When I’m not at work, I enjoy watching NBA games. Sallie and I take Jebediah on a hike every weekend because we made it a point (after moving to Utah) to take advantage of all this state has to offer. We’ve been to two national parks, two national forests, 3 state parks in the 3 months we’ve been here! I also like writing poetry, playing golf. Recently we’ve been learning to speak Italian together because we’re going on vacation and heard knowing a little Italian goes a long way.

What do you like most about your family?
Getting to the hard hitting questions early, eh? Just kidding. I really like the dynamic we have. Sallie (my wife) is more compassionate, emotion driven. I am more logic driven, and probably cold (to be honest). As a result, we tackle problems really well, communicate effectively, and compensate each others inadequacies. I feel like there’s a good firm foundation underneath everything we do together, and the motivation for every decision is genuinely, authentically love-centric.

What parts of parenting come naturally to you and what parts are a struggle?
I’m not sure anything has really come naturally to me. Honestly, we’re 18 months in an I’m still trying to get a hang of things. For Sallie, it was all natural. Like she was born to do this. If anything comes naturally to me, it’s probably that I’m really consistent, and I’ve heard that’s good for kids.

Also, since Sallie and I got married I’ve worked hard on being a support to her, so I think I naturally tend to let her do the driving (since she’s so much better at this parenting thing), but make it known that I’m there if/when she needs a break, if she’s feeling beat or overwhelmed. One way I try to do this is by encouraging her to go do stuff on her own. Go for a jog. Go to yoga. Manicure/pedicure days. I know it’s not about “parenting”per se, but I don’t see the relationship I have with Sallie as being exclusive of the relationship we have with Jeb. It all feed into the same thing. So, I just like making sure she’s taken care of.

What do you need as a parent?
I think bringing a kid into a family dynamic adds a new level of complexity to the communication structure, so one thing I really need as a parent (at least to be a successful one) is to make sure the communication between myself and Sallie is spot-on. If it’s not, I notice we get frustrated. If it is, things seem to flow fairly easily. Bad communication is one of the few things on earth that gets me really bummed.

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I also NEED humor in my life. So, I like when Jeb does silly things like pee on the rug in our living room, or clap for people in public for no reason. He’s a real attention grabber, so shopping with him is interesting because he spends the entire time trying to get peoples attention, and then acting like he doesn’t care. We’ve tried teaching him sign language and he basically gave up once he learned the sign for ceiling fan. He now does “fan”for everything including buttons, lights, and fans. Those things make me really happy.

How does where you live affect your parenting?
When we lived in Portland, we lived further out and shared a car. That was really difficult. Coordinating where to be, when to be there, etc. was a nightmare. Salt Lake City is a lot smaller. My work schedule is flexible. I can get into the office between 9 and 11 each day and it’s fine. Working from home is an option. Everything is about 10 minutes by car. Everything is built with kids in mind. There is a park on every block. Every restaurant is kid accessible. No one gets frustrated if your kid is acting awful. All-in-all, I think Salt Lake City is a fantastic place to raise Jeb.

We have a nice little community of folks here that all support each other, so It’s great to have the macro community (SLC) and micro-community tailored to the same things.

What are you especially conscious of as a parent?
It’s not in my nature to be nurturing, so that’s definitely something I have to think to do. If Jeb falls, my first reaction is to pick him up and make him giggle, or just tell him to get over it. But sometimes he just needs to be sad and cry and understand that life sucks from time to time. Sometimes life is really hard and it hurts. And even those silly falls, or getting something taken from you, replicate the bigger events later in life that make you say that.

Also, I’m very goal driven, so I focus on the seven goals I’ve set out for myself.

  1. Empower Jebediah to believe in himself, trust and respect others, and pursue his passions.
  2. Wake up each day and CHOOSE to love Sallie with my mind and actions. Make this choice known to her and to those around us.
  3. Build something that brings joy and happiness to the masses, empowering deep connections and community.
  4. Get rid of all debt, begin saving up ridiculous amounts of money and move somewhere that looks like paintings of the Garden of Eden.
  5. Dedicate 100% to my choices but not feel bound by them. Embrace that happiness, family, and the people around me always win.
  6. Eat more mexican food.
  7. Live intentionally, helping those that are marginalized to no longer be so.

What nurtures and inspires you as a person?
I’m a bookworm, so gaining a new morsel of knowledge really motivates me. Whether reading an article, or James Joyce’s Ulysses there’s a high likelihood that I’ll take something from that and apply it immediately. I watched this documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi a couple years ago (go watch it, now!), and I want to exhibit the same diligence, compassion, concern for what I’m building, and skill that he shows in making sushi everyday. I’m also a words of affirmation person, so when things are total crap I need Sallie to just come tell me something completely unrelated that she likes about me. Like my beefy calf muscles.

What is your favorite time of day?
I’m a night owl. I’m paid to think all day long, so by the time I get home, help Jeb get to bed, eat dinner, all I want to do is lay on the couch and watch a ridiculous television show. Lately, I’ve been watching gobs of HGTV. Property Brothers in the house! If life permitted, I’d work from noon to 9 or 10pm, go to bed around 3 or 4 am and repeat.

I also like reading to Jeb before he sleeps. He’s a big fan of books and it’s really the only time of day that he’s peaceful and calm, which gets me excited because I’m very similar.

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
I want to play a round of golf with Bill Murray, and I want to backpack Iceland. I also want to live on another country altogether. But most importantly, I really want Sallie to know every day that she’s the love of my life. I want Jeb to wake up every day without any question in his mind that we love him. I want for him to grow up with the mindset that his house, his neighborhood, his friends, aren’t the center of the universe and use that as motivation to explore who he is, where he is, and why he is. I also want to train my beagle to bark less.

Is there anything you do that you want to share with our readers?
I have a Masters Degree in English, and focused my studies on Modern Irish Literature. It’s kind of random, but I end up using it a lot more than I thought I would.