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Let’s Talk About Making Change Happen Now

Wow, ok… So much. So much to talk about that it’s actually caused apathy. I have this problem that I think many people have where there is just so much that I can’t decide where to start. I just kind of spin my wheels whenever I try to start. It’s not that I do nothing instead. It’s quite the contrary. My mind is always working, always processing. It’s just that I can often get derailed because I can’t just get started.

What’s happening is called procrastination. It gets a bad rap because it’s usually associated with doing nothing at all. My procrastination is actually quite productive, it’s just not focused on what I should be doing, what I know I need to be doing.

Procrastination is a form of stress relief. It feels good to procrastinate, until it doesn’t. When that deadline approaches or someone calls you because you forgot something, that is when it doesn’t feel good. I consider myself a high-level procrastinator, kind of like those high-functioning alcoholics you hear about. You would never know I was drunk on procrastination because I look busy and productive.

With that out of the way, lets talk about change. Change in the form of making adjustments in your life that you only dream about. There are probably a few things in your life that you would love to change only if… We all have them. I know I have spent my life telling myself, if only this, I could do that. Well it’s time for that to stop. That is what this year has been about for me so far and I hope you can start to make that change too. Let me give you some context.

Last year, I made the decision to close down my office to work on creating a new daily routine for myself and to free up some overhead costs. I wasn’t closing my business, I was just getting rid of some overhead expenses because I can work from anywhere. It was tough, I kind of went kicking and screaming. I held on to some of it and didn’t really let go completely. When it got tough working from home because I didn’t get a good routine at home going I started working from the office again from time to time. I was one foot in on change and one foot still in the past.

I knew that the only way I could make change was to take myself out of the environment altogether. I also wanted to make some change happen in my household. I didn’t want my family to just sit around all summer. Modesto summers are hot. It’s been 100+ degrees outside. Unless you have a watermark in your back yard, you don’t want to go outside unless you have to. That led to the decision to travel all summer in our RV Travel Trailer. We completed that trip and got back home to Modesto a little over a week ago.

I learned a lot two months on the road in an RV Travel Trailer as a family of six, and I plan to share about that soon. What it opened me up to was how easy it really is to make change if you just do it. It is hard though, which is why I wanted to talk about it today.

How To Make Lasting Change

The key to making lasting change is to remove the comfort aspect from whatever is keeping you stuck. Why are you stuck? Because it’s not painful enough to make change. The thing you want to change is actually providing you a level of comfort and control even though you seem to be uncomfortable. It’s really easy to stay stuck when it doesn’t really hurt that bad, or at least we don’t think it hurts that bad. But a dull pain always gets worse, doesn’t it?

We do this in our lives in so many ways. We stay at that job because the pay is decent but it is slowly sucking the soul out of us. I have had clients like that in the past and had to get rid of them somehow. The money isn’t always worth it. Sacrificing a little bit of your soul for financial gain just leads to selling more of your soul later for more financial gain. It never stops unless you stop giving yourself away like that forever.

We do this in our home as well. We don’t like the fact that our kids are stuck in the house and spend too much time on technology. We know it is slowly ruining them and that is not the way we wanted to raise them, yet we don’t make any change because it requires some discomfort on our part as parents. Changing this aspect of our household is not an easy task. It would almost be a full time job until everyone is used to existing with less tv and technology time.

We do this with our bodies knowing full well that we need to eat better and be more active. We get a gym membership only to abandon it. We buy healthy food only to go back to convenient packaged foods because it’s easier. We are busy and life can get frustrating. The last thing I want to do is take the time to make a healthy meal when a cheeseburger is waiting for me at a nearby drive through window.

It’s hard to make lasting change. Anyone who makes change and says it is easy is a complete fool and charlatan. Social media gives us that false presumption that people all around us are making change and living their best lives. That simply is not the fact. There are a few outliers who are doing it, but 99.9% of the rest of what you scroll past is marketing. If it’s not a company marketing their product it’s an old friend from high school marketing their perfect life to you. Spoiler Alert: It’s not a perfect life, it’s a curated highlight reel… Marketing! Whether we mean to or not, we mostly share the highlights of our lives because who wants to follow someone who’s falling apart?

I’m not immune to it. Just look at what I shared from our two month long full time travels all over the Northwestern United States. It kind of looks like a magazine. It doesn’t represent the challenges we had on this trip. The photos I posted don’t represent the day I spent in bed because I was too depressed to move or the times I so frustrated with my kids that I just had to step outside. Happy photos get likes.

Nothing worth doing is easy, or even pretty at first. It is usually hard. But isn’t life going to be hard anyway? We know that life is going to be hard, so why don’t we choose what gets to be hard and avoid the rest? That is a question I have been asking myself often this year. How can I better choose what gets to be hard in my life?

That sounds kind of new age guru annoying, but it’s actually kind of possible. Of course we can’t avoid everything and choose only what we want. The world will throw us some curveballs we didn’t see coming, but for the most part, we can control what gets to be hard in our lives, so let’s talk about that.

Choose What Get’s to be Hard in Your Life

Choosing what gets to be a challenge really comes down to getting as many of the typical life decisions we have to make into our control in a healthy way. There are a few things that will make that near impossible so I wanted to touch on those really quick.

  1. Money: Finances are the main thing that take control of our lives. We have to make money to exist and have a few nice things, which means we have to trade our time for money. For most, this means getting a job. Some of us are lucky enough to get to do something we enjoy for work, most are not. The reason most are stuck trading time for money doing something they don’t enjoy is that the pain has not become strong enough to make change. There is a level of comfort there still. We talked about this earlier in this post. If your expenses are close or equal to what you make, you are kind of stuck. The only option you may see is to find another job that pays the same amount doing something else you would enjoy more, but that may be hard to find. You have to make change in your financial situation which will likely mean sacrificing some things so you can save more or take a job you would enjoy more even it it meant you are paid less.
  2. Relationships: The people you surround yourself with can make it hard for you to make the change you want to in your life. If you want to make change but your partner doesn’t, that creates friction that will keep you stuck. If you surround yourself with agreeable friends who make excuses for you rather than challenge you, it is likely you will remain stuck.
  3. Patterns & Addictions: If you have certain patterns and/or addictions that run contrary to the change you want to make, you will often be stuck in those ruts and find it hard to get out of them until you get help from someone who has been there before. If you think making change is hard simply based on the pain vs comfort aspect we talked about earlier in this post, an unhealthy pattern and/or addiction will multiply the likelihood you remain stuck tenfold.
  4. This list could go on forever, but I think you get the point.

There are many things that keep us stuck and not moving towards the change we want. If it was easy, we would all be making awesome change and killing it in life. The hard things to get past are found in the comforts that we have grown accustomed to. I say that they are comforts that we have grown accustomed to because if you actually take a step back, they aren’t really that comfortable. We just deal by adjusting our level of discomfort so we can remain in control. Even by not taking control of a situation we are still exercising a form of control. Everything is a decision, even choosing not to make one.

Now I’m not going to paint you a perfect picture of life and tell you that if you simply run to it you can have it. I am a bit more of a realist than that. I have known plenty of people who left one situation only to take their issues right into the next one. Things are going to be tough no matter where we go and with who we go there with, life promises us that. But we can choose the things that are going to be tough, we’re actually doing it already.

If your finances are tough, that’s because you took on too much debt. If your relationship is tough, that’s because you aligned yourself with someone who doesn’t agree with the same things you do. If your health is suffering, chances are you had a hand in that too, although I do understand that some health situations are out of our control to begin with.

We make choices every day. We make a choice to get up and go to work at a job we don’t like. We make a choice to let our kids run our lives. We make a choice to live where we live. Everything is a choice, whether its good or bad, most of us don’t have a loaded gun pointed at our head even if at times we act like we do.

So why not choose things that we can enjoy even if at times they still get tough? Choose a job that challenges us but is also very fulfilling. Choose to improve our relationships, which will be tough work. Make uncomfortable choices for our kids sometimes because we know it will be better for them in the long run. Choose to turn off a few of the monthly subscription services because we could use the extra money in the bank and the time they took from our lives.

Making change happen now starts with making the right next decision now. You don’t have to have it all planned out in advance, you just have to start taking steps towards it. Big change starts one step at a time.

Make Uncomfortably Tough Decisions

Chances are some of the choices you will have to make will be uncomfortable. Whether the choice have to do with work, relationships, food, kids, where you live, or anything else, it’s probably going to require some sacrifice. You need to become a pro at sacrificing yourself daily to get to where you want to go.

I went to lunch with my dad today and had the most bogus salad. I was at a Mexican Food Restaurant and would have given my left kidney for a grilled steak super burrito, but I got a chicken salad with no dressing at all because none of their dressings were going to work for me.

Multiple times I have taken my family out to dinner at a restaurant where I could have easily ordered a giant burger and fries but instead I ordered a bland salad or on a few occasions, nothing at all for myself. Do I deserve to eat out with my family especially if I am the one paying the bill? Yes! But my family is not on the same path as I am with food so it is not fair for me to try and force them to eat the way I want to eat.

I used to like having an office outside of the home. It was my own space that my wife and kids had no jurisdiction over. I don’t have that space in my home so I deserved to have that office, but I had to make the decision to get rid of it because I wanted to save money and it was the easiest thing for our family to sacrifice.

