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Business

Perspective For A Frantic Family Guy

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Melinda and I met with Bob in a coffee shop in Dallas.

He was a high-powered corporate consultant and an older friend of mine arranged for us to get a half day with him.

We were in our mid 30s with four kids, all under the age of seven. I was early in my career and Melinda was a stay at home mom, changing endless diapers and figuring out creative ways to answer the endless “whys” of a pack of toddlers.

We felt like that Winnie the Pooh story, in which Pooh finally realizes that the reason he keeps seeing the same stuff on his long walk is that he is walking in circles. Pooh was lost.

So were we. Or, at least it sure felt that way.

What Bob gave us that day is the same gift I hope to pass on to you.

I want to give you the gift of perspective.

1. Work steadily, but expect uneven results. For most, the early stages of building a career involves a lot of hard work with not enough results. You’re trying a lot, failing a lot and when you do succeed, you’re not exactly sure why it happened.

Most of us begin with an expectation that results will come back to us in proportion to the effort and time we invest. Sorry, but it rarely works that way. Your long-term career results will likely resemble a stock chart. In the short term, there’s lots of randomness and choppy movement. But back far enough way, and you can see a gradual upward slope. With lots of zigs and zags in between. Accept the unevenness of your career achievements.

2. Your time with your children is finite. Your career is flexible. There’s a reason why every person my age tells every young adult parent, “Enjoy them now. They grow up so fast.” It’s true.

If you choose to put your career ahead of your kids, you’ll regret it. I promise. You can never get back that basketball game, that camp out, that birthday party, that special moment you had just because you were together.

3. Don’t delay investing in your marriage. Pay the price now. Is this financial advice or marriage advice? Yes. Price the cost of a divorce and you’ll see what I mean.

If all goes according to plan, you’ll spend 20 years raising kids, 40 years working and (hopefully) 60+ years married. Do you want the 40 years you spend together without kids to be full of joy and meaning, or silence and suffering? To get the later, do nothing – it’ll come naturally. If you want the former, you’ll need a plan, lots of work, loads of communication and a train car full of grace.

The kids are going to grow up. Give them your best while you’ve got them. The career will be there – work smart and hard, but don’t be a slave to it. Your life partner is the one who’ll be with you through the whole process. Work hardest of all to demonstrate your love for her. She’s the investment you’re going to value most long-term.

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