Leaders and Men, Watch Your Buts

An essential leadership lesson, with the potential of opening hundreds of half-closed doors. The implications of buts for leaders and men.

Nicholas Fair Nowak
Change Becomes You
Published in
4 min readNov 11, 2021


Recently, my wife and better half told me that it makes her sad when she can’t figure out how to make me happy (stomach drop). I was in one of my moods of determined sadness — sometimes I’m a sinker — and we were at the kitchen table trying to uncover the source. After some back and forth, we reasoned that I was stressed about doing my job well and feeling guilty about being an absent father. I did not realize that I was also on the precipice of an essential leadership lesson, with the potential of opening hundreds of half-closed doors.

Why do I feel more pressure to check my email than to spend time with my daughter before she goes to bed? How does my professional evaluation weigh more than my performance as a parent? Being a father is the most important job I will ever have. I know this. Still, routinely, I forget Goethe’s wisdom:

“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

What matters most? For me, it’s not a hard question:

  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Kindness
  • Character

What matters least is harder to discern. Examples:

  • The speed at which I reply to emails. Timely doesn’t need to mean instantaneous but it can’t be too long and the longer I wait the more they pile up and if I want to do a good job I need to be responsive that way I can perform and provide for my family which is most important after all.
  • Relaxing with a cold drink or two. But let’s remember that family and relationships are my top priorities and it’s a bonding/stress relieving thing and what’s good for the soul is good for my health even if all scientific evidence suggests otherwise.
  • Television. Sure, but I’ve been working like a dog and I just need some time to turn my brain off and I love watching soccer and football and for me to be a good dad and husband everyone keeps…



Nicholas Fair Nowak
Change Becomes You

Dad, husband, educator, camp guy, founder of GoodMenders.com — building better culture, masculinity, and leadership. Medium profits support educational equity.