Last fall, as my wife was busy getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, she asked me to grab something out of the fridge. I obliged, and while doing so, something pink and blue on the top shelf caught my eye. At first glance, I thought they were bottles of Gatorade, but after a few seconds I realized they were baby bottles. A bit perplexed, I stared a second longer before I noticed at the base of the bottles she had placed a little white stick. Suddenly, that infamous pink “+” brought out a flood of emotions, instantly washing away all the doctors visits and heartache the two of us had gone through trying to get to this very moment.
The five months since then have been more exciting than I could ever have imagined. But somewhere between the baby registries and OB appointments, some worries have started creeping in. How much does daycare cost? Will we need a different car? What if my business slows down and we can’t afford payments on the house we just built? And on and on. So recently, I did what you might expect from a numbers guy... I sharpened my proverbial pencil. I sat down and researched things like the cost of Pampers, daycare, and options for a second car. After going down the rabbit hole of details and running every possible projection I could imagine, the numbers looked reasonable. But even so, for some reason, I still wasn’t quite satisfied.
Not long afterward, one of my favorite clients came in for a meeting. If I had to name someone who was the picture of financial security, she’d be on the top of my list. Even so, I was having trouble convincing her of that. After outlining why I thought her situation was so promising, she still seemed uneasy. I asked her what she would need to see to put her mind at ease. It’s a question I ask many clients (as an interesting aside, the answer is almost always a dollar amount at least double what they currently have), but her answer surprised me. She said, “I want certainty.” I told her that there really is no such thing as certainty, inside the financial world or out, and before the words had fully left my mouth, a light bulb went off. I had just vicariously diagnosed my own problem.
Becoming a dad is uncharted territory. It has brought a whole host of uncertainties, and the fact of the matter is, not even my spreadsheet wizardry can solve or account for all of the possibilities and neverending what-ifs. I could have every type of insurance known to man, the world’s safest car, a bottomless trust fund, and it wouldn’t even come close to guaranteeing happiness for our soon-to-be little person.
As I started to think about my fear of the unknown, it reminded me of something one of my best friends, Brian, told me years ago. At the time he was one of the top-ranked discus throwers in the world. He was training to compete in his third Olympic trials, all while simultaneously running a business and raising a family. In awe of all he had managed to accomplish, I asked him what the secret was, he told me this: your odds of success are directly tied to your tolerance for uncertainty. Since then, that creed has proven true for him, over and over again. He is currently an amazing business coach (check him out at btrainor.com), and I can’t even keep track of all the companies he has started. If you ask him what his role is in any of his businesses, he’ll tell you “Chief Courage Officer.”
Courage is exactly why Brian has achieved what he has; where other people would have been scared away from their dreams, derailed by their uncertainty, he pulls the trigger. Fear of the unknown is why people don’t leave jobs that they hate in order to do what they love. How many success stories do you know of that started off by someone taking the safe route? I’m not suggesting you don’t need to put together a solid roadmap for how you plan to reach your destination, but overplanning and fear can lead to analysis paralysis, where you may never leave the garage.
I’m coming to see that fatherhood, like anything that’s worthwhile in this life, is going to be two parts preparation, one part leap of faith (or vice versa). While it’s easy for me to fall into the false trap of believing that more money would protect me somehow and prevent my fears from coming to fruition, even an endless supply of it can’t buy certainty. And come to think of it, even if I could wave a magic wand for a guaranteed outcome, it would make the journey of getting there not nearly as much fun.