When we had our first son three years ago I decided to design a lifestyle around him and not around a workplace. I was in a really good position to do this, having grown up in Scandinavia where today 85% of all Dads are staying home with their kids during their first years.
I was also fortunate to have started working in the Internet space since the early days back in mid-90s; quickly learning how to collaborate in networks and use technology in a mindful way. But also realizing that work-life balance is an evil myth, neither works or exists.
In addition, I had the great fortune to re-connect with simplicity during a 12-month voluntary break between my long stint at Yahoo! that ended in 2005 and my following gig at Blurb. During these 12-months my wife and I traveled in short bursts to Europe and South America and re-learned how to bootstrap, innovate and design our own daily lifestyle.
When we came home from those trips we began what would be our last employments – at Wired and Blurb respectively. Two amazing places but the urge to explore the life of total responsibility and self-reliance and enjoy the freedoms if successful just grew to strong too ignore.
Our simple lives were perfect for a new kind of personal entrepreneurship where family matters the most; bootstrapped but value-focused, independent but networked, playful but professional. We wanted to take everything we had learned about how technology is changing the world to change our very own, for the better and rethink family life.
So like anyone starting with a blank canvas we experimented, failed and discovered. We became or own prototypes, learning by doing everyday. Our core value maintained: Family First. It’s a fantastic creative constraint that reshapes why, what, how and when you make what to sell to the world.
I discovered that early mornings, between 5 and 7, were perfect for reading, thinking and exploring. When our son woke up, I had already started my mind in a very positive way, giving it fuel and focus. Something that stuck with me for the rest of the day. When he took his daily naps, I grabbed my iPad and started producing content or communicating with collaborators.
I learned that I could “work” 4 hours per day instead of the regular 8-10 hours as I had gotten rid of wasteful commuting, meaningless meetings, mindless social networking, useless emails and all things advertising or broadcast media. By saying No to always being accessible, reachable by phone, available for conference calls I liberated my mind and time to focus on creating real, monetizable value for my strategic partners.
By no means was this easy but it has become easier. I still have to make people understand why meetings or emails should be short or not at all, why meeting up once in a while IRL is much more important and effective, why making a draft or prototype is more important that talking. But the cool thing is that today I’m in a really great place.
I created a life where I – as a man – “leaned in” to paraphrase a now much talked about book, into a traditionally woman lead world to claim my right to spend equal time and deliver equal value as a parent. It has made me a softer and more patient person but more importantly my relationship with my kids is fantastic.
I’ve also created time for myself and for the projects I love. They are always in the back of my mind but I’ve learned that the best ideas and solutions come when I relax and play with the kids. I’ve improved my focus and attention and can make decisions really quickly and with good enough quality when it matters. I’ve also learned to only collaborate with open, smart and nice people and organizations that have heart, mind and soul. Sounds like a no-brainer, right.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that life is short, it happens now and it starts with you!