I had joined five startups before my son was born. I was lured to the startup world by the excitement of working with passionate teams and building cool products. Little did I know those crazy times would prepare me for fatherhood.
1) Winging It
In startups you have to make decisions – sometimes big ones – without much supporting data or precedent. Nothing is truer of newborns. You can read all the baby books on Amazon, but there will be daily stuff you’ll just have to figure out on your own. It gets less terrifying.
2) Prepared for Anything
Missing payroll. Jaundice. Your first trade show. Pneumonia at 4 months. Winning your first big customer. Projectile diarrhea (the baby I mean). Big customer threatens to bolt. Spontaneous crying (me). Just another day.
You don’t find Humility – it finds you. You’re feeling cocky, then BOOM – your lead investor pulls out at the last minute. Your top engineer abruptly quits. You didn’t know it was possible to be bad at burping a baby. Your new son gleefully pees on you – never your wife – when you change him. Hello Humility.
4) Real Sleep Deprivation
There’s something cool and sad about discovering different levels of sleep deprivation. I learned to function on what I call Grade I sleep deprivation at a few startups – 80 hour weeks, some all nighters. It helped prepare for those weeks of nighttime teething and 5-per-night feeding sessions. Some bad stretches led to Grade II, when I sat at my keyboard trying to compose an email and my fingers wouldn’t type any of the right letters. Not one. If you’re Grade II, just go home and sleep.
So if you really want to prepare for parenthood, don’t get a dog, join a startup.