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Interviews

Jason Mayden: When Corporate America Doesn’t Buy that your Favorite Title is ‘Dad’

The 2018 99U Conference conference theme is about overcoming creative challenges, so we’re asking our speakers and breakout session leaders to reflect on a pivotal pressure-cooker moment and share how they navigated it.


Mayden is the creative CEO behind Super Heroic, a mission-driven business focused on providing quality play-performance footwear, apparel, and technology for children. Mayden will be speaking at the 10th Annual 99U Conference taking place May 9-11 in New York City. Since our 2018 conference is all about overcoming creative challenges, we asked Mayden to reflect on a moment when he faced a tough decision and how he pushed through.

“The most daunting challenge I faced was transitioning from my position at Nike to the more purposeful role of full-time stay-at-home father. At the time, my son was facing medical challenges that were greater than the ones I faced designing products for athletes. So, I decided to step away and use my gifts and talents to help him heal, both emotionally and physically.

“I expected difficulties to come from the day to day tasks of being at home. But the real difficulties lay in the skepticism from my peers in the design industry. People had trouble understanding my choice to leave a prominent position in corporate America for the sake of the wellbeing of my child. Some speculated that I was going to a competitor. I felt shunned by the industry, discarded, even seen  as a traitor.

“I know that their judgmental perspectives were bound to a lack of knowledge. I was confident that my decision could endure a temporary rebuff from an industry that I deeply love. I decided to remain centered and calm. Ultimately, it was the right decision for our family. It helped me to focus on what mattered to me most: the preservation of childhood creativity and innocence. I decided to focus on building stronger children, rather than fixing broken adults. I decided to dedicate my life to the protection and well-being of all children—not just my own.

“Now, I am the CEO and cofounder of Super Heroic, with the mission to entertain, delight and surprise every child in the world through interactive and imaginative play. We seek to encourage a spontaneous, active lifestyle.

“As a CEO, I try to embed the spirit of what I’ve learned in how we work with and reward our teammates. We have an open, healthy dialogue that’s focused on promoting work/life balance. We have to play with and enjoy our families, in order to embed joy in the work that we do. It’s imperative that we live what we speak.”

See Jason Mayden along with more creative leaders, entrepreneurs, and artists, at the 10th Annual 99U Conference.

Emily Ludolph

Emily Ludolph writes about business, history, and culture. She has published in Quartz, Narratively, TED Online and Design Observer. She is the host of a live show and podcast called Dedicate It


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