Fighting to stay relevant

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This week has had me thinking a lot about my role as a father and how relevant I am in the lives of my three children.

As they become more and more independent, I see that my role is changing — I'm no longer Superman — impenetrable, heroic and can basically accomplish anything — but rather am, what at times feels like a background figure, an observer in the audience of their lives.

Yes, I know. at least I have good seats.

A while ago, my eldest daughter shared with me an Instagram feed by a father who documented his life with his three children. Skiing trips, road trips, walking to school. The whole thing. Perfect hair. Perfect abs. White teeth. Friendly neighbours, friendly children who played five hundred different sports and a big home that looked amazing even when it was 'messy'. All the accessories, gadgets and donations to meaningful causes. All of it!

I scrolled and I scrolled feeling overwhelmed, inferior and second-guessing myself — at one point, asking "am I doing enough?"

Feeling annoyed for going that far — I unfollowed and realised that I was looking at the situation in the wrong way — asking myself the wrong question. 

I was not in competition.

This week is also our strategic planning week at work. We’re all gathering at the beautiful White House in Melbourne to map out our strategy for the year.

We do this annually and it’s a day filled with poignant questions and (hopefully) profound answers.

This process has taught me so much as I parallel it with my own self awareness as a father. After all, aren’t we, in our effort to strategise for the year, making an effort to remain relevant in the eyes of our clients, investors and employees?

We do this to remain relevant and in business, competitive.

I dwell on this as I picture many a business owner plan their own strategy for their team and their business. Trying to outdo, outperform and eventually, win.

Years ago I met someone at an industry event, whom I admired in my career. He had accomplished some well known pieces of work and had solved problems I too, one day, wished I would solve. I introduced myself to him and his first response was "....oh yes, Mr. Antonopoulos, I had a bookmark on my browser with Tank's website and I check in from time to time to keep an eye on you."

His reference was one of competition. He considered me a competitor and I was taken aback.

I walked away thinking why I didn't have a list of competitors bookmarked, that I too check in on? I second-guessed myself again.

Should I be keeping matrixes and war rooms filled with competitor work, clients and strategies? After all isn't that what is done when competing?

I later realised that this person I admired was in fact someone I didn't want to be like because when I meet someone I try to greet them rather than tell them I've been watching them. Creepy...

I came to realise a long time ago, that in both cases — my role as a father and my role as a business owner I am fighting to stay relevant. To my children, my employees and my wife.

I am not in competition with anyone other than myself.

I don't have a wall, or digital folder filled with print outs of competitor websites, clients and movements — I don't monitor other fathers' nor do I scroll through social media feeling completely underwhelmed because someone else has better work, better hair (has hair at all) a nicer office, a big house, a shinier laptop, a better-trimmed beard, nicer clothes or a swaggier list of awards and ironic Twitter quibbles.

I switch all that shit off because I've come to learn we're better off if we are on a different journey.

On our strategy day this week we won't be talking about competitors but we'll be discussing about how we work hard to make them irrelevant to our business. What uncharted territories we'll explore and what we will do to dive into the things we're truly passionate about as individuals.

When I'm with my children today, and every other day, I won't be thinking about whether I'll be featured in a magazine for my house, clothes or achievements in fatherhood — I'll simply be present and grateful that I have three Unicorns in my presence and we get to walk through this life together, looking after one another.

My StoryJim Antonopoulos