2009 was a good year; full of change, growth and opportunity — most of which began and ended with family. While Kelly and I welcomed our son Finn the year before, 2009 was when he moved from being a cute, new baby into being a little person with a big personality and stubbornly independent streak. When he began walking, everything changed. Biologically, we became parents when he was born. I think that we began parenting, with a capital P, when he began to walk. Everything moved from spit-up and poopy diapers to the hard, but infinitely rewarding, work of teaching our little man the lessons he would need to one day take his place in the world.
As one might imagine, this raises all sorts of questions in one’s mind, not the least of which is “How do I want my son to view me?” Equally important is the dual realization that “I don’t know everything.” and “I will probably fail more often than I would like.” Put it all together and you have all the makings of a cocktail of self-doubt chased by an antacid shooter.
But a funny thing happened on the way to insanity, the world slowed down and a Zen-like calm descended. Accepting that I would not bat 1.000 as a parent removed that unattainable goal from my list and allowed me to focus my efforts on batting .333 and peppering it with doubles, triples and the occasional home run. Any baseball fan will tell you that .333 is pretty darn good. Actually, a real baseball fan will tell you that .333 is still a pretty lofty goal, but it is attainable, with the right combination of discipline and hard work; mixed with a little luck and talent.
From within my new found Zen state, I took time for a little reflection and introspection. Being a parent will do that to you. Coming down from my intellectual mountain, I came to a couple of realizations which were meaningful, at least to me.
1. I won’t live forever.
Most of us realize this in our early thirties. I’ve known this in a more or less concrete way since I was in my early twenties and had a gun in play during a home visit back in my days as investigator for Children’s Services. Ever since, I’ve lived my life with measured … not reckless … abandon. I’ve dreamed big and achieved critical, if not commercial, success in several business and personal endeavors. I’ve taken chances with my career that friends have considered unreasonably risky. And, on a couple of occasions, I’ve done some things that were flat buck wild and I am fortunate to live to tell the tale.
I regret little to none of this. As the saying goes, it made me who I am today and independent reports tell me that I am a decent guy with an interesting life. So, I’ll own my mistakes if the result is where I am today. But, I now understand why parents may choose to edit the stories of their life when conveying it to their children. My mistakes are mine, but I’d really rather they don’t become my son’s. And, now that I know firmly that life is finite, it makes me rethink my old decision-making process and retool it with my wife and current and future children firmly in mind. Every other realization that follows is derived from the fact that I am not immortal, at least not in body.
2. I am what I eat.
We all heard this in health class in grade school. And, back when I was a college athlete and martial arts instructor, I practiced it with relatively serious discipline. But in 2001, that all changed when I shut down my dojo and turned my attention to a new career in the sparkly wonderland that was the dotcom boom. Regular workouts and dietary discipline were soon replaced with 90 hour weeks and greasy diner and pizza joint fare. You don’t need to be a mentalist to guess where that took me. Put it together with a body long abused by contact sports and you have perfect storm for serious health risks when crossing the Rubicon into my 40s; just as I became a father for the first time.
So, this is where my son has probably saved my life. It took me the first 18 months of his life to get it through my thick skull that I had bad habits that needed to change. It took another 4 months for me to start to take serious action to correct the problem. Now, when I stumble (and I surely will) I think about seeing him graduate from college when I am 62. My dad did it when he was 46. So, 2010 is the year of exercise and eating right … not eating well.
3. Life is too dang short for drama. (See realization #1).
I have always been the guy with two or three active projects and two or three more in the pipeline. That all adds up to a lot of work. Most importantly, it adds up to a lot of time and that is time away from my family. This is made worse when the work is not something about which I am passionate and fully engaged. This realization actually happened in 2008, shortly before Finn’s arrival, but the positive pressure of parenthood turned that lump of coal into a shining diamond in 2009.
What I discovered is that I procrastinate more, and therefore use my time less efficiently, when working with skills I do not cherish on projects that light no fires in me. As a parent, there is no greater gift I can give my family than that of my time and full attention. Work that fulfills me is done with full attention and efficiency. Work that bores me is a time & energy vampire. So, 2010 is also the year I focus on the skills & abilities that make me jump out of bed itching to get to work. In theory, I’ll use my work day more efficiently and see less late nights and long weekends of work.
Almost as if on cue, early 2010 has put one or two really cool opportunities in my lap very early in the game. I cannot elaborate at the moment, but I’ll do so as plans firm up and the year progresses. I’ll tease you with this … 2009 is the year I embraced my role/nature as a storyteller. Funny how kids make you see your true nature — complete with warts and insecurities revealed. The beautiful thing is a child’s sense of wonder is a great salve for healing old wounds, forgetting old insecurities and embracing the promise that is life.
To close, I’ll let you know that blogging here (and elsewhere) is a major 2010 goal. By sharing a bit about my growth as a parent, person and professional (more or less in that order) , I hope to connect with others on a similar journey and share what wisdom we each have along the way.
Make 2010 Great!