Gents, please read this before you decide to have a baby.

 

Can any man become a dad? Well, although in physiological terms, that might seem like a 99.9% rhetorical question; the answer is much more complicated than that.

I’m quite aware that I cannot speak for all men, or even most men; but of all the things I’ve learned from fatherhood, the most important one is that nothing in the world requires more commitment, sacrifice and awareness than being a dad. Well, if you want to get it right, that is.

Let me ask you: Have you ever felt a crystal clear passion and desire to become something in your life? Whether that something is a pilot, astronaut, firefighter or a circus stuntman? Well, for me it was fatherhood. Ever since I was old enough to hold hands with a girl, I’ve felt the desire to bring a child to life.

To my surprise, being a dad is not even close to how I imagined it. Don’t get me wrong, it has brought me more joy and satisfaction than anything I’ve ever experienced; but the level of responsibility is literally beyond the imagination of anyone that hasn’t been there before, and bigger than anyone can ever warn a non-parent about.

So, the way I see it, there are two sides to the responsibility coin:

1. The level of sacrifice you have to make/the things you have to give up.

2. The fact that this little persons ENTIRE future and existence is in your hands.

I’d like to further explain with examples, exactly what I’m talking about; but before I go ahead and do that, I must tell you that as I write these lines, sitting in my office desk and listening to whatever Spotify chooses to play for me, my face just lit up. I wish I could express how I feel right now, when the song “With arms wide open” by Creed just came up. Since I heard that song for the first time (believe me, I remember exactly where I was, and what I was doing), and bear in mind this was the year 2000, when I was just 15 y/o, I knew this was the song that would represent who I am as a father. If you pay close attention, this song starts with a very low heartbeat, and when I heard that; I just broke in tears. So, let me recompose and carry on with my message:

1. Sacrifice and giving up things:

Sure, we’ve all had to sacrifice things before for someone we love. Anyone can skip the gym one day, or take a day off work to take care of a sick relative, but parenthood is a whole different ball game. Every single decision you make will go around your child’s needs. Where you decide to live, what you decide to buy, where you choose to go for vacation… I mean EVERYTHING.

Adults are adults. We can take care of ourselves just fine. We can handle the heat, cold, mosquitoes, noise, bad neighbors, little sleep; basically whatever you throw our way, but it is simply not the same for a child. You will more often than not find yourself unable to make split second decisions based on your likes and preferences; it just doesn’t work that way anymore.

2. A child’s life and future is in your hands:

It is virtually unfathomable how all of our actions will have either a positive or a negative effect on our children, and even more difficult to comprehend, how good or bad of an effect those actions can have in the long term, and in our children’s lifelong behavior. We are everything to them! Even if we don’t see it in the heat of the moment, kids will sense exactly how we feel, they will feed off of our energy and vibes, and that includes: happiness, frustration, anger, pain, joy, sorrow, grief…. you name it. They will also learn to react based on how we react, and I know for a fact that there are a lot of areas of opportunity that we’ve all identified in ourselves; plus, we already carry heavy baggage from our own upbringing, that we need to be careful not to pass on to our kids.

We have to bear in mind that we need to lead by example, and we also need to figure out all of the emotional needs that our kids have, and help them evolve into emotionally strong and capable individuals. Sources for insecurity are a dime a dozen, and it is our job to ensure they can build the confidence to face anything that is thrown their way, and most of the times; that entails us having to modify how we think, react and carry ourselves… and that is no easy task my friends.

Last but not least, there is the obvious economic responsibility. Their health, education, social activities; well, everything in their life is provided by you. There are simply no shortcuts or excuses. If you think about all of the things we’d be willing to sacrifice (ourselves) if things got tough, it’s probably a lot; but when you have children in your life, that list shortens up rather quickly.

All of that being said, there is NO GREATER SATISFACTION in life. At least not for me. It is all worth it. The moment in time you see your child for the first time, and you start seeing how many of his/her features resemble your own, it’s just inexplicable. First steps, trying new food, learning how to speak, the first time you hear them say “I love you”… trust me, your heart will melt quicker than cheap butter sitting on the pavement on an Arizona highway at noon.

