Act Learn Plan – How to Think Like an Entrepreneur

We spend 12 to 16 years of our lives learning without any sense of what the reality when we finally get to acting will be like. We create an expectation that people will be able to plan their lives, and somehow know what they want to do before they have tried doing it.

This structure doesn’t work. Without the context of real things you have tried to do, there is no frame to hang all of the facts of learning.

Act

Act first, as the basis for everything. As you push on the universe, it will push back, and from that pushing back you can then learn. From those learnings you can plan another action, but until you have encountered reality you cannot really plan for it. Does it hurt when the universe pushes back? Of course! But those are truly growing pains.

If you want to learn something, don’t study it, go out and try to do it. Think you want to become a web developer? Build a website. Not sure if you want to? Build a website. By the end you’ll have a pretty good idea if you want to become a web developer or not.

Learn

Now that you’ve spent some time pushing against the universe, you’ll be bruised.  You’ll have experienced failure.  You’ll have an intuitive sense for what is easy, what is hard, and where you need to learn.  Good.  Now learn!  Reflect!  Ask questions!  To say that acting is first does not mean that time spent learning is useless, now that you have the framework of experience to hang things on, your learning will be doubly valuable.

Plan

With the context of failure and the perspective of learning, now you have some chance of planning.  You may look at your experience and say, ‘That was great, I want more!’, or ‘That was terrible, I need to try something else’, but regardless you now will be able to base your planning on something real rather than the dream of what might be.

Your first time, you may still not be able to plan very far ahead.  You may be able to say “Yes, I want more of that, I need to look at what a career path looks like and get myself into the right job or courses”.  Or you may just be able to say “Not that!  Something new, what else calls me?”.  Whatever it is, plan as far as your vision can take you but don’t obsess, it is time to jump back into action.

Growth

Every time you go through this loop, your vision will extend a little further.  Your sight will start to go out beyond the next road and the long term goal will become a little clearer.

But please, lets stop this idea that college (or high school for that matter) students should be able to predict their future paths up to retirement.  And lets stop the idea that you need to plan out all of your next steps before you can take them.  You cannot steer a ship unless it is moving, you cannot predict your life without living it, and you won’t know what the universe is like until you try to put a dent in it and feel the pain of it pushing back.

Why aren’t more dads involved with childcare?

There was a recent Washington Post article about how the United State’s poor support for working parents leads to low levels of women in the workforce, and I’ve seen that first hand as I have extended family members who have chosen to leave the workforce because the cost of childcare would have been more than their current wages.

This is a huge issue, and I’m glad it is getting media attention.  But I have another question:  Why aren’t more dads involved in childcare?  

Is it because of a discrepancy in salaries?  Because women feel more attachment to their children?  I think these are red herrings, and the real answer has to do with societal expectations and role models.  Let’s look at why I think so…

Salaries

One possibility is that there is a discrepancy in salaries – ie families are making the economic decision that losing the incremental income from the mother leaving work or working part time makes more sense than the same for the father.  But this doesn’t ring true to me – yes, there is a wage gap between men and women, but there is evidence that much of this is related to caregiving itself.  Studies have found between a 5% and 7% increase in the wage gap for mothers PER CHILD.

The reasons for this increase are many and complicated, but many have to do with the time taken for childcare itself.  This indicates to me that much of the wage gap is a RESULT of women being caretakers, not something that results in it.  Before children are on the scene, the salary gap is much smaller, and given the higher rates of college achievement among women now of childbearing age, I would guess that there are almost as many couples where the woman makes more than the man than vice versa.  Certainly it’s closer than the 10 to 1 ratio of stay at home moms vs stay at home dads.

Attachment

Another possibility that has been raised is the difference in initial attachment – maybe mothers just feel closer to their babies than fathers do.  I think this too is mistaken – In fact nearly half of new mothers report report no genuine feelings for their child upon birth.  It can take up to 9 weeks for strong bonding to develop, a common (and unfortunate) source of guilt for the mother. It once again looks like we’re placing the cart before the horse:  Caring about a baby comes from caring for them, not the other way around!

No wonder fathers don’t feel as much attachment to their babies if they’re not being equal participants in caring for those babies.  But once again, why does that happen?

Expectations 

Now we get to where I think things are coming from.  We come from a past where men were the ones who earned salaries and held power, while women did neither of those things and cared for children.  Even though those days have passed – compared to men, women are now more likely to complete college, more likely to go to graduate school, and increasingly likely to compete and hold power in traditionally male dominated occupations – the expectations from those eras persist throughout our society.

We persist in holding up stereotypes of men as incompetent in the home, unable to do household tasks or take care of children.  And while it is acceptable (if not always economically feasible) to have a single earner household with a male breadwinner, families that reverse this and have a female breadwinner and a male caregiver face disrespect and even ridicule.  In fact there was even a recent study showing that father-specific programs that can create an ‘expectation’ of paternal involvement in the home result in far greater participation than generic ‘parental’ programs that apply equally to men and women.

Role Models

Finally, I want to talk about role models.  We suffer from a severe lack of visible, family-first male role models!  I’m talking men who are successful, visible, and talk openly about their involvement in their family and caregiving.  We are finally starting to get more visibility of “stay at home dads”, with a number of prominant “daddy bloggers” and mainstream media starting to pay attention, which is wonderful.  But I think we need more – Even in families with two working parents, women spend almost twice as much time on childcare and housework than men.

We need more men in politics, entertainment, and business to start stepping up and rebutting the idea that men can only have a successful career if they neglect their home life.  We need more role models showing men that taking care of their kids isn’t somehow sacrificing their masculinity or their chance at success.

What do you think?

Do you agree, does my reasoning here make sense?  Or am I totally off base?  Let me know in the comments!