Parenting and entrepreneurship are not that different from one another. Both pursuits are thoroughly immersive, deeply consuming and relentlessly demanding. In my experience, both are also profoundly meaningful, acutely joyful, and boundlessly rewarding.
Parenthood and entrepreneurship are relentlessly demanding and boundlessly rewarding. Tweet This Quote
I became an entrepreneur years before I became a parent. No doubt, my experiences as an entrepreneur have influenced my parenting style and my experience of motherhood. Above all, though, parenting my daughter, Florence, has impacted the way I do business, my leadership style, and my identity as an entrepreneur.
For the sake of simplicity, I can sum up the influence of motherhood on my experience of entrepreneurship with these 3 Ps of parenthood: patience, perspective and poop.
Things take as long as they take. Accepting this as fact is probably the most valuable resource in the long run. The more I acknowledge this, the more it becomes a super power of effectiveness, efficiency and competence.
Becoming ruffled, desperate and impatient does not speed up a process, and can in fact prolong it. Tweet This Quote
At some pre-child point in my life, it was possible to do something simple like leave the house. Now, I understand this to be a process that can take an unbounded amount of time for no sensible reason. Becoming ruffled, desperate and impatient does not speed up the process, and can in fact prolong it. This doesn’t mean it’s not required to develop a clear command of situations; it means it’s often not helpful to want things to be different than they actually are. Do one thing at a time, and then move on to the next thing.
The same applies to business. Having a vision for the future is essential, but it is imperative to deal with what is happening right now in the moment. We must give whatever project we are working on our full attention, without sweating a timeline or trying to accurately predict when we will finish. It will take as long as it takes.
Having a vision for the future is essential, but it’s imperative to deal with what’s happening in the moment. Tweet This Quote
As I’ve heard is the most commonplace experience of becoming a parent (and what is probably the single most salient factor in the survival of the human species), once I gave birth to my daughter, nothing else was as important to me than her wellbeing. Suddenly, previously critical elements of my day-to-day life—the particulars of various relationships, ideas I had about who I was as a person, my need for sleep, my need for accomplishment, etc.—proved to be a whole set of relatively inconsequential dramas.
Being an effective entrepreneur means figuring out what’s really important, then releasing everything else from our grip of compulsive attention. Tweet This Quote
Now, keeping a child alive and healthy, and eventually rearing that child as a kind and resourced person, always takes precedence. This puts the rest into perspective. My sense is there are few things that are absolute. This makes all of the day-to-day minutae we all combat very relative. This is pretty straightforward in parenthood.
In business, it sometimes feels more ambiguous, but what I’ve learned is most things are not that important. There are a few things that are really important, and everything else is part of the overall picture, but not essential to it. It’s about seeing the forest and not getting lost amongst the trees. Part of our effectiveness as entrepreneurs comes from figuring out what those really important things are and releasing everything else from our grip of compulsive attention. Very few things are a matter of life and death—if they’re not, don’t pretend they are.
Poop happens. It happens every day, and sometimes a few times a day. It stinks, it’s messy, and it needs to be cleaned up right away so it doesn’t cause a rash or another unfortunate mishap. Complaining about it or ignoring it is both useless and makes things worse. However, if poop didn’t happen, we would be in trouble. Instead, regard it as a sign of health, and deal with it quickly and straightforwardly.
Very few things are a matter of life and death—if they’re not, don’t pretend they are. Tweet This Quote
In business, the poop looks like any of the things I’d rather not get my hands dirty with on any given day. Sometimes it’s boring day-to-day operations or human error glitches that need fixing; sometimes it’s monotonous or difficult emails/calls/conversations, bureaucratic tangles, or relationships that need extra tending to. All of these are a natural part of the digestive system of a healthy business. By themselves, they are no big deal, but if they go unaddressed, they can cause a big mess and make things unnecessarily uncomfortable. Handling little messes quickly keeps them from turning into big, sticky ones.
These are three of the indispensable lessons parenthood has taught me about entrepreneurship. Perhaps the most valuable one, though, is about being grateful. The inconceivably good fortune I have to be Florence’s mother reminds me daily not to take anything for granted. Everything is fleeting, and nothing is permanent. It reminds me to enjoy myself, retain a sense of humor, put all of my energy and willpower into everything I do—and not take any of it too seriously. As in parenthood, so as in business and life.