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Father's Day: Why I couldn't write the 'Top 10 rules' for new fathers

The lessons that make you a good athlete or a success at work don’t apply. And if you love to check things off a list, you’re going to have some problems. Fatherhood is the art of being there.

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In the past year, almost 4 million babies were born in America. Which means a lot of new fathers were born. Making this their first Father’s Day. So I wanted to share some lessons from 25 years on the job.

I know guys like rules. So I tried writing “The Top 10 rules for new Fathers.” (We men love Top 10 lists, too, so that would have been a coup). I didn’t get very far. I also looked at compiling a list of axioms from sports and business that might be instructive. But that also turned out to be a fool’s errand.

The challenge with being a father is that you can’t trust your instincts. The lessons that made you a good athlete or a success at work don’t apply: Set goals. Create a strategy or action plan. Work hard. It’s all wrong. Fatherhood is the least goal-oriented enterprise you’ve ever embarked on. It’s not about outcomes; it’s about process.

Fatherhood is the art of being there. And if you love to check things off your list, as I do, you’re going to have some problems. You’re about to run smack up against the inertia that is children. I remember going out and buying a bunch of great books to read to my kids. (I was an English major.) I wanted to check the classics off the list so we could move on. I started with “Good Night Moon” and got stuck there for about six months. Why would a kid want to have the same book read over and over? Has he no ambition?

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