4 ways fatherhood is the ultimate competitive advantage
Over the last 12 years, I’ve developed nutrition products for LeBron James and Arnold Schwarzenegger, helped launch podcasts for the co-founder of LinkedIn and former CEO of Google, and helped grow brands into household names. But, when people ask me about my favorite job, the answer is always the same: it’s being a dad for my two boys.
Before you roll your eyes, the gratuitous name-dropping was done on purpose. Because over the last 6 years as a dad, I’ve realized the overwhelming joy I feel by loving, teaching, and supporting the growth of two humans. My humans.
And that’s saying a lot when you consider that fatherhood has more stressors and higher expectations than anything else I’ve ever done. But, that’s all part of the job and why I love it so much. The things you do as a dad take you to another level.
High stakes have high rewards. Each day, fatherhood teaches me new lessons that make me better as a person.
But, maybe surprisingly, it also makes me a better worker, leader, and thinker. The highs and lows, the doubt and confidence, the worry and the love, mix together in a way that whether you’re ready or not (and let’s be honest, you’re never really “ready”) give you the ultimate competitive advantage — if you’re willing to see it.
If I’ve learned anything from fatherhood, it’s that it brings out traits that can point you in a better direction. Here are 4 ways that help me keep a positive perspective on dad-life, and transfer the lessons from parenting into a greater appreciation, joy, and edge in life.
Perspective and Meaning
In the Matrix, Keanu Reeves’s character has the choice between taking the red pill or blue pill. Living in fantasy or facing reality. In the movie, the fantasy was a part of the illusion of the Matrix, and real life was grim.
In reality, many of us get caught up in the day-to-day craziness of life. Whether my sons see me stressed or overwhelmed, they ask me what’s wrong. I try to explain to them, and they always respond with some variation of the same question: “But, why are you stressed? Or “Why does it matter?”
Through a child’s eyes, the things we worry about mostly feel like fantasy and reality is being able to be in the moment, have fun, and — as both kids remind me — “Take a deep breath and count to four.” (Thanks, Daniel Tiger.)
And you know what? They’re right. That’s not to say work or money aren’t real stressors. They are. But, we amplify them and let them overtake what matters. Most of us spend our entire existence wondering about the meaning of life. To me, it’s not a question.
The meaning of life is to live a meaningful life. And, for me, that means raising my children, loving them, and finding joy and wonder when I lose my way. It’s what children do every day, and a big reason why they are often so happy. There are many other things you can (and should) do to add meaning to your days, but children are a lock. And that’s a damn good feeling knowing that whenever you’re with them, it’s a good investment of your time.
Curiosity and Connection
As adults, there are many things we gain — but also many aspects we lose or don’t fully utilize. One of those is creativity. And another is connection.
Too often, we rely on the conveniences of life to help you find answers. Need something to do? Just turn to your phone or technology. Trying to interact with someone new? Make small talk or avoid the situation.
Sometimes, as a parent, you don’t have either crutch. Small talk with your kids will get you blank stares. And technology, as much as it might save you during a meltdown, can’t bail you out of every situation.
As a dad, I encourage you to welcome the moments that force you to do things like build forts, create toys, or use your imagination like a child. In a weird way, when my kids are older, I’m going to miss these moments.
Finding new ways to ask questions of my boys has made me a better communicator. Thinking of ways to entertain them has made me better at thinking outside the box and coming at problems from a different perspective. Both of these will help you connect, and they apply to other scenarios and situations that don’t have to do with your own children.
Mindfulness and Prioritizations
Before I had kids, nothing could slow me down. I was a tireless (translation: addicted) worker who was always in a rush to take on the next project, build the next business, or travel to the next client.
Having kids was an adjustment because it forced me to be aware of time and how I spend it. At first, I struggled with going slower because I was worried about everything that I was missing. That is, until I realized how slowing down allowed me to make better use of my time.
While many of the things you do with your kids may feel tedious (some of them certainly are), they’re also moments you don’t get back. Every parent with older children has warned me about how quickly time vanishes, and how you’ll wish you spent more time doing the things that have timestamps because once that window is gone — it’s gone.
That mindset is now applied to everything from my kids and wife, to friends and even responsibilities at work. Some things will always be there and others won’t. When forced to choose, I’ll double down on the moments I can’t recapture.
Humility and Forgiveness
If I could go back to my younger self, I’d warn him how much parenting will shine a bright light on weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This is, ultimately, a good thing. But, if you’re not prepared, it can be sobering.
Being a father is filled with a highlight reel of screw-ups, mistakes, and plenty of worries that you’re messing up your kid. And you know what? It’s about as natural as my inability to pay attention to anyone if a game is on.
Dads have no days off. That means, like in sports, turnovers and errors will happen. Even the best quarterbacks through interceptions. But, the great ones bounce back and lead their team to the winning score.
Parenting is the same. Every day is a new day to set things right. And, you don’t even need to wait for the next day for your chance at redemption. In her book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin’s outlines the four quarters mindset. When we make a mistake, it’s easy to get knocked down and figured you’ll get back up tomorrow or the day. Rubin argues that you should break your days up into 4 quarters — like a football or basketball game. Morning, midday, afternoon, and evening.
If you lose a quarter, you haven’t lost the game (day). So huddle up, regroup, and get back after it. Do that with your kids, and you’ll win a lot of games. Do that with your life, and, while I can’t promise any specific outcomes, you’ll prevent unnecessary losses and come out on top more often than not.