The goal of this article isn’t to confine what it means to be a father to his family life, as many would. We’re going to take a different line of thinking, come at this whole “being a great dad thing” from the angle that being a great man, the best man you can be, a successful, attentive, strong man, will lead you to being a great dad.
It’s in this quest to be a great man, and by extension a great father, that we are faced with priorities. Most will tell you that your priorities have to be in a certain order. I disagree. Your priorities are extensions of one another. It’s in being your best at your career, being an innovator, a hard worker, a man of pride, that you take care of your family, not just financially, but by providing a good example.
As men we’re told and pushed to find balance in your lives. We’re told of the significance of time spent with our families taking precedence over time spent in the office and how if we don’t find balance we’ll one day regret every action we have taken leading up to the bucket we’re about to kick.
Balance, however, is a myth, this idea that our lives should be equal parts of everything. It’s in this quest for balance that man finds nothing, creates nothing, provides nothing, accomplishes nothing.
Before the blood starts to boil and I’m labeled a heretic, think about why you do what you do and who you do it for. This article isn’t about rationalizing more work and less time spent with the wee one’s. It’s not a judgement handed down on those who aren’t hustling. It’s simply an alternate way to look at this quest for balance, an alternative that may lead to more happiness, greater fulfillment, and more meaning.
You may also scream bloody murder because I’m not a dad. I have no family, no wife, no wee one’s whatsoever, so how in any way can I be an authority figure on something I have no real experience with? I’m not. I’m not going to explain how the hell I would know how to be a good dad other than the fact that I have a great one and that my pal’s who have kids are damn find fathers as well. Other than that, just read and grill me in the comments section if you feel it’s justified.
Now, let’s get into it. Read. Let it settle. Read again. Then apply.
Your Time is Ticking
Don’t look at your life like your future will still exist 60 years down the line, even 20. Your time is ticking, you are dying, and this should be liberating. You are now free to give you time to those things that truly matter, yet this issue of balance isn’t at all about time, but quality.
It’s Not About Time But About Quality
Whilst traveling through Italy this past year I was forced to cut my work days by more than half. I thought this would have a negative effect on my business and my ability to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish, but it had the opposite effect as my business grew. I published more content and my subscriber base almost doubled in the 3 months I was gone.
My work time was cut to the wee hours of the morning before the city or town where I was staying would awake. I wanted to have adventures in the afternoon and the evening and I wasn’t going to waste this once-in-a-lifetime trip holed up in an office.
And so I worked…
My work day went from a 12-17 hour work day, to a 6 hour work day, yet I got more done. Why? Because of focus. I was more focused, distractions weren’t allowed into my life.
I had no phone, I shut my internet off while I was writing, and my friends were all halfway around the world. I loved it. I was forced to be where I was and give my best self to the moment I was within.
Thus, this battle of balance, of creating a balanced life, happiness, meaning, and all that jazz, isn’t about balance, but quality.
By giving more of myself to where I was I was able to give more of myself to more things. This must be how TR did it, how Churchill did it, how Robert E. Lee did it, these Renaissance men. These men who did more and became more in many different facets and areas of life.
This is how any man must live if he’s to both be an effective man, a strong man, a successful man, and a good dad.
The key, then, lies not in balance, but in the opposite, in giving all of your time to where you are and giving your best time to that thing that needs it most.
11 Ways to Become a Better Dad
1. Give your best hours to your mission.
Don’t give your best hours to your family. I know that sounds terrible, but your family is energy-giving. There’s give and take with your family, there are laughs and moments of wonder and even yelling and temper-tantrums and all that wonderful stuff.
With your purpose, your mission, sure there is interest and passion, but it’s entirely your interest and passion. You’re giving yourself to the book you’re writing or the company you’re creating, so give the best of yourself. For me, this is the morning.
I wake up early and start writing. These are the hours that have to remain distraction-free and focused. When you do your best work, do your best work.
2. Ruthlessly rid yourself of distractions.
Get rid of your phone while you’re working. Turn off your internet. Don’t leave your office door open, allowing time-leaches to walk in and disrupt your creation. To be at your best there can only be you, 100% of you. Nothing else. Focus!
3. End your day at the same time everyday.
Start your day at the same time everyday as well, but the ending is important. Don’t be one of those guys who puts in long work nights when they’re entirely avoidable, and most of the time if we rid our distractions and actually WORK, long work days and nights are completely avoidable.
Get shit done when it’s supposed to be done. Don’t spend a second surfing the net if there’s work to be done. Don’t Facebook or even read if you’re supposed to be working. Don’t rationalize, don’t put things off when you said you’d do them now.
[Tweet “It’s laziness that keeps men from their families, not ambition.”]
4. Man up.
Don’t use excuses. Don’t pander to your wants and desires that pull you away from where you want to be. Don’t be a pussy, a coward, a person who gives in to every temptation. Do whatever you have to do to get everything you want and need to do within the confines of your work day, and choose your work hours wisely.
For myself it’s a bit different, I need to work all day when I’m at home simply because I’m a single fella and it makes no sense to do otherwise. When I travel, which has been a fair amount lately, that schedule changes.
When I’m at my best I’m either working or reading or training or eating at every part of the day, nothing else exists. For the guys with families, however, this changes. End your work day at a firm time everyday and don’t use excuses to extend it.
