My wife and I tend to push ourselves to the limit. We both work demanding careers (she as a doctor and me as a consultant), we have three children with demanding school and activity schedules, and we prioritize health and fitness with whatever excess energy we have left (some weeks are better than others). We’re constantly making extra commitments, scheduling visits to relatives, and squeezing every ounce of what remains of our energy in order to accomplish the next thing or seek the next goal. It’s fun, but exhausting. And the unexpected can send us into a tailspin.
One July morning, I was doing some personal financial planning on our home computer while my kids were watching Saturday morning cartoons (apologies to all you super-parents-who-never-let-their-kids-watch-tv) while my wife went for a trail run. Out of nowhere, I was shocked to hear her open the front door, screaming in pain. She had twisted her ankle on the trail, badly tearing the lateral ligament in her left ankle. She had hobbled back a full mile before hitching a ride with a generous stranger. Her ankle quickly swelled up to the size of a small grapefruit:
Eight hours and two ER visits later, we confirmed that it was not broken, but a ligament torn all the way through. The diagnosis was 6 weeks of crutches just to begin walking again. Exercise? Forget about it. Carrying your kids? Yea, right. What a disaster.
But it didn’t really sink in until a few days into the injury how much this would affect us. Suddenly, my wife couldn’t pick up our 2-year-old or 4-year-old. Just bathing the kids and getting them dressed became an impossible task for her. Overnight, I went from managing 1.5 other humans at a time (sharing 3 kids with my wife) to managing 4 (3 kids plus my wife, who now needed me more help than ever). Physically caring for our kids was simply not an option for her.
I started thinking about the next week, when I would be in Los Angeles for a week-long trial. Our nanny had been planning a summer vacation at the same time (good grief, the timing of this killed us), and my wife was to be at home, alone, and on crutches, with all three kids while working full-time and relying on a substitute nanny. This was a recipe for a potential disaster, and later revealed itself to be a true disaster (the nanny turned out to be unreliable and unsafe — another story for another day — so my wife spent the week scrambling and working with fill-ins. I don’t think I’ve ever received so many hate texts from her as I did that week!).
Add this to the mix: we had been planning a weekend getaway for just the two of us out West to meet our new niece (my sister) and nephew (her sister). We were set to leave just 3 days after the injury. But we’re Superman and Superwoman – we can still do this, right?
We woke up at 3am for our 6am flight to Denver. Bone tired, my wife hobbled out of the shower and tried to get dressed. We played in our minds the pending airport, car rental, and hotel, all with my wife’s crutches. At about 4:30am, way behind on packing and right when we needed to call our Uber, we broke down crying. The injury, the stress, all of it had finally broken us. We cancelled the trip, disappointing both ourselves and our siblings who hoped we would meet their newborns. Forget Superman and Superwoman, we were barely making it through the day.
But every cloud has a silver lining, I suppose. I had already scheduled to take the day off work, so I decided to take a personal day. The kids were going to school, the nanny was on her way, and my work commitments were low that day. I spent the day going for a long walk, going to the gym, helping my wife heal. She slept most of the day, so I used the time to read and think.
I spent the rest of the morning (still dark after missing our 4:30 Uber) sipping coffee and reading Internet content on healthy living, parenting, and investing. I came across Financial Samurai’s incredible site and insightful post on “How To Start A Blog“, and I was hooked. Yes! This was a great idea! This is what I was missing — an outlet to write, reflect, and share stories about parenting, career, investing, and living. A platform to reach millions of people and share insights on how to succeed and thriving together.
This is when I settled on the concept of Thriving Dad. I’ve long been interested in questions about how to define and lead a good life. I read constantly and I’m addicted to the self-help and personal growth section of the book store (that, and Investing). I’ve always been frustrated by the limitations of happiness, success, progress (see Why Thrive). But on this day, I kept asking myself: why do my wife and I do what we do and always push to our limits? What is it for? What are we trying to achieve? We constantly question our own decisions in life. We’re doing our best to make good choices, but sometimes I worry that they’re the wrong choices. On this day, following our cancelled trip out west, that feeling was stronger than ever – but at the same time, I didn’t want to change.
We persist because of our pursuit of a Thriving Life, which encompasses ideas of personal achievement and well-being with elements of truth, goodness, and broader contribution. How can we encapsulate all of these into a single concept? “Thriving Dad”, I said to myself — my goal and my aim. I primarily self-identify as a father and family man. I don’t think of myself as ambitious, but at the same time I love to succeed. I thrive on competition but hate the rat race. I simultaneously love and hate the high-energy, high-commitment lifestyle my wife and I have created (mostly love, but sometimes feel overwhelmed). But, in everything I do, I seek to thrive and help others thrive as best I can. It truly is a defining characteristic of my life and self-identity (see About Thriving Dad).
I’ve always loved writing. I wrote a financial newsletter from 2006 to 2009 while in graduate school (see Market Comments Archive), studying the ups and downs of the financial markets and investing strategies. I loved the process of synthesizing ideas into distilled communication for others. I let it go, in 2010, due to work and home demands on my time, but I missed it.
Now, as I settle in to my mid-30s, it is time for a new topic. Time to reflect a bit more about what it all means: who are we and what are we to do with our lives? Call it a mid-life crisis, if you will, but I’m hoping it is the beginning of mid-life reflections that carry into old age.
I secured the site, started a blog, and here we are. This, in a nutshell, is the story of how Thriving Dad came to exist. I hope you’ll join me on a journey of stories, tactics, and reflections on how to be a Thriving Professional, a Thriving Parent, a Thriving Investor, and live a Thriving Life. After all, isn’t that what life is all about?
— Thriving Dad