Yes, so I have a son.
While you rarely see many mums and dads on a university campus in the UK, it’s apparently quite a common sight in Iceland:
“…in Iceland, even at the business-oriented Reykjavik University, it is not only common to see pregnant girls in the student cafeteria, you see them breast-feeding, too. ‘You extend your studies by a year, so what?’ said Oddny. ‘No way do you think when you have a kid at 22, “Oh my God, my life is over!” Definitely not! It is considered stupid here to wait till 38 to have a child. We think it’s healthy to have lots of kids. All babies are welcome.'” – From The Observer Magazine, May 18th 2008
Anyway, I wanted to impart some of my findings over the last couple of weeks in which I have been a father.
It’s funny how much goodness you can take away from a tiny little human being that isn’t able to do much yet:
1. Focus Focus Focus – A baby doesn’t know what is going on when it is first born. The child could hit itself on the head with their arm, but they haven’t got any concept that it was their own arm. Or their head, for that matter.
Yet despite this lack of self, babies love to look around and see the bold shapes around them, the light and dark. They like to hear new noises, as well as familiar ones, like Mum’s voice.
Babies focus so intently that they put us adults to shame. All a newborn can see is a haze of shapes, simple colours and light. It’s a confusion of newness. Yet they take every last drop of information in with such deliberate regard that it should make every one of us consider just how much we are focusing on our goals ourselves.
2. Specialise – When a baby is born, it does pretty much three things:
There’s not too much confusion over that. So they do very well at achieving these goals. And if they don’t get it, they scream and cry until they DO get it.
Now don’t get any ideas and start thinking it’s okay to demand the world of everyone you know. And don’t imagine you can get by with just eating, sleeping and pooping. But let it be a reminder that we can get a lot out of life when we specialise.
There is a reason for the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”. When too many ideas occupy our time we suffer. We stand by a crowd of signposts, but have no vehicle to get us anywhere fast.
As a child grows up, it still specialises. Have you seen how children can spend countless hours on something they enjoy? Everything else around that child can fade into insignificance as far as they’re concerned.
Stick to a few passions and let go of the unnecessary clutter around us. It may be fun, but is it truly worthwhile to us?
3. Concentrate – There’s no point doing anything by halves. With a baby, you can’t just put it down and leave it until later. When you have an issue with a son or daughter, you have to act on the situation right then.
There’s no time to procrastinate with a child. You just have to get on with it, whether you like it or not.
And parents all over the world do just that. If it’s possible for most of us to care for a totally dependent being, surely anything is possible!
4. Treat every moment as special – Through the crying and the sleepless nights, there are magic moments all the way down the line. In the short amount of time Rowan has been in the world, I have melted many times each day at the wonderful things he does. And in a couple of months he’ll give his first smiles. And after that, his first chuckles. And then he’ll be crawling around like a pro. Then walking. Then breaking lots of things that I should have put away if I’d been thinking about it…
When I was studying at university, my main reason for success and happiness was almost certainly because I chose to treat every moment as a special moment. I had a limited amount of time to experience as much as possible. There wouldn’t be enough time to do it all, so I didn’t want to waste a single moment, or I’d miss out on even more.
My son has brought that back to the forefront of my mind. I can’t ask him to wait until he’s five before he starts smiling. I can’t pause his growth so he starts walking when it’s more convenient to me. So I have to use the rules of time so they benefit me as best as possible.
Time isn’t going to work for us. We have to find ways to work with time. When we understand that, everything else can fall into place.
5. You can always manage your time better – I’ve now spent over a fortnight away from the life I used to lead. There was clearly a lot to catch up on.
So I managed my time better by:
- Focusing on only the most important goals and needs;
- Intensifying the desired results (while making sure they were defined and achievable);
- Considered how many times I performed a task each day…In three dedicated 2-hour periods, I cleared my 3-week backlog of reading, even though I usually spent 2 hours each day on a rolling basis.
I changed the goalposts, because I was the only person able to make that change.
6. Life isn’t predictable, so don’t treat it as a static timeline – Baby is dependent on Mum and Dad. Mum and Dad don’t know what’s going to happen at any given point in the day. They can make plans, write lists, organise events, and so on, but they can’t be certain of anything one hundred percent.
Don’t wait until you’re forced into realising how unpredictable life can be. Just grab life by the balls horns and enjoy the ride. You don’t know the outcome, so go for it. And if you graze your knees at some point, pick yourself up, dust yourself down, put on a plaster and get back to life as soon as you can.
7. Never give up – Rowan certainly doesn’t give up. If he needs something, he’ll persist until he gets it. And he manages to do this without the ability to speak, or walk, or do almost anything!
Too often, we let vague nonsense trouble us and we obsess over every last plan. After all that worry, even a simple task can look like a mountain of doom and we stop bothering.
Those who succeed have a passion and they don’t let failure get in the way. To fail is simply to not yet reach an intended goal. Why should that stop you from trying again, this time faced with a little more wisdom than that last time?
To elaborate on this final point, I notice that Cal at Study Hacks has just given some wise words regarding life and career passions. While you might not have realised those passions yet, it shouldn’t stop you from being passionate on a micro level. My son doesn’t have a passion that’s about to form a career at 2-weeks old, but he’s passionate about getting what he wants in order to succeed…trust me, when he wants something, his little lungs could stop a city in its tracks!