Sample chapter from Fatherhood is Leadership

FRIDAY NIGHT PIZZA NIGHT

The miracle of love comes to you in the presence of the uninterpreted moment. If you are mentally somewhere else, you miss real life.

~ Byron Katie

 

It’s Friday, and in anticipation I leave my office at 4:00 p.m.

I never schedule afternoon meetings on Fridays. My personal

commitment is to leave no later than 4:00 to catch the 4:09 train to

New Jersey, but as any New Yorker knows, subway times are

affected by stalls, sick passengers, police activity, and so on. A

three-hour journey can easily become four hours or more. So today

I’ve left early.

 

My priority is picking up my son, Omari, from elementary

school, and I don’t let anything get in the way of that.

As I get off the train and walk to Omari’s school, I reflect on

my journey. I’m filled with gratitude for all we’ve been through.

I’ve created a life centered around the things I value most. I’m

grateful to show my son that his father loves him and will be there

for him despite any obstacles along the way. I’m grateful for the

inner work I’ve done and for the strength it’s helped me develop.

Some of the fathers I coach haven’t been able to experience

this level of empowerment yet because circumstances, mindset and

choices make their reality difficult. It’s not always easy for

fathers—for anyone—to create an intentional life. We have all

kinds of demands at home, on the job and in relationships. As

providers and protectors we’ve got financial and safety concerns,

and we also think about the impact we want to have on our

families and the world.

 

I’ve learned from personal experience and through the fathers

I coach that creating the kind of life I now have is possible. It takes

effort, but the payoff is extraordinary.

 

I can usually tell how engaged Omari is by whether he runs

and jumps into my arms—sending chills of joy down my spine and

a smile to my face—or whether he puts up a fuss with a tear or two

at the thought of ending his basketball game early. I’ve learned by

now from my two older children not to take this personally. It’s not

about me or even the love my son has for me. It’s about him in the

present moment. Meeting my son where he is, validating his

feelings and letting him know that there’s enough fun to go around

usually squashes any reluctance to make our way to Penn Station

together.

 

Today, however, is a good day.

 

Omari shouts, “Daddy!” and runs down the hallway into my

arms. This is joy! After a long moment I put him down, and while

he gets his coat and backpack I speak with his teacher about how

he’s doing in school.

 

Then we’re on our way.

 

By the time we arrive at Penn Station our stomachs are

growling. My son puts out his arms with a look that clearly says,

“Pick me up!” So I do. I carry him up all forty-three steps (yes,

I’ve counted!) from the New Jersey transit platform to the Long

Island Rail Road area in Penn Station. I have my bag over one

shoulder and his backpack on my back. He’s heavy, I’m tired and

the people in front of us never seem to move fast enough up the

stairs. But when he puckers up and lays a big kiss on my cheek I

forget all that. This moment amidst all the noise and chaos is

priceless. His kiss is one of appreciation for my being his hero.

We make our way to our famous pizza joint in the heart of

Penn Station. The place is buzzing with out-of-towners, commuters

and regulars like us. The smell of melted cheese and fresh pizza

crust fills the air. The guys behind the counter recognize us and

prepare our usual order: four cheese slices, two of them cut in half.

My son takes great pride in being able to open the fridge’s display

door to grab himself a soda and me a bottle of seltzer water.

We find seats near the bathroom and the feast begins. In

between bites, we talk about his day and whatever else is on his

mind. Sometimes it’s Ninja Turtles, sometimes school, sometimes

basketball, but it always ends with one question: “Will my brother

be there when we get home?” If Omari’s older brother Justice isn’t

at basketball practice or out doing whatever teenagers do, then the

answer is “yes,” and this brings a big, bright smile to his face.

Before we leave we make a stop in the bathroom. There are

few things more stressful than being on an hour-long train ride

with a five-year-old who can’t hold it anymore.

 

It’s the dead of winter and freezing cold in NYC—the weather

app says seventeen degrees, but it feels much colder. Thankfully

the pizza shop in Penn Station is connected to the subway station

underground so we don’t have to wander outside yet.

 

Although the subway is packed, there’s often an unspoken

connection with the strangers who see a father and his young son

together. Immediately a man offers up his seat to Omari.

Without hesitation (well, maybe a little NYC hesitation) a woman

offers her seat to me so I can sit next to my son. I thank them both.

Their smiles show they’re happy to have done a good deed.

Omari lays his head on my lap, his eyes looking heavy. I ask,

“Are you tired?”

 

Without hesitation he offers an unconvincing yet emphatic, “No!”

Less than a minute later he’s passed out on my lap. I laugh

inside at the fact that I can only recall one time when Omari

actually admitted he was tired. My belief is that he looks at time

spent sleeping as missing out on something. He can’t miss a

second of this great big, amazing world in front of him. If he

admits to feeling tired, it’s like he’s admitting defeat. Sleep isn’t an

option, until it is.

 

I glance down at my son, asleep under the brim of his blue and

white tassle hat, his Air Jordan sneakers tucked beneath his legs.

