Unsolicited advice learned from parenting

I became a marketer accidentally, and a parent on purpose. Growing up, I wanted to be everything — an architect, a banker, a writer, a teacher, but not a marketer. I even laughed at a professor who suggested I change my major (again) to marketing. But undeniably, my love of words, images, creativity, interacting with and engaging people, and yes, getting people to take an action assembled into something resembling a marketer. Perhaps I owe that professor an apology. 

Meanwhile, my ever-evolving duties as a parent feel like they’ve got plenty to teach me about my role as a marketer. After all, marketers balance many skills, deadlines, and duties, like a parent with their hands perpetually full. And any parent who’s ever attempted to sell a kid on the idea of doing something new has to know a thing or two about the art of persuasion.  

No book or manual taught me how to parent, but believe me, I tried. I’ve read nearly two dozen books on parenting and none really hit the mark or spoke to me quite like holding an actual baby and knowing I had to keep them alive, nurtured, and on the path to being good human beings. Here’s what I’ve learned through 55 months of parenting, across 2 kids, many wins, some losses, and countless playings of Baby Shark.

Do, do, do, doo, doo, doo: Parenting, like life and marketing, comes with lots of to-do’s. You’re always moving, always thinking about what’s next and trying to remember something from the last feed, nap, or meeting. There’s also lots of doo doo. It happens. A lot. Same with work. The quicker you learn you don’t have to be like the Red Panda and just simply keep the things from dropping, the better off you’ll be. Look, real talk, there will be days where there’s too much to do and days where you’re deep in the doo doo, but remember to stay focused on the big picture: Keep the baby alive and the project moving forward.

Breathe: Teaching yourself – and your kid – to breathe fully, deeply, and mindfully can help find and keep calm, especially in moments of stress. Here’s a fun fact: in moments of anger or frustration, research has found that if you take a 90 second, the feelings largely dissipate, but if they remain, you’re likely harboring them. Think about that as you feel yourself about to lose it – and then take another deep breath. Whether a UTM got botched, an influencer dropped out last minute, or your kid frayed your very last nerve, just take a deep breath.

This Too Shall Pass: Whether it’s a tantrum, bad news or a bad quarter, as long as you’re committed and engaged, things will get brighter and better. Now don’t mistake this for Pollyanna — hopes and wishes won’t do it, but patience and action win out. When you’re focused on the bigger picture (e.g. Keep this baby alive; deliver this campaign; etc) it helps keep the spots of turbulence in perspective.

Stress: Here’s a fun fact: did you know your body can’t distinguish between distress and eustress (bad stress and good stress)? Nope, to your central nervous system it’s all just energy. Now, what that energy does to your body is determined a lot by that perception. The good stress of anticipation of a big presentation vs. the bad stress of a baby shrieking their head off is certainly felt differently with your veins, heart, and nervous system. So when things get stressful choose how to respond (hopefully with gratitude and grace – for yourself and others). Don’t forget that we’re spinning at 1,000 MPH on rock, hurtling through space. We actually control very little in this universe, but you can almost always control your attitude and actions, and that’s quite the locus of control.

Two Does Not Make a Trend: A night or two of bad sleep doesn’t mean an eternity of it. Same for a month or two of interesting performance on a particular social channel. Always think about the variables at and in play. So if you see a huge jump or dip in sales or a massive email open rate – ask why and train your eye closer before declaring victory or defeat. The same goes for a baby waking up so early that it’s actually still nighttime. Once is bad, twice is awful, but that’s why coffee was invented. So pour another cup, take a step back, and ask yourself if you’ve made a change or your baby is going through one. Maybe a tooth is forthcoming or the sun is peeking through the curtains earlier. Assess and account for any variable that could be in play.

Keep It Simple: Those aforementioned changes? Try to keep it to one, so you can more accurately track results. Otherwise, you may not know what actually made the impact. Did the white noise machine help the baby sleep? Or was it the new swaddle? Did the new homepage design increase conversions? Or was it the new ad campaign that launched? Similarly, sometimes little c creativity is better than Big C Creativity. No need to make a big change when a small change will do. 

Enjoy the Ride: It’s easy to get caught up in milestones or ‘what should be happening’ but don’t forget to enjoy the mundane and simply the opportunity to be a part of the journey. No matter what — whether in work or parenting — you’re helping someone achieve goals and live a great life. Think about this in times of both chaos and calm.

Want to reach parents in your marketing? Here’s a bonus tip: remember that while it’s true we’re all just people, many parents have lost or forgotten who they are. Our lives have become tangled messes and while “parent” is not a hat we can remove, (seemingly super glued to our heads) we’re still human beings yearning to be and feel like more than just a parent. When marketing to us, speak to our whole selves and our dreams beyond those we have for our kids. Yes, I’m a parent, but I’m also someone else’s kid, a brother, an uncle, a husband, a friend, a pluviophile, a fan, a writer, and yes, a marketer.