I took my family on the road in our RV Travel Trailer for two months knowing fully in advance that it was going to be very tough for all of us to be in close quarters like that for so long. I knew that it wouldn’t be convenient for me at all to work from the road and to constantly have to be breaking up little fights between my kids due to the close proximity, but I made the sacrifice so we could travel the Northwestern United States and experience all of it’s beauty.

Being able to make uncomfortable decisions is the only way to move forward in life. Most people are going to make decisions based on what results in maintaining the level of comfort they have or obtaining more of it, and at any cost. That is not how you have a fulfilling life.

Never Stop Dreaming

You kind of have to be a dreamer to want a better life. If you have made it this far through this post, you probably are at some level, a dreamer. Dreamers often spend time thinking about the possibilities of what life would be like if they could make change. I know that I am a dreamer, but in the past I often looked at the things mentioned above as obstacles.

I felt stuck in Modesto because I had built my business here and all of my family lives here. I thought that the only way I would ever be able to move or travel long term would be to places like Modesto or larger. Never until I made some sacrifices did I think I could spend long periods of time in the mountains away from big cities. I stopped believing I couldn’t do it and just did it this summer and it was the best thing our family has done to date.

I felt defeated when it came to the food I consume because my wife and kids would never get on board with a diet that would lead to a more healthy body and mental clarity. My wife and I didn’t really eat that unhealthy to begin with, but I realized that if I was going to make the change I wanted for my own body, I would have to make big changes, and I would have to do it alone. That doesn’t mean I can’t have a burger and fries. It just means I am only going to to that once a month. I never stopped dreaming of being healthier, but I was in my own way. Once I got out of my own way, I started losing weight. I’m down 25lbs at the time of writing this.

I have been very passive in my marriage doing everything I can to not make waves while at the same time inadvertently causing most of the problems in my marriage subsequently. I don’t want to get into my own childhood in this post, but there are traumas from my childhood that resulted in how I handle my relationships today. These issues range from how I was talked to as a child to abandonment issues. I carried all of this trauma into my marriage and they have also influenced how I parent my own children. It has been very uncomfortable to drill down into my life to better understand where everything within me has come from. It will actually require a lifetime of discomfort, but it’s worth it. I am working on improving the way I communicate to and treat my family so that that don’t have to feel nervous around me or always wonder if they are doing something wrong like I did growing up.

You need to be a dreamer so you have ambitions to grow into something better than you were yesterday. You have to put in the hard work in order to make change. It is going to be uncomfortable so you need to learn to enjoy the discomfort that comes with hard work. It doesn’t mean that you have to constantly fall on your own sword to make other people happy. This is not about making them happy, it is about making yourself happy through making healthy choices that are right for you and the people in your life. That will result in a win for everybody involved. My family wins when I am happy and healthy. They lose when I isolate and withdraw from my dreams.

Where to go from here

I just read what I wrote and it’s a lot. It’s a lot to take in and it’s a lot to think about. I am feeling apathetic just having spent a moment thinking about the work I still have ahead. I am nowhere near out of the dust yet. I am constantly blowing things up in order to prevent tripping over them again. I try new things so I can be open to something better than what I am used to, even if it’s challenging.

You need to do this too. You need to delete Netflix off of your phone even if it means you will have to figure out something to do with yourself for multiple hours each evening or do whatever you need to do to get wasted time back. You need to throw away all of the unhealthy food you spent perfectly good money on because if you wait to start eating better until it’s gone, you will just buy more. I know because that is me. Whatever it is for you, you need to do it.

Making change is going to require you look inward. Depending on how much time you avoid looking inward, this could suck, but it’s necessary. You have to choose to see and love the potential you have, not what you are currently see yourself as. You have to flip the script. I like the phrase “flip the script” because a script is a story that contains a beginning, middle, and end. Right now, you are in the middle. You need to understand the beginning so you can rewrite the middle and live your best end.

What do you need to do to make change? What are you doing in your life to maintain a false sense of comfort? I hope my sharing helped you. In turn, your sharing will help me. Feel free to use up that comment section below this post. I read every comment and reply to them when I can.

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Cleaning & Clearing Continues

Hello Wanderers! Ok, that’s something new. Playing around with a way to address those of us who desire to wander and create more freedom in our lives. It is a fight at times so I’m going to refer to us as Wanderers for a while and see where it goes.

This week the cleaning and clearing have continued. In my first post, I spent some time explaining what This Week In Freedom was all about by giving you some of my backstory. I also shared that I was going through a process of getting back to the essentials by getting rid of stuff and being ok with getting rid of it.

I want to share with you these pictures of the shop at my office. The office that I am working on getting out of was where I conducted business for the last few years. I have had three different offices over the past eight years. Though I downsized a lot to fit into the office I am now moving out of, I will need to downsize much more to be completely out of there and not need a large storage unit, which I am trying to avoid. The shop was quite a mess because I had started to go through everything and had moved a couple of storage racks home. Before taking away the racks the entire floor was for the most part clear. Check it out.

So I spent just about all of Saturday going through everything. I wanted to make sure that boxes with personal documents such as prior tax returns or anything like that were removed. Some of these boxes have traveled with me from house to house and office to office. It was time to break that cycle.

I went through all of the emotions while going through this mess. Part of me wanted to throw it all in the dumpster or donate it all on the spot, but I knew that was not the responsible thing to do. There is a lot of equipment here that still has value. I would be shortchanging myself if I did that. I ended up listing about 15 things on Facebook Marketplace and most of it sold that same day within a few hours.

By the end of the day I had completely gone through everything and am ready to sell it all off or donate it. I fired off an email to my CPA last night asking whether it would be more beneficial to sell everything off or to donate it to an organization that would inventory everything and provide me with a detailed list. Once I have that answer I will decide which direction to go. Regardless of what I do, the shop must be empty by a week from now. Though I am in a lease until the end of March I want to know this place is empty. I will regain just a little bit more freedom in my mind knowing that this place is cleared out.

At home, we have also continued to go through our stuff and clear out more. I mentioned having several bags of clothes to get rid of, we have added more clothes, old toys and stuff we don’t really use anymore to the mix. Check out this pile, which doesn’t include a few bags that are in the garage. Now I didn’t know who Marie Kondo was prior to last week, but I think she would be proud. I think we have only begun to see just how much we can get rid of.

So much was done this week in the journey to freedom. Each week brings us one step closer to our summer road trip. To recap, our plan is to travel for the entire summer in our travel trailer. Pending something unforeseen, the only issue that could arise is the finalization of our adoption of Mikayla. We have been told that we could have a court date sometime in June or July but that is something we can schedule and as we get closer, we will have more details.

In the near future, I plan to bring my wife into the fold of This Week In Freedom as she was the one that made that pile as big as it is. My wife really enjoys organization and has had some really good ideas for our travel trailer that will assure we all have some space for the things we do decide to keep and take with us on our trip.

I have also created a YouTube channel for This Week in Freedom, but have not created any video content for the channel yet. I do plan to soon. Ideally, I would like to do these weekly updates in video form and include video from throughout the week.

Dreams don’t come to fruition overnight, nor does freedom. It’s a constant battle of will and the desire for something better. Even last night, my kids were bored. They couldn’t come up with something to do yet they have so many options. It would be much easier for them if they had fewer choices. I really do wish that our trip could start tomorrow, but until then we will keep working toward essentializing and ridding ourselves of the unnecessary.

Keep fighting the good fight Wanderers! What can you cut back on this week to create more space in your life? I look forward to updating all of you next week with photos of an empty shop with nothing in it.

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To Freedom and Back Again

Welcome to Wandering Hills, I’m Jerad Hill, a husband, father, and entrepreneur. I have a bit to break down as to what this is and what I plan to do here so in the first post I will try my best to present a 30,000-foot view of it all and as time goes on I will explain more. The goal is to create more freedom in our family life. Not to be so tied down to the things we get ourselves stuck in. For those interested, I will share how I got here.

My first business was in retail. It started as a brick and mortar store and quickly went online. As I added product lines and services both instore and online, I found myself working insane hours. I would get to the shop around six in the morning to get working on online orders that came in overnight and work on customer repairs that still needed to be completed. I had food delivered or picked up for me every day and often didn’t leave the shop until around eleven at night. Sometimes I had so much work that I just slept at the shop. The shop was open six days a week and closed on Mondays so I could catch up on orders and service work. I did this for several years. Retail was also very stressful because I constantly had to worry about my shop getting broken into by kids who wanted free skateboards and scooters.

Fast forward to the summer of my 2005, I was 25 years old and I knew I could not continue working like that. I had closed my shop down at the turn of the year and was considering the closure of the online store as well. I decided to sell off my remaining inventory and start developing websites as I had been doing some web design and development on the side. I had taught myself how to code out of the need to grow and add features to my online stores over the past five years. I had some money saved up so I thought I would give freelancing a try.

I knew that if I wanted to have a family, I needed to change my lifestyle.

When I decided to sell off the remaining inventory I knew that I could not go on like I was. I had ruined a relationship I was in which was largely due to the amount of time I spent working. I knew that if I wanted to have a family, I needed to change my lifestyle. There was no way I could be a good husband and have any relationship at all with my children if I worked twelve hours each day.

