But is it realty different than monitoring your child’s whereabouts using a smartphone app? or walking descretly after them to make sure they’ve arrived at school or friend place safely?
I think that for the first time ever in our history the technology is catching up with parental paranoia and providing means for parents to monitor their child’s location and activities. and it makes sense, because the world we now live is has also changed. when I was a little boy I would run without adult supervision around our house (which was in a small, quaint street with almost no traffic), but now as I live a big city I will never allow my own kids to do the same. When I grew up we were gone for hours and only came home for dinner or when it was too dark to play outside. can you imagine your kid running off somewhere, with no cellphone where you can reach him at any time? sounds so irresponsible, but our parents never had any other option so they simply didn’t bother with monitoring our activities- which, for a parent in 2015 seem almost negligent.
As a father of 2 girls I have no idea what I will do the day the insist on walking to school alone.
Hopefully by then technology will evolve to an extant where I could simply track their whereabouts by monitoring their smartwatch location. I also hope the public perception of such “monitoring” will also change, making me simply a regular embarrassing dad…
Looking at my elder daughter (almost 2.5 years old) play is an amazing experience. She can be completely absorbed by something- like changing the clothes of her doll, or arranging a party for all the stuffed animals, and in a second she would lose interest, jump to another completely different activity and focus on it. And do it again in 3-4 minutes. And again…
We tend to think of ourselves as capable multitaskers – we all do so many different things throughout the day, mostly in parallel. Who hasn’t talked on the phone while checking emails, surfing the web or updating his social media status? Even at home we jump from one activity to another, always juggling. We tend to look down at youngling and their inability to perform multiple tasks in parallel coupled but what we perceive as incredibly short attention span (why can’t they sit still for more than 5 minutes?).
But truth is we’ve got this all wrong. True- kids don’t multi task, at least not in the way grown ups do. They focus on one activity, and one activity only, complete it (or lose interest) and move on. So while they don’t perform several activities at once, they have the ability to concentrate to an extreme on the single activity they are engage with now. And they achieve this extreme concentration very rapidly, almost instantly.
And this is what we’ve lost in our race towards multi-tasking. It is true we are required to perform many activities at the same time, some of which were inconceivable until very recently (driving and texting a friend half a world away for example). But what we find more difficult to do is concentrate on the task at hand.
Take writing this blog post for instance. I’ve started by opening a new word document, than wrote the first paragraph, then an email notification appeared so I’ve checked that email, my phone buzzed so I read some Whatsapp correspondence, I looked up an image for this piece so I got stuck on google image search for a while. By the time I’ve got back to the document I’ve lost my train of thought and had to stare at the screen for several minutes just to remember what it was I wanted to write.
And this process is both time consuming and mentally draining- it is said that as adults we need about 15-20 minutes to achieve full concentration. Any disturbance throws us back at square one. When it comes to creative work it’s even more extreme- some demand absolute solitude an quite in order to be able to create.
But kids? All they need is 10 seconds of playing with something new and they are fully absorbed, to the degree they can’t even hear you when you call them. And what seems to us as short attention span is simply a result of their intensity- they invest so much mental and physical energy into their endeavor that after what seems to us like a short time (which could be very long for them) they are over it and ready to move to the next one.
Us adults? We just thing we are doing many things in parallel, but in fact we are no better- simply jumping from one activity to another and by the end of the day we are surprised at how tired we are and how little we’ve accomplished (mostly the mundane tasks, which are in essence maintenance activities, nothing more).
So when people brag about their ability to multitask, I just smile and think of my kid playing at home. I Wish I could be more like her and be able to gain immediate focus at the task in front of me. But since I’ve lost this ability I’ve had to learn ways to focus on the activity I’m trying to complete- from removing all nuisances, to working in very late or early hours of the day (when there’s little distractions).
But the most important thing I’ve learned from her is that you simply can’t force it- if she’s not interested in doing something she simply won’t commit to it. Similarly I’ve learned that I can’t force myself into focusing on creative activities (like writing)- I need to grab the inspiration when it hits me and try to use it there and then.
And I don’t bother about multitasking anymore. I know it’s futile. I rather do 3-4 things well during the day than finish with the feeling of exhaustion and frustration of having accomplished nothing. And if I have some spare time, I’ll go and watch my daughter play. It is inspiring on a parental and a professional way.
My second daughter is due any day now. I am both thrilled and terrified. I know this would have a profound impact on my quality of life, work productivity, relationships with my wife and friends… just about anything.
And I know it’s not going to be easy. Anyone around tells me that. Some with a grim smile only veteran, sleep- deprived parents has.
But other than the fact that the next couple of months, maybe even years (and this does put everything in a longer- range perspective, as I wrote about before https://owntrepreneurship.com/2015/03/30/the-benefits-of-long-term-thinking-and-decision-making/) would be challenging, the fact is that this joyous event is also a great motivator. When I look at my daughter (2.5 years old, smart as hell) today I can help but wonder- Would she be proud of me when she’s older? I’m doing enough to make her life better? Am I doing enough to make her world better? This internal discussion keeps me extremely motivated- and that’s a must, because since she was born my life has turned into a rollercoaster of sleepless nights, doctors’ visits, joy, fear and fatigue. Without this motivation it simply not be possible for me to create any momentum in my life and career, and I would be stuck in the same place. But I have decided not to let this stop. Au contraire, the last years’ have been some of the most productive, exciting years of my career- I’ve switched 3 jobs, was involved in the founding of 2 companies, built and launch 2 new brands and have grown personally and professionally. I’m mostly tired yet energized in ways I never thought possible.
