On Being Present

I woke up last Saturday in San Francisco with the same thing that has been on my mind at the end of each week since we founded our healthy meal-delivery company Thistle: What were the key metrics for the week? What growth targets should we set for the next? What problems should we anticipate and how can we prevent them? How the hell can we continue to scale?

As startup life progressed, these questions and a hundred related ones increasingly occupied my active mind or lay in its periphery begging for attention.

But 14 months ago, my wife gave birth to an amazing baby girl. One thing any parent can tell you is that small children know when you aren’t giving them 100% of your attention. Most of us have memories as children trying to show a parent a new skill we discovered on the playground only to see them saying words of encouragement while speaking to someone else. It used to make me feel so bummed out.

These days, especially with the prevalence of iPhones, being present in the moment is especially difficult. I’ve been guilty of checking the instagram feeds of others during most non-work activities.

But these days, with a year of age and wisdom under her belt, Nava has found a way to recognize when I’m distracted and to take a proactive role in reminding me that she’s there. If I’m at home and pull out my phone to check Slack — she’ll grab it and hit the home button repeatedly until I give up and read her a book. If I open up my computer to write a quick email during lego time, she’ll come over and start tapping on the keyboard until I pick her up in the air and twirl her around.

This human refuses to let me get distracted during her time. When I’m with her, I have to be WITH her.

So back to Saturday — with the normal things on my anxious mind, I grabbed Nava and took her to the park by our home in Twin Peaks. I placed her in her favorite bucket swing and she grinned with anticipation. I pulled her forward. She smiled up at me knowing what was next. I let her go.

As the swing reached the apex of its backswing — something magical happened which will forever be burned my memory.

Nava closed her eyes, tilted her head back, put her arms out and started laughing — as if she was imagining flying.

In that moment, space seemed to collapse entirely — as if there was nothing in the universe other than her and me. Gone were thoughts of metrics, growth, scaling, churn…it was just me staring at someone who didn’t exist 14 months ago in a state of pure joy. Someone who has not yet learned how to fake happiness. With her, everything is her true self.

I couldn’t imagine a world where she didn’t exist. And being achingly aware of that fact has enhanced so many of my experiences in the last year. Don’t get me wrong, I still worry about work stuff — it’s a startup after all. But when I’m with her — I choose not to.