Shortly after starting my freelance website design business I got into photography and quickly turned that into a business as well. By mid-2016 I was shooting weddings and in 2017 I photographed 32 weddings on top of my already growing workload with website design. I still had a lot more freedom than I did when I had the shop, but I was getting busy again.

The housing market crash caused me to rely more on both of my businesses because people were not spending as much money as they were. I booked fewer weddings and businesses were holding on to their money to see how things played out. Thankfully I was diversified enough with my businesses and clients that I was able to stay self-employed. In 2008 I married the most amazing women I had ever met and I continued on my path to create more freedom from being locked down to my businesses.

In early 2008 I had started blogging on the topic of iPhone Apps. The iPhone had just received an update allowing support for third-party apps and my immediate thought was that it would soon be just as hard to find good apps in the Appstore as it is to find good music in iTunes. I turned out to be correct. Within a few months, I had a new business reviewing apps. I called it the DailyAppShow because I produced a video app review daily which was published to our podcasts, YouTube channel and a variety of other places. Back then there were a lot of sites trying to become what YouTube is today. Now I had three businesses I was running at one time.

In 2010, we had our first child and I decided it was time to get an office so I could keep work at work and be fully present when I was at home. My wife quit her job a few months before delivering our first child. For the next eight years, I would go from a small office to a large office and back down to a small office again. During that time I had ten different employees, five of which were employed at the same time. By this time I had transitioned from a freelance style business to an actual agency which I named Hill Media Group. I also had two more children. Things were getting complicated.

In July of 2018, my last employee quit to pursue different work and I found myself working all alone again. By this point, I had cut back quite a bit on the wedding photography and videography because I wanted to limit the amount of time I had to work on weekends. My kids were in school most of the week so the weekends needed to be for them. I was so busy during the week with other work that I had to start turning wedding clients away. In 2017 I photographed and filmed a small handful of weddings and in 2018 I took on none. Though I haven’t really kept this website up to date I am still receiving multiple inquiries for wedding photography each week. I still do a lot of photography work but it’s mostly commercial work that I do during the week which keeps my weekends free.

After emerging from the cloud of work that I found myself in after my last employee quit I sat in my office realizing that I had created exactly what I was trying to avoid which was a business that I felt tied down to. I also realized that my daily routine has become toxic. I felt the need to get out of the house immediately in the morning so that I could accomplish everything that I wanted to get done and be home by 5 PM. Though I was spending a full eight hours a day at the office I didn’t feel very productive. Once again I knew something needed to change.

I don’t need a physical office to conduct business so I made the decision to get rid of the office and set up a small home office. The problem with having a home office in our current home is that there is no room for that. My new office in our home is in our bedroom, which is a room only slightly larger than our bed. We had to get rid of our dresser to make room for my desk.

Now having far less overhead and the freedom of working from home, I have started looking into other ways I can cut back. I had a lot to get rid of by closing down my office. My 1400sqft office was pretty full. By moving into a small home office in our bedroom, I could only keep the essentials. Though I have downsized to my small office space I am still noticing items I rarely use that I could get rid of.

It is so easy to end up with more than we really need to operate on both in business and in our home. I often feel anxiety over all of the things we have and we don’t have as much as most in our community. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time to accumulate. Eventually, you need more storage and that leads to a larger house. It’s the American way and nobody will question your logic over it. We are great at justifying our actions.

On December 7th, we brought home an eleven-day-old baby girl we named Mikayla making us a family of six.

Early last month, we purchased a travel trailer and I started outfitting the trailer with new items. Amazon boxes were showing up daily. I wanted the trailer to be ready to go at any time. My logic seemed sound to me, but we already had enough stuff in the house to take from to outfit the trailer. I was once again accumulating more stuff.

Over the holidays, I started looking at what else I could get rid of. My wife went through her clothes so I did as well. I ended up getting rid of about 70% of my clothes which filled three garbage bags. I could get rid of about half of the remaining 30% and still have plenty of clothes. I have also started looking at other things I have that I have way too much of and plan to downsize even more. I am not downsizing to make room for more, I want small to be my new normal.

This summer we plan to travel in our trailer. The goal is to travel for two months while the kids are on summer break from school. Our trailer is a 28-foot town behind trailer which doesn’t have a ton of storage space. If we are going to spend as much as two months in this trailer, we are going to have to be very intentional about what we take with us. I am going to have to run my entire business from a backpack. My kids are only going to be able to take a few toys. We only have enough closer space for a few outfits. It’s going to stretch us quite a bit.

Two months of traveling in our trailer with limited stuff will be a reset for all of us. We will quickly learn what we can and can’t live without. By the time we return home, we will be used to less and my hope is that we can continue living a more minimalist lifestyle. I just want true intention for everything in our home. More does not bring happiness, it actually produces unrest.

My kids have a lot of toys. I have contributed to that as well as the rest of our family. When we travel, the kids are allowed to take a few toys with them and the rest stay at home. With less, they constantly play with their few toys. When at home, with all of their toys, they complain of being bored or not knowing what to do. I realized that in myself when I would get to my office and have a hard time figuring out where to start with my work. I had so much going on and so much stuff, it was overwhelming. It’s hard to decide what to do when you have so many options. You end up doing nothing.

We are getting excited about our road trip this summer. We will explore more than we ever have before and do more with less. As we move closer to our I will share more about how we are able to pull this off. Sharing our plans with others has generated a lot of questions such as:

  • How we are going to live as a family of six in a mid-sized travel trailer?
  • Where will we stay?
  • How will we wash our clothing?
  • How are you able to travel for two months of the year and run a business?

The concept of breaking free from the normal has never left my mind but I have taken some detours along the way. I could be a lot further along in my quest to be as free as possible, but we are here now and are working toward getting back to the freedom lifestyle I imagined having for myself and providing for my family. It will not be met without some resistance, but it is work we need to do. There is so much more out there and I need to experience it with my family. We have created a comfortable home and surrounded ourselves with things that make life more convenient, but that has not brought happiness.

If you are interested in following along as we make these changes in our life and travel as much as possible I would love to notify you of new updates when we post them. You can easily subscribe to our blog for free here.

What are your thoughts on living with less and creating more freedom in your life? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here’s to Freedom and the Wandering Hills!

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Dude, Wash Your Face!

Bro Wash Your Face - Dude Wash Your Face

I read a lot of non-fiction and often suggest books to my wife, who is not so keen on non-fiction books. The motivational and self-help shelves have blown up over the past years with books specific to women, which is fantastic. There are many powerful books out there but they lack the specifics of the individual struggles men and women face which are often very different from each other. It takes books like “Girl Wash Your Face” to speak directly to the specific struggles that men and women do not share.

The title of the book intrigued me, but that was about it at first. It would have been easy to write it off completely because it’s obviously a book written for women. My first thought was that hopefully, this is a book that will finally combat the “Hot Mess” movement as I assumed Girl, Wash Your Face meant, Girl, get out of those yoga pants and do something with your life. Not a fair statement for sure, but I am getting really tired of the “Hot Mess” mentality. Guys, we have our own version of this, so ladies, please know that I am not picking on you specifically. Life is tough, but we have to show up every day or what’s the point?

My wife completed the book and I didn’t really think much about it after that. Then, the author, Rachel Hollis, was interviewed on a podcast that I listen to, “The School of Greatness.” The interview was fantastic. She had some really interesting things to say and some amazing insights that really got me thinking. Though the book obviously was not written for men, I felt that I would get a lot out of reading it not only for myself but to better help me understand my wife.

You see guys, I didn’t grow up with much of an understanding of females. I only had brothers, I spent most of my time working on things or racing them, and the women that were in my life didn’t really teach me much more than to make sure I had good manners and to open the door for them. I didn’t know much about women at all until I got married and started living with one.

The last 10 years of marriage has been a big learning curve for me. Though I am a pretty insightful person and I feel like I pay attention pretty well, I believe that I could’ve done a lot more to prepare to be a husband to my wife than I did. This was not a new realization of mine. I noticed quite some time ago that men and women process and deal with things much differently. I have read some books on the topic of our differences but books like that don’t often give you much practical information to walk away with. I also recognize that women are not so simple that they can be boiled down and explained thoroughly in a single book, nor are us men.

After having listened to that interview I decided that I needed to read this book for myself. What was so powerful about this book that sent it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? What kind of knowledge and insight does this woman have that seemed to shoot her directly to guru status in what seemed like no time at all? So I purchased the audiobook in an attempt to better understand my wife and the struggles of her womanhood.

Now this book was definitely written to and for women. There were some chapters that I could easily have written off as non-relatable, but I am a husband to a woman who is the mother of my children and listening to Rachel share about her struggles and challenges in this world as a woman and a mother definitely helped me better understand my wife. I also recognize that as a man, it is really easy for me to discount the struggles women have in this world. They have real struggles that men don’t have to deal with and could never relate to regardless of how hard we try to understand.

Rachel started by telling her story, which was I glued to. Her husband and I share a few traits, to say the least. I know that I have treated a few women in my life the way Rachel’s now-husband did her when they were dating. I broke up with my now wife just like Rachel’s husband did with the plan to move away from our hometown. Glad that didn’t end up happening.

