I always tried to time conference calls for during my son's naps or, if they were in another time zone, for ridiculously early in the morning. Inevitably, though, I'd get a last minute change that would have me juggling the mute button between my talking and my baby's cooing and/or screaming in the background. Sometimes, I'd have to admit it: "Yeah, that's my office assistant. He's six months old."
Nearly all of my clients or colleagues would be charmed and excited, and we'd spend a few minutes talking about their own parenting or their favorite niece or nephew. The fact still was, though, that I was afraid I'd be judged as an inferior businessman because my time wasn't as flexible or as available as non-parents. It was only recently that I realized having a child made me--and other parents--a stronger entrepreneur.
1. Mastery of efficiency
The needs of your kids absolutely have to supersede yours, so it is a matter of maximizing the time you have remaining. And boy, can you maximize it. As I discussed recently, I found myself being more productive working three early hours a day than I did in my years of 18-hour days--and my career jumped leaps and bounds as I took care of my baby.
2. Respecting small victories
Like being an entrepreneur, some days as a parent are successful when you just manage to survive to the end of it. Thriving as a parent requires celebrating every small victory, just as it does being a businessperson. Parenting also knocks you out of the extreme thinking trap. You can't have immediate audacious goals: Teaching your kid to drive at age 3 or prepping them for college at age 5 isn't realistic because they physically and mentally can't go that far. Instead, you have to take everything one step at a time. Therefore, every small step is a step towards victory.
3. Patience in chaos
There are constant fires to put out: 24-hour needs, unrealistic requests, random accidents and constant feeding. Sounds like a startup? The parallels are uncanny. You learn that neither peace nor chaos will last for very long, so you appreciate the smooth times and have patience during the rough patches.
4. Complete, utter focus
Like launching a new business, neophyte parents only have one objective: Keep the thing alive. The intensity eases up as it gets older, but by then you are trained to maintain the primary objective. Parental instinct is more about training yourself to intuitively focus on the baby's needs, just as much as business instinct is about training yourself to intuitively know what your company needs.
5. Letting things go
There are significant milestones along the way that represent both natural growth and the time you put in. The milestones are only significant, though, because they mean less dependence on you: Learning to walk or riding a bike can be parallel to getting a critical mass of users or reaching a landmark number of sales. You realize that what is required of you will evolve forever and that your own ego and inertia must be secondary to the needs of the child. And, if you are lucky, it will eventually live and function on its own.
What insights have you gained from guiding young people in your life?