Published on ManTalks
The world changed when my son Zain joined our family on an early morning in June 2005. And I became a different man. Or so I told myself.
Once the flurry of excitement died down, it didn’t take long before he became a burden. Diaper changes, feeding, and constant exhaustion – it was all too much. Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching him grow up and enjoyed many moments of discovery and awe, but it was hard.
Too hard. And too much.
Obviously, I didn’t share that with the people around me. From the outside, my son’s arrival was absolutely amazing, and an incredible miracle celebrated by ecstatic new parents and loving relatives. He was (and is!) still loved and cherished.
The fact was that as thrilled I was to become a father, I wasn’t ready for the commitment. I buried myself at work, and my wife was the one who took care of most of my son’s needs; except the few times I helped out and played with him.
Now, I wasn’t a complete asshole – I did try to help out and supported my wife as best I could – but what I’m talking about was what’s happening inside. I wasn’t present.
You’re waiting for the moment when I totally changed and became the best dad ever, and we lived happily ever after, right?
I was waiting for that as well for what it seemed like forever. I kept telling myself that I’d get better at this parenting thing. It’d be better when Zain learned how to talk, or maybe when he grows up a little, or maybe when I learned more about being a better parent.
I did want to be a better father. I read, I researched, I attended workshops… And then I realized one thing –this is life, not work.
This was my life. Not some job. Nothing I could prepare for, or a meeting to attend and then leave. It’s life, and it happens every day.
What the heck does that mean?
Well, you’ve heard the saying, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right? If you’re anything like I was at that time, a workaholic entrepreneur – it was all about the destination. Why else would I be busting my ass at work every day? Wasn’t the point to work hard enough so that someday so I can finally relax and enjoy the real life?!
I forgot about the journey I was on. Life.
Work harder, faster, and better doesn’t work in life, because there is only one destination in life – death.
As a much as I don’t want to ever think about it, the ultimate destination of my life, the lives of everyone around me, and even my son’s life – is death.
It’s a tragic thing to say and probably the most terrifying thought to ever cross my mind. But it’s just a fact of life, nothing can change it, and nothing I do can make it go away.
Everyone lives, and everyone dies. It’s what happens between that counts.
This realization didn’t cause me to leave my job, or go on a journey of self-discovery somewhere in Nepal. I just started doing the things I thought I had time to do “later.”
Because I now know the final destination of life is death, there is no “later” really. However we might think otherwise, we don’t actually have all the time on the world.
There is no later. Only now. And life.
This realization transformed my life and I started doing the small things that made a huge difference both in my life and the lives of the people around me:
1. Never leave home sad or angry
OK, there are still times I do this. But hey, I’m human, and I make sure to call or text as soon as I come to my senses.
The bottom line is I make sure that when I leave home, I leave nothing behind but love for my son, daughter, and my amazing wife. If I die, I die happy and content that my last interaction with my family is filled with love.
2. Stop the world for the sake of what matters most
What matters most to you? Family, love, and relationships top most people’s lists.
If we have an issue at home, I throw myself into it. I help resolve the problem as best I can, and the rest of the world can wait.
Yes, this meant there are many times I arrive late to work (and I *do* let coworkers know I’m delayed) but it’s a small price to pay compared to knowing that the last time I was with my family we made things work.
3. Showcase love in every way at every opportunity
Love really does make the world go ‘round, and the little things really do count. They may be clichés, but they’re true. I learned this wisdom from my little girl, Julie. She’s six and makes a big deal out of everything, and it’s so freakin beautiful you could cry.
Now I find every opportunity to celebrate the little things with a kiss, a hug, or an uplifting word.
4. See the bad, but focus on the great
There are many bad things in our world today. Tragedies happen daily. Scandal is everywhere. I see these things on social media, the news, and popping up in conversations. I do not ignore them or discard them, I see them and acknowledge them.
But instead I choose to focus on what is great in the world. Where there’s sadness, there are people spreading joy; where there is hurt, there are people healing; and where there is hate, there are people that share love and care.
I choose to focus on what’s great because I believe that although we can’t end sadness, hurt or eradicate hate; we have the power to spread joy, heal and love each other.
That is our power as human beings.
5. Take action
Since there is no “later” anymore, I started taking action and making things happen. I started writing daily – books, articles and blog posts – and working on projects I love.
Every day I moved forward toward my goals, taking bold steps at work and saying yes to initiatives that are beyond my comfort zone.
The results speak for themselves. I live a much happier life, a life full of the beauty of the ordinary, the joy of living the moment, and the engaged presence in the lives of those who matter most to me.
The thought of death, as terrifying as it is, and as much as I want to keep it at bay, is a little less scary now, because with every moment I live I keep falling in love with my life and the people in it.
And love is forever.