I carried a lot of brokenness into my marriage. I hope to get more into that in future posts, but for now, let’s just say that I share Rachel’s appreciation for therapy.

There are a lot of lies we believe. It’s not just women, men believe plenty of lies as well. Rachel’s book was a breaking down of many lies a lot of women believe. I really connected with that. I am closing in on 40 and I am realizing more and more the lies I have believed. I also recognize many lies that the world tells us that I have believed. This is why I decided to write this post. I am going to borrow some of Rachel’s lies and explain how I, as a man, have believed a few of them, so let’s get started.

Something Else Will Make Me Happy

Men have been chasing after things in search of happiness for ages. We get the job, but we want more. We get the family, but we don’t seem fulfilled. We buy the things, but that doesn’t help either. It’s easy to look at what’s in front of us and allow ourselves to believe that they are the things that are keeping us from being happy.

I have watched people uproot their entire lives in search of finding happiness. This might mean leaving a spouse or moving their family across the country in search of something. I have watched friends go into debt over the things they thought would bring them happiness. If we believe the marketing, we can easily be swayed.

The problem is that happiness is not found in things, or someone else. It all starts within. If you can’t be happy without, you won’t be happy with. You once were happy. You were happy when you got the job. You were happy on your wedding day. You were happy the day your children were born. What happened?

You believed the lie that other things would bring you happiness. When they didn’t, you felt cheated. The world told you to get something else, so you did over and over again and now you’re overwhelmed.

“Life is not supposed to overwhelm you at all times. Life isn’t meant to be merely survived—it’s meant to be lived.” That’s a direct quote from the book and to me, it means that the things that overwhelm me need to go. I have been working on doing just this for the past few months. Guys, if we are in a constant state of overwhelm, how can we focus on living our lives? If we can’t focus on living, how can we enjoy it? We first have to admit that we are overwhelmed. I want to give you permission to admit that. The world says that it’s not ok as a man to admit something like that, but that is a lie, my friends. Men get overwhelmed too and it’s time the world learns to stop making us feel bad for it. We are all set off by different things, we all have different levels of tolerance.

What overwhelms me might be a walk in the park for you. That is what makes us different. I used to photograph a lot of weddings. People used to ask me if that stressed me out or if I ever got overwhelmed. Photographing a wedding knowing that I am responsible for capturing this couples once in a lifetime and non-repeatable moments is not overwhelming to me at all. But I can easily get overwhelmed with my kids. Handling a high-strung MOB (Mother of the Bride) is easy, handling three kids when they are tired and hungry can be overwhelming at times.

It’s ok to feel overwhelmed at times. As Rachel states, “moments when you feel like you’re drowning are supposed to be brief. They should not be the whole of your existence!” We have to take control of our own lives and for lack of a better phrase “man up” to our responsibilities. There are too many voices in the world today telling us that it’s someone else’s responsibility and that we should look out for ourselves. Bro, I am here to tell you that as men we are here to take care of ourselves and we are here to take care of those who God entrusted us with. Don’t get mad at me for saying that in 2018. Rachel is right in that women need to be their own heroes. If they rely on us to be that for them, they will be disappointed. We will fail them and they will fail us. We have to champion ourselves so that we can champion those around us.

We have to choose to be happy. Our circumstances and our things will not do that for us. We have to make that choice every day and when that doesn’t seem like enough, we have to make that choice every moment. I highlighted this statement from the book and have read it at least a dozen times over the last month: “When you’re engaged and involved and choosing to enjoy your own life, it doesn’t matter where you are, or frankly, what negative things get hurled at you. You’ll still find happiness because it’s not about where you are but who you are.” It’s about who I am? Do I even know who I am? Bro, that got deep.

We can more easily choose happiness each day when we stop comparing ourselves to other men. We do that just as much as women do even though we make it sound like women do it more. We look at the guy with the better job, the one who is more in shape, the guy whose wife looks better in a bikini postpartum than she did before getting pregnant. It’s damaging, not only to us but to our spouse as well. They are unrealistic expectations. No job, car, house, or spouse will bring you happiness if you can’t be happy with yourself.

I Am Not Good Enough

I am going to go out on a limb and say that every man ever has told himself this. I do this thing where I try something new and if I am not immediately awesome at it or can’t see myself becoming awesome at it pretty easily I stop doing it. For years I told myself that I just don’t have time to practice and since I don’t like to suck at things I will simply limit myself to doing things that I can be good at with little effort. I know how that sounds, but so many of us are that way.

I was the oldest of three boys, which meant that at some point I was expected to just figure it out, and I didn’t always make the right choices. I always wanted more than I had and even though I didn’t have a problem working for it, sometimes I decided to take it instead. I got into trouble often as a youth and was often told that I was “not good.” School also did not seem to be my thing. There were years that I did well, but for the most part, I would have rather been working than sitting on my butt at school. Good grades and/or excelling at sports seemed to be the only thing that parents were interested in and I was not very good at either.

I have always been a risk taker, which was obviously bad when not exercised correctly. Running your own business is risky and scary. I have not had a regular paycheck since I was 21. If I want to get paid, I have to find the work, do the work, and make sure I get paid for the work. There have been times where work was harder to find. It is easy for me to feel like I am not good enough when a client decides to go in a different direction. I often get told that it must be nice to work for myself because I can set my own hours. I laugh on the inside. If it was only that simple.

We all feel like we have something to live up to that is beyond our capabilities. We either chase it or we sit on the sidelines and watch everybody else. Regardless, both believe they are not good enough and allow that mindset to limit them.

In the book, Rachel explained how she knew she was under too much stress from trying to live up to a standard that was not realistic. She could see it on her face, literally. For me, it started with an ulcer in my early 20’s. That ulcer would come back in my early 30’s and I am still dealing with digestive issues today. Damage has been done and I have to pay attention to what I consume, or I will feel like garbage. I wish I could say that the acid reflux is all it took to get my attention, but it wasn’t. Perhaps I will share more about that one day. What damage are you doing to yourself by trying to live up to something you don’t even believe in?

We have to find enjoyment in what we are doing. It is easy to end up chasing the wrong carrot in life because we were told that was the goal. I had a family that constantly beat into me that I would not make it in life if I did not go to college. I couldn’t afford college and was not about to go into debt over it so I spent many years believing that I was not good enough because I didn’t have a piece of paper on the wall.

Stop believing the lie that you don’t have what it takes to get that promotion, start your own business, lose the weight, or whatever it might be. Whether you decide to sit on the bench or you chase after something until your stomach bleeds, you have to decide if it is worth it and you have to decide that you are worth more than “it.” Your health is one of the only things you have complete control over. You might have to start over to find out what brings you happiness and contentment because you were chasing after what someone else wanted for you for so long. You might have to prioritize some things over others because you have to start living for yourself so that you have the strength and health to lead those around you.

I’m Not A Good Enough Dad

Being a Dad is hard. It’s not as hard as being a husband, but it’s right up there. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t receive a handbook with each of my children. I was not prepared for everything that would come after we came home with our first child.

I was ready to hold and comfort my first baby boy, but he didn’t want me, he wanted his Mommy. I would try to play with him, but he would get upset until he saw his Mommy. This seemed to go on for almost two years until finally he and I started connecting. I was jealous of the closeness my wife got to have with our babies. At times I would keep myself busy with other things since it didn’t seem like my kids needed me. It’s easy to get emotional over things like that, but they are babies. Babies are not doing anything on purpose, they are just being babies. It may seem like you don’t have a connection to your newborn, but you do. It just takes more time to surface than it does with their Mother.

As my kids have started to grow up, I have felt like I wasn’t succeeding as a Dad. I am not good at disciplining my children. I don’t know how to do it well or in an effective way. I don’t always respond to their outbursts well. At times I have a short temper with them. I often feel like I am hurting them more than I am helping them, but that is mostly my internal self-talk. It would be much easier to just be their friend and let them raise themselves.

Then there are those Dads that seem to have it all together. Their kids are amazing in public, play all the sports, seem to do things without arguing, get along with their siblings, and even seem to respect their parents. Is that all smoke and mirrors, or am I failing somewhere?

Men don’t stand around talking about parenting, they talk about common interests. It’s easy to assume that other Dads have it all together but we would never know that because we don’t talk about it. I have allowed myself to believe that I am not good enough. It is easier for guys to disconnect from their families than it is for women because of the motherly connection they feel responsible for. Rachel mentioned in her book that she considered flying the coop in a moment of struggle. I think us guys have our moments as well. It’s also much easier and more acceptable for a guy to separate himself from his family in today’s culture. Some even do it without ever leaving the house.

For me, I have found a few guys who have gone before me to ask questions and vent to. It’s equal parts relieving and frustrating when they smile and explain that what I am experiencing is not unique. What I need more of is guys with kids of similar ages, yes this might mean that I have to talk to some of my wife’s girlfriends husbands. Trust me guys, we need to do life together on a deeper level than whatever sports ball is on tv. I have kept myself at a distance from a lot of other Dads for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that I have a hard time connecting with other guys. This has been a problem for as long as I can remember. If we continue to try to be Dads on our own, we will always feel like we are not good enough. If we listen to that voice enough, we will put distance between us and our kids when what they really need is for us to draw near to them.

