Having been a father for two years now I feel like I am starting to learn a lot about myself and my work dynamics. Since becoming a father a lot of things have changed about me and I have been able to incorporate a lot of my new parenting skills into my work life. Although I may not be changing diapers at work, there are a lot of great things to learn from being a father.
In the anticipation of my son’s arrival, I called on every father I knew and met along the way and asked them advice. I looked back at the many father figures I had in my life and thought about what they had taught me from their examples, lessons and quiet observations of their fathering. I wanted to learn as much as I could about being a Dad. As I compiled and reviewed the stories I heard, a useful list of lessons learned emerged. What struck me was how directly applicable they are to the work force world. Here are the lessons learned.
TOP 7 LESSONS LEARNED:
1. BE PURPOSE DRIVEN
When you look into your child’s eyes, you know your purpose: to help him grow and gain the skills he needs to flourish. Purpose tested over time is called conviction. If you embrace being a Dad, you will feel this conviction.
It is that sense of knowing you are on the right path. And in the start-up world if you are pursuing something disruptive that will change the world, you will need to be fueled by a profound sense of purpose. It is what keeps you advancing towards the objective when you are small and unknown or young and struggling to find your footing. My kids and wife are my purpose and keep me working hard and moving forward each day.
2. MAKE IT COUNT
The life of an entrepreneur often entails tons of travel. Sometimes it is in the same city, as you seek to win new clients, investors and donors or these days it often involves bouncing around the planet. The thing is as a father, you know that each step out that door to travel is time you can never recover with your child. It is the ultimate trade-off. You have to ask yourself, how important and value-added is this trip? In fact, how valuable and results oriented is each minute of the trip from sunrise to sunset?
During the earliest days of fatherhood, I took a business trip. As I stood at the door, my wife was holding our son and she said a word of encouragement, “Make it count.” And that has become my mantra on and off the road. Young entrepreneurs often have difficulties in understanding how to make their efforts count. As a father, you know that your mandate is to focus and make every choice count. The second I walk into our home following a day’s work I try to make it count and jump right into whatever my children/wife may be doing. I may not be home all the time but the time I am home, is time well spent.
Fatherhood is nurturing your child. What you nurture grows. If you feed good habits, they will take root. If you fuel bad ones, they will grow wild. Entrepreneurs need to be mindful about the culture they are creating. They also need to nurture different talents at different stages; just as fathers must do with their children at the different stages of life. This means paying careful attention and knowing when a shift is happening and then adapting the mix of nurturing.
The other aspect of nurturing is that it is more about guidance than control. Children are individual beings that grow into interdependent adults. Entrepreneurial teams are comprised of interdependent people. They are not interchangeable cogs in a machine. The goal then is the master the art and science of nurturing.
4. KEEP THE SPIRIT OF WONDER AND CURIOSITY
Children are filled with the spirit of wonder and curiosity, that is when they are not tired or cranky. They have an infinite supply of questions and there is the magic of listening to their imaginations. They are formulating a worldview, so everything is being explored and discovered. They also want to know how everything works. My son is always asking WHY- it is a repetitive response that follows every question I answer. Sometimes I need to ask a few more why’s during the day and use that wonder and curious mindset.
5. BE GREAT NOT PERFECT
Fatherhood is humbling. You realize that any pursuit of perfection is impossible. You cannot do everything at an A+ level all of the time. You might do one thing at that level, but everything else will suffer. What you learn to do is embrace the pursuit of being great versus perfect.
This means you must clear out any clutter, zero in on what’s most important and then apply your best to it so that you can generate great results. If we can be better today then we were yesterday, we’re doing something right. My son is totally into sports. We try to encourage him with praise but help him achieve the skills necessary to improve. Sometimes he will get mad at us if we throw a bad pitch or he strikes out, but we try to help him see that he hits hits more than he strikes. I have found the same to be true in my own career that often I focus on my strikes rather than my home runs.
6. IT TAKES A TRIBE
It takes a tribe to raise a child. The key question that pops up in a father’s mind is who is in this tribe. You think carefully about the attributes and depth of character of the tribal members because they are interacting with your most precious treasure, your child.
The same applies for work, you can’t do it all alone. I have learned in the new position that I am working in that I depend a lot of the skills of others. Yeah I could do it all if I wanted to, but it’s all going to have a much better outcome when we take what everyone has learned over time and use that to teach one another.
I may not know how to do everything when it comes to being a father, but I have a lot of examples to look at and help with teaching my children correct principles and lessons. We don’t have to do it all alone and we need to help one another out in this crazy journey of parenting.
At the end of the day being a father has helped me become a much better employee. I have learned so many things from my kids that I not only take into my personal life, but also my professional life. Fatherhood is hard work, but it pays off and teaches you so much more than you could ever learn in any career.