I didn’t have anyone explain to me what being a dad entailed, so this is my shout out to all the guys out there that are thinking of taking the best step in their lives. I just want you to take it firmly, and aware of everything that will be required of you.

My answer to the initial question? Virtually anyone can become a father, but it takes a lot more than you’d think to become a dad.

 

Abe.

If you really want to inspire others, be humble.

I was recently invited to be one of four speakers in an event that took place in a small town in the Dominican Republic. Since the invitation came from a very humble, passionate young man, whose main driver is to bring hope and support to young entrepreneurs in his home town, I immediately accepted. I knew it was going to be pro-bono, and that I’d probably have to cover my own travel expenses too; but boy, was it worth it.

The audience was magnificent. Young men and women who were looking for inspiration more than support, who wanted some kind of signal that their dream wasn’t as far as they had always been told and learned to believe.

I loved having the opportunity to tell them all about my biggest screw-ups, and every time I made a bad decision and had to live up to the consequences. They laughed so hard. They were genuinely sympathetic with me for all the embarrassment I put myself through.

After I shared my story, I gave them a few pointers that I had gathered over the years, which had helped me become more resilient every time I fell.

I was shocked to see how undeserving they felt. They seemed to believe that they were never going to be able to break the poverty/misfortune cycle they felt had reigned over their lives. What struck me the most, however; was the need that some of the other speakers felt to reference their own “success”. They literally exaggerated the long and excruciating path that was ahead of any of the attendees, if they dared to dream of achieving the level of “success” the speaker in front of them had achieved.

You could see from my face how irritated I was. If you’re attempting to inspire people to try, to dare, to accomplish; and specially if your crowd already feels like the underdog, the LAST place you want to start at is your own “success”. And the reason why I scare quote “success”, is because I strongly feel that in general terms, “success” can only be measured by the standards and goals that each person sets for themselves. What entitles anyone to sell themselves as successful? Why would you lead your crowd to form their questions starting with “if I want to be as successful as you”?

Whenever you’re trying to inspire someone that feels that you’re way ahead then they are, the best approach is to be humble, and to help them see that you are both the same. If they cannot see you as approachable, or as an equal, you’re just feeding their own insecurities, which in the end are their biggest hurdles.

If you’re really trying to inspire others, never make it about yourself.

Self Esteem. A Key To Happiness.

The Enlightenment

It was a Saturday morning, days before the competition. I was ecstatic to be able to represent my school and my country, going against the top business schools in the world. Certainly, I was worried about how we’d do as a team, but naturally, I was even more concerned about my own performance.

All classrooms were full, so we had to wait until one became available for us to rehearse. I was the first one there, and then another one of the team members arrived. We agreed to go across the street for breakfast, while we waited for the others (and for one of the classrooms to clear). It was probably the first time I had ever been alone with her, after 14 months into our MBA. She was actually the only one in the team that came from my same program. I realized she was very smart, based on her participation in the classroom, but I didn’t really know much about her, except for some comments I had heard about how respected she was in her field, and the fact that she had to be at least 30, yet looked like a harmless 20 year old.

The breakfast buffet from the little hotel across the street was no succulent culinary experience, but hey; we were already there, so what the heck? We ended up reaving the fruit station (which was the only thing that looked colorful and enticing), and sat down on one of the tables from the outside deck, overlooking our school. As we went through the pieces of pineapple, mango and banana; we started talking about school, our classes, the teachers, and eventually got to discussing our classmates, and who we admired and why. This included a session of mutual praise about the great participations we had both displayed over the past year, and of course conversations on how important this competition was.

