Defining Priorities: When Fatherhood And Entrepreneurship Collide
"My mask was off, and I realized that being vulnerable is being strong. I can't do it all, and that's okay."
Nobody likes making mistakes or failing. That subsequent horrible feeling is what we all would rather avoid. Same goes for me, plus I’m a man, a proud one at that. It’s not that I do not make mistakes- I did, I still do, and I will, just as we all will. Nonetheless, feeling weak and vulnerable is something I am not accustomed to. It’s like I have this mask that covers my insecurities and my weakness. This has caused me to shelter my friends and family from seeing me in this vulnerable state, but believe me, even if they don’t see it, that horrible feeling is still there in me.
Nine years ago, I made a mistake that significantly changed my life. This wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the last, but this was an incident that I would remember for the rest of my life. This incident made me look at the mirror, and get the courage to finally unmask. I let go of my fears, and I was finally able to let people see all of me. This liberating feeling made me grow, and finally, the spirit animal inside me was ready to roar.
Back then, I was entering a new phase in my life. My first child was on the way, we got a new house, we would take long walks on the beach- simply put, I was living my best life. On June 5, 2009, I received an extemporaneous call from one of my clients. “Dhiren, we have an opportunity for which we need you to come to Deri?” he said. Deri is a small town outside Dublin, Northern Ireland. My first thought was to look at my calendar, because my wife Jasmine was due on June 28. I thought to myself, “I can do this.” However, almost instantly my spirit animal whispered, “This is a bad idea.” But I proudly challenged it to, “I’ve got this, I can handle this.”
After convincing myself this was a good idea, I rushed home, sat Jasmine down, and anxiously told her about the call. “This is an important trip for you, take it. There’s a lot of time between now and the 28th. You’ll be fine,” she said. My wife is a wonderful woman, but her support on this matter absolutely puzzled me. “Is she serious?” I thought to myself. I could not believe how calm and supportive she was.
Even so, my gut would not stop growling at me. Therefore, I decided the only way to settle this is by consulting a professional, our doctor. After a few scans, the doctor said to me, “You have nothing to worry about. Stop overthinking this, and go on your business trip. There is plenty of time, plenty of time.” I wondered why I still felt unsure, despite getting reassurances from both my wife and the doctor.
Ultimately, I decided to go on the business trip. I was going to leave on the 8th, and be back by the 12th, having made a business deal with enough time to spare until my wife’s due date. After three days of intense meetings, I was finally ready to go home. On the 11th of June, and I was in my hotel room anxiously packing my bags. Unexpectedly, my phone rang. Once, twice, three times, four times, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. The caller ID showed it was Jasmine. Looking back, I should have immediately figured out something was amiss because it was 4am in Dubai- too late for her not to be asleep, and too early for her to be up.
“Hello, what’s wrong?” I asked her. Her voice quacked, “My water broke.” “Are you sure?” I inquired, aware that she wouldn’t call me in the middle of the night to make such a bad joke, but deep down, I wished she did. At that point, I heard a noise like a caged animal rattling its bars. “Yes, yes, I am sure,” she said frantically. My first-born was on the way, and I was thousands of kilometers away. I tried making calls to see if I could get the next flight to Dubai. Nevertheless, even if I could somehow pull it off, it was approximately 16 hours from my hotel room in Deri to delivery room number 302 at Al Zahra Hospital. The sad reality hit me- I wasn’t going to make it on time.
I thought to myself, “What made me think that a business trip was more important than listening to my gut feeling that insistently told me not to go. I wasn’t true to my family or myself. I shouldn’t have left.” All this while I was trying to make calls to get home to my wife and child. After a couple of calls, my mother-in-law called and said, “They just took her into the delivery room. It’s happening now.” My heart sank.
At that point, I experienced my most defining moment as a man in the most unimaginable way. I was still on the phone, so I could hear the doctor say, “Push, push, breath, push.” Here I was, miles away from my family listening to the birth of my firstborn, all the while regretting my decision to go for the trip. A while later, there was a sudden calmness, because after the pushing, screaming, and pulling of hair (mostly mine), the doctor finally gave us the good news. It was a boy. At that moment, it was as bitter, as it was sweet.
My wife Jasmine and I had decided that we were going to find out the gender of our child the natural way. So, this was a beautiful moment that, as a parent, you would remember for the rest of your life, but I would not have that beautiful memory. I wasn’t there to experience it with my wife as we had planned. I could not stop thinking why I wasn’t there. I had wanted to be there, I had prepared to be there, so how did this happen?
The first time I held my child in my hands I had turbulence of emotions- jubilation, joy, guilt, and regret. Nine years later, I can honestly say that I don’t remember what the challenges my client was facing that made me go on that trip. However, I remember exactly what I missed out. It was not worth it, to miss out on the most remarkable moment of my child’s life for something that could have been eschewed.
Nonetheless, my colossal mess up taught me three valuable lessons:
Firstly, it is important to always listen to your spirit animal.
Secondly, nothing is so important to make you miss the truly magical moments in life.
Thirdly, it revealed my real passion which is being the best father I can be.
Finally, my mask was off, and I realized that being vulnerable is being strong. I can’t do it all, and that’s okay. Please use the story of my mess up to examine your life, because, after all- we are humans, and we mess up.
Dhiren Harchandani began his professional journey as a consultant in the Silicon Valley where he worked for several Fortune 500 companies and startups before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey where he has founded and exited multiple ventures.
As a transformation architect, he plans, designs, and oversees the transformation of entrepreneurs and executives focusing on how to master their inner game. As an author, he writes about the formula for sustainable transformation. As an essentialist, he's committed to focusing on the 20% that generates 80% of the results in life and business. His passion for family and endurance sports has served as anchors to his life.