I have had the privilege and pleasure of mentoring two professionals recently. One approached me directly a couple of weeks ago. He has followed me on LinkedIn after attending one of my presentations at LFNW about 10 years ago. Another is a peer who has been struggling with motivation and health. They both surprised me, as wellness, health, and motivation are not subjects I normally mentor on. I have publically spoken in the past about it but it is rare. The majority of people seem more interested in my PostgreSQL or Open Source insights.
Both had different reasons for reaching out to me. The peer reached out for my help due to my transparency of my recent health struggles and accomplishments. The other because of what I post on LinkedIN and was curious how I wasn’t burnt out with the constant drain that is the world of tech. I identify with both of these individuals; both are smart, driven to improve, and want to perform at a higher level. They also want to be healthy, have a better life in general, and figure out how to take those steps.
Of particular interest to me was that both had one thing in common: they wanted to hear the problems and solutions from another man. I quote the peer, “You should be a motivational speaker for nerds” and the attendee at one of my presentations (paraphrased), “This isn’t anything I didn’t know, but it is good to hear it from another man.” Affirmation and re-framing your mindset is powerful.
Asking the important question
I approached both men in a similar fashion, largely because both gentlemen were technical. I first asked them what they wanted to achieve, what their concerns with the current life were, and how I could help. Without getting into too much detail, I will offer two of the most impactful questions that I asked each:
- Are you the person you want your children to grow up to be?
- Are you the husband you want to be?
These are questions that were recently posed to me indirectly and they were important enough for me to consider them myself. For many it is easy to give up on oneself; it is entirely another when you take into account those you care the most about.
Are you the person you want your children to grow up to be
This is a difficult question. In my mind, the answer to this question should not be a yes. It should be, “I am trying to be,” “I am working on it,” or “No.” We all have room for improvement and that improvement takes constant work. As a father we should always work to be better for our children. Our children will recognize those efforts. They will remember the time when you stopped being frustrated and instead took a breath; that moment you didn’t raise your voice and instead counted to three. They will also forever remember the fact that when they walked in the room and asked for your attention, you paused what you were doing and gave them the attention they desired. They will remember that when Mom and Dad argued, they argued with love.
Are you the husband you want to be?
I certainly am not. That isn’t to say I don’t try. I have bent, broke, fell, smacked my head, cursed God and drank entirely too much whisky more than once trying to learn to be the husband my wife deserves. I recommend listening. I recommend not trying to fix it. I recommend that you remember that the husband you are, is the husband your son will emulate and your daughter will look for in her future partner. So don’t be afraid to bend, break, fall, or smack your head. Feel free to curse God, God can handle it. Do the work you have to do to allow yourself to improve because your wife deserves it.
As technical people we deal with complex failures daily. A bug in a piece of software, a badly written function, or a fat finger that disables the network remotely instead of restarting Sendmail (did that one myself decades ago). None of these are failures; they are opportunities for improvement. You fix one bug, the next appears. Did you fail? No, you fixed one bug which gives you the opportunity to fix the next one. Failure is a dangerous word and why re-framing is important. Did you learn from the mistake? Then it isn’t a failure. Did you make the best of a situation and improve the end result? Then it isn’t a failure.
Don’t be the Titanic
I consider the time I had with these two people to be a gift. They allowed me to consider myself in ways that I haven’t before, to reflect on my mistakes and my opportunities. I work every day to be better. I fall, stumble, climb, hurt, and most importantly I learn. My recommendation to you: don’t let life become your iceberg. You may not be able to steer the ship, but you do have the power to choose how you respond to it.