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The Only Goal That Matters to Me

If you achieve something incredible that no other human has done before, but your kids don’t know you or don’t like you, in my book you failed.

There are so many stories of great men throughout history that were considered great, who had kids that were absolute screw ups. These kids were a disappointment to their fathers, and though seen outwardly as great, these fathers were disappointments to their kids. The one that always sticks out in my mind is the preacher that is adored by all. He gives and gives to his whole community, but at home his wife and kids sit abandoned. Whether in business, sports, or politics, these men always scratch and climb to the top. But when their kids are fully grown, they can’t stand to be near their fathers. And it is only then, that these men realize what a mistake they’ve made.


As i write all of these articles about high performance, striving for the top of the mountain, and maintaining focus amongst so many distractions. I often feel like a caveat is missing in every article. And that caveat is that family trumps everything else. I guess i intend to make this article the caveat to my whole library. I am about my family. They are my life. I talk about no excuses in the gym at 4am, but if my son is crying in his crib, weights don’t matter, he does. When i am in a deep focus time block, holding strict to my no distractions policy, but my son stumbles in after his nap is over, I break focus and play with him for 5 minutes. Though it may cost me an hour in context switching. My family knows my habits, my desires, my focuses, and they try to always respect them. But it is important that they equally know that they always hold the fast pass ticket to my attention. Nothing is more important than they are.


My wife knows that i need time of focus and we have discussed the cost of context switching. She knows that when its really important, she can reach me, so conversely if it’s not that important she tries to wait until i surface for air. “Important” doesn’t have to mean the house is on fire either. It could just mean she is having a hard day and needs to talk for 5 minutes. That is “important”, and i strive to support her in those times of need. Nothing at work is more important than those 5 minutes. My kids know none of these things. So whenever my son wants to bug dada, and mommy cant dissuade him or distract him, then I’m all in. He usually only wants to play with me for like 2 minutes max anyways before he is onto the next thing. As they grows older i want them to know that dad is always reachable, the same way that my wife knows.


But even more than letting my family interrupt any of my fitness or career goals, i also create specific goals for myself as a spouse and father. I apply all of the same concepts that i talk about here to my family as well. In this article i thought i would layout how everything that i do to become great in the eyes of my wife and kids. you will note how similar the steps are to achieving family goals as they are for any other kind of goal.



Find Your Mountain

All of the things that i write about, goals, habits, discipline, are not just about your career or your fitness. They can all be applied to becoming a better member of your family as well. When i do my goal setting for the year/quarter i always include goals for becoming a better spouse and a better parent. Every quarter i ask my wife to let me know what i should be working on in both categories. Sometimes the goal is an obvious character flaw that i need to work on, like being impatient. Other times what she says to me is a complete surprise. This honest feedback is not always easy to hear, especially when it is the same for multiple quarters in a row. Meaning i have failed to significantly improve in that area. But from it i know what i need to work on and how i can better show my love and appreciation for her and our kids. There is no guessing game, i know where the the goal post is and i am always striving for it.


Know Your WHY

Family is what its all about anyways. Why would i give away time with my kids to go work harder, so i can retire early, and then get to spend time with my kids? Duh, spend it now. Sure strive, go achieve, go for gold. Create a better life for them. But at 5pm, your career work is done, and your family work begins. Beware of the lie that says, “ill make it up to them later”. Be very clear when you want to push on projects or personal goals, that your time with your kids is short. And they are changing every single day. Blink and you will miss it. And be sure, that they will miss you.


If we are honest, It is so easy to get excited about work, and so easy to get bored playing with kids. That causes many of us to prefer to work on those projects a little longer, rather than come home on time. We tell ourselves that another hour won’t hurt, and that we wont be missed. It’s a lie. Fight against it, spend that time with your spouse and your kids. Remember WHY you work hard, it isn’t to get away from your family, its to achieve things for your family. But if you achieve your goals, and lose your family, then it has been a waste.


Whenever i need a mindset adjustment i do a short exercise where i talk to my self 10 years from now. I think forward 10 years, and imagine how old i am and how old my kids are. Then i ask myself this question. What would that guy give up to spend 30 minutes with my kids at this age right now? The answer is simple. He would give up everything. He would cherish every second, note every part of his kids. He would look at how they talk, how they walk, smile, laugh. He would soak up that time as priceless, cherished, coveted above all things. Time is a blessing. Our “today” with our kids is a blessing, and it cannot be wasted.


Habits

I find habits for a relationship trickier than habits for a career goal or a fitness goal. But some of the same principles can be applied. Some things are purely input based.

