5. Mindset

I sat down a little while back for a talk with friend and retired Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf on his podcast Cleared Hot. We talked a bit about the journey of parenting and our experiences in the service. Something he told me has rattled around a bit for a few years now. When he was an instructor at BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School) the legendary SEAL indoctrination training, his job was to make it as difficult for candidates to make it through the program as possible. And the most effective way he found was to get them to expand their…

6. Shame

My son has done embarrassing things in public. They’re so embarrassing, they’re not really worth bringing up. For the sake of the point I’d like to make, you can just imagine whatever cute but embarrassing thing any of your kids have done as toddlers, then project that to a seventh grader. It’s happened. And it will happen again. If you spend enough time around special needs families, you see the pattern. Out in public, someone’s kid or adult child, has a meltdown. The people around them react predictably. First they are startled. Then they’re concerned that something is wrong. Then…

7. Peace

One of the great disruptions of our lives is the arrival of our children. It’s glorious and fulfilling and all the wonderful things people say it is. But it’s a disruption. And for many fathers that disruption finds us horribly unprepared. Many of us pictured ourselves as fathers. We may have assumed that whatever journey we would be on, would include a family and children of our own. But few of us spent much energy picturing ourselves in the throes of fatherhood. No sleep. No free time. No control. The one great determinant on whether we make it through the…

9. Hope

I have this recurring dream that my son walks into my room, stops a few steps inside the doorway and starts talking to me. I don’t ever remember what he says. But he’s talking. We’re having a conversation. And then it’s over. Just like that. I don’t have it often. But every once in a while it wanders into my life. I know why. I want to talk with my son. Not to him. Or at him. I want to talk with him. I want to know the sharp edges and soft details of his mind. I want to know…

11. Joy

By the time I was 32 years old, I’d spent four years behind the walls at Annapolis, completed three tours in a war zone, moved a dozen times, finished business school, cared for my mother who was dying of ALS and had three children with my wife in three and a half years. I felt like I’d been ground to the nub. And I was ready for the part of life that was supposed to be fun. That’s when my son was diagnosed. Tolstoy was right about families. The happy ones may all be the same. But the unhappy ones…

13. Anger

A few weeks ago I came downstairs to find my son chewing on my newly purchased Apple Airpods. He had destroyed them. I didn’t leave them out. I put them in their charging case in a drawer. He found them though. Then he pulled them out and ate them. I lost my temper. I’m not prone to violence. I can’t remember any time in my life where I’ve gotten so angry I’ve had to put my hands on someone. Anger for me is mostly about yelling and swearing. I’m a big loud person. And I’ve got a bit of resting…

14. Time

In any enterprise, there’s at least one singular scarce resource; that one thing on which all depends but is limited in its availability. Successful enterprises identify that scarce resource and manage it effectively. Sometimes understanding which resource it is, isn’t obvious. Money problems are often time problems in disguise. Time problems are often lurking talent gaps. Groups that fail to recognize what their true scarcity is fail spectacularly in ways that often puzzle those responsible for their success as they invest more and more in things that don’t matter and fail to protect that which is critical and can’t be…

15. Fatigue

A lifetime ago, I was walking across a field with a gnarly old SEAL senior enlisted on a deployment in some dusty corner of Africa when he turned to me and said something I’ve never forgotten. “This is the best way to feel when you need to kick in a door. Dead tired. Hollow.” It sounded strange but I felt exactly like what he said. We’d been up for three days straight. We’d wandered into an uncharted creek trying to find a place to fix one of our boats and stirred up a hornets nest of smugglers. We ended up…