At least it won’t be for a lack of

Despite our best efforts, there is no guarantee results will go our way. But, focusing on process and letting go of the results is generally easier in theory than practice.

A practice I’ve found helpful is to commit to what I expect from myself as part of doing my best. And, the phrase that helps me make that commitment is “At least it won’t be for a lack of…”

For example, I approach most difficult situations with – “At least it won’t be for a lack of positivity, thoughtfulness, and a focus on learning.” Or, as a parent, “At least it won’t be for a lack of thought, kisses, and dancing.”

Framing it in this manner takes a lot of the pressure off the inevitable mistakes. It helps define simple cultural norms that in turn define how we approach what we do – i.e. our process. As long as we are thoughtful and learning focused, it will only take a while before our process becomes a good process.

And, in the long run, good results follow good processes.

2 kids under 2

The wonderful thing about the internet is that you get to learn from the many who’ve gone through experiences that are very similar to you. As we prepared for having 2 kids under 2 years, we knew what to expect. Or, at least we told ourselves we did. I have three reflections about my experience so far.

First, the best word that describes our reality right now is “cranking.” We are on – from morning to evening to night and from weekday to weekend. It is exhausting but being exhausted isn’t really an option when you have an energetic 21 month old. Our next break is when our parents visit end of the year. And, we dream of going over to our friend’s places on weekends, handing over our kids to them, and going to sleep. :-)

Second, someone I know made an insightful comment about the 2 young kid challenge. He described the effort as “exponentially hard (compared to having 1 kid) until you see economies of scale, i.e., when they start playing with each other.” That feels accurate. We’re roughly a year away from that.

And, finally, there’s a quote about a sense of humor being a major help in dispensing with minor troubles. That is so true. Humor helps keep these first world problems in perspective and reminds us to be grateful for all the blessings – and there are many. We frequently find ourselves reflecting on how challenging this journey would be if we didn’t laugh as much we did.

But, we do. And, I’m grateful for that.

The pat routine

The period between the first and second years of a child involves a collection of leaps that all add up to a transformation. They go from mostly helpless babies to walking, babbling, little human beings. As witness to this transformation, I find myself frequently blown away by how much they learn by observation. For example, when we run out of ideas, we ask our 21 month old to put us to sleep – this, in turn, involves getting the “pat routine” going.

The pat routine is part of the final few minutes before she heads to bed at night. We take turns to pat her for 30 – 60 seconds each before leaving the room. As part of her re-enactment of our pat routine, she does a play-by-play of every detail. This includes quirks involving how we pat her, what we say before and after, and the time we take to do it.

Whenever I see her do this, I’m reminded of just how much learning is done by watching what we do versus listening to what we say. She still listens to what we say – most of the time – but she watches what we do all the time.

I noticed similar patterns in my own behavior recently. I was listening to someone speak and felt my eyes glazing over. But, later that day, I saw the same person do something that I paid a lot of attention to. They were simply doing what they said earlier – but, the doing caught my attention in a way the talking couldn’t.

So, it isn’t a “child thing.” Or, rather, it shouldn’t be. I’ve had some expensive life lessons in emotional intelligence where I paid far too much attention to what someone said instead of watching what they did. In making these mistakes, I clearly un-learned stuff I’d known by instinct in my early years. Kids get learning-by-observation right from the start. It is just on us as parents to make sure we’re walking our talk.

And, that applies just as well to us as leaders/teammates/human beings.

PS: I thought I’d share a ~40 min podcast with Paul on his “Think Boundless” podcast a few months back. We spoke about this blog, riffed on the future of work, and many lessons learned on a variety of topics including parenting. It is here – if you do take the time to check it out, do send me notes/feedback on rohan [at] or by replying to this email if you receive this by email.

Dancing in the parking lot

As I was dropping my daughter off at pre-school a few days back, she insisted she wanted to listen to one more song.

So, we turned the car’s audio system back on and listened to that one more song. While we were at it, we thought it was worth doing a small dance in the parking lot.

And, so, we did. It was awesome.

As we go through life, it becomes easy to lose the ability to capture moments like these. We can always find ourselves in a hurry – always rushed, always late. We can become inflexible. And, far too often, we can even find ourselves giving weight to what others around us would think.

I’d like to think of myself as someone who’d have done that jig in the parking lot at any time. But, it is likely that my ability to be open to such moments has gone up since I’ve become a parent. Kids couldn’t give a damn about destinations or what others around them think – they’re all about the journey and making the current moment count.

As a result, I’m learning to focus a lot more on the journey and the current moment than I used to.

And, I’m grateful for that.

Entertainment on the cheap

I hung out with my daughter for about an hour today while she happily ran up and down carpeted stairs. We conversed a bit, sang a bit, and mostly just went up and down those stairs. Times like this are a great reminder that there’s so much entertainment available on the cheap.

As we journey through life, we get exposed to many forms of expensive entertainment – fancy gadgets, expensive sports, and so on. And, while many of these are great, it is easy to forget how little it actually takes for us to have a good time.

As I was taught this morning, a combination of some physical activity, outdoors or a bit of novelty in the location (in this case, carpeted stairs), and folks you like hanging out with is all it takes for a good time.

I wish you plenty of that over the weekend. :-)

Fire and fire

A required skill as a parent of a toddler is an ability to cycle through diaper changes with minimum fuss. Sometimes, these end up being a joy because your toddler is willing to humor you. But, the real test is how you respond when they decide to fight it. How do you respond when faced with fire?

My natural reaction is to face fire with fire and just insist she gets it done. But, as you can imagine, this doesn’t sit well with her. Besides, as she grows bigger and stronger, it is evident that it isn’t a winning strategy anyway.

The trick with influencing kids is to be adept at distracting them. That doesn’t come naturally to me. So, I frequently find myself starting with the forceful reaction and then changing course. This morning, I managed an abrupt transition from “C’mon – just get this done already” to a song that worked like a charm.

I first came across the quote “when tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department uses water” seven years ago. It is incredibly relevant to me and is one I think about every time I feel I reacted inappropriately to conflict. The challenge with changing your default reactions is that it isn’t easy to “practice” these responses easily. And, without practice, you don’t ever really learn to change that behavior.

But, thanks to these diaper changes, I have an opportunity to work on this every day.

Here’s to getting better.

1 to 2 and 3 to 4

We welcomed our second baby a week and a half ago. I thought of the three things that I expect to happen this morning.

First, I expect to learn a ton about myself as I adapt and change how I operate. I expect to struggle through the process of more developing more flexibility and more patience while understanding how and why I make decisions the way I do. It will be a fascinating process.

Second, I expect to understand and appreciate the sheer magnitude of my wife’s contributions to this partnership a bit better. Research has shown that we all like to think of ourselves as above average contributors. While I know I’m not above average in this partnership, I expect to learn I’m likely still overestimating. We’re now at eleven years since our first date and approaching five years married – we’ve both learnt a ton about what it takes to be good partners. I don’t write enough about the importance of marrying a true partner as we’re both pretty private and wouldn’t want this blog to start having frequent public displays of affection. I slip every once a while. It is hard not to as she is a true, un-credited, co-author.

Finally, I hope to re-commit to Kahlil Gibran’s profound passage – “On Children.” It is our aspirational parental philosophy.

On Children by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Our son’s name is “Ved” (pronounced “bathe” with a v). It means knowledge. It felt fitting…