My religious beliefs and practices are my own and are no longer rooted in the church. So, when I went to church recently by my own desire for the first time in years, I was a little surprised by the number of things the church and the experience actually reminded me that I believe in:
I believe in architecture and the way the hardness of a stone floor can remind me of my physicality and groundedness - with cold feet and mild pain - and by contrast the way a soaring ceiling can pull my eyes and my thoughts upward and beyond my body and my self. I believe in vaulted gothic pillars and high, pointed arches that make me feel physically small with their scale and with their sense of history that reminds me that my time as part of the creative, human story is minuscule. I believe in dramatic lighting and its ability to add texture and fullness to the form surrounding me.
I believe in music and the ability of a booming pipe organ or a delicate piano to inexplicably make my heart race or move me to tears. I believe in acoustics that can take the reverberations of a singing choir and sync them to the energy within me, melting my form as the sopranos take flight, my spirit in tow.
I believe in stained glass and the artisan’s ability to filter natural light in such a way that I actually stop and pay attention to it, its source, relative intensity - the ways glass and light can make the artisan’s vision dance warmly on my retina in potent contrast with cool, bland, stone walls. I believe in the rose window and its circular reminder of the infinite. I believe in its fractal patterns that remind me that we are all parts of a whole - and in that whole, there is order.
I believe in the creative, spoken word and its ability to analyze familiar parts of stories, fractals of human history, and twist and turn them in new ways to generate new reflections and understanding - to pique the intellect or move the spirit. I believe in symbols and metaphors that help us rethink and reframe small stories of daily life and large stories about the meaning of it.
I believe in sitting still and being reflective.
I believe in art.
As good as it may feel and as validating as it may seem for your early product, confirmation that the market has a problem and that your product seems like a good solution should not be confused with finding product/market fit.
Particularly in a B2B context and especially at the enterprise level, new product sales and adoption encounter a world of organizational dynamics, dysfunctions, disparate priorities, funding streams, and basic inertia that often are what actually create the need for your product but also undercut demand.
My first startup created a mobile communication tool for both the education and the healthcare sectors at different times. In both, there was a clear and acknowledged communication problem - in education among schools and students, and in healthcare among administration and physicians. In each sector, we found a solid early interest in our solution.
Both sectors, however, are also highly regulated and compliance driven. Both sectors are risk averse and bureaucratic. Both sectors have complex decision-making structures and resource allocation processes. And, both sectors are notorious for culture problems among administration, front-line staff, and the people they actually serve. This is why both sectors have severe communication problems (need), and also why both sectors have not been able to commit to solving (demand) their communication problems.
Needing a communication solution and demanding one are two different things. Our startup got a lot of head nodding and early interest and affirmation, but was never able to scale our sales to match.
In hindsight, we had achieved problem/solution fit (need oriented), but a couple of years later we were still searching for product/market fit (demand oriented).
In 2019, I became Daddy.
Now, this may seem odd given that I have a 5 (almost 6) and 7 year old. After all, I have been a Dad for all of those years.
But, becoming Daddy is about something altogether different.
I have talked over these 7+ years with many friends-turned-Dads who sheepishly divulge their struggles in parenting, the desire for the freedom they once had, time alone, the changes in their relationship with their spouse, and the overall life-turned-upside-down that happens when you bring a child into the world with you. Granted, after a beer or two, most of those conversations end in raucous laughter and funny (usually crass) stories about the mistakes we have made or some embarrassing thing that had happened with our kids that hilariously shamed us as parents.
In these conversations, we were still Dads-in-limbo - caught somewhere between the inertia of a previous life and the possibilities of a new one.
Because of these conversations and the general lack of access to candor about being a Dad - empathy as much as guidance - I committed years ago to writing about my experiences, particularly the ugly parts that people think only happen to them - but rarely only happen to them.
So, here I am 7.5 years in to being a Dad finally (maybe still a touch sheepishly) divulging: I am Daddy. I have become Daddy. When I think of myself and reflect on my life and purpose and where I want to grow and learn and improve, what I want my future to be and why, I think Daddy.
This is a big shift. And sorry, girls, I am just being honest - it took awhile.
Back in 2014 with a 2 year old and an infant, I saw this early process unfolding, but I wasn’t there yet, and was clearly struggling to navigate it. In fact, the process I was struggling with was in becoming a Dad. The notion of becoming Daddy hadn’t even surfaced yet.
Back then, I started and never posted a blog - left only as incomplete thoughts - called “A Dad Becoming”. Here’s a bit of what was becoming in 2014:
When my girls were born, I loved them, but I didn’t instantly feel like their Dad.
As I changed their diapers and fed them, I became invested in them.
With investment, their lives claimed space in my identity.
Through shared identity, we both began to grow.
In growth, I started to become a Dad.
As they grow, they want to do for themselves.
They seek independence.
They demonstrate their unique personalities.
Through their demonstration, I get to know them.
Knowing them, our relationship becomes an exchange.
As we exchange, I still say I love you, but now they express it back.
In expression, love itself deepens, but so does the responsibility.
The responsibility: the weight of being a Dad.
As the weight increases, so does the need to model personal and relational health.
In modeling, a discipline of patience and unconditional love.
The discipline, failure.
So, for now, this is where I am: a Dad becoming.
Five years later, I do feel like I know my kids (and I’m crazy about them even when they drive me crazy); I am not just their caretaker.
Five years later, our relationship is an exchange, a genuine, learning, growing relationship. It has a past, a present, and a future.
Five years later, my patience - well… I’m still becoming.
Five years later, the weight of being a Dad is still there, but it is counterbalanced by the unparalleled joy of being Daddy.
Five years later, here I am again trying to put my parenting experience into words, but instead of struggling to understand the process, I am whole with the reality. While I am and will always be a “Dad becoming”, I have also become Daddy.