I Can’t Tell The Truth, I Need a Drink, I’m Not A Hero

This post is getting super long, I get it. If you are still reading, you deserve an award.

In all honesty, I want to rewrite Rachel’s book for us men. We need it. We live in a world where it seems like we are getting attacked and blamed for everything. Some of us deserve it. We have not been the best leaders or the most truthful. We have taken advantage and not been responsible. Guys, we have been lazy and now that women are standing up for themselves it is easy to feel like we are the ones being attacked. It’s easy to feel like a victim and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to read Rachel’s book.

I was not a truth teller. I mean, I was pretty honest most of the time. Some of my friends might tell you that I actually don’t know how to keep my opinion to myself. That might be true, but I had a lot of secrets that required lies to keep in place. Things I did when I was young and decisions I made brought me shame and I allowed that shame to drive my decisions. I did not deal with my emotions in a very healthy way. I have allowed my struggles to tear me apart and others have been hurt because of them.

I have also gotten in the habit of needing a drink to unwind. I have never been addicted to a substance, but it became a habit and if we were out of wine or I didn’t have any tonic water for my gin, I would feel a little uneasy. I never needed a drink, but I found myself desiring one especially after a stressful evening with the kids.

The truth is that I have never been very honest about what I am going through. I always felt like I was the only one going through it. My struggles were unique and since everybody else’s lives looked perfect, I could not afford to let my truth out. I still struggle with it, but I am working on it. My counselor has helped a lot with that. As I mentioned before, I am an all or nothing kind of guy, so at times I feel like putting it all out there but I am trying to be patient and prepare myself for opportunities that my experience could be helpful in. I am also being careful to make sure that I have healed enough to help others. There are too many people in this world who woke up one day from a major struggle and felt they were ready to teach the world how to heal. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Being a man in this world is not as easy as it used to be. I’m not talking about jobs and equal pay. I believe that anyone who works hard for something deserves to be compensated equally for it. That means that the person needs to work hard. I don’t care what your race or gender is, you don’t deserve something just because you are something other than a white male. You deserve it because you made the choice to work hard for it. Equal opportunity should not have to be a policy, it should be assumed because it’s the right thing to do. The fact that society seemed to hand those things out to white males much easier than anyone else is wrong. I have never assumed I deserve anything for being a man. I grew up with my Grandmother who was a successful businesswoman, as my example. She built a successful Real Estate business during a time where that was dominated by men. To top that off, she was barely five feet tall. After my parents divorced my Mother went back to school and achieved her goal of becoming a teacher. I never knew that women couldn’t achieve something because my environment told me different.

If you watch any tv at all, you know that the Dad is usually the joke, and guys, we have allowed ourselves to become a joke. We are irrational, simple-minded, and easy to entertain. We get angry at things we don’t understand and as long as we can enjoy a football game from our living room in peace, we are happy. We are allowing ourselves to be minimized and emasculated. We are being taught that masculinity is barbaric. We are being misled. We need to regain our masculinity, not to rise as the dominant gender, but to utilize and appreciate our strengths to use them for good and to build others up.

There is beauty in femininity and masculinity but we need to learn to respect each for their uniquenesses. We also need to take the time to understand our differences. Society today is so quick to say that the other side is wrong. We read an article and immediately alienate a whole group of people instead of taking the time to understand why they might think that way. Instead of technology bringing us together, it is further separating us. Have a difference of opinion with someone? Prepare for unrealistic conflict over something that doesn’t really matter that much.

Our society is in a transitional place. We have come into so much information over the past thirty years and we don’t know what to do with it all. Rather than appreciating the little things that make us different we are using them to separate us further. Instead of learning to live together in one society we find people who have our exact beliefs and silo ourselves from everyone else around us.

Guys, we have always been called to be leaders and I don’t see many men leading these days. Women are stepping up and doing everything us men have become too lazy to do. To put it simply, they are more driven than us. Women are fully capable as leaders and should have every right to lead in any capacity as a man is able, but that doesn’t mean we should also give them the job of leading us. We all need to be a leader in our own lives. I see too many men whose wives have to step up and lead in ways they shouldn’t have to. Many men traded their birth mother for a wife who they expect to treat them as their Mom did. That is not fair to women in a relationship.

I am not the best leader and I am definitely not my wife’s hero. I have slacked off at times because I know that she won’t let the house go sideways. I have not always shown up for her as a husband should. I have allowed myself to feel minimized because of the way society portrays men and fathers these days, but lately, I have felt a tugging at my heart and I am starting to finally realize what it is. It’s starting with honesty and openness about the real struggles of being a guy in today’s society. Not out of a response to some sort of movement or to defend myself, but to be vulnerable and open in an attempt to break down the silos that I have put around everything in my life in an attempt to be comfortable. The comfort I built around me doesn’t feel good anymore.

What’s Next?

This post took on a life of its own. I hope that it came across as a call to action for men to step up and take control of their lives again. I hope that it encouraged you as much as it empowered me writing it. Writing helps my thoughts make sense to me. I highly recommend you try writing about the things you feel strongly about. It really helps you understand what you really believe when you have to write it out.

If you have a wife and struggle to understand her, I highly suggest reading “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Keep in mind that your spouse is unique and different than Rachel. What was real about the book was all of the insecurities she shared. We all have insecurities but ours as men are different than what women deal with. It is important that we understand them so we can be better husbands to our wives.

I don’t want to become complacent. I want to continue to grow and better understand myself and those around me. I want to show up as best I can for my wife and kids because they deserve that, not because they need a man to rule over them, but because they were given a man to support and encourage them.

Check out Rachel’s book on Amazon: https://jer.fyi/rachelsbook

Listen to it as an Audiobook like I did, Rachel narrated it herself. Get your first audiobook free from Audible: https://jer.fyi/freeaudiobook

What are your thoughts? Are there some lies you tell yourself? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments below this blog or on my Facebook page. Please share this post with a friend if you found it helpful!

Update: I just heard from a friend that Rachel’s husband Dave is writing the “guys” version of her book next year so I will be looking forward to reading that when it comes out.

 

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Raising Tech-Wise Kids

Raising Tech-Wise Kids

I have been wanting to write on the topic of raising tech-wise kids in this technology age we live in for a while but have struggled to gather my thoughts so I can bring it all together into something that would even make sense. I have said it before, but for me, writing helps me make sense of my thoughts and also helps me convert those thoughts into ideas.

Those of you who know me know that I am fully emersed in technology. I have two smartphones, a smartwatch, a tablet, a laptop, computer, Kindle reader, cameras, gaming consoles, and more within reach every single day of my life. I have made a side business out of getting to spend time with technology with my YouTube channels State of Tech and Ditch Auto. I also have three young children ages 8, 6, and 4 who take notice of the endless tech options I have around me. So what am I doing to raise my kids to be wise consumers of technology? This is a question I have to continuously ask myself almost every day.

You are not going to like this, but raising tech-wise kids starts with your own behavior in regards to technology. I am approaching the ripe age of 40 and am realizing more and more each day the habits I gleaned from my parents when I was a child. Our kids will learn many of their behaviors from us and carry them into adulthood. I am in no way qualified to speak as though I have achieved some perfect balance of technology in my home but I am hyper-aware of what is going on and am doing my best to stay on top of it.

Before we can parent a child we have to be able to parent ourselves. We no longer have parents telling us to turn off the game and go to bed or to stop scrolling Instagram. It is our turn to be that person for our children but if we can not be that person for ourselves, we will simply become the thing we hated most about our own parents which was when they told us to do as they say, not as they are doing.

Children Learn Patterns

Around the age of 3-4 years old, our children start to notice patterns and are able to guess what the next item will be. Remember those pattern worksheets from your childhood? Square, circle, square, what comes next? Our children will mirror our behaviors. If we can’t spend an idle minute without checking our phones, our kids are not going to be able to sit still either. We have to give our children healthy behaviors as patterns for them to follow. The little brains of our children are being wired using the patterns and behaviors we model for them.

Remember when you used to be creative? Some of my best memories as a child was building with Legos. I never bought the Lego sets that came with instructions. I wanted to build something from nothing and even though my Lego creations were not perfect replications of things in the real world they took creativity to make. These days we reach to our phone for inspiration rather than trying to make something on our own. No need to come up with an idea for our child’s birthday lets just scroll Pinterest for “5-Year-Old Boy Birthday Party Ideas.” We’re teaching our kids that kind of behavior people!

We also need to keep control over the compulsions we find ourselves often giving into. What I mean is that there are things we compulsively do. Some of these things are healthy, some are addiction-driven. We have lost the ability to be idle because we grab our device in hopes for a small kick of dopamine. We have become so conditioned to receive that little jolt in the pleasure center of our brains that we can’t handle being disconnected. Our brains learn that Disconnection = Being Alone and that Being Alone = Sadness.

Lately, I am trying to be mindful of how everything affects my heart and how things affect the hearts of my children. I recently removed a lot of influences from my social media accounts. Some of it was affecting my heart in a negative way. Removing it felt like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. If I can’t see how the things of the world affect my heart, how can I guide my child’s heart?

