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Embrace The Velcro

This post orginally published as part of a writer’s series called “5 Things for New & Expectant Fathers”.  See the orginal here & be sure to check out www.playgrounddad.com for lots of cool Daddy Stuff!

I have three boys under the age of 6. I’m knee deep in action heroes, Thomas the Train, diapers and spit up, so believe me when I say there’s a lot that was never revealed to me as an expecting parent. The level of craziness in your home grows slowly, child by child as they age and get active. It takes reflection to realize how calm and independent your life was pre-kids. With that in mind, here are some things to think about as you embark on this journey known as Fatherhood.

#1 – Consider A Career Change
I’d like you to take stock of whatever career you’ve chosen and begin to think real hard about learning to make baby formula or batteries. Both are obscenely expensive and cannot be found in the “used aisle” or dollar store. I often wonder why Walter White from Breaking Bad decided to cook meth when he could have made infinitely more money, and garnered much less hazards, had he just learned the chemical reactions that yield baby formula. If you’re not 100% satisfied with the life you’ve chosen, or the amount of money you make, trust me, and take a long look at batteries & baby formula.

#2- You Will Lose the Sock Battle
Treat everyone of your child’s socks likes it’s the last time you’ll ever see them again. After the pair of socks enters the wash cycle, they will disappear and you will find it nearly impossible to find an exact pair. Enter any preschool in America, and ask the kids to take off their shoes, you will find that not one single pair matches. You will lose this battle; don’t even spend the energy trying. You will, of course, not believe me and in an attempt to deceive the Sock Gods, buy different colors, styles, try rubber band techniques, search Pintrest for clever solutions…but it won’t work, the Sock Gods will always win. Go teach your kid how to read or ride a bike…it’s a much better use of your parental energy.

#3 – Let’em cry it out
Look guys, your kids will start to control your lives from the second they are born. It’s in their genetic makeup to push the boundaries and try to get away with anything and everything. Nothing personifies this like sleeping habits. Unless you want an hour long nightly routine or a child that walks before they sleep through the night, you better embrace the “cry it out” methodology. A little crying never hurt anyone, and the end result is you sleeping more, so let’em cry.

#4 – It ain’t cheap if it breaks
I hate to sound like your 85 year old grandma, but the truth is the truth. Head to your local “Toys R Us” and you’ll find a Thomas the Train figurine selling for $12.00 or the whole set selling for $99.99. At which point, you might ask yourself “why is this sooo expensive?”…I’ll tell you why…your kids are gonna treat these toys like a rag doll and yet it’ll still usable after 10 years. This is especially true for outdoor toys…nothing ruins a nice afternoon quite like the wheel coming off that piece of crap scooter you bought for lil’ Joey’s birthday. Buy quality. Short term pain is long term gain.

#5 – Zippers & Velcro were created not to be ignored
After your child is born and you’ve experience about 3 months of sleep deprivation and you and The Wife are battling the dreaded “Eye-Twitch”, and its 4:00am, you don’t want to deal with buttons…it’s hard enough to jumble with those tiny diapers, throw in 46 random buttons that NEVER align correctly, and you’ll be wishing for that zipper. As for Velcro, you’ll quickly find that your life as a parent is a constant battle of the dressing and undressing of your children. The knots and double knots, and broken strings and tripping and tripping….there’s no need for it! Embrace The Velcro, fathers, Embrace The Velcro.

Image Credit: Helen Harrop

Use These 5 Parenting Tips To Become a Better Leader

I was a leader before I was a parent.  Starting as a sales manager and continuing as a small business owner, I developed my leadership skills before entering into the daunting world of parenting.  I tend to growth exponentially when challenged.  As I juggle roles and projects, I learn about myself and am forced to become more efficient to succeed.  Now, as a parent, I find myself challenged in whole new way.  Challenged to work smarter, not harder, learn to perform at a high level, while creating balance.  What I’ve really found is that my role as a parent is making me a better leader.  Here’s 5 ways:

1. Eat Dinner as a family

Growing up, my family almost always ate together  around the dinner table. As we got older, it became harder to accomplish, especially on a daily basis, but my mother insisted on us eating as a family as often as we could. As a parent, I want the same thing for my family. Sitting at the dinner table allows us to “check-in”…ask about our days and connect. As a leader, you should be doing the same thing with all of your employees. I have frequent one-to-one’s with my staff in order to lay the ground work for the week, hold us accountable to our goals and ensure that we are on the right path. As leaders and parents, we need to stay connected, because our lives get busy.