Then, it was time for me to ask the question I had always been addicted to. I needed my daily shot. Men, women, tall, short, big, small; it didn’t matter. I’d ask this question to anyone who I’d consider smart enough to build an elaborate opinion. I thought of her as a very smart and perceptive person, so I had been dying to ask. Although I wasn’t sure how she’d respond, given that she was very reticent, and very limited on her “judgements” of other people; but I just couldn’t hold it anymore. You know that feeling when you have an itch you can’t scratch? One of those bastards that start in the middle of your back, and unless you’re Elastigirl from The Incredibles or Mr. Fantastic from The Fantastic 4, you won’t reach it? It was time I scratched against the edge of the wall, and found some relief.

So I asked!:  “Hey, just out of curiosity, What kind of impression do you have of me?”

I could’ve never anticipated what happened next! Be aware: This was a routine that I had depleted a thousand times. I knew it better than I know the lyrics to Top Gun (And I can finish any line in the movie. Try me). So this is what usually happened when I asked people that question:

  1. I asked them for their opinion of me
  2. They were caught off guard by the unusual request
  3. They answered something very polite and kind, usually about me being smart
  4. I insisted, by following up with: “What else can you say about me?”
  5. They dug deeper to find whatever other quality they could mention, and hope that I’d be satisfied and stop asking

The thing that shocked me, wasn’t the way she answered the question. It was how her face gave away that she had been somehow expecting it. Very confidently, and with the kind of wisdom you’d get from someone like Dumbledore, she replied by asking: “How do you mean? What specifically would you like to know?” I immediately knew I was going to be thrown off my game. I felt as if she knew exactly what to say, and how to say it; to lead this conversation wherever she wanted it to go. But like any other addict, I wasn’t going to let her demeanor stand in the way of my dose. So I said: “I don’t know!, I mean in general, what have you noticed about me?”

She did respond with positive attributes, as I would’ve expected from anyone else. Although I must say they were very elaborate and specific praises. Nothing along the lines of simple adjectives like “Smart”, “Funny” or “Nice”. But there was something in her tone that obviously implied that she had a lot more to say, so I did what I would always do; I PUSHED!

Armed with courage and dipped in curiosity, I dared to say: “Theres something you’re not telling me. I asked you what you thought of me, but I can obviously tell there’s things you’re keeping to yourself!”

This is where things got real. For the first time, someone peeled my thick outer layer right off of me like a super ripe banana. I had never before felt like a walnut that had just been surgically split open, until that moment.

“Why is it so important to you what I think of you? You should be more concerned about how you see yourself. Sure, now and then someone will point out something that you might consider an area of opportunity, and could be doing unconciously; but I cannot understand your obsession with how you are perceived by those around you!”.

That was just the opening statement. She gutted me like a Sea Bass that was just about to become ceviche. The next 15 minutes, were dedicated to her explanation of how she thought I had all the attributes in the world, but my childish behavior, constant craving for attention, impulsivity and continuous search for approval made it hard for other people to see them.

Some of the other things she mentioned included my involvement in conversations regarding material things, how I always tried to pick up the check for everyone, how I would talk about money with no apparent respect for it, and so on and so forth. She promised me that she could see that I wasn’t trying to rub anything in anyone’s face, but it was probably perceived as snobby.

She elaborated on how these signs are usually seen in people who lack self esteem, and she assured me that I had no reason to doubt myself, and what I was capable of achieving. She insisted that I gave up caring about other people’s opinion, and that I started focusing on building what I would consider the best version of myself.

When those 15 minutes were up, my chin was hitting the table. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. A part of me wanted to argue back on how insensitive and wrong she was, but the other part knew that everything she said was absolutely true, and that the only reason why she had shared that, is because (you guessed it) I PUSHED!

Now I must say that this wasn’t the first time I had heard some of these things. My former wife had mentioned a few of them before, but probably in the way that a wife would; being careful not to hurt my feelings. Also, let’s face it! More often than not, observations from an outsider cause more impact on us than the ones made by our significant other. But leaving all of that aside, this girl was practically a stranger! She hadn’t even been around me enough to have such an accurate and critical impression!

I had no choice but to thank her for being so candid, and I told her that I really appreciated the fact that she would tell me things that other people had probably thought, but didn’t share, and that I knew she had only done it to help me.