Technology Is Not A Replacement For Creativity

Yes, you can be very creative using technology. I have built a business on it, so I know this very well. I also recognize that technology has limited my creativity. When I use technology to find inspiration for creativity I often end up taking shortcuts that take away from what could have been a good idea. There is nothing wrong with using technology to vet your ideas, but often the best way to be creative is to disconnect and sit down with a notepad. A pen and paper, not the notepad app on your PC! This means that you might fail, and boy do we hate that. Finding the ideas and the ten steps to make it happen on Pinterest sure make it easier, but what do we learn when we do that to ourselves.

When I was in high school, I was in charge of our senior class float. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do but none of us really knew how to pull it off. We did it ourselves, no help from parents and it sure looked like it. Guys, our class float was horrible. The freshman beat us. It was sad, but it taught me some lessons I wouldn’t have learned if we had let our parents do the work for us.

Technology Is A Stimulant

I spoke to this above, technology is a stimulant because of how we use it. We use it to connect to information and information feels good. Information is not inherently bad, but we can become addicted to it. Over stimulation + Isolation leads to addiction. When we constantly allow ourselves to be stimulated by the pretty pictures and information of the internet we start to feel isolated. We are constantly reminded about what we don’t have or what we haven’t achieved. As an entrepreneur, I see others in my industry achieving more than me and it can make me feel like I am a failure somehow.

People turn to their technology to connect to whatever makes them feel something. It used to be tabloids and magazines, now it’s Instagram and Pinterest. We are surrounded by it. Though it often makes us feel insufficient, we are drawn to it like a moth is to light. We scroll Facebook or Instagram for hours hoping for a connection to something. Those apps are designed to make sure we receive some sort of reward from time to time for using them.

Technology Can Isolate Us

If we allow our technology to over stimulate us we crave more and will find ways to consume more of it. This leads to us deciding to spend time on our devices rather than with others who edify and build us up. When we are over stimulated and isolated, addiction takes hold. We need to make sure we recognize this before it becomes a problem because we are not only isolating ourselves from our peers but also from our spouse and children.

How To Raise Tech-Wise Kids

I often get asked by other parents about healthy limitations. How should I limit the time my children spend with technology they ask. To be honest, I am no sure I like the idea of limitations. Setting limitations mean focusing on lack rather than abundance. I believe that what we need to do is make sure that there are enough healthy and edifying things in the lives of our children that technology is just one of the many things that makes up their lives.

I find that when I get lazy and don’t make my children my main focus in our home, they want technology. When I am constantly checking my phone and busy on my laptop, my kids want to be busy playing games on theirs. It is not fair to them to see me constantly on my phone and not allow them to do the same. I knew I had a problem when my oldest told me that he can’t wait until he turns 18 and moves out so he can surround himself with all of the technology that I have. That hit me like a brick to the face. How can I teach my kids about being “tech-wise” when I don’t appear to be tech-wise myself?

This has led to me making some other changes in my life. I am currently working to free up the clutter in my life so I have more mental bandwidth to assure I don’t get blindsided again.

Healthy Boundaries vs Limitations

We don’t let our kids take technology into their rooms. Their rooms are for sleep and play. This is an area I need to work on myself. I go to bed with devices next to me and I need to create some separation. This is going to become more important as I transition back to working from home. Our kids need these same healthy boundaries in place. There is a time for technology and there is a time for it to be put away.

Most devices these days have the option to set limitations which shut them down after a certain amount of time. While this is a nice safety feature, I want my kids to be able to moderate their own use of technology without having to rely on the device to disable itself. What happens when they are old enough for their own device? They will just turn that limitation off and let freedom ring!

We should be starting the day and ending the day technology free. When we are with other people, we should be interacting with them rather than burying our faces in a game or an app. I think virtual reality is neat, but I fear what it will do to the family if that is the future of consuming content in the home. We all slip on our headsets and forget about each other. That freaks me out!

But They’re Bored!

When attempting to moderate my kids use of technology I will offer up suggestions on how they can spend their time. Are you really a parent if your child hasn’t told you, “That’s Boring!?” I get it. Playing Legos just can’t hang with the latest updates to Fortnite. What my kids will choose every time is uninterrupted time with me. When I chose to play with them, they don’t care about the games and the apps. They want to spend time with me.

“But your kids are still young,” you say. Yes, they are, which means I still have time. This is why I am making major changes in my work life right now to allow for more time with my kids. When they get older, they will choose technology over me if I spent their childhood doing the same to them. Your kids will never get bored of you engaging with them in fun activities they can take part it. It’s when you trade out that time for other distractions that it becomes hard to win them back later on. They will fight you when you try to separate them from their devices because those devices have been their comfort. I never said this would be easy.

Becoming Tech-Wise

Intention is going to be the biggest tool you have in your arsenal. If you make a device the top priority in your own life, your kids will as well. It is also important that your kids’ friends parents know your stance on technology use as well. One of my favorite things about my kids still being young is their accidental spilling of information. They know they are not allowed to play games endlessly at home and that goes for when they are at their friends’ houses as well.

We need to set healthy boundaries between us and our technology. I recently moved my phone across the bedroom. I have kept my phone on my nightstand for as long as I can remember. My first business used to get broken into occasionally so I had this fear that I would get a call in the middle of the night from the alarm company and police and that is when the habit of having my phone next to me while I sleep started. Now, I simply wear my smartwatch to bed and put it on “Do Not Disturb” mode. If someone from my contacts calls me, my watch will notify me of a call, otherwise, it will not disturb me. I have slept like a baby and grabbing my phone when I wake up before even putting my feet on the floor has changed my attitude in the morning. These are healthy boundaries I want to pass on to my kids and that can’t happen if I am not practicing them myself.

Avoiding Technology Addiction

As I eluded to before, technology provides us with a stimulant we use to feel something. When we start to isolate so we can spend more time in an app or game, that leads to addiction. We need to recognize what that looks like in our own lives. Are we addicted already, or on our way?

What does video game addiction and recovery from that look like?

ESports and The Professional Gamer Movement

There is a new category of sports if you haven’t already heard and that is the sport of Electronic Gaming. There are gaming competitions and events where professional gamers go head to head just like in the world of physical sports. It’s fun to watch, especially if you enjoy the game they are playing. Gamers stream live each day so others can watch them play and be entertained by their commentary. This is a huge emerging market where gamers are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and getting major sponsorships just for playing games on their computer.

Kids watch these streamers and are envious of their skill and the lifestyle they get to lead because of their skill at the game. It would be easy for our kids to become addicted to video games because there is an online community that enjoys the same thing they do. However, online gaming communities are nothing more than a community around that game. Outside of that, it is rare that any real connection or personal growth will come out of those communities.

We not only have to guide our children toward healthy technology use but we have to guard them against the false realities that exist out there. Just like we enjoy following people on Instagram and Pinterest who are amazing at certain things, kids want to follow those who are pros at their favorite games. We have to make sure our children understand what being a professional gamer means and how that differs from spending too much time playing games as a child.

As adults, we can fall into the same traps by getting too caught up in the lives of celebrities. Our kids are getting caught up in the lives of gaming celebrities and it is much easier for them to fall into the addiction of gaming than it is for an adult to carry out a shopping addiction. We have to look at our own lives and make sure that we are not projecting addictive behavior onto our children. If we are addicted people, our kids are going to become addicted.

Check out this short review of a book called “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.”

External vs Internal Triggers

As you now know, we live in a world of external triggers. These are the things that are marketed to us that look great and promise to make us feel better. Technology companies have perfected the trigger. Look at how Apple has triggered millions of people into purchasing new phones each year that only contain small updates.

If our children are not strong enough, they are going to give in to those external triggers when they have their own internal negative triggers. We all have negative triggers such as feeling down or lonely. If we do not model for our children how to create healthy boundaries between us and our technology, our kids are going to have the behavior patterns that lead to turning to those external triggers that are the first step to creating a technology addiction.

Technology Fasting

It’s impossible to avoid technology altogether and if we do not allow our kids to explore technology, they will likely be left behind. We now live in a connected world, but our minds have not adapted to that kind of existence. We are community driven and need to connect with others.

This summer I took my family camping and decided to go completely off the grid. That is a hard thing to do as a business owner but I told my clients that I would be unreachable for 8 days. During those 8 days, I did not touch my phone at all. The first four days were torture. When I didn’t have something to do I felt the desire to go grab my phone. Even without a connection to the internet, I was sure something needed my attention. Thankfully I resisted and spent that time reading instead. It was a nice break and part of me wished I didn’t have to reconnect.

To drive home the point about setting healthy boundaries we need to make sure we are building planned separation from technology. This means taking a technology fast. In the book, “The Tech-Wise Family, author Andy Crouch shares that in his family they take an hour a day, one day a week, and one week each year completely free from technology. Here is what that might look like:

One Hour Dialy- Dinner time no technology. Dinner lasts an hour. Instead, we take our time to enjoy our food and each other through conversation.

One Day/Week – Sunday, no technology. We go to church, maybe go to the park to play, and then do some yard work. It’s not that hard to fill a day with activity.

One Week/Year – Camping or disconnected vacation. We like to go camping so we go camping up in the mountains away from Wifi and cellular connection. For me, I need to be completely disconnected. That means no signal at all!