2. Parent Every Child Different

Some kids stare off into space, while others can’t stop moving. Some listen to direction, while others fight you tooth and nail. How we parent will always depend on the child. Each one has certain gifts and abilities, as parents, we should identify those abilities and parent accordingly. This applies to our staff as well. As leaders, we must understand the strengths and weakness of our team, so we can put our staff in a position to win. Of course, rules are rules, and you’ll get nowhere if you’re always playing favorites. But understanding how much rope you can give an employee will help you develop their abilities at a faster pace, while creating a more productive team.

3. Make time for Mom & Dad

Parenting is hard, it can feel chaotic and tornadic at times.  It can be easy to lose perspective and take your frustrations out on your partner. In order to be a great parent, you’ve got to have balance.  That balance should include whatever it takes for you and your partner to feel re-energized.  Date nights, golfing with your buddies, or a day at the spa…it doesn’t matter, just as long as the kids are not involved!  As an organizational leader, you must take time away from your role in order to gain perspective and plan your future accordingly. At least once a quarter, I head out to a restaurant or coffee shop and plan my goals for all the organizations I lead.  This allows me to hit the “reset” button and identify exactly where I want to take my groups. This also allows me to gain perspective on which team members are playing the biggest role in our success, and thank them accordingly.

4. Do as I Say, Not as I Do

You don’t have to be a parent very long to figure out this doesn’t work!  The first time your child says a cuss word, or screams “why do I have to go to bed, you and mommy get to stay up!”, you realize that your parental actions will often be listened to more acutely than any direction that may come out of your mouth.  This absolutely applies to the work environment. I recognize that my staff watches what I do just as much as they listen to what I say.  Do you want your team to be organized, efficient, and proactive? Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you posses those traits, the answer could be telling.

5. Have Dance Parties

Come by my house on any random Saturday night and you’ll hear the volume turn up and see my family dancing around the living room.  We laugh, we smile, we dance! My wife and I will always value having fun with our kids. You may not find it appropriate to have dance parties at the office, but you should be looking to have fun, however you see fit. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, maybe buy some pizza’s one day to say Thank You or sponsor a toy drive for the Holidays…anything that allows for a little fun and connection goes along way towards creating a great working environment.  Don’t forget that the office can get very stale, it’s your job as the leader, to ensure that doesn’t happen…so get out there and dance!

Photo Credit

So, do we have a deal?

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Everyone always says how having a new child changes your life.  My blogging buddy, Chris Bumeter (http://chrisbumeter.wordpress.com/), recently told me that he’s a new father and loves it.  When you read his blog and twitter accounts, you see the proof.

So what does having three kids feel like?  Let’s just say it makes you want to go out and do things you’d never thought in a million years you’d want to do…that’s right, it makes you want to buy a mini-van.

For the record, I’d rather try to take my contacts out with coal-fired tweezers than buy a used car.

So, just days before the birth of my 3rd child, where do I find myself? You guessed it, the Auto Dealership.

I’ve spent almost my entire adult life in sales, and yet, here I am, wrapped in the used car salesman’s web of lies, wishing I was home, staring into the mirror with those scorching tweezers.

I hate buying cars like my kids hate eating healthy, brushing teeth or listening to their mother.

I’m not entirely certain what I hate the most. It’s probably the feeling that no matter how much I research, how much “homework” I do, I always feel like the biggest sucker as I walk out the door. I’m certain my sales guy, Blake, and his manager will be high-fiving each other after selling me a car, while calling their wife’s to tell them that they had a great day and asking whether they would like them to bring home PF Chang’s tonight…

“We can afford it Honey, Daddy sold a big one tonight!”

I also hate the whole Good Cop, Bad Cop routine.

“I want to sell you this car, but my manager’s having a bad day and says he’s gonna lose big on this sale, so we’ll see what he says”…really?  Bad day?  That’s the best you could come up with?

I imagine he goes back to the manager’s office and a tape of Glengarry Glen Ross’s “Coffee’s for Closer’s” is playing on loop  http://www.hark.com/clips/rfvsbnczny-coffees-for-closers

How about all the waiting? If I kept my clients waiting like that they’d leave me in droves and I’d feel awful. And yet, there I am, sifting through October 2010 issues of Motor Trend, while sipping on day’s old coffee, looking for the damn remote to the tv in the waiting room. I guess that’s the fundamental issue with buying a car these days…the salesmen always seem to have us were it hurts. I feel like I should walk out…

But I won’t..

I just bought a mini-van….hope he enjoys the PF Chang’s tonight.

Have you bought a car recently?  Did you enjoy it?  What tips do you have for buying a car?

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