Want to be a Super Dad? Try Being More Selfish.

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Being a dad is tough. The pressures we face are different than those faced by our fathers. Like them, most of us are working full time, running businesses, working for the man or building a career. Unlike them, there’s an added pressure of increased time at home. There are many positives to this; there are inherently greater and increased pressures too. The demands on our time never cease to end.

I know this journey well. When I was 25 years old, I was a two sport varsity athlete while in law school and believed I was very busy. When I was 30, I was a downtown lawyer and assumed I was tremendously busy. However, by the time I was 35, I had met and married the woman of my dreams and we’d just had our fourth kid!  Yes, you read that correctly. At 30 I was not even engaged and by 35, I was a husband and father of four.

superdad_2My journey into fatherhood was not a delicate one.

Simultaneously, during these same years I was trying to establish myself in my career as a trial lawyer, investing in real estate, staying fit and oh yeah, trying to be an excellent husband and father too.

To be successful in any one dimension (careers, husbands or fathers) is damn tough. To be successful at all three, simultaneously, seems near impossible. It requires superhuman strength.

So, when trying to understand how to be superhuman, there’s only one place to look: The Heavens.

Consider Superman. All day long, people are yelling his name. No matter how much work he does there’s always more. He is always being pulled in different directions. And he saves lives for a living. It sounds a lot like parenting. So, how does he do it?

The answer is subtle to see but critical to understand.

There are two things Superman is always acutely aware of. The presence of kryptonite and his need for the sun. He knows the former can kill him. He understands the latter will energize him. Superman understands that if he is weak, or dead, he can save no one. Likewise, if his energy falls too low, he has to leave those in need, even though they are calling his name, in order to rise above the clouds to draw strength from the sun. He always comes back though. And he is a better, stronger, version of himself.

superdad_kyrtoYou see, Superman knows that he has to be Sustainably Super. He understands that he has to selfishly protect himself, in order to unselfishly help others.

Just like Superman has to protect his powers, so too, do you.

Each of us has a kryptonite that kills us; and a sun that rejuvenates us. What are yours?

Your kryptonite won’t be a green meteoric rock. It will be harder to see. It may be the perpetual state of mess in your house and your inability to ever locate things. It may be the money hemorrhaging from your bank account. It can be as subtle as the frustrations born from finishing the Sunday paper, on Thursday. Or, as significant as never having an uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. Ultimately, your kryptonite will stem from some form of lost independence and increased responsibility  the epicentre of the transition into fatherhood.

superdad_supersunYour sun, will be more fun to find. The joy found in having a hot coffee, by yourself, is immeasurable. The chance to have just one corner of the garage that is yours and yours alone, soothes your soul. A workout on your own, or with friends. A beer with a buddy. Reading the paper, alone, for just 15 minutes. The sun, itself, does wonders. Time outdoors makes nearly everyone feel better.

My kryptonite was feeling robbed of time. In life, I’ve found my greatest strength and my greatest weakness to be the same thing: my neurotic need to be productive. Accordingly, the hardest part of transitioning into fatherhood was not longer days or increased stress, it was a feeling that “I couldn’t get everything done in a day that I wanted to.” And my sun, not surprisingly, is exercise, and  you guessed it, being productive. So, I manage them both. Very early mornings have become my friend. I built a home gym and office in the basement. I start my days early, on my own, with a coffee, a workout and a head start on my to do list. I have found that with those things in place, I am a much better version of myself for the rest of the day. I am a much better husband and father. Ironically, I am also a much more physically, and emotionally available one, because I have greater energy and I am happier. Spending time with my “Sun” allows me to give more to my wife, my children and my job.

A happy dad is a better dad. And a better dad has the chance to be a Super Dad. Dads need to fill their own cups in order to be able to pour into the cups of their spouse and children.

There is something altruistically selfless in being selectively selfish.

Find your kryptonite and your sun, today.

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Written by: Paul Attia

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  1. Pingback: A new blog for fathers June 17, 2016

    That said, there is indeed a need for resources for fathers. So this Father’s Day, forward Papa Alpha to the dads in your life. It’s not a blog about life or abortion, though I suspect Papa Alpha won’t shy away from the tough topics as needed. I am linking here because good people doing good things should get attention. You can start reading with one of his first articles: Want to Be a Super Dad? Try Being More Selfish.

