The Things I Learned in 2016: Ask Coach Tim

Written by Tim Skwiat

As a New First-Time Dad, Coach Tim Shares a Look Back at His Experiences, Accomplishments, and Mistakes to Help You Make 2017 the Best Year Yet

 

As we turn over the calendar to January and broach the unchartered waters of 2017, it’s a prime time to reflect on our accomplishments, milestones, mistakes, and shortcomings from the past year, teasing out important lessons we’ve learned (or relearned) in 2016. My Daughter, Parker Ashlee

The clear highlight of the year for my wife and I was the birth of our baby daughter, Parker Ashlee, who was born in June. Adorable, isn’t she?

As you can imagine, since Parker is our first child, we encountered a LOT of new experiences. And, much of what I “learned” revolves around all the changes and challenges that come from being a first-time parent.

Many of the findings I share below are not novel, ground-breaking, or earth-shattering. Rather, these are concepts you may be very familiar with and even practice religiously. However, if you’re like me, you may have lost sight of these fundamental lessons. If that is the case, hopefully this serves as a friendly reminder and guide to help you get back on track.

In the comments section below, please let me know if you can relate to any of these lessons. And feel free to share some things you’ve learned this past year. (Or, take a moment to tell me how adorable my daughter is. 🙂

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Tim Skwiat and daughter ParkerTime is always at a premium, but with the addition of Parker, time is more precious now than ever before. To me, eating healthy, exercising, spending time with my family, and being a very high-performing employee are all very important. To make sure I succeed and enjoy balance in all these areas, I need to have a daily game plan. Sure, things don’t always go according to plan. You have to be ready, willing, and able to make adjustments–that’s part of life. However, if you don’t have a plan at all, failure is looming. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

For us, this means planning our weekly food menu and going grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday. It means understanding work priorities and allocating time appropriately. It means effectively communicating with my wife. And it means scheduling time in my calendar to exercise—just like I would any important appointment or meeting.

Set Priorities

Zig Ziglar once said, “You can’t hit a target that you can’t see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” In other words, you must have a clear vision of where you want to be—a well-defined goal and crystal clear priorities. Once you set your intention, then you can harness what J. Martin Kohe calls “the greatest power that a person possesses”: The Power to Choose.

That’s right, once you define what’s most important to you, every action you take, every attitude you embrace, and every habit you create (all are choices) align perfectly with your goal.

On a daily and weekly basis, my wife and I create lists with three categories in order of priority: 1. Have to; 2. Need to; and 3. Want to. We assign our tasks, responsibilities, chores, etc., into each of one of these buckets, giving ourselves a clear map.

Another benefit: Crossing stuff off a list just feels good. Some very, very successful and respected business people, military leaders, athletes, etc., start their daily routines off with a very simple task: make the bed. As menial as it sounds, it is the trigger for them to take action throughout the day.

EVERY day is importantTim Skwiat and daughter Parker

Like most people, I’ve “known” this for a long time, and for the most part, I live my life with purpose. However, this year and the people around me have taught me to fully embrace every moment of every day: to take nothing for granted! This includes health, shelter, food, clothing, electricity, people, etc. They’ve also taught me to live life with more of a sense of urgency and purpose.

Once again, I think this comes back to establishing a clear vision of what’s important and setting priorities accordingly.

Be Present

Along those lines, I realized very quickly with Parker that I wanted to (and needed to) be present whenever I was with her. Among the sage advice from veteran parents was, “Time flies; enjoy every moment with your daughter.” My wife and I are taking that very seriously. We do our best to give Parker all our love and attention when we’re with her. In this day and age, a barrage of things is constantly battling for our attention. Focus on being present and in the moment with the people around you, the task at hand, and even when you eat. Social media, text messages, etc., can wait!

When you invest all your energy and focus into a single task at a time, you are more effective, efficient, and productive. What’s more, being more mindful of what and how you’re eating can be a huge first step in improving your nutrition and losing weight.

Give freely and wholeheartedly

One of the things my wife and I emphasized this year was to be more philanthropic. While we are by no means financially wealthy, we are blessed with an abundance of gifts, which we want to share with others.

Throughout the year, we’ve donated money, food, clothing, and household goods to our church and charitable organizations whose missions we truly believe in. It has been immensely rewarding for us. And as we’re blessed with more, we are excited to give more.

Along these lines, one of the things I take most pride in as a member of Team BioTrust is our commitment to giving back on a scale that vastly exceeds what I could ever imagine doing on my own through incredible organizations like Make-A-Wish® and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® program.