If you have to extend your work day it usually means you were lazy for a portion of one of the previous days and now you’re punishing your family for your laziness.
Man up. Get shit done when it’s supposed to get done, then be with your family.
5. Believe in miracles.
I spent a month at my pal’s house this summer. I’m the godfather to his son and watching him, playing with him, interacting with him is like being involved in a miracle, being a part of something greater than myself. It’s by seeing the wonder in life, by seeing the beauty in this young soul forming before our eyes that we are able to be present.
If you’re in awe there is nowhere else you can be but in the moment.
Being present with our families is about more than removing distractions from our days – don’t have your phone on you when you’re with your kid either. Being present with our families is being in awe, in complete appreciation for what and who we’ve been blessed with.
Believe in the miracle of life, whatever your beliefs may be, see your son’s life, your daughter’s life, your wife’s life as a miracle, something unbelievable that must be appreciated and not wasted, and give it the time and attention and the respect it deserves.
6. Be audacious in the goals you set, they’re worth it.
Don’t settle for mediocre goals by using the excuse that you want to spend more time with your family and less time working, creating, evolving. You have enough time in your day to do both. Your family is worth your best, just like your work is worth your best, so extend your reach, aim higher, set loftier, more audacious goals, and work with the tenacity and passion that befits a man aiming to create a legacy that will last for eons.
Having a family should propel you to be more, not less. If you’re not constantly growing, what purpose do you serve?
7. Spend ample time with the fellas.
Some men go into hiding when they have a family. They stop being men. I understand that priorities change and you may actually only want to spend time with your family, but you still need the company of men to remember what it means to be a man.
Drink beers with your pals, and scotch and vino and grill some steaks. Keep in tune and in touch with your masculinity. Bust balls, laugh, goof around, and keep that camaraderie you have with your friends. Your family is easily the most important thing in your life, but they need you to be that wild warrior that you once were.
Your family needs a man, not a lapdog, and hanging out with the fellas will keep you in check.
8. Never crave safety.
It’s natural that once we have responsibilities to want to keep them and ourselves safe. But safety kills, it suffocates, it strangles the life out of life and leaves monotony and a purgatorial state in its stead. Never crave safety, always seek adventure. Be the man your family deserves, a warrior, a leader, an adventurer. A man!
Keep your boxing gym membership and your sparring routine up. Continue your training regimen. Skydive, keep that motorcycle, don’t you ever sell that thing. Be who you are, and continue to be a better version of who you are.
Having a family will soften you, but it’ll also turn you into a man that will do anything for those under your protection. That anything should include your continued self-improvement, and a man can’t improve within the confines of the familiar and the safe.
9. Never lose that desire to risk it all.
The best advice I’ve ever gotten from a friend is that no matter the situation, be it a date, a girlfriend, a big business deal (everything except marriage, of course), always be willing to walk away from it all.
Don’t ever get pushed into something that you don’t want to do. Never get pushed around in the boardroom, never feel like you’re at that age where you need to settle down and the first babe you find is that lady no matter how controlling or emotionally unstable she is.
Never get backed into a corner and don’t fight your way out. Always fight your way out. Always be willing to walk away if it’s not to your liking. You can always climb back. You can always earn it back.
When you have a family, this tends to change because if you lose it all, they lose it all. Sure, put money away for your family, don’t be an idiot. But don’t suffocate your growth by not allowing a considerable amount of risk.
Just because you have a family doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chase your dreams and bring them along for the ride. The best you is the best you for them. Never lose that ability to risk it all even in the face of logic if it’s for something you’re willing to work your ass for or to even die for. Every man dies but not every man really lives. It’s often when we’re willing to die for something, even our families, that we understand life’s greater meaning.
10. Be consistent.
Wake up at the same time daily, finish work at the same time daily, and work your ass of every damn day. Be consistent. Consistently find adventure. Consistently push yourself to be better. Consistently be where you are, in the moment, with the people or the work.
You’ll find that with consistency more is accomplished, but there’s also more room to leave town on a whim with your family or embark on a new project. Consistent work brings much more freedom to your life than it does inhibit this grand experience.
11. Choose your emotions effectively.
Don’t let your emotions weigh you down. Don’t lament over the past or wish you could go back. Don’t resent your family. Don’t wine and complain about life’s ups and downs. Don’t compare yourself or your life to that of another.
Emotions can be latched on to if you choose to do so. Latch on to the good emotions, the excitement, the love, but leave the sadness alone. Be the rock your family needs, and it’s entirely up to you if you’re that rock. Be strong. Be consistent. Let them know that you’re always there for them, steady, strong, unbreakable.
Being a Better Dad Means Being a Better Man
Today, men are asked to be softer, more caring, even weaker. That’s not what our families need. That’s not what will help them thrive in this cold, hard world. They need a man of grit leading the way, a man they’re proud to call their dad, a man, not a lapdog, a human who seeks mediocrity because that’s where he knows he’ll be safe.
Your development as a man never ceases, and that includes when you have a family. If anything, having kids and a wife should push you to extend yourself even further, for it’s only in going above and beyond that we grow. Never lose that desire to risk. Never let go of that need for adventure. Remain wild at heart.