Father, Uncategorized

Getting ROI from Kids

The ROI on kids is not particularly good.  At least, not at first.

For those unfamiliar with the term, ROI – “Return On Investment” – is a common business term used to evaluate whether something is worth spending money on.  If investing in that faster email system for $10,000 lets you earn money twice as fast, there’s a good (5x!) ROI if you normally make $50,000/year and now make $100,000… and a terrible one if you normally make $1000 and now you make $2000, because you spent $10,000 to earn $1,000… so it’ll take 10 years to payback that investment.

Babies have a terrible ROI.  The first six weeks is almost all “I”, in the form of sleepless nights, unproductive days, and a constant give, give, give for all your baby will take, take, take.  Your primary R is a smile here and there, and a sense of accomplishment for all that you’re investing.  Toddlers are only slightly better.  Grade schoolers definitely have more “R” because they’re more fun.  Middle schoolers even more so.

The ROI becomes more obvious as your kids grow.  They gain self-sufficiency.  They help you out with chores, sometimes even without prompting. You don’t spend $75+ on baby sitting for dinner and a movie.  As they grow older, they become your sidekicks, your cribbage partners, your avatar.  They’re the home team you’re rooting for in life.  They’re the source of so much proudness.

And don’t get me started on grandparenting.  From what I’ve observed, that’s when the kid thing pays crazy dividends.  Not to mention it becomes up to them to take care of you, eventually.

Of course, all of this is bullshit, too.  Because love doesn’t keep score. And parenting isn’t measured on ROI.

But still… it doesn’t hurt to get those moments where one kid is running around at soccer practice, and the other is on the playground with grade school friends, after the three of you finished dinner and had some ice cream, as a comfortable fall evening wraps up.  You look around, take a deep breath, and say to yourself: “This is a joyful moment.”

Father, Musician, Uncategorized


I am not a heavy metal fan.  I rank it just above gangsta rap and country music in my mental list of “least favorite music genres.”  I tend to dismiss the songs as so much noise, much as a connoisseur on the other side of the spectrum would be dismissive of an operatic aria.

Perversely, my 13yo son is now a huge Metallica fan.

It’d be too easy to slip into the role of doddering father, shaking my cane and muttering “turn that crap down” and “kids these days” and “back in my day”, even though technically I’m pretty sure Metallica was “back in my day.” I’ve been humoring his excited explanations of why he liked certain songs. I’ve marveled at his ability during drum practice to capture the patterns of some of his favorites. I’ve been perplexed at his recall of song names, albums, lyrics, band member names as they’ve come and gone… these are from the 80s.  I guess it’s the equivalent of if I had been a teenage fan of alternative 50s music — not Elvis Presley, but perhaps Tony Bennett or Mitch Miller.

(Of course, play a symphonic piece and I can almost certainly name whether it’s from 100, 200, or 300 years ago, if not the composer and the piece itself, but I digress…)

Today he played me “Spit Out the Bone” on the way home from soccer practice.  As I was adjusting to the percussive assault on my brain, he explained the lyrics and the post-apocalyptic man vs robot setting.  He pointed out how Lars Ulrich is achieving those sounds from the drum set, and the different “fills” involved. He mentioned it’s from a recent album rather than something from the 80s.  He noted the patterns and rhythm and how there’s actually some music and chord structure going on. That evening I read up more on the song.  I learned about the philosophy of transhumanism which is, to some degree, advocated by the song’s narrator, implying criticism by the band given that said narrator is trying to convince humans to give themselves over to technology and essentially commit suicide.  It’s commentary on our smart watches and faces buried in iPhones and desire to stay plugged in all the time.  Given that context, the music makes sense, and I understand the emotion behind it.  And suddenly I have a glimpse as to what a lot of heavy metal is about, and why it’s music, and why he likes it.

In short, I got a music lesson from my son.  That was awesome.


Coming back from the hiatus

First there’s one distraction. Then another. Maybe an excuse. Perhaps a legitimate reason to deprioritize. Suddenly the personal project that started off as urgent and important, became less urgent but still important, until it slipped into that nice-to-have bucket that means it’s on the backlog of activities that will never really get done.

Fortunately, we reassess. We recognize what was lost. We remember why it was important even if not always urgent. And we bring it back to the forefront.

This time it’ll be better. This time we know what to avoid. This time we won’t lose sight of the role it plays.

Ehhhh, who are we foolin’? Yeah, maybe we will still lose it in the shuffle again. But there’s joy in trying to keep it back on top.


Hiring Faith Rewarded

Pegasus-tokensToday I’m writing about the opposite of seeing thestrals. Maybe that makes it seeing… a Pegasus?  You know, the kind of deus ex machina that swoops in to help you when you didn’t realize how badly you needed it?

There’s a unique satisfaction derived from searching for a good hire, finding one, and having that person go on to reward you with great work. It’s easy to take such employees for granted. But every once in a while you ask that team member to do a task — one that you  could probably do yourself if you had the time, or perhaps that you’re not even sure how you would accomplish it without some serious thought — and then they turn around the assignment faster than you would have ever been able to. Even better, they did a great job. And then they do it again and again. And you say, Wow, this person is really making this team shine.

Keep reminding yourself that it’s worth the extra effort to hire the right person, and not to “settle.” Look for people who can soar, and help carry you to fight the work monsters  that lurk beyond your time bottlenecks.  Or if you’re on the other end, remember how much it’s worth searching until you find the right fit, with a manager that values you.