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NOTE: Before I continue, while I use masculine pronouns, this in no way means I’m automatically referring to men unless explicitly done so. These days, with all the sensitive people, one must be extra politically correct. (I’m mocking political correctness, in case my sarcasm is missed, as happens many times in writing.)
Also, because quite a few people got offended with the directness of my post on Getting a Life (as I thought would happen), I’ve decided to make these posts more about “How I went about things” and “How I would do / redo things”. If you don’t like what you’re reading, just leave the site. No need to whine little boy / little girl.
This morning, May 1, Labor Day, a holiday, I woke up at 6am, a little later than usual, to go through the events of the day. With the office closed, I set aside time to do a lot of catching up, particularly with my fitness goals, work priorities which include our upcoming investment round and board meeting, a moment to connect with new friends (Yasmin and I have been trying to spend more time with older couples), and some “home work”. There’s a lot of literal homework going on as we prepare for our baby, a son, for those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook or Instagram. We’re moving things, packing things, selling and giving things, as we make space for another human. I also wanted to continue on a painting I started but I simply don’t have time today. After devotions and before going to the gym, I wanted some time to write this piece on embracing one’s role. Needless to say, I have a very packed “free day”, and that’s not a bad thing. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have anything to do, when waking up early was not an option, and it’s not because I have people breathing down my neck, but because of two words: Roles and Responsibilities.
A person who “has a life” embaces his roles and understands his responsibilities.
Let’s start with Roles
At the start of this year, I made a mind map of my priorities for the year. I didn’t start with “What do I want to do?” or “What’s my passion project for 2017?”, but a simple listing down of what my roles are. When I was a child, my role was very undefined and limited to mostly playing and hopefully behaving. When I became a student, that became my defining role, and with it came responsibilities such as learning and getting good grades. When I got to college, along with the continuing responsibilities of a student, I also could fulfill other roles that opened up as my abilities improved. For example, since I could drive already, I could go to the store and pick things up for my parents. I also started my first “business” when I was 16 (if you could call it that), and with the new role, again, I had new responsibilities to customers and suppliers. When I graduated and started working with Dr. Joey Castro, the founder of the Real LIFE Foundation, I added the role of Executive Director for a very small salary, which my dad explained to me, came with the role of being in a startup program. After this, when I took over an ailing company, I took on a CEO role, which sounds more impressive that it really was because the company was hemorrhaging cash. It’s in this period that I learned NOT to put too much emphasis on the title but on the requirements and responsibilities of the role. For me, during that period, I needed to stabilize cash flow, reduce expenses, and pay of debt. I wasn’t a CEO on a private jet. I was a CEO using public transportation because the role I was in needed a level of frugality to keep us alive. I would take on more business and non-profit roles, requiring different behaviors, different skills, and bringing different responsibilities. Some were fun immediately fun and rewarding, others have been a continuous slog, but all have been contributive in their own way.
These days, I am now having to integrate two very important, in fact, most important, roles to an already busy life: Husband and Father. They’re not easy because these roles are highly emotional and require more than discipline and efficiency. They require patience, kindness, generosity, humility, selflessness, gentleness, politeness, truthfulness, or in short, in requires love. Nothing has shown me how selfish and unloving I can be than having to live with someone – for the rest of my life. I’m glad I married Yasmin, who is not just extremely beautiful, but loving, kind hearted, funny, and can cook! The thought of ending up with someone horrible sends shivers down my spine. I’m glad that I’m adjusting to this new role with someone as patient as Yasmin. In a week’s time, May 7, we would have been married for 1 year. I marveled at how fast time flew. My friends marveled at how Yasmin was able to take me for a year. I marvel at that too.
Because it hasn’t been an easy adjustment for me. It must have been extremely difficult for Yasmin to adjust to me. Our friend, Jay Rod, commented yesterday, “I spent the afternoon with David and Yasmin, and David is really tiring.” I have to admit that I can be. It’s the problem with intensity and energy are mixed together in one person, that helps a lot at work, but it’s something that needs better management now that I’m married. I have a different role with Yasmin, and I need to adjust. This role doesn’t require me to hit sales targets. It requires that I make Yasmin feel loved. This is harder than it sounds because “feeling loved” isn’t a measurable thing. Sometimes I wish someone would invent an objective measure of love, but then love would lose its dynamism. I’m learning that fulfillment in a relationship is not something you can copy off a book or Instragram (this part I knew at least), but something two people have to calibrate, something two people have to learn when they vow to take on the roles of husband and wife.
And now, I’m going to be a father. I’m both excited and terrified. The stakes with this one are so high. Parenting is the greatest role on Earth, and I’m happy I get to fulfill the part with the most beautiful person in the world. I’ve been reading books and articles on parenting, on baby formation, on pregnancies, on the meaning of names, on baby stuff, on early childhood development. I’ve been running the numbers on how much it’s going to cost. (How does such a tiny thing cost so much???!!!) It’s yet another role I need to play. Maybe play is the wrong word, when the roles I’m talking about, particularly the roles of husband and father, are incredibly serious.
The next part of this series talks about the Responsibilities that come with our life’s Roles, but for now I have a simple point: All of us has a role, a part to play. They start very small and simple. For some of us, it’s to be a great student. It’s to take each class seriously. It’s to help around the house. For some of us, it’s that and to put our siblings to school because of a financial difficulty. For others, it’s to babysit, it’s to work summer jobs, and it’s to ace night school. For some of us, it’s to save a family business, or find a job, or keep a job. For some of us it’s to come up with killer marketing campaigns, it’s to design websites, and sell products. For some of us it’s to manage the accounts, it’s to make sure recruitment is working, or security is tight. For some of us, it’s to help our teams win, to stay fit, to practice. Everyone has different roles, that while similar to others, are different depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. I had to take on a tough business role at a young age. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t lucrative. It wasn’t fair. But it the role required filling, and I filled it.
When I look at the most secure people I know, when I look at the most impressive people I know, I find that the security wasn’t some natural or magical endowment, but rather an achievement that came from embracing the role presented to them that needed filling. Too many people are looking for that thing they love to get their life going when there’s a family at home that requires a helping hand, an encouraging member, and source of joy, there’s a piece of homework that needs excellence, a lecture that needs mastering, and an objective that needs achieving. People are always looking at some future opportunity, some lottery win, or praying for some open door, when a door was flung wide open, and the path made so clear the day they were born. All they need to do is to embrace what they have now and commit to executing even the most simple roles in most excellent ways.