Skwiat

Practice gratitude

As you can tell from the pictures in this blog, I’m a very, very blessed and happy man. There is so much I’m grateful for: My amazing wife, my beautiful daughter, my supportive and loving family, our health, my incredibly talented and encouraging teammates, the house we live in, the nutritious food we eat, the cars we drive, and so much more.

It’s easy to take these things for granted or allow them to be overshadowed by negativity and pessimism. Taking time to practice gratitude helps to put things into proper perspective, and it can inject much-needed optimism, energy, enthusiasm, and hope into your life. To help me be more mindful of this, I wear a Lokai bracelet, which is a reminder to find balance—staying humble during life’s highs and hopeful during its lows.

Listen to your body

I pride myself on routines, rituals, and the consistent pursuit of my best effort, but I learned something from Parker very early: Don’t do something just because it’s what you’ve always done. As soon as I thought I had her figured out, she flipped the script on me. Something I had done to make her laugh or fall asleep just days before now made her cry. Just when I thought she was beginning to sleep through the night, she woke up every two hours to eat and then needed another hour to go back to sleep. Nothing was “wrong” with Parker, and she wasn’t doing that “just to mess with me.” She was just listening to her body. Some days she was more hungry than others; some days she was more tired; some days she just wanted to be left the hell alone.

We can learn a lot from the wisdom of babes: instead of going through life on auto-pilot, listen to your body. What do you need? What don’t you need?

Sometimes things get harder—A LOT harder—before they get better or easier

Tim Skwiat and daughter ParkerDespite our best efforts to prepare ourselves, nothing—I mean NOTHING—truly got us ready for how much life changed with the addition of Parker to our family. We wouldn’t change things for the world, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a LOT of change very quickly.

Change is harder for some than others. For instance, when you “move my cheese”—as Spencer Johnson would refer to it in his book Who Moved My Cheese?—I’m like a fish out of water. However, in order to grow, learn, and get better in any domain of life, we have to challenge ourselves, and those challenges can take us out of our comfort zones. But you know what I’ve learned? In most cases, the ensuing reward or growth is proportionate to the degree of the challenge. You can’t throw in the towel when the going gets tough. You’re not always going to get things right on your first try; believe me, I know from experience.

If you fall off the wagon, so to speak, pick up the pieces, learn from your experiences, and come back stronger and better than ever. Be persistent; stick with your goals.

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Sleep is really important

You know that, don’t you? Well, I do too, but a little baby has needs, and a normal adult sleep schedule is largely in conflict with them. For me, even a single night of sleep deprivation made me feel grumpy, irritable, like a jerky dad, husband, friend, and teammate, less creative, fatter, dumber, slower, and less coordinated.

If you have a newborn, that may be largely out of your control. But if you’re not getting enough quality sleep for other reasons, be honest with yourself and recognize just how dramatic of a toll it is taking on you, on those around you, and on your own performance.

It takes a village

Before Parker was born, I can’t tell you how many times I heard the phrase, “It takes a village [to raise a child].” It’s true on every level. But it’s not specific to childrearing. You see, I’m the type of person who dreaded and despised “group work” in school; I would rather just do it all myself. However, this is one of the most important lessons I learned this year; I had to swallow my pride and ask for help both at work and at home.

We all need support, encouragement, and a helping hand to achieve any goal or make any substantial life change, whether it’s related to work, personal improvement, finances, or what have you. Teamwork really does make the dream work.

You really can accomplish anything

Tim Skwiat and daughter ParkerMy amazing wife Amie endured 36+ hours of labor, giving birth naturally to Parker, who was a very healthy 8 pounds, 12 ounces, and 21 inches at birth.

Indisputably, this was the most challenging, demanding, and draining feat of physical, mental, and emotional strength I have ever witnessed. It’s also the most rewarding. To me, Amie set the bar for any challenge I could possibly be presented with. I know I don’t have the same strength, stamina, or durability as my wife, but I also know if she can pass a test of this magnitude with shining colors—and I am so, so proud of her for it—then I can accomplish anything.

Certainly, there are many elements that need to be in place—many of which are discussed above (e.g., goals, priorities, time-management, taking action, social support, planning and preparation)—to be successful, but the fact of the matter is that YOU CAN DO IT if it’s important to you.

And there you have it, my friends: the lessons I’ve learned—or relearned—in 2016. I know many of these have been recanted from the perspective of a first-time father, but overall, these are principles—important ones—that can be applied to many domains of life regardless of where you are in your journey. I hope you walk away with something meaningful, and if nothing else, I hope Parker made you smile.

Also, I’ll be writing a regular column called “Ask Coach Tim” where I address specific questions that readers send in. Please ask your questions in the comment section below and it may be the basis of a future article (at the very least, I’ll respond to your comment)…

Wishing you and yours all the very best in health, happiness, and prosperity in 2017!

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