  2. Neal June 17, 2016 | Reply

    Tremendous insight!! Thank you for sharing.

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Thank you, Neal. My pleasure to share some of the things I’ve learned (often the hard way!). Glad you enjoyed the article.

  3. Fras June 17, 2016 | Reply

    Great article Paul – I completely agree – “Dads need to fill their own cups”. I find the best time of day to fill my own cup is before the sun rises. Easy to focus with no distractions. The meditation I find during these early mornings allows me to focus with clarity for the rest of the day. The morning workout is unlike any other. I have more oxygen flowing through my baby finger for the rest of the day after a hard and intense bike ride than those of my colleagues and friends who chose to sleep in. Get up’ & every morning. #makeithappen

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Thank you for the comment, Fras. You’ve hit the nail on the head with respect to the power of the early morning ROI. It pays dividends throughout the entire day and week. Morning Glory Cycling Club is a living and breathing testament to that principle and you’re a champ for making that happen.

  4. Tyrone Estabrook June 18, 2016 | Reply

    Love the kryptonite and sun analogy. Knowing where I draw strength and making sure I get it is essential. Why? Because no matter how busy I am and no matter what I am accomplishing, no one seems interested in listening to me whine about how tired and frustrated I sometimes get. I run two small businesses and have two small children and wife who is equally swampped. I catch myself using the fact that I have no base salary as an excuse for why I don’t get enough exercise or sleep. The fact is I give my wife and kids the best me when I have had the dicipline to get the exercise, sleep and downtime that I need. It takes focus and guts to get these things. I often fall short, but when I do, everyone is better for it.

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Hello, Tyrone. Thank you for such a heartfelt comment. Your experience and your examples are exactly what the article speaks too — that a loving and caring husband and father, like you, who also doubles as a successful businessman, is a better functioning machine, when he’s well-charged. Well said, Tyrone.

  5. Candice June 20, 2016 | Reply

    After reading this a while back, I loved it. And reading it again today, I think it is my favourite! Keep it up, buddy!

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Thank you, Candice. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the article so much.

  6. Ann Marie June 22, 2016 | Reply

    Congratulations Paul, excellent article and truly inspiring!

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Thank you Ann Marie. I am glad that you enjoyed the article and that it inspired you.

  7. Demore June 24, 2016 | Reply

    Great article, Paul. I love your treatment and use of the metaphor and I’ve found it SUPER thought provoking. What man doesn’t resonate, at least on some level, with the life and way of the ‘Man of Steel’? However, I continue to wrestle with a a couple niggling thoughts; what if a man’s true ‘sun’ is indeed his wife and family? What if ‘solitude’ only masks as a hidden form of coping, or isolationism? What if in his traveling to what he believes is his ‘sun’, for what he believes is giving him life, that he is in fact returning to his kryptonite and forfeiting his life… and his families’ life? Not all things that energize fathers, while on their own, are wholly beneficial, or best for fathers and their families. Many fathers’ return to their families energized, but are met by children that are discouraged and weakened by their kryptonite of his abscence.

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Great comments, Demore. I appreciate the challenge. You are certainly correct that there’s an inherent assumption that one’s Sun is a pro-social activity (i.e. reading the paper, drinks with buddies, catching a ball game, mountain biking through glorious trails), and not something anti-social (gambling away the kids’ on weekend “Sun benders” to Vegas). Having said that, a man’s Sun can in fact be quality time with is kids (i.e. it need not be an activity away from the family). And to that end, the same principle is true: When the kryptonite of life begins to increase, said father, will need to turn the phone and email off, and spent some significant quality time with his family, in some Sun-recipricated family time. Sounds like a great way for a dad (or mom) to re-gain their strength.

  8. Geoffrey June 24, 2016 | Reply

    Paul, fantastic insight and incredible advise – taking care of yourself to be able to take care of everything important in your life!! Just awesome!!

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Thank you Geoff. I am glad you found insight in the article and distilled it down so well. Thank you Geoff.

  9. BD July 7, 2016 | Reply

    Congratulations Paul!! So inspiring & well written. Thanks for sharing.

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Thank you, for the comment and kind words.