So how do you channel this newborn energy into career advancement and personal growth? Start with the simple, tangible things. Ask yourself if your current and future income would suffice to support your family? Would it allow you to take your kids to the vacation you always wanted? If not, it’s time to think in economic terms and see how this can be achieved (we are putting a small amount of money away every months, to be used for a Safari trip when my elder turns 12).
But the real motivation comes when you consider the less tangible things- like making your kids proud.
I have no idea if my daughters will be proud of me. The only benchmark I have is that I great pride in what my parents and grandparents did: start a company, build a new school, and manage a hospital.
And since I’ve accomplished nothing of the above so far I know that at the bear minimum I need create some legacy they will be able to proud of- like building a company, writing a book (or blog!) or develop a new product that will improve the world somehow. And I intend to that (haven’t decided exactly what it will be yet).
So while I recognize the birth of my second kid will have an immediate impact (like a meteor crash!) on my life, I also know there is not a single thing in this world which will provide me with more motivation to fuel my career.
Our society and culture praises entrepreneurs- Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg. All people who risked a lot to start their own business and have had a profound impact on the way we work, play and interact with others. They have also gathered some immense fortunes for themselves in the process, and thus embody the spirit of the American dream. But looking at these inspiring figures can be daunting- these are all obviously extremely smart people, exceptionally focused and with seamlessly endless drive to achieve their goals. When they started their respective ventured they were also very young (not to mention male, American and white)- So it’s easy to compare oneself with one of these giants and come to the conclusion that we mortals are not like them. You and I are simple (erase the irrelevant) too old, tired/live in the wrong geography/ lack the ambition to be independent employees or company owners/ have a mortgage/too busy raising kids/ lack access to funding/ born in the wrong age etc.
And these are not simply excuses. There’s a good explanation for the fact that most successful entrepreneurs are young American males from high socio-economic status. Older, poorer people living out of America (or any other place where there’s a startup culture) have much to lose if they quit their jobs and become full time entrepreneurs. And even for people who actually take the plunge the chances of failure are staggering- most startups/ new businesses would fail, according to statistics.
So most of us just stick to what we do, dream about becoming an entrepreneur but rarely do something about this. And feel bad about it.
We shouldn’t. Entrepreneurship is not suited for most people, and most will fail or will be miserable pursuing the big time startup/ exit dream.
But that does not mean we have to be another cog in the corporate machine. People working within organizations of every size, from tiny to global, can do wonderful things, feel professionally and personally satisfied and leave their mark. The trick is to adapt an Entrepreneurship-like mentality, what I call owntrepreneurship. If you think of your job as part of your career, and treat it the same way an entrepreneur treats his venture, you will feel the immediate impact and positive change.
You don’t believe me? Just look around you. In any organization you’ve ever been a part of, there were always some individual who seemed to be “above it all”. They have the freedom to set their own schedule, choose the task they find interesting and are respected by their peers and superiors alike. They are owntrepreneurs. They treat their day jobs as part of their career, as part of their venture. Other take note and provide these individuals with unique opportunities, not available to the “regular” employees. Once they excel at these opportunities they earn the respect, material compensation and promotion to a senior position, where this process repeats itself. They don’t do so by thrashing others or engaging in office politics (although some political maneuvering is unavoidable in large corporate environment, but that does not make it morally wrong). They focus their efforts on advancing their career and usually their environment recognizes and rewards that.
I have made a list of things that an owntrepreneur needs to keep in mind. I call it the owntrepreneur framework. You can find it here:
In following blog posts I will begin to explore each of these ideas and explain how anyone can employ these idea in almost every conceivable work environment- starting from the most rigid (military service) to the more loose and dynamic ones (self-employment/ startup). This is derived strictly from my own experience (and others close to me, and others I will quote…) and is meant simply as a recommendation, and not a checklist of sorts.
I do hope you join me for this journey and enjoy the ride!
The owntrepreneurship blog has just finished its first full month since I’ve gone live towards the end of February 2015!
During this time over 200 people have visited the site and read the various posts and sections (most of them read 2 or more sections or posts).
If you’re reading this- know that I’m deeply honored to share my thoughts with you and I hope you enjoy reading about my ideas and experiences. Any feedback would be very much appreciated (that’s what the comment bottom is for…)
I can safely say the hardest part is behind me- the challenge of actually starting a new venture and being diligent enough to keep it alive.
Now the real challenge begins- I need to keep this blog alive, and to create and maintain momentum. With my second daughter due in about two weeks AND some major obligations at work the month ahead of me is not going to be easy, But I look forward to tackling this challenge head on. After all- it is my choice to go down this path- only I can sustain it and I’m the only one who will lose if I fail.
So I’m making a promise to myself and my (still too few) readers- I will publish a post at least once every 10 days. This is something I hope I can withhold and should be enough to carry me through the intense months ahead.
Thanks again for joining me on my journey! I promise to update regarding the exciting events that are expected to occur this month.