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A letter to my girls

Ahead of Father's Day, here's six things I want my girls to think about in the future...

My girls,

There is never a moment in my life that goes by that I don’t wish you all the happiness, peace and fulfillment you can achieve, and wonder what the world will be like when you grow up. I have seen significant change in my 38 years, and you have both got over 35 years until you reach my age. It blows my mind to think about what your lives will be like. Hopefully, there will be equal gender pay, that #metoo will be a history lesson we learned from, and we are reaping the much-touted benefits of balanced female leadership in all areas of our lives.

What I do know is you will make mistakes, fact. I have, and I continue to do so. You will have extreme highs, and lows – they are both as valuable as each other. I have learnt so much from my highs but gained more from my lows. They form you, and I would not be in the position I am to offer you this advice (regardless if you take it) if I hadn’t been heartbroken, failed, won, lost faith, let opportunities pass me by, taken risks and sometimes opted out. These experiences have shaped me, and yours will all leave their mark on you. It’s what you choose to do with that mark that matters.

Reflecting on my own career journey to date, I have made some awful mistakes (don’t be afraid of these), would do things differently (this is normal), made some great friends (do this if you can), met the love of my life at work (your mother), have got my priorities wrong (this will happen), worked too hard (try not to), partied even harder (if you must), travelled a lot (yes, yes, yes), worked with some inspirational people (surround yourself with these), suffered imposter syndrome (this is very normal), and sometimes wondered what the hell I was doing too.

Of all the jobs I have (father and husband, son, brother, friend, employee), being your father and a husband to your mother are the most important by light years. Being an employee makes those jobs a little bit easier, but harder at the same time. So, on Father’s Day, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain to you more about why I leave you and your sister at home five days a week to go to work. It takes me away from you, so I feel the least I can do is share what I have learnt with you so far.

While I genuinely love my job and all whom I work with, it took me quite some time to find it. I hope my advice can help you get there quicker, but when you look back, you will see your journey there is the most important thing.

Some of my thoughts on helping you get there…

Find your balance

Jobs are not constant. I am on my third professional one in 15 years, and I doubt I will retire here. The jobs you will both do probably don’t exist right now. However, how much you value your balance will dictate your choice of employment. While I work a conventional 9-5, I have the flexibility to enable me to stay at home in the mornings, get back to pick you up from your nursery and work from home, if needed. I can also get home for bath and bedtime too, with no-one looking at me strangely for leaving the office. Presentism is far too familiar at the moment, as not being in the office doesn’t mean I am not working. If your company demands you be at your desk to do your job, challenge them, and ask them why they hire people they don’t trust?

Know the purpose

Most companies either make a profit or are trying to make a profit. This is what pays your wages, and provides you with security. But it shouldn’t end there. Look into the company and its leadership, what is their purpose beyond profit, and what difference will your job make beyond the P&L. My impact on the environment is enormous to me as I want you and your sister to experience the world as we have. 383’s pledge to support 1% For The Planet is so meaningful to me. Whatever I do, however hard it seems at times, 1% of the financial outcomes of my job goes to causes helping the planet. This is massive and fills me to the brim with pride. Challenge your prospective employers on their purpose, in addition to profit.

Never lie to yourself

Be true to yourself, even if it hurts at times. Be self-aware, know your weaknesses as much as your strengths and, no matter what, trust your intuition and yourself too. I left a big job, a decision that most people couldn’t understand. It was even called out in my leaving speech in front of the entire agency that it would be the best job I ever had. That job taught me a lot, but deep down, it felt the right thing to do as I believed I had reached a plateau in my learning and development. Making that decision instilled in me the self-belief I could change and take control, and it allowed me to find my balance, spread my experience into different sectors and continents, and find a company and team that shared my beliefs. I’d be lying to myself if I hadn’t left.

Forgive your mistakes, don't let them define you

I was scared of leaving that first job, the familiarity and security, but it worked out well – although it may not have done. It’s ok to be scared and to fail. However, make sure you forgive yourself of your mistakes, then you can be free to make more. Remember, you can succeed just as many times as you can fail.

Get a mentor

I came to this late. Now we have found each other, and the value is incalculable. It’s not about how I do my job better, but how I structure my life and significant responsibilities in it, to enable me to work better and be more present at home when I am with you two and your mother. Find someone who has been there, and can provide you with perspective – not just advice, but a way of thinking that you can connect with and reflect on. They are worth their weight in gold.

Respond, don’t react

Reacting is natural, and part of our DNA. It’s an evolutionary hang-up that we are biologically programmed to react as quickly as possible. Take your time, ask questions, get clarification, if you don’t know the answer immediately calmly say you will respond when you can. Responses are considered, thought through and more valuable. There is too much reaction in the world, and maybe it comes from the immediate gratification addiction borne out of social media? I don’t know, but your life will be more peaceful and in your control, if you respond rather than react.

In all honesty, girls, regardless of what you do in life, or how you do it, you know I am the proudest man alive because of everything you are. Both of you will always have your mother’s and my unwavering and unconditional love and support. I trust you will find your paths and hope you find your place, as I have found mine, and look forward to you sharing your advice with me.

All my love, always.

Dad x

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