I almost never get embarrassed. I’ll put my foot in my mouth and move on before you can point fingers at something dumb I’ve done or said. It’s just something I’m used to.
However, recently I felt very embarrassed, and it struck me.
I was in my old hometown in the bay area California, getting some drinks with my brother. As drinking nights with brothers tend to go, we got nice and saturated, ready to get into the deepest and most important parts of life. We started talking about him being a new uncle, me being a new dad, the brevity and mystery of life, good friends, etc. And then he kind of dropped a bomb on me.
Brother: You know… You’re not involved enough with your kid, man. And your wife too.
Brother: Yea, I’m serious. I was talking with mom about it and you’re totally becoming that typical workaholic, not interested or invested in your kid, always on the computer, always doing other shit.
Me: What? You and mom talk about this often?
At the moment I just sort of took it on the chin and moved on, but, holy sh!t did it ever hurt to hear this. Partly because I felt like Mom and him were a bit too quick to pigeon-hole me, but mostly because I knew it was true.
In fact, I had already been thinking about it: I’m 28 with a 3 month old son, and I’m already living in a rhythm where a lot of my passion and attention is focused outside of my wife and child. Given my personality and history, that’s actually not too much of a surprise.
Me vs. The Enthusiast
I’ve loved self-help/self-dicovery stuff for a long time. I’ve always tried to figure out exactly what made me tick and what I was made of. I’ve studied and completed all sorts of those personality type tests; Myers-Briggs, Strength Finders, Facebook Mafia, etc. So I’ve analyzed my “personality” intensively over the past 5-10 years.
The most helpful tool I’ve found is called the Enneagram. I think Madonna invented it. It’s new-agey and Kabbalah-ish, but it’s incredibly insightful; it will tell you what you day dream about.
Here’s where I land in the Enneagram’s framework: I’m “The Enthusiast” (a 7 with a 4 wing if you know what I mean). I get passionate and fired up about stuff and am great at getting others fired up as well.
FYI: The book I recommend is called The Wisdom of the Enneagram. It not only blows your mind with who you are and what makes you tick, but it also helps you understand what you look like healthy, unhealthy, etc., and gives you some interesting ideas to move towards health.
The Enthusiast’s greatest strength is getting people excited about something. I do that really well. But an unhealthy Enthusiast is flighty, uncommitted, and schizophrenic. An unhealthy me is worried about what I’m missing, so I’m constantly looking over the shoulder of the person/project I’m with. Think Robin Williams at a subdued cocktail party, and you’ve got an image about how I move around through life.
My brother’s words called me out as being in an unhealthy place, too much flighty, too much uncommitted, too much schizophrenic attention outside of what matters most.
So, WTF (Why The Face)?
I’m driven, enthusiastic, entrepreneurial, and young. If there was ever a time to pursue side-projects and businesses, it’s now. But I’m also a husband and a father, and contrary to my recent behavior I’m deeply committed to building romance and intimacy with my wife and being interested in and involved with my son.
I was driving the other day with a sagely and experienced man. He told me,
“The thing about being a man is that we build and build and start and grow and build (our businesses, legacies, etc). You go from work to family to work to work to kid’s soccer practice to work to early morning to family dinner to work… And then you sell the company and you don’t have any friends.”
Nobody wants that. Nobody wants to sell the company, or finally arrive at a successful career and realize the family is broken, the wife doesn’t trust you, the kids don’t need or want you, irreparable damage has been done.
We’re all very capable of mucking things up like this. We are. And we’re all very capable of winning this. We are.
So, here’s what I’m learning: I need to practice availability. I need to get better at setting aside focus on project x, y, or z, and attune myself to wife, child, and friend when necessary. I need to do this so I don’t end up the lonely king of some mole hill.
How can we practice this availability? I’m sure I could use the word “boundaries” somewhere in an answer, but I’m not sure in what way. So, let me solicit your help, dear reader. How can I/we practice availability in small, meaningful ways now so we don’t regret the damage we’ve done later on? Do you have any tips for shifting attention from work to family? Let us know!