So I was driving to the grocery store with my 6-year old daughter to buy some milk.
And my daughter was chattering out loud in the back seat, reviewing everyone’s “native-American names.”
There was my older daughter, for example, whose native-American name, I learned, is “My Sister Who Says She Is A Vegetarian Until mummy Makes Bacon.”
And there was my daughter’s friend, a.k.a., “Otto Who Is Embarrassed By Everything.”
And there was my wife, who is “mummy Who Pretends Not To Be Scared On aeroplanes”.
And then there was me.
And that was interesting. Because until that moment I didn’t realise I even had a “native-American name.”
So what was it?
“Daddy…” my daughter chirped, “Who Is Boring.”
Well, let me tell you, there is nothing to make someone who imagines that, if he were to have a native-American name, it might be, say, “Daddy Who Is A Super-Cool Daddy,” sit up and listen faster than learning that his native-American name is actually “Daddy Who Is Boring.”
And we had quite a spirited conversation for the next few minutes, my 6-year old daughter and I, about, why, exactly, my native-American name is “Daddy Who Is Boring.”
And as this conversation proceeded, it became clear that it was not “Daddy Who Has A Startup And Works A Lot” that made me “Daddy Who Is Boring.”
And It also wasn’t “Daddy Who Is Always At The Office” or “Daddy Who Is Always Gone When We Wake Up” or “Daddy Who Works Hard To Buy Us Clothes And Toys And Stuff,” all of which it presumably could have been.
And that came as a relief. Because one thing I wanted not to do when I started this business was become “Daddy Who Is Never Here.” And I had always told myself that I had at least managed NOT to become “Daddy Who Is Never Here,” in part by working at home some and in part by limiting the amount of travelling I do and the number of evening events that I attend–a choice that has helped at home but has probably hurt the business. (Schmoozing helps).
But, eventually, after much prodding, we finally got down to what it actually IS that makes me “Daddy Who Is Boring.”
And what is it?
Working in the presence of my kids.
Like any connected individual these days, I work everywhere, all the time. At the kitchen table. On the couch. In the car. In bed. My laptop lives under the couch, so when the kids are reading books or watching TV I can “hang with the kids” and get a little work done at the same time (productive!). My iPhone is in my pocket or on the bedside table or in the car. So I can usually sneak a little work in in those places, too, or anywhere, for that matter–and any time. (Productive!)
And it turns out, of course, that when I’m working, even when I am physically there–See? Daddy Who Doesn’t Work All The Time!–I’m not mentally there. I’m mentally at work.
Which is why my kids often have to ask me the same question three times before I even hear it. And why I often only play with them or read to them “in a minute,” which often becomes 3 minutes or 10 minutes, or however long it takes them to get bored of waiting for me and get interested in something else (leaving me to my work).
In other words, it turns out that, if I have to work, it would actually be better for me to work somewhere else, so I won’t be “Daddy Who Seems To Be Here But Actually Isn’t.”
Because that Daddy, it turns out, is boring.
And, really, when I stopped to think about it, what else could he be?
So that’s going to be one of my resolutions for 2011.
Not “work less.” Because working less might hurt the business and might lead to “Daddy Whose Company Sucks” or “Daddy Who Had A Good Thing Going There For A While But Then Completely Blew It”. And that daddy also wouldn’t be particularly fun to be around, either.
The 2011 resolution is just going to be to “work differently.”
Specifically, it’s going to be to try to limit the now-you-can-always-be-working! miracle of modern technology and, gulp, unplug for a while.
Not because always-being-able-to-work doesn’t have its benefits (it does.) Just because, especially in the eyes of a 6 and 8 year old–and, truth be told, everyone else–always being plugged in means always being tuned out.
And always being tuned out, I have now been reminded, = “Daddy Who Is Boring.”
Follow Henry Blodget on Twitter: @hblodget
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