 The Dig Down

After that shocking morning, I couldn’t help but start thinking about all the other stuff I could be doing, that would be deemed as a sign of low self esteem, and need for acceptance. I was somewhat paranoid. It took me some time to figure out where all of this “self esteem problem” had originated, but I eventually got there.

As it turns out, most of it came from my childhood. And several of the clues I followed, led me in one direction: My dad.

 

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I love my father, may he rest in peace. He was my very own version of James Bond. This guy was an ENT and head and neck surgeon, pilot, air force colonel, race car driver, karate black belt, musician, diver, and the list goes on. I’m not even kidding, he was one of a kind. The problem is that we often raise our children based on how we were raised by our parents. My dad was a very loving father, but there are two main things that marked me as a child, although I know it wasn’t his intention.

The first one has to do with allowing your child to find his own way, and letting him figure stuff out on his own. My dad and I were very alike in many ways. He’s the one who inspired my love for cars and planes, and from whom I inherited my skills as a handyman. They often found me dismantling my remote control cars, and unscrewing my robots just to see what they were like on the inside. I loved doing things with my dad, but he always craved being in control, and he was super competitive. Whenever I would start doing something, like putting together an object that required assembly, or trying to fix an appliance that had broken down, he always interrupted with: “Wait! You’re doing it all wrong! Here, let me show you.”

As I took a trip back in time, I remembered that happened extremely often. It almost felt as if he thought I wasn’t going to be able to cut it on my own, or as if he was already expecting me to drop the ball. I recall being completely certain that I was doing a great job at whatever the task, the problem is, that if you constantly tell a child he’s not good enough; well… he’s eventually going to take your word for it.

I’m glad I was able to figure that out, so I can prevent doing the same thing to my daughter. I owe my former wife all of my conscious parenting skills. She taught me that conversations are more effective than reprimands, that my daughter could feel shame if I called her out in front of others, and most importantly; she helped me understand that my daughter needed to feel she was able to do things on her own. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about selling her the idea that if she focuses enough she will be able to levitate, because we are both aware that she needs to learn how to deal with failure as well; but just giving her the opportunity to try on her own, and learn from her mistakes could eventually make a difference.

The second thing that I learned, was that the relationship my father’s family had with money (and material things in general) was not healthy. My grandfather was the son of a Lebanese couple that fled there trying to escape the war. They had no money, and had to start from scratch. I remember the stories about my grandpa, learning by himself how to become a radio technician, and fixing old radios in a small room in his very humble home. He grew to be one of the most successful businessmen in the region, and made millions. Now, my dad was the only one that was born while my grandfather was still on the rise, so he was able to get a grasp of where they came from; but my uncle and aunts were all raised as spoiled brats. I saw first hand how buying things and spending money translated into “success” and “triumph” in the eyes of my family. In contrast, when my parents divorced, my sister and I went through difficult economic times living with our mom. So in my mind, being able to spend and acquire things, was obviously the right way to go about things. The problem is, my grandfather wasn’t the one spending all the money, as he was too busy working for it; his kids were the ones destroying it, since they obviously had it so easily available.

What goes through the mind of a child, when all he interprets is that acceptance is for sale? Fast forward 20 years later, and there I was paying for everyone’s dinner, worried about what car I was driving, or what clothes I was wearing; when truth be told, I should’ve been worried about the example I was setting for my daughter to build her life from. Remember how I told you guys about my anxiety disorder? Multiply that by poor respect for money, and that’s the recipe for falling so deep into debt.

This blog isn’t called “We All Fuck Up” for no reason. I told you I was a fuckup master. But the important lesson here is that no matter how many times, or how deep our fuckups are, we can always find a way to come out the other side a better person. All we need is a strong desire to not go down the same road again, and the commitment to dig inside ourselves, and acknowledge the things that we need to fix.

I’ve said it in my previous posts, and I’ll say it again; it has been a painful, dreadful and almost nauseating process, I will not lie to you. It is very difficult to face the monsters inside each one of us, but I assure you, it is the only way you will ever be able to reach true happiness.

