When Rieko and I decided to have children back in the mid-1990s, we were a bit put off by the pressure we witnessed other parents putting on their kids to “super succeed”. We watched others push their young children to be uber achievers⎯excellent at both school and sports. What bugged us was it seemed as if it was more for the parents’ bragging rights than their children’s good.
When our kids were very young, we chose a different route. We decided to focus on raising good global citizens. So we invested in giving our children experiences of the world, rather than drilling down on scholastics and sports. We felt that other things would be more valuable to them in the long run than textbooks and trying to make it into an Ivy League university: things like traveling the world, learning from their own experiences, meeting mentors along the way, and learning from the wisdom of others.
We had to start saving every penny we could right from day one of our marriage to make this happen. The family trips didn’t start until Dylan was 5, Devon was 3 and Kina was 3 months old. For our first big family adventure, we headed to Thailand to experience Asia at is best. Every chance we got, off we went traveling. Seventeen years later, we’re still traveling and experiencing the world as a family.
Staying true to this commitment to raise global citizens wasn’t always easy for me. Many times during my entrepreneurial career, I would come to a crossroads. An urgent matter would come up in the business right before we were supposed to head off as a family to a foreign land. I would question whether I should stay to deal with the crisis or go with them. Nine times out of ten, I chose my family over my business. And nine times out of ten, I was surprised to return to work only to find not a lot had changed. The business was still alive. AND my family was much tighter.
The really cool part? The more time we spent together as a family, the more we all evolved together.
Over the years, my coaches and friends in my forum groups at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and the Gathering of Titans (MIT) were always encouraging me to leave my business for periods of downtime. I made sure good chunks of that time were spent with family. In between our epic journeys, we also took shorter local trips to places like Tofino (pictured here) and attended essential family celebrations like Christmas concerts, hockey finals, and graduations. I also made time for retreats alone with my wife. After every “timeout”, I would always return to work refreshed and ready to take on the next challenge.
Don’t get me wrong. In the very early days of our startup, we all needed to put in a lot of time to build the business. But we didn’t need to put the business first forever. In fact, the way we sustained ourselves, our marriages, our families AND the business was by taking time off.
Time and time again, I’ve watched my fellow entrepreneurs blindly dismiss the value of family time, bowing to the perceived “need” to stay with their businesses 24/7/365. What they miss seeing is the fact that our businesses are always in some sort of crisis in one way or another. If we’ve set things up right, the business will be there in the morning, whether we are there or not.
If we design our lives so that we have to personally put out every fire in our enterprises, we end up sacrificing our family and our marriage. As time goes by and we keep on putting the company we’re building before the people we love, we lose the fabric of those familial relationships. Until one day we wake up to find our kids don’t know who we are and our spouses want a divorce.
That’s why family and travel will always be top priorities for me.