  • Spend an hour a day playing toys before work every day

  • Spend 30 minutes having undistracted conversation with your spouse every night before bed

  • Leave work at 5p, 3 out of the 5 days a week

  • Read a book on parenting for 30 minutes a week

These are nice because they are easy to measure and tell how you did week to week.


Some are more challenging because they are “response driven”.

  • Don’t get upset when your son spills milk all over the floor

  • Don’t raise your voice when in an argument with your spouse

Others are hard because they are just infrequent and hard to remember to do throughout the day

  • Give your wife a sincere and thoughtful compliment everyday


I am definitely not the greatest at these types of habits. What i have found that works for me is to have a daily reminder that just says something like, “be patient today”. Then as i go about my day i do my best, and the next morning when i see that reminder i try to retrospect how i did the previous day. At the end of the week during my review, i do a gut check, did i do well, or can i do better. Over a long time this daily and weekly reminder helps me to slowly drip this habit into my subconscious. It takes a lot of time, months or years. But it works.


Focus

We time block for the gym, we time block for projects. Duh, time block your family too. I remember hearing a long time ago that kids need quantity time, not quality time. They dont want you to be gone all week at work and then “make up for it” by taking them to Disneyland on the weekend for a few hours. They just wanna hangout with you everyday and play. Mark off areas of your calendar when you are unreachable to the outside world. Leave your phone in another room or in your briefcase. Spend focused, uninterrupted time with your kids and also time with just your spouse. As with all time blocking this is simple, but not easy. And as with all time blocking, it gets easier with practice. Remind yourself about that 10 years older version of you.


Discipline (Grind)

Grind, or grit, is another concept that we rarely apply to family. It seems like it has no place in relationships. Relationships are supposed to be soft, kind, nice, not hard or gritty. But i think that’s bull crap. Building good relationships is some of the hardest work we will ever do. And grind is an absolutely essential aspect of them. We talk about reps in the gym, steps in the marathon, or hours in the office, leading to great success over time. Building a solid relationship with your spouse is no different. You have to practice servanthood every day. You have to “rep out” loving actions, even when you don’t feel like it. Do it anyway.


The harder part is that, when i really don’t want to be in the gym, i can put on angry music and scream and grunt my way through the reps. But have you ever tried to grunt your way through loving actions to your spouse? Have you cleaned the bathroom with a sour face, or given a reluctant foot massage while huffing and puffing? I have, ha! And trust me it does not work. Your action was meant to make your spouse feel loved and appreciated but ends up making them feel guilty and burdensome, and then tense and angry. No, these reps do not allow Metallica. I have found that i need to dig deeper and grind harder, to not only do the task, but to do it with a sincere smile and willingness. I’m not sure if its a fake-it-til-you-make-it situation though. I guess it might be a little bit. But really it is moving the bar higher. I make my attitude part of the goal. Not only will I clean the bathroom, but I will do it with a presence of kindness and joy.


No one wants to feel like loving them takes significant effort. At least not on the daily. Sure grand gestures and great feats of action are the stuff of movies and have their place. But in everyday life, no one wants to feel like their their significant other has to give marathon effort just to do the small daily acts of love. I mean that would make them hard to love, and that can’t be right, right? Don’t you just love me with such emotion and passion, that washing my car and changing my oil is easy?


The truth is, little things are always hard, and we don’t always feel like doing the actions of love, and we do not always have the emotion of love. So similar to how we discuss the grind for our work habits or fitness habits, sometimes emotion is irrelevant. We do the actions and the habits that we set out to do, regardless of our feelings. We grind. We get it done. And we do it with a smile.


Conclusion

Waking up at 4am to workout actually isn’t that hard for me anymore. My body is sort of adjusted and my mind is excited for the task of the day (mostly). What is hard now, is staying up at night so that my wife and i can talk before bed. This time is literally the only time during the day that we get to interact without kids or other engagements. This is our only time for closeness and relationship building. We prioritize this time and take ownership to ensure that our bond stays strong as iron to protect us from the challenges of the day. She is also a bit more of a night owl than i am and is more inclined to stay up later, while i am more inclined to wake up early. But it is hard for her as well, she is extremely tired from chasing kids all day long and picking up after her husband. It takes mental focus and discipline for us to stay up and engage in these discussions. We prioritize this time because it is cornerstone to everything else we do. Our connection translates into the rest of our being.


I am not perfect. These practices are hard. I often get frustrated and have a bad attitude. I often prioritize my work over my family. But i strive to get better at it everyday. It is the most important goal in my life, to love my family. It will always be.

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