Best Year Ever

A little over a year ago I had a coffee with the enigmatic Indy Johar — nothing that unusual about that, luckily for me that this has happened plenty of times over the last few years — but this conversation was different. I wasn’t in a good place and I needed some help. Amongst what felt like a very stressful time I was struggling to understand my own personal story as well as my role in the future of Impact Hub Birmingham and all things connected. Stress is a funny thing; a normal and healthy reaction in some circumstances which can help you stay alive, but there is another type — one which drags along and grinds you down. This one is not healthy. This was the stress I was trapped in at that time and it made me question everything.

As we start to talk about our plans for the Best Year Ever I wanted to share a few things that I have learnt over the last five years since I started this chapter of my life. Some of this is very personal and some business focused but, quite frankly, the best businesses will always be personal.

One of the biggest things weighing on my mind during the worst times was the notion of whether I was being a good husband and a good father. Was this all just a self indulgent period during which I was putting my family at risk by not getting a higher paying, more stable job? My wife is an intelligent, successful woman who has never asked for me to be that type of husband, but I still felt a pressure from myself. 

My journey through fatherhood hasn’t been the usual one. For starters I left my relatively stable, relatively well paid job which was making me miserable a couple of months before my daughter was born. This was a big step; one which many thought was bonkers. They thought that as my wife was about to go on maternity leave what she needed most was for me to be the bread winner. But in the act of leaving a job which was taking more from me than just time I found a better version of me. One that could play a very active role in those difficult early months, one that could give my wife the time she needed to recover and one who took the responsibility of fatherhood seriously. We had a less extravagant lifestyle than some, but we had a strong family bond which I believe was much better investment than trying to earn more money.

Parenting, as I have learnt, is much like running a small business — what at times feels like a never ending journey through joy, tiredness, excitement, stress, wonder and love. A quick search for parenting books on hive.co.uk shows 10,503 results for parenting books and a further 29,430 for business management books. You can read these books, imagine your strategies have ideas and plans of what sort of parent you will be as you can what sort of business you would run, but until you are in the midst of really doing either you never really know how you will react and cope.

Indy managed to bring me round over that coffee because he changed the way I was thinking about my situation, from one of deficit to abundance. Maybe I was actually doing the right thing for my family. The journey had helped me to grow as an individual and this growth was helping them too. Rather than thinking about how to keep the business running he told me to think of it as an active research process; an MBA with some actual experience and real world learning. Learning and personal growth, as it turns out, is exactly what I am interested in, as a parent, as a leader and as a man. The best never stop learning, but what I have learnt over the last four and half years is that some of the key elements of being a good business leader are the same as being a good parent

  1. Pay attention to your relationships 
  2. Clear communication is essential
  3. Be generous 
  4. Be flexible
  5. Stay curious
  6. And perhaps most importantly, don’t get fooled into thinking you are actually in charge.  

Think about these elements and explore them and you probably won’t need to read those 40,000 books. Despite the struggles and hard times we’ve made it to a point which feels like a significant change is coming. I personally feel more secure in my own place in this story than ever before, and I’m super excited about celebrating our Best Year Ever— one to cap off some of my best ones yet. 

Avise la fin — consider the end.