Be a Leader to Your Children and to Others

I could go on forever on this topic. Each paragraph I write I think of something to add to a previous paragraph. Writing helps me think and I learn through the process of converting my thoughts into written word. I want to encourage you to look inward and consider the behaviors you are displaying to your children. They are going to grow up with those patterns gleaned from you ready to be put into practice when they encounter situations. This goes for so much more than just technology.

We need to be the leaders our children need. Only by understanding ourselves will we be able to equip our children with the patterns and behaviors they will need to navigate the world they are growing up in.

Here is a list of books that have added insight into my own life and thus resulted in me being able to recognize my own behaviors so that I can build upon or correct to better equip myself to raise tech-wise children.

Books:

Podcasts:

There is no one book or podcast that will give you all of the answers to life. I have read hundreds of books and recognize that each book introduces me to a key nugget of information or a concept that I had not considered. All of these books are available in an audio form which is how I consumed them.

You’ve Got This!

You’ve got this Mom or Dad. I know you came here hoping for a 5-step plan to raising tech-wise kids, but that just isn’t a thing and if it was, it would be rendered useless almost immediately when the next pleasure centered device hits the market. The key is to be the example you want for your children. They are going to grow up to be just like you whether they want to or not. You have the power to set a baseline for healthy behaviors in their lives and it goes so much deeper than just technology use.

Obviously, I am pretty passionate about this topic and plan to write more on it. If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comment section below. I would love to hear your opinion. We all learn from each other. If you want updates from me, please consider sharing your email address in the “Get Updates” box on the right column or bottom of this website.

Thanks for taking the time to read my long post. I appreciate your time and your desire to invest in the lives of your children.

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Parenting Is Not For The Weak

I’ve been a dad now for a little bit over eight years. I have three kids. Two are boys, and the youngest is a girl. I absolutely love my kids and I love being a dad. Everything that I’ve done over the last 10 years has been to try and provide a good life for them without exchanging my presence in their lives.

I have been self-employed since I was 20 years old, so for about the last 18 years. There are many different things that I have taught myself how to do that have turned into revenue streams that has provided me the life that I have today. I’m usually pretty quick to figure things out. If there is something that I want to learn how to do, I can read a couple of blogs and watch a couple of videos and know exactly what I need to do. With a little bit of practice, I almost always have it down solid. I’ve just always been good at getting hands-on with things and figuring them out.

Parenting on the other hand has been the biggest challenge of my life. Marriage has definitely been a challenge also, but at least you’re dealing with another adult there. With parenting, you’re dealing with ever-changing little beings that are also trying to figure out what this world is all about.

I have always been an observer. I tend to stand back and watch while I take in what’s going on around me. I try to do this with my kids, especially when they are having a hard time with something. With my boys, they would get frustrated and lose their composure over something but I was able to see what was happening, empathize with them, and bring them out of it rather quickly. My daughter on the other hand I just am often at a loss with. I do not know how to handle her. I didn’t grow up with many girls around me so I just don’t know how to deal with them. Girls are different than boys, and handle things completely different than I am used to.

My wife had her Street Market tonight so I took most of the day to handle her responsibilities with the kids. That included picking up my daughter and our friends boy at noon and then returning at three to pick up my boys and their other son. We do a carpool with our neighbor friends. I told my daughter that we would go on a lunch date together. It had been a while since our last one. She said she wanted to go somewhere fun for lunch so I thought I would take her to John’s Incredible Pizza for lunch and a few games. She was pretty excited.

We had a good time and used up all of our tokens and left to go run a couple of errands before picking up her brothers from school. Right when we got into my truck she said to me, “Dad, I actually didn’t have a nice date with you.” I was confused. It seemed to me like we had a lot of fun together. We had pizza, chocolate vanilla swirl ice cream, and played some fun games together. It was just her and I and we didn’t worry about anybody else.

I asked her why she didn’t have a good time and she said to me, “John’s Incredible Pizza was dumb.” I explained to her that I thought we had a pretty good time together. She persisted by reiterating once again that she did not have a good time and then ended her statement by saying that she didn’t think she wanted to go on anymore dates with me for a while. Talk about bringing back old highschool rejection wounds. Where was this coming from?

I explained to her that when someone who cares about you takes you somewhere that you wanted to go, you need to be appreciative. If you didn’t have a good time, it’s OK to share that, but it’s not OK to make somebody feel bad. At this point she was giving me the cold shoulder and I didn’t want to start an argument with a four-year-old.

While we were running a couple of errands I started to notice that she was most likely exhausted so I am sure that she was not simply being mean to me but that she was feeling tired and that translated to her not having a good time. I know she had a good time, but she’s tired and when my daughter is tired the filters come off. She’s 4.

Fast forward to later in the evening, we went downtown to check out my wife’s market. I just started drinking coffee again and got a coffee from a friends coffee booth and was enjoying my fresh coffee. My wife wanted to buy my daughter a hand made bag from one of their junior vendors so we were at his booth. My daughter was holding her bag and for some reason decided to swing it at me knocking my coffee out of my hand and all over my arm and right side of my body. I was livid. My daughter is lucky that there were hundreds of people around us or my filter may have came off. Though my wife had 1000 other things going on, I was ready to force her to take her daughter because I was done. I took a couple of deep breath’s and composed myself, and then used her blanket that I was forced to carry by her to dry my coffee soaked body off.

Now my boys also operated on pretty narrow wavelengths around that age. I recognize that there is a lot of changes in the brain going on at that age. I also remember the family dynamic that I grew up in. There were three of us kids and I remember my younger brother having a pretty short fuse. Having three kids is pretty tough. Two play together well, and the third always is the odd man out. My daughter is even more at a disadvantage because she’s the only girl. The boys are really good about playing with her in her world, but they are boys and would rather be doing boy things and lately they have wanted it to be all about the boys.

As a parent, I don’t want to micromanage my kids’ childhood. They need to figure some things out on their own without coming to my wife and I all the time. I want my kids to be able to manage conflict and resolve situations on their own, even though they are young. I haven’t always been perfect in this area and still am not anywhere near it. Sometimes I don’t have enough bandwidth to handle their situations and it’s much easier to shut them down immediately then to understand and hear them out.

I recognize that days like this happen to me because it is mostly my wife that takes care of them throughout the day. Today was a disruption of the norm for them. I haven’t picked them up from school in forever and been with them all afternoon, so it was totally different and for my four-year-old daughter, that’s a big deal, especially at the end of the week when she is tired.

Now, they are all in bed and sleeping and I’m sitting on the couch ranting into a blog post, trying to make sense of all of my thoughts and what happened today. For me, writing helps me process my thoughts. Parenting is not for the week. It would be very easy for me to live in the frustration that was today and decide that limiting my work so that I could spend more time at home with my kids was a bad idea. You see, I’m trying to free up more time by limiting work so that I can spend more time with my wife and kids. I want to be done with work when they come home from school. I want to play with them in the afternoon before dinner. I don’t want to miss out. But after a day like today it would be easy to find more work to do so I could avoid the craziness.

I know that it is not under my own power that I am able to see my thoughts and emotions for what they are shortly after a situation like today and understand the deeper meaning in all of it. It would be very easy to take everything personal, but it’s not personal, it’s parenting.

Many people think that their kids are doing things like this to them on purpose and that their kids must just spend all of their free time trying to come up with ways to torture them. Honestly, I don’t think that our kids think about us enough to do that, nor are they capable of that at such young ages. Their little brains are literally just firing and reactions are happening. They are young, and are unable to fully control all of their emotions. They are still trying to figure it out and it is up to us as parents to guide them, even when we are the ones being attacked.

I am very thankful for the ability that I have to see the bigger picture most of the time. If it was not for that, I would have nothing but resentment built up from situations like this. I just went in to my daughters room and kissed her on the four head. I also made the mistake of inhailing through the nose right next to her blanket. Which is utterly disgusting and still covered with coffee.

Parenting is the hardest job that I have ever had. When people say that parenting is hard, they are not kidding. When they follow that up by saying that it is also the most rewarding job, they are not kidding either. I had my turn as a child and young adult. I’m not saying that I can’t still enjoy my life, but it is their turn. My kids need the best that I can give them at all times. When I fail at being the best for them, I need to be humble enough to share with them my shortcomings and apologize when necessary. None of us are perfect nor do we have all the answers. There are no step-by-step guides to raising perfect children.

So I guess I am writing this as a reminder to myself but also as an encouragement anyone else out there who has children that go sideways sometimes and blast you with hot coffee in the middle of a street market. Remember that your kids are young and are not fully in control of their emotions. They need guidance and understanding, and patience. Heck, adults these days are rarely in control of their emotions. Kavanaugh much?

The next time you see me with my kids and a crazed look on my face, know that this Dad is doing his best with what he has in that moment and I’ll do my best to encourage you in your moments.

Do it for them, because being a dad is important. It might be the most important role there is in a child’s life and there are so many dads out there not showing up for their kids these days.

Show up for your kids in all moments. You’ve got this Dad!

Note: The image I used in this post is a stock photo and not a photo of my daughter, though it is a pretty good representation of how she was looking at me earlier today. I’ve made a point not to shame my children by posting their vulnerable moments to the Internet.