He’s bundled in a blue bomber jacket and has his backpack on his

lap. His warmth and innocence are palpable. It’s a BIG city in a

BIG world for this five-year-old traveling the iron horse with his

dad in the underground tunnels of New York City.

 

I feel complete.

 

There’s no place I’d rather be than right here, right now.

 

***

 

I treasure these moments with Omari. Words like connection,

unconditional love, gratitude, freedom, abundance and peace come

to mind to describe my feelings in moments like these, but really

there’s so much more going on inside me. Only a father can

understand the magical feeling that occurs in these brief moments

of silence after a night like the one I’ve had with Omari.

 

Our journey has been nothing short of challenging. When

Omari was three-and-a-half years old, his mother and I went

through a difficult divorce. Any breakup is difficult, but when

children are involved it’s even more painful. Soon after our split,

Omari moved in with his mother. At first my son only spent every

other weekend with me. But that wasn’t enough. We needed more.

I felt we were missing out on one of the most important

connections of all, the one that develops between a father and his

child. I knew I needed to do whatever I could to change our

situation.

 

Throughout the breakup I had been on an emotional

rollercoaster. I felt helpless, sad, angry, hurt, guilty, remorseful,

ashamed—you name it. But in spite of this, Omari’s innocence and

light shone through to my heart, inspiring me to shine even

brighter. I realized my son is an amazing being. He sees me as if I

can do no wrong. He looks to me for love, guidance, wisdom,

protection, comfort and laughter. His light inspires me to step into

my higher self, to commit more than ever to showing up as a

full-time father despite a part-time living arrangement—and

regardless of financial concerns, adversity or difficulties in my

relationship with his mother.

 

My mission is simple: to show up as the best father I can be.

This is my calling. If I fail at this, nothing else matters. Now I

know that when I stand up and am the best version of myself, I

create a space for this adorable and special being to nurture the

seeds of his own highest self: LOVE.

 

My journey to this point started with me doing inner work on

myself. I decided to give myself the gift of my own attention. This

included hours of reading, practicing, experimenting, and talking

to other men about fatherhood, relationships and life. I began to

see the importance of self-care and daily routines that include some

sort of mindfulness and meditation.

 

From my conversations with other men I’ve found that most

still get stuck in talking about their feelings and struggles. Most of

them have difficulty asking for help. Three themes emerge time

and again:

 

1. Performance: Fathers worry about having what it takes to

be a “good father,” however they define that.

 

2. Security: Fathers are concerned about providing protection

and financial security for their families.

 

3. Mortality: Fathers are aware of their own limited time and

are concerned about their legacy. They want to provide

their children with the emotional and practical skills

necessary to navigate life.

 

The time I dedicated to myself ultimately transformed how I

showed up as a man and as a father. This work was key to me

becoming the man I needed to be and addressing the three

concerns above—and much more. It allowed me to be more

present, clear-minded, and emotionally balanced, as well as less

anxious.

 

I’m not talking about being perfect. I fall short of my ideals

often enough. But one of the keys to success and fulfillment isn’t

seeking perfection but developing a practice that works for you,

one that helps you regularly show up at the top of your game.

This was true whether the situation involved a divorce, tough

news about my two teenagers, finding out my son was being

bullied or just me, sitting at home feeling less than complete at

times. My commitment to self-care and self-love allowed me to be

at my best more often than not. What’s more, knowing that this

state of mind was always available to me was key to my sense of

freedom—or “FREE-DOME” (aka free mind)—which meant less

confusion, negative self-talk and doubt.

 

The coaching clients I started sharing these insights with, and

who also began similar practices in their own lives, started

reporting the same shifts. They were less reactive and much more

present.

 

This was a modern-day miracle for all of us.

 

The ability to not overreact to every curveball life throws our

way allows us to be the owners of our lives, our well-being,

happiness, fulfillment and our relationships with our children.

We are not victims of circumstances.

 

Can you see what a powerful shift living from this awareness

could bring to your life?

 

With my newfound dedication, I began to emerge as the father

I knew my son deserved. I was present, playful, patient, kind,

authentic, supportive, strong and loving. As a result of committing

to my own transformation, time with my son shifted from every

other weekend to every weekend, as schedules allowed. This

required commuting two-and-a-half hours each way from Queens

to New Jersey via public transportation to pick Omari up from

school on Friday afternoons, and then waking up at 5:00 a.m. to do

it all in reverse on Monday mornings to get him to school on time.

No problem.

 

Our “Friday Night Pizza Night” kicked off weekends of

connection and healing together. I still look forward to them each

and every week. The journey has all been worth it just to

experience moments like these.

 

The inner work I’ve done on myself to transform my mindset

and my choices has allowed me to become the man, the father, the

friend, the son, the business owner, and the leader I have always

wanted to be. I feel such freedom living without the guilt, the

shame or the remorse. I wake up excited about the days ahead.