 

I hope you enjoyed the read, I am honored to be able to share my story with you. Oh, and please don’t forget to comment below!

 

Love,

 

Abe.

 

Anxiety. Being a prisoner of your own mind.

It all started in the kitchen.

As I opened the fridge to reach for the grapes, or opened the cabinet looking for the coffee, my wife would come over in her plush, warm, fuzzy slippers (Oh, and ninja level silent), and make any random comment, or continued a conversation we had started earlier in the bedroom. If I have ever been close to experience what astral projection fans describe as an OBE or “Out-of-Body Experience”, it was exactly in those moments. I literally felt like she had just scared my soul out of my body. My heart started pounding as if I had just been chased for a couple of blocks by a rabid pit-bull, my palms started sweating, I couldn’t breathe, and somehow, I felt as if I was going to die.

The first few times, I was so in shock that I just waited until I could catch my breath, and explained the phenomenon to her. But as time went by, these events kept getting worse and worse. It got to a point where I established a “no sneaking up” rule for everyone around me. It was a horrible feeling. I’m sure it was very tough on her, as my reactions kept getting worse; to the point where I would immediately get furious and blame her for not being careful enough.

More symptoms developed with time. One of the worst ones was walking or driving around town, and having a very intense feeling that there was a sniper in one of the buildings around me, using his right thumb to slowly squeeze the trigger on his rifle, as he looked down the scope at the + pointed at my head. I cannot begin to explain what a horrifying feeling that was. At that point, I was afraid to tell others how I was feeling, because I was embarrassed that they thought I had lost my mind.

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Then the “phone call” situation started. Let me see if I can explain what I thought it meant, every time someone called and I saw their name on the screen:

PERSON CALLING MY IMMEDIATE THOUGHT
Wife Something happened to my daughter
Boss I’m getting fired
Mom A relative passed away
Employee One of my clients is furious, ergo, I’m getting fired
Dad A relative on his side passed away

This happened EVERY SINGLE TIME my phone rang. It was the whole package; the heart pounding, the sweat, everything! I just couldn’t take it anymore.

There is no doubt on my mind, that had I not acknowledged that I had a problem, and agreed to get help to work on it; I would’ve never been able to recover. So I decided to do something about it. Under other circumstances, I would’ve fought my way out of seeing a therapist, but I just knew I didn’t have much time before this turned into a bigger nightmare than what it already was.

During the very first visit, my therapist was able to identify the symptoms, but obviously he needed to run some tests first. After filling 7 questionnaires and god knows how many forms, I was finally “Enlightened”. The name of my foe was finally revealed.

His name was: “G A D”, which stands for “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”.

So, what is this GAD and what does it do to you (Wikipedia)?

   “Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry, that is, apprehensive expectation about events or activities. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning, as individuals with GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, money, death, family problems, friendship problems, interpersonal relationship problems, or work difficulties.”

So, why did I end up with GAD?

Although it still hasn’t been confirmed, it is believed that family background could be a cause (maybe this is a good time to tell you that my brother and mother have both dealt with anxiety problems). It is believed that stressful life experiences could also lead to GAD. Once I learned that, I was able to put the pieces together. Although I cannot confirm the exact reason, my best guess is that I was genetically prone to anxiety, and after I was involved in a terrible car accident (thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt), the symptoms slowly started to appear.

What characterizes GAD?

  • Constantly being worried, beyond your control
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • High levels of irritability
  • Sense of danger, panic or doom
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Increased heart rate
  • Gastro-intestinal problems
  • Hard time concentrating

 

There are different treatments for GAD, but the most common includes drugs known as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). These are usually used to deal with anxiety disorders, as well as some cases of depression.

Therapy is super important! Seeking professional help allowed me to understand my problem, it gave me great techniques to use, and It helped me re-gain control of my thoughts and my life.

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GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the US population, any given year. It is more common than we think, so the best we can do is understand that this could happen to any of us, without us having done anything to trigger it; if we can relate to any of the symptoms mentioned above, immediately seek professional help.