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Does Technology Enable or Disable Us?

Does Technology Enable or Disable Us?

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without all of the technological advancements of the last 40 years. I was born in 1980 and grew up with a computer in my home. Technology has definitely made a huge impact on my life, but at times I feel like it can disable us rather than enable us. Though I am a very early adopter of many technologies, I am very careful not to introduce too much technology into my home. I want my kids to grow up using technology as a way to enable their lives, not as an escape from real life. In this vlog, I talk about my thoughts on this topic.

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Making Time For Experiences

Prioritize Your Children over Work

Growing into an adult I realized that it was the experiences I remembered from my childhood. I remember some of the material aspects of my childhood, but the experiences outweigh that by far. I remember racing go-karts, going to the park with my brothers and Mom, I remember going on trips with my grandparents. These were some of the experiences that I can vividly recall.

What I don’t remember is the specific brand of clothing I wore when I was in kindergarten. I don’t remember the kind of shoes I had on. I don’t remember what kind of car my Mom drove at that time, though I do remember a few of our cars from childhood, and it was the experiences in those cars that I remember. I don’t remember what was considered cool at the time for my Mom to wear. I didn’t know what fashion was. I don’t remember if the restaurants we ate at were the popular spots or not. I don’t even remember too many of the toys I had, though I do remember some of them and they were the toys that I could be creative with.

As a parent, I have found that it is all too easy to bury my kids in toys and stuff to keep them busy. Sports are no longer leisure activities, they consume lives. People are all too ready to commit themselves and their kids to all the things. While there is nothing wrong with toys and sports, it has never been easier to take it to a level that could be considered an unhealthy obsession. That obsession is usually more about the parent than it is the child.

With that said, it was obvious to me that the experiences I have had in life were more important to me than the things. I know that there is nothing wrong with acquiring things. I have more things than I need. I could do with fewer things. However, I have always wanted to make sure that things don’t get in the way of making time for experiences.

Through observation, I have found that many people do not share my take. They seem to be working extremely hard during the childhood years of their children where experiences matter most. They are focused on the future while at the same time wasting the now. The now is most important to me because if I focus on the now, the future will work itself out.

I will not trade a few extra dollars for the childhood of my children. There is no value in that. I can make extra dollars later. At the same time, I do recognize that I want to have some level of achievement of my own during the younger years of my children. I look at every opportunity and say no to what would not fit into the lifestyle I am trying to have for my family.

Hill Family Color Factory

We recently visited The Color Factory in San Francisco. This popup museum featured color specific rooms with different experiences in each room. It was a lot of fun and my kids loved it. We spent about almost two hours going through each color room playing, laughing, and taking a few photos. It was an experience my kids will remember. After that, we had dinner and stayed at a hotel in Sausalito, which is just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. My wife and I had stayed there before so we knew it would be a fun experience for the kids as well.

It was a challenge to get tickets to The Color Factory. It was very popular and only sold a certain amount of tickets to assure it was not overcrowded. It was like trying to get an iPhone on launch day. I was waiting on my computer with the order page open just waiting for the moment. I almost missed it they sold so fast.

Confetti Party Color Factory

In 2015, we took a road trip up the coast of the US stopping off at different destinations every day. It took us a little over a week to make it up to Seattle Washington. We stayed in hotels each night at a different location and visited interesting spots along the way. Some of the highlights included Fern Canyon off the coast of Northern California, a Dinosaur Attraction in Oregon, and several other roadside attractions that will forever be fun memories to remember with my kids. I also filmed our experiences which we revisit to keep those memories fresh.

I don’t do everything right and sometimes can’t. I have had to miss a few of my kids’ school things, though I have made the majority of them. I occasionally have to travel for work. I often leave for work before they leave for school. I recognize that we can’t be perfect and attend everything, but we can try.

The purpose of this post is to remind parents that the childhood their children experience is important. We all want to provide our children with a better life than we had but please don’t put it off. I often hear people say that once they make a certain amount of money that they will be able to vacation more and spend more time with their kids. The problem is the pursuit never ends and before you know it, your kids are grown up and don’t want to spend time with you. Your kids will grow up recognizing that you traded time with them for money, or something else. I want a healthy balance there. I want my kids to see that I work hard but that I also build into my work-life enough time to spend experiencing life with them whether that be playing in the front yard or taking them to The Color Factory. My kids need to know that I prioritized them in my life. People complain about the selfishness of the Millennial Generation, but those kids had to learn from someone.

Prioritize time with your children. Give them your attention, especially if both parents in the household work. Give them experiences over toys. Rather than new iPads for Christmas, take the family on a trip. Invest in your children, rather than investing in distractions so you can keep your kids busy.

I know I have written before on spending time with kids, but it’s so important. There is enough time in the day for our kids and a healthy level of personal achievement. If you are not able to find that, I would suggest you take a look at what is in your life and how you could revise it.

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My Kids Are My Startup

Just about every casual conversation I have with someone, the topic of work-life balance comes up. I have always felt this was kind of a weird way to refer to your life as a whole because to me work has always been a big part of my life. There have been chapters of my life where work consumed all of my time and there have also been a few times in my life where I didn’t have much work so I had a lot of time to spend with friends, read and sleep. Now that I have a wife and three children, my priorities have changed. I believe that instead of discussing the topic of work-life balance, we all should be talking about a priority balance.

Priorities have changed for me since I was fresh out of high school. Through my twenties, I would work long hours and sleep little. I wanted as much time as possible to try and build something. I have worked for myself since I was twenty years old. My entrepreneurial roots go all the way back to my childhood. In high school, I prioritized work over education. In my early twenties, I worked a lot. I had little time left over for friends and a relationship. I tried to have both, but long hours at work always won. At age 25, I knew that this was not a sustainable way to live. During my twenty-fourth year, I had left a relationship and lost touch with several friends. If I was ever going to get married and have kids, I could not live like this. I also watched married friends of mine get divorced over things like money and working too many hours. I did not want that to happen to me.

I decided to make changes. I wanted to create freedom in my life to do things like see the world and hopefully find someone to love. I sold off the remains of the business I spent my early twenties building and started building websites. I had a laptop and could work from anywhere. During the next few years, I did just that. If I woke up and wanted to work from the beach, I did. It was nice, but I soon realized I had swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. I was making a living, but I was not being as effective and productive as I could have been.

I am coming up on my eighth year of marriage and my oldest child will turn six this year. My experiences so far have taught me that you can not get time back. Once you spend time, it is gone. Having realized this early on it helped shape what I would do with my time. Setting priorities is important. I have wanted nothing more since I was a teen to start a company and make it something awesome. I have started a few companies over the years, some successful, others not. None of them grew to the potential I knew they had and I am fine with that.

A life is much more important than a company or a career. You and I both have an average lifespan to make a career happen or to build a business. However, once you introduce a new life into this world, priorities should change. That life needs to be nurtured and shaped, very much like a business does, and time is limited.

My Kids Are My Startup

I have never considered any of my businesses a startup business. The story, however, is similar, I built something from nothing and am trying to grow it. Call me old fashioned. I consider myself a small business owner. Kids, however, are startups. They come into this world ready to be programmed and shaped into something amazing. If they are guided by a good CEO (parent), they will flourish and add value to this world. They may even get acquired by someone (a spouse), and build their own little startups (Grandkids!).

The problem is that there are some crap CEOs out there who are more interested in themselves than their fledgling startups. Let’s ditch the metaphors. There are some crap parents out there who are more interested in themselves than their children. Can you have an amazing career and raise a family? Yes! Can you run a successful startup company and still be around during the hours your children are awake? YES! It’s not hard, it’s prioritization.

At one point, I was running three companies at once. I had a successful photography business, website design business, and a technology review/news website. Each of these companies brought in enough revenue to support a small family. After my wife and I had our first child, I made sure I was working a regular work day of 8 hours or less. Sure there have been a few days here and there where I have worked closer to 12 hours in a day, but they are few and far between. I used to shoot several weddings each month on the weekends but have since scaled back the amount of weddings I book each year to make sure it does not cut into my family time.

The one thing I want to succeed above all else is my family. I love business and could not imagine doing anything else, but my family trumps business. You can close a business and start a new one, but you can’t close a family. You should never close a family. When a business closes, there is limited damage that can easily be fixed. Someone loses a job, they go get a new one. When you break up a family, the damage lasts forever. We are talking about a family breakup due to a husband or wife that overworks and does not prioritize correctly. I recognize that there are valid reasons for divorce. I am not here to discuss those.

I think that if more men/fathers of this world would prioritize their lives in favor of their families, there would be less of all things negative. If I have to hire more people to help with work so I can maintain a regular work day, I am fine with that. Yes, it will mean paying the wages of others which waters down the money I could be earning, but it is worth it. If I was working for a company, I would forego a promotion if it meant taking time away from my family.

To be honest, I could go on about this forever, so to keep this post from becoming a total rant, I will end it here.

If you are a dad or children any age, please consider how you can give them more of your time. I know you have seen the countless movies that portray a father who tries to spend more time with his already grown kids. That is not the time to make up for it. Do what you can while they are young and before the damage is done. If you are not raising them, someone else will.