What’s more, I can clearly see the benefits my transformation

has had on my three children—Omari, his teenage brother, Justice,

and my daughter, Kaila, currently nineteen and in college.

Our journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has been well

worth it. While divorce is never ideal, I’ve created a reality many

fathers struggle to find. Omari can be with me for up to twelve out

of thirty days a month, one full month in the summer, and on

holidays. That’s a far cry from what it could’ve been.

 

I continue to be a work in progress, but the feeling inside of

me is one I know other fathers may also sometimes get glimpses

of. I’m showing up as best and as powerfully as I can. I’ve not

become a victim of circumstances. I’ve taken ownership over my

relationships and the time I spend with my son. Regardless of

distance, divorce or anything else, I’ve made choices to create my

life. In this intentionally created life there is no more fear, shame,

guilt or regret.

 

Too many times I’ve seen and heard stories about fathers who

allowed circumstances to determine their relationships with their

children. I’m here to tell you that there is another way to live.

I started this journey by asking myself two questions: “What is

missing from my life and how am I keeping it out?”

 

My answers led to choices that would ultimately create my

future reality. They shifted me from helpless to hopeful, sad to

happy, heavy to light. Love is my highest self, and from that place,

miracles happen.

 

The answers led, for example, to Friday Night Pizza Night, a

ritual that created a space for us as father and son to heal, bond and

create a new reality. In this sense, PIZZA is the healthiest food my

son and I have ever eaten.

 

***

 

Fathers, I get it.

 

You’re not just a father. You might be an employee, business

owner, husband, baseball coach, and more. You’re a hard worker.

You wear a hundred hats and struggle to make sense of them all.

You care about your family. Maybe you don’t have a vision of

what success as a father and in life would look like for you. Maybe

you didn’t have an active father when you needed one most.

Maybe you’re a father who has all the outside trappings of what

you think success looks like (car, house, picket fence, 2.5

children), but you feel unfulfilled, uninspired and lack passion.

I get it. I’ve been there, and I’ve coached other men who have

been there too. As a father to three wonderful children and a

successful business owner and success coach, I know from

experience the challenges we face as men and fathers out in the

world. There aren’t many resources available for those focused on

creating a fulfilling life while raising children.

 

I’m here to change that.

 

I’m here to provide you a safe space to change your life. A

space where together we can explore influence, intimacy and

impact so that we can dig deep and learn what you want and how

to bring it about. This book is written for you.

 

Here’s the good news on what’s possible:

 

• We already have what it takes to be great! Great in

business, great as parents and great in terms of the positive

impact we can have on society.

 

• We can achieve career success and financial freedom

without losing out on priceless, intimate moments with our

families.

 

• We can serve our children in a way that is so incredibly

profound it will help us lay a foundation for them to be

even better and more successful than we are.

 

• We can rebuild and redefine relationships in powerful

ways and communicate effectively and creatively with

ourselves, our spouses and our children.

 

• We can achieve our goals, follow our passions and live as

our most authentic selves without apology.

 

Sound good?

 

My research and expertise focus on two areas: fatherhood and

high-performance leadership. I’ve worked with some of the most

successful athletes, business owners, CEOs, high achievers, and

everyday fathers who want more out of life. In this book I share my

personal experiences of transformation as well as disciplines and

tools from my coaching practice. What’s most exciting to me is

that you don’t need to be a CEO or have a stacked bank account to

benefit from what I’m sharing.

 

This book is for ALL FATHERS. PERIOD!

 

I’m so grateful for all the experiences in my life. I’ll share

many of them with you, raw and uncut, in the hopes of reaching as

many fathers as I can. My story includes all aspects of the human

experience from a father’s perspective—love, pain, happiness, fear,

joy, fulfillment, abundance, achievement, service, perseverance,

commitment, friendships, heartbreak, ownership, victimhood,

fatherhood, co-parenting, children, spirituality and completeness.

My aim in this book is to be an instrument of service and a

source of inspiration. I’m committed to changing the fatherhood

story—permanently. This book comes from my heart with the

intention of reaching other hearts—any hearts, whether loving,

broken, in pain or full of joy. I want to provide you the tools that

will help you become a better father, a better man, and a better

leader—and create miracles in your life.

 

Remember: It all starts and ends with YOU. If you want to be

a better:

 

• Father—it starts and ends with you.

• Husband—it starts and ends with you.

• Partner—it starts and ends with you.

• Friend—it starts and ends with you.

• Leader—it starts and ends with you.

• Server—it starts and ends with you.

• Boss—it starts and ends with you.

• Employee—it starts and ends with you.

• Human Being—it starts and ends with you.

 

My hope is that you’ll take what you need from this book and

leave the rest. And that after you apply what you’ve learned and

see amazing shifts and transformations in your life, you’ll pay it

forward. Share the gifts you receive by serving others. Take this

information and turn it into transformation by applying it in your

daily life. Serve your children, spouse, family, friends and

community.

 

Your world will change, and in turn you will change the

world.