I became a Dad a little later in life than some, my step-daughter (whom I consider 100% my daughter) joined my life when I was 38, my first son, Taji, was born when I was 39 years old. Over the past 15 years or so, I have seen many friends start families and have obviously been tremendously happy for them. During that same time, I had been knee-deep in my own entrepreneurial journey and was experiencing the highs and lows of the successes and failures that come along with it.
There were two things I was told about parenthood (both on multiple occasions) that have stuck with me from that period. They are:
- Being a parent is the hardest thing you will ever do.
- When you become a parent, you will have to settle down and stop with the entrepreneurial work.
I have contemplated on both these points considerably, both before and after becoming a parent. And I have to say, I cannot agree with either of those two statements.
Let’s address the first point first: “Being a parent is the hardest thing you will ever do”.
Yeah, I get it. Parenting can be tough. The lack of sleep. The ongoing demands. The responsibility. But honestly, I think I developed some pretty solid coping mechanisms as I grew to be an entrepreneur that allows me to handle those things pretty well. But first, what has been the hardest thing I have ever done?
I think it was when I was aimless, bored and stuck in a cycle of working in mundane roles whilst deep down I was screaming for something interesting to do. I look back on those times as a blessing, the almost all-encompassing boredom that eventually reached tipping point, leading me to remember who I was and the big life I had always dreamed of. It was the boredom that had to happen.
With a conscious effort to change my life, I restarted my entrepreneurial pursuits after leaving my dreams and first steps as an entrepreneur in childhood. I failed at most things but I was doing something valuable. I was working my backside off and sticking with things. A change in approach led to changes in behaviours. No more waiting for things. I travelled by myself if nobody was around. I pushed hard to learn new things. I viewed my time as valuable and not be wasted. I started reading again. I enjoyed my own company. The more skills I picked up, the better I could evaluate the mistakes I was making as an entrepreneur.
This blog will explore all the facets of my entrepreneurial journey so I will not delve into the details here. However, during this process, I developed some key attributes that helped prepare me as a father;
While new parents were complaining of sleepless nights (which I am completely sympathetic of!), I too, was encountering issues with interrupted sleep. Whether it was spending until the wee hours of the morning managing virtual teams in India to develop projects that were costing me a fortune, to the regular snap awakenings in the middle of the night because I was stressed about where my company or other projects were heading, the newborn baby in my life (my company) kept waking me up.
Through this period, I developed resilience. I taught myself to sleep well even if it wasn’t for a long time. I not only taught myself to function during interrupted sleep cycles but also how to schedule my downtime so that I could get proper rest. I put in place techniques to manage stress and sleep better now than ever before.
If you run a company that employs people and you choose to run that company ethically, then you will feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that your team has a secure future. I include their professional growth as part of that responsibility (but only if the staff are willing to drive that too). Whilst the responsibility for a child is obviously paramount, I developed responsibility as an entrepreneur by improving my planning skills and choosing to focus on long term, sustainable outcomes.
My entrepreneurial journey allowed me to reset my perspective about what was truly important to me. It allowed me to make conscious choices about where I spend my time. This shift was only the start of changing my perspective. When I became a father, I was able to evolve it again to an even higher place.
I used to be embarrassed to be seen as a high performer. I think it was the by-product of working in environments where high performance was something that was mocked rather than appreciated. Better to keep quiet so I just meandered along unfilled. But a major change that came from my new perspective was that I valued my life and the time I had and wanted to get the most I possibly could after myself. I chose and have sought a life where my relationships, goals and outputs are high performing. More on that another time. This positioned me to ensure that I could be the best father that I possibly could be.
I was the guy in a routine who had forgotten that he liked new things. There was still the adventurer trapped in there itching to get out but he was easily silenced. Not anymore. My entrepreneurial journey brought him back to life and a thirst for all things new came rushing back. As a parent, every day is something new. The old me would have probably dreaded the uncertainty. The real me thrives in it.
The hardest thing I have had to do is not be myself. To let the subtle negative influences dull my spirit. To live that way was certainly hard.
But, parenthood? I was born for it. I thrive in the joy of it. I can manage the fatigue and the challenges. Being an entrepreneur was the perfect training ground and I am proud to say that.
So, onto the second point: “When you become a parent you will have to settle down and stop with the entrepreneurial work.”
The premise behind the person who said this seemed to be that when you have children, you need to stop messing around with fanciful things and just focus on the security side of things. That being an entrepreneur is no way to live because when you are a father, you have something else to live for now.
I understand why that external view made sense. But internally, it’s way off the mark.
Being an entrepreneur, and doing it well regardless of the success of your enterprise, is not a flight of fancy. It is not something that you dip a toe into the water on and just see how it goes. It is not something you start just so you can say you are an entrepreneur. It is not something you do just for the money.
Being an entrepreneur is something that burns deep inside you. It pushes you to dream, plan, implement, deliver and refine despite every setback and obstacle. And when you get pushed back and think you can’t go on anymore, that small fire begins burning again and before you know it, you are charging ahead, doing awesome things again.
So, yes, parenthood brings responsibility. You have more at risk. But for me, after never missing a single pay day for a single staff member who has worked for me over the journey, what would make me think that my entrepreneurial skills are now a risk to putting food on the table for my family?
I actually think that for me to stop being an entrepreneur is actually a disservice to my family. I mean, what would a family prefer? A bored father, spiritless and aimless with a mundane job or an engaged Dad with a thirst for adventure, dedicated to being a high performer in every aspect of his life and with a continuously developing set of skills that he can share with his children?
If you are a parent and an entrepreneur, I would love to hear how you balance parenthood and entrepreneurial pursuits. Are you an entrepreneur ready to give up? Introduce yourself in the comments below and I will get in touch with you to get that entrepreneurial spirit firing again!