On Being a New Father and the Struggles, Biases, Lessons Learned While Building a Business

Startup DadFor the past decade and a half, I have read countless articles on how it is impossible to build a successful company and be a good parent at the same time. I call bullshit! Yes, I know, I now owe money to the swear jar, but I’m happy to pay.

Here is the TL;DR for those of you with short attention spans – being a great parent AND running/building a company are complementary to each other. The “hustle” needed to run a successful startup multiples many fold when you have a little human depending on you to win. I had NO IDEA what focus, drive, and effectiveness were until I became a new parent. When you have a little child running at you with arms stretched out and big smile on his/her face AND you have payroll to meet and your colleagues’ livelihoods in your hands, you discover something in you that you never knew existed before.

Yes, being a good parent is a hard job and building a company with all the risks and challenges involved sometimes feels incredibly hard, but here is a strategy to not only make things easier but also do a better job at both:

  1. It is about AND, not OR. Your choices between being a parent and a business builder is all about consciously deciding to build everything around the more positive “AND” choices. It can be done, it is done every day, and you can do it too. I’ve turned down my share of opportunities, because I had no confidence it was an “AND” choice. If you think it is “OR” choice – you won’t be able to make it happen. Seek “AND”!
  2. Without a strong partnership of equals between you and your life partner AND an alignment of values with your business partners, founders, executives, and team, it is a Sisyphean undertaking. When everyone is working towards the same goal at home and at work, you are unstoppable. But, if you can’t get both home and work aligned, you will probably not be successful.
  3. Forget your biases and don’t count on your experience or expertise, because every day will be filled with an endless number of lessons to learn. You will be learning as much as your child and your colleagues. Look at your child(ren) and draw inspiration from their unrivaled curiosity; mirror it and learn from it.  Overcoming the “curse of knowledge” makes you see opportunities and solutions where you thought there were none.
  4. You will make mistakes – lots of them. It will seem like there is no end to them, but just like your child had to fall on his or her bum a lot before learning to run, so will you. If you are learning and progressing, you are doing it right. Progress is the focus.
  5. Take care of yourself, treat yourself, and make sure you do “maintenance”, because it is a marathon and not a sprint. Eating properly, exercising (yes, you can find time with help of your spouse and colleagues), and making sure to take some days off are not an option, they are a prerequisite!

Lastly, remember you are not alone in this. Ever since I became a father, I have started discovering male and female founders and execs of young and rapidly growing, yet solid, companies who are also parents. Most mirrored the points I discussed above.

As a closing thought, I wish I could describe the amount of energy and drive this new journey is giving me. Even when sleep is nonexistent and I’m dealing with the almost unavoidable list of operational, financial, technical, etc work to be done in a rapidly growing business, every day is phenomenal!  I would not be able to do it without the support and understanding from my driven scientist wife AND partners at One Mighty Roar. This is the best time of my life!

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