  10. Reid Sparling July 11, 2016 | Reply

    Brilliantly written Paul. As a man trying to wrap my head around the responsibilities of fatherhood and what that means for me I really appreciate you sharing your insight from the challenges you’ve faced.

    • Paul Attia July 26, 2016 | Reply

      Thank you very much for the comments, Reid. I am glad to know that some of the lessons I’ve learned are applicable to your life as you wrap your head around the role you will have and how you intend to live it out, as a father.

  11. Ryan November 18, 2016 | Reply

    Hey Paul

    Hope all is well. I wanted to thank you for something. After seeing you present, and especially after reading your blog I realized I needed fitness back in my life. The only excuses I had for not exercising were bad ones. I just needed a kick in the ass and your blogs gave me that kick. It’s been about 2 months and I’m back to running 15-20k a week and working out about 3 times a week. Have to get up really early to do it though. It’s amazing though how I get excited to wake up at 5:30 to go for a 5k run in the cold (just finished one).

    I’ve also realized that being a dad doesn’t mean that I can’t work out. My 9 year old son wanted to run with me. So on the weekends we go running together. And my 6 year old daughter loves coming into the basement to do push-ups with me.

    Now I don’t want to hear “congrats” or “good for you”. I think it should be more of a “what took you so f’ing long?”

    So thanks again from one dad to another….and keep inspiring people.

    Cheers
    Ryan

  12. Naren January 3, 2017 | Reply

    Paul,

    Hope your 2017 is off to a great start. Your tweet yesterday (“fitting fitness in”) was well-timed. I’ve enjoyed reading the article since the first time you shared it, but this time it fit perfectly to my situation. As a parent of an 11 month old (whose mom also works), spare time is hard to come by. And my all-or-nothing approach to workouts has failed miserably. In 2016, I would at times go weeks without working out because that 1.5 hrs never became available.

    I’ve since switched to the $10 if not $100 approach, and a lot of body-weight resistance work instead of exclusive barbell work. It’s only been a few weeks and I am very pleased with how things are going. Your mentorship (through your tweets, articles, videos) has helped a lot, both for framing strategy/tactics and motivation. While time is not as much an issue anymore (I’ll workout in my baby’s play area as she watches, or sometimes even next to the dining table as I feed her), I still do feel tired (or perhaps lazy) at the end of a work day to want to do 100 BW squats, 50 pushups, and 25 pullups. But on those days, I’ll remind myself of Paul Attia’s 100 chinups done wearing shorts in freezing weather, while running late for Christmas dinner.

    If it’s okay, could I ask you a few questions that will further help me put things in perspective and frame my approach to life? If you find some too personal and choose not to answer, I’ll understand.

    – On average, how many hours do you sleep at night?
    – Do/did your kids go to daycare, or are they at home (when not in school) with their mother/grandparents/nanny?
    – Do you also train with weights, or just using bodyweight and bands for resistance?
    – How old are you? I’m 34, and if you’re older that’s just more inspiration for when I go after my goals.

    Many many thanks, and a Happy New Year to the Attia family.

    Naren

  13. Paul Attia January 10, 2017 | Reply

    Hi Naren, thanks for your great comments and feedback. Happy New Year to you as well. Firstly, I am very happy to hear of your great progress and success to date. Progress is any avenue is such a key factor our happiness as humans. And ironically, one of the most (if not the most) progressive steps we can ever take, is to become a parent. Yet, because it draws away from our free time to be productive in other areas, we are left with a feeling of being less productive — and thus, less progressive. The reality is however, that our time as a parent, contributing to the lives entrusted most to us, is actually our most productive time of the day.

    Having said that, its critical, (as you know from my views here) to ensure that we keep the other areas of our life (including fitness and finances, essentially health and one’s financial and professional) goals moving in the right direction as well. I strongly believe parenting requires the whole package, so to speak: Copious contributions to our children, their mother, and those relationships, and as well, a keen interest in ensuring our own passions and pursuits stay alive and thrive as well. Ideal? Sure. But, who says the ideal should not be a reality.

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For people who want to succeed in life in their role as a spouse, as a parent, and in their career. Success in any one of those three areas is tough enough; success in two of the areas is even tougher; and success in all three feels near impossible, on most days.

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