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Gifts That Fathers Can Give To Their Children

A Father's Day Reflection on the Gifts we can Give to our Children

If you’re like me, you got to experience Father’s Day at some level yesterday. Maybe you were  treated to an assortment of gifts from ties, to golfing accessories, to watches. Add in a nice dinner out or steak cooked on the grill; it makes a pretty good day for most of us who are blessed to have children.

However, as Father’s Day approached this year, I didn’t give much thought to where we would eat or what presents my kids may get me, but rather, I thought about what can I give them now and what I wish I had given them during the time they were younger (my children are now 23, 22, 20 & 17).

If I could go back and talk to my much younger self when I first became a dad at age 24, these are some of the things I would say I could give my children.

My Time

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, time is a valuable thing. None of us can buy or create more time so we must use it wisely.Once a day is gone, we cannot get it back.  However, there are many in the corporate world that are spewing messages that encourage us to spend inordinate amounts of time working, developing our businesses and advancing our careers.

Jack Ma recently encouraged a 9-9 schedule for six days per week, meaning that if we try to get a measly five hours of sleep per night in order to keep that pace (not near enough), we have right around one-third of our time to invest in our relationships.  Grant Cardone, another evangelist for hustle porn, outpaces Ma by saying it will take 95 hours per week. Using the same number of hours for sleep, our kids can expect at best 23 percent of our week investing in them.

As fathers, we should have a greater purpose and I can think of few greater than investing and cultivating a relationship with our children, teaching them, coaching them, developing their character so they can do better than we have. That purpose takes time and is far more valuable than building a business.

My Presence and Availability

There have been prolonged moments in my career where I did not give the time necessary to my children and to add to that, there were more than a few times when I was there physically, but not emotionally or mentally present and available.

This was brought to my attention so clearly a few years back when for the first time in twenty years, I took a vacation without my laptop and email access in tow. A few days into our vacation my then 16-year old daughter thanked me for not bringing my laptop with me.  Trying to convince her that she was more important, I thanked her and then assured her that I always worked before she and her siblings woke up. It was then she said, “I know, but then you would spend the rest of the day thinking about what you worked on.”

I was busted and not only that, she was right!

We can spend time with our kids, but more importantly we need to be engaged, present and available without distraction, including our phones. We only have them for a short period of time and they notice when we are simply physically present versus being wholly available.

Hard Work, Instead of Hustle

One of the things I am proud of is the example I have given my children in the value of hard work. And make no mistake, there is value and nobility in hard work.

As referenced above, there are more than a few that hold fast to the belief that if you are not going to hustle (spending countless hours working for your professional goals), then you will not succeed. This is not necessarily true and there is a host of evidence that proves that including:

  • My own story:  I was the poster boy for the hustle; spending countless hours working to build my first company. Since then I have changed my approach and while I still work hard, I do not work all hours and am more successful now than at any other point in my career.
  • An article on Harvard Business Review highlights a study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health that lists the health risks of over working including, diabetes, depression and heart disease.
  • More hours does not lead to more productivity according to Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands to fill the time allotted to a task.  Multiple studies have shown that if you are given eight hours to complete a two hour task, you will take eight hours.  The facts show that longer hours do nothing to improve productivity.

While we do owe it to our families to work hard at any profession or work we are fortunate enough to have, we should not do it at the expense of our family. In the long run, we are wired for relationships and there is a time when we should shift from a good day of hard work and dive into time with our kids and significant relationships.

As we reflect on this last Father’s Day, may all of us dads be more concerned with cultivating relationships with our kids and investing in them and less concerned with advancing our careers and growing our businesses. It will be one of the best gifts we can give to them and to ourselves!

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