I celebrated my son’s first birthday and Father’s Day over the weekend, which caused me to reflect on what a whirlwind the past 12 months have been. I had virtually no experience with kids until I had one of my own, but I’ve managed to adapt — at least so far. It turns out working at an agency is decent training ground for fatherhood. How, you might ask? Here are a few lessons that actually translate pretty well.
- Be one step ahead. At work: I always try to anticipate what clients are going to be thinking about next and address it before they do. The same thing applies to colleagues. At home: I pretty much spend my time predicting what danger my son’s about to put himself in and try to head it off. These days, he’s operating at a rate of approximately 47 potential injuries per minute.
- Become a proficient juggler. At work: There are always dozens of things on my to do list, and I never have time to tackle them one at a time. Prioritization and the ability to seamlessly bounce between projects is key. At home: I need to be able to do about five things at once, including making dinner with a 25-pound toddler in one arm before feeding myself and him simultaneously.
- Bring a creative twist to everything. At work: Creativity is what sets Fast Horse apart, and it’s important that everyone at the agency is constantly trying to put a clever spin on our work. That means everything from big ideas to small tweaks that take something from good to great. At home: It’s amazing how bored a 1-year-old can get when he has a thousand toys to play with. Talk about a tough target audience to engage. I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping him entertained by coming up fresh games to play with his toys and/or resorting to general silliness.
- Understand the difference between an issue and a crisis. At work: It’s easy to panic when something goes wrong for a client, but as a counselor it is important to take a step back and calmly assess the situation. Sometimes it’s a legitimate crisis that needs to be proactively addressed. More often, it’s an issue with a simpler solution. At home: It’s tempting to run to the doctor for every bump, bruise or sniffle, but fortunately we’ve yet to have a legitimate crisis.
- Adjust to the curve balls. At work: When everything seems to be going smoothly, it’s probably about to change. At home: It’s amazing how quickly laughing can turn to crying. Take the new circumstances and make the best of them.
- Learn how to deal with odd hours. At work: Agency life means there will be some late nights and weekends from time to time. You have to be willing to go the extra mile and meet deadlines if you want to succeed. At home: Babies need to be fed and changed every few hours. I was on call until 2 a.m. every night for the first couple months, while trying to get a little sleep on the couch in between caring for the little guy. Turns out I can function pretty well in the middle of the night.
- Exercise patience. At work: It’s easy to get frustrated with clients or colleagues when they don’t meet your expectations. Take a deep breath and roll with the punches. At home: Our little guy sleeps in our bed rather than his crib and he’s quite restless at night. I’m often on the other end of an unintentional right hook to the the jaw at 4 a.m. I have to take a deep breath and roll with the punches — literally.
I could go on, but he just woke up from a nap and is demanding I play with him. Turns out my new version of home life has taught me an important lesson to implement at work: Focus on what really matters. I take work as seriously as anyone. But you can’t let it consume you. I used to have trouble with that. It’s much easier now that I have a smiling little boy scrambling to greet me at the door every time I come home.