When I first started dating my wife, she told me that I was too selfish to be a dad.
My wife has always been brutally honest -- a trait I continue to admire about her -- and her early observations of me were in fact incredibly accurate since I was selfishly consumed in my first startup, Wild Creations, and was rather proud to be childless bachelor at the time.
Children were nowhere on my bucket list.
Things changed, and as fate would have it, I fell in love. I convinced her to marry me despite my selfishness (among many other flaws), and we eventually had two amazing children, all while building my business.
Of course, my children changed my life personally, as anyone with children will attest. What I found most profound, however, was just how they changed my approach to business. Becoming a father toppled the paradigm that entrepreneurs had to chose between business and parenthood. In reality, I found them to be very complementary.
Here are a few things that balancing fatherhood and a startup taught me.
As a single guy, I loved watching movies. I would spend evenings binge-watching 24 or frequenting the cinema. When Netflix came online, I was in heaven.
These days, because of the early school schedule and extracurricular activities, I have far fewer hours available to me. I therefore use them to better my business and strengthen relationships rather than indulging in non-stop episodes of House of Cards.
This same skill set is immensely important to entrepreneurs, especially those who try to take on too many responsibilities rather than delegate and focus on growing the business.
As someone who needed a quiet and uninterrupted space to accomplish anything meaningful, I was always amazed at how my friends with children could carry on complicated tasks -- much less a conversation -- when their kids were tugging at their pant legs and ranting relentlessly.
Now I get it. As a dad, I have learned how to instinctively tune out unimportant noise, which has helped in my business. Another skill that I believe only comes with having children is the ability to identify important noise through all the distractions, much like the skill a parent has when recognizing his or her child’s cry in the midst of a playground full of children.
I am a fast walker and always have been. I often approach business the same way, with an impatience and eagerness that has from time to time led to avoidable mistakes as I rushed a business decision or eagerly pursued a hunch.
These days, I am usually tethered to a little girl with pony tails who has a pinkie grip stronger than a vice. Instead of seeing this anchor as something holding me back, it has taught me to walk slower and enjoy the time I have with her.
As an entrepreneur, we often rush to pursue our goals. What we need to remember, however, is that entrepreneurship is not a destination but a journey, and we should learn patience and enjoy it along the way.
When I started my career, it was always my goal to work later and arrive earlier than my boss, which gave me the opportunity to get face time and speak with him or her about business. When I started Wild Creations, my partner and I would religiously stay late or sit in a restaurant to talk about the business and the countless emergencies we had that day.
When I leave the office now, I come home to two children who could care less about angry customers, disgruntled employees or late-paying clients. Instead, our conversations are filled with observations about school, debates about Minecraft or ongoing discussions about the latest cartoon hit.
The truth is that I look forward to getting home so that I can "turn off" work, even if for a short while, and relax and decompress. As well, children teach you that life is not all about you, and for the most part, your work is not the center of the universe.
For certain, everyone is different and will have different opinions of parenthood and entrepreneurship. For me, however, becoming a dad has made me more attuned to the happiness of my family, friends and colleagues, and it has taught me empathy and compassion.
I has made me a better entrepreneur.
And for what it's worth, I still get to binge watch movies on the weekend from time to time -- but granted, they are usually animated.
Do you have a similar experience? Please share your valuable feedback with other entrepreneurs in the comments section below.