Please leave your comments, and thanks for joining me again!

Love,

Abe.

 

 

References (Click on links):

Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website

Wikipedia on GAD

Wikipedia on SSRIs

 

 

 

 

Why? The first question I owe an answer to.

 

 

Why did I decide to start this blog?

Let me start by saying that I just deleted 1,700 words. This is the second article I write on why I started this blog, but the first one was loaded with emotion and it just gave way too much context.

I feel the need to share what’s in my heart, and on my mind. We’ve all had our ups and downs; some of us, have had stratospheric ups, and center-of-the-earth downs; but, in a way, the principles that will allow us to heal, grow and transcend these unfortunate events are almost universal.

I’m very happy with where I am right now. This doesn’t mean my life is 99.9% perfect, because it never will be; but even with all the problems that I’m facing, I still feel satisfied with the progress and growth I’ve been able to experiment these past few years. I won’t lie to you, it has been a very tough, tormenting and more often then not horrific road to outgrow my complexes and make peace with who I am as an individual, but it has led me to feel responsible for sharing my experience with others who might undergo similar situations.

In the original article, I talked about my parent’s divorce, the economic roller coaster I experienced in my childhood and adolescence, my amazing mother and how she managed to put the weight of the world on her shoulders; and all of this was meant to give you context of all the problems I had to fix in myself. But then I thought about it… I thought: “You know?! Maybe it’d be better if I just start posting articles with the tools that helped me overcome everything! Maybe that will make it easier for people adjust them to their reality”. And so, this article was born.

That doesn’t mean I’m gonna leave you with no clue as to who I was, and what I feel I have achieved. That being said, this is the definition I made of myself (since my late teenage years all up to my late 20’s), for context purposes:

“A great guy overall. Very smart and talented, with a magnetic personality and a successful professional career. Somewhat impulsive, seems to have trouble focusing on activities and seeing things all the way through. Definitely humble and giving, but horrible with money, and quite frankly, a little on the unreliable side; given the fact that his behavior and decisions seem to be erratic and completely impulse driven. For some reason, he always seems to be trying to impress others, and he cares too much of how others see him”.

What I didn’t say in my description, is that all the impulsivity, bad relationship with money and low self-esteem lead me to accumulating well over USD 150k in debt, failing at my marriage and losing myself in general. I was thrown into a very dark place. I later discovered that I had a cocktail of adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), along with GAD (Generalized anxiety disorder).

Anxiety has been, by a long shot, my most expensive personality trait. It costed me a lot. All of the sleepless nights wondering on Amazon, looking for my next impulse purchase. The irritability that characterized most of my interactions with my former wife. The constant feeling that everything was going to go south, and that every phone call was a horrible news headed my way, and the horrible feeling that every day was going to be my last. I kid you not, it was horrible.

But blaming anxiety alone would be completely irresponsible. Like I said before, it was a cocktail. Some were disorders, others were personality traits, there were also several difficult events (including the passing of family members) and some were just mere learned behaviors.

Turning everything around was quite the challenge, specially when the starting point was having no acknowledgement that there were any issues whatsoever. It took years of fucking up, over and over and over again. People that I loved were hurt, I lost my marriage and family, my economy went to shit and I completely lost the notion of who I was, and what my purpose was.

It wasn’t until I hit what others usually call “rock bottom”. I just call it “my time”. I was done living in depression, fear, anxiety and sadness. I realized that I had been fucking up ever since I could remember. Life wasn’t going to give me any more chances. There were no other sources of borrowing in the horizon. The bank calls were just going to evolve into lawsuits. I WAS DONE.

And then one feeling took over: love. Let me be more specific: SELF LOVE.

I found a way to pick myself up, and glue all the pieces back together. How did I achieve that? Excellent question!

In the upcoming series of posts, I will talk about the things that had to happen in order for me to change, and to transcend. I hope you enjoy this adventure, and I promise you to invest all of my heart and essence in every post.

   Thank you for giving me the honor of sharing my story with you, and I’ll see you next time!

Love,

Abe.