Luke Sniewski’s life has been in perpetual motion since he was a kid. With a child on the way, he’s learning to slow things down and figure out what really matters.
Three. Mouths I have to feed.
Two. Jobs I’ll probably need to keep to make ends meet.
One. Person that will look out for me.
Zero. The amount of times I heard I love you from my father.
The only feedback I had ever received from my father was ‘work harder’ and ‘not good enough’. Those interactions pretty much provided the majority of our interactions. As a result, I was unintentionally programmed to be a workaholic from elementary school.
The first third of my life has been highlighted by a long list of awards, accolades, and accomplishments that were never good enough and ended up in the trash. Wasted paper in my mind. Never working less than 60 hours in a week in my adult life, I was just doing what I had been programmed to do since childhood. Work harder. Not good enough. When the external world praises hard work, it’s easy to confuse the pats on your back from relative strangers as genuine approval from your father. It’s not. It’s like trying to fill a lake with shot glasses. It just won’t happen. Not in this lifetime at least.
For years I believed I had come to terms with my upbringing. I considered it an advantage and believed that my emotionally cold and isolated environment was actually the primary factor behind my constant drive and work ethic. It probably was. But that environment created serious consequences. When you believe you have no safety nets, you work yourself to the bone and never feel secure. No amount of savings can satiate that feeling. When you think the only person that has your back is you, you trust no one and question even in the friendliest of gestures. Everyone is your enemy. When you are never satisfied with any of your accomplishments, you keep pushing yourself to greater limits at the expense of your health and relationships. Nothing is good enough. When you have never felt approval or acceptance, you feel tremendous anxiety when you don’t ‘accomplish’ something on a daily basis. The worst consequence? No one else is good enough either. They need to work harder, too. They’re not good enough.
Then life threw me a curveball.
I met someone that made me reevaluate my perspective on life. What I considered to be my greatest attributes in business success were my greatest weaknesses in relationship success. When you’re in a relationship, you must know you are each other’s safety nets. When you’re in a relationship, you accept and love each other exactly as you are; there’s no need for impressing the other with accomplishments. And without trust, there is no relationship. A relationship is a unit. One that requires vulnerability, patience, understanding, and attention to detail. It’s the seemingly small details that make this life worthwhile.
I woke up from my 29 year daze when my typical knee-jerk reactions –the ones I was programmed to have–began to negatively impact my relationship. In the past I would have been greeted with anger and hostility. This time, however, I was greeted with patience and understanding. What have you not dealt with? Who have you not forgiven? How can I help you with this? I discovered anger I didn’t know was there. I communicated thoughts and emotions that had been buried a long time ago. I forgave my father. I forgave myself.
Slowly the programming began to change. It’s stilling changing. The process never really stops, you just go deeper.
Claire calls me a shark because she believes I’ll drown if I stop swimming. She’s right. I’ll always be moving forward. It’s in my blood. I’ve been programmed this way. But I have learned the importance of slowing down. My relationships with others are deeper, more vulnerable, and meaningful; especially my relationship with self. Before life threw me that curveball, I never understood yoga and meditation. Now if I neglect to practice and meditate in the morning, my days are frantic, out of control, anxious, and stressful. Work harder. Not good enough.
My life’s success is not about how far I can go anymore. I want to slow down and keep pace with the little pair of legs that will be frantically trying to keep up with his dad very soon. Will I teach him to work hard? Yes. But there will be balance. He’ll also receive the coinciding love, respect, approval, and acceptance regardless of the outcome of his work. Effort is more important than results.
I want to show my son the abundant love that exists in this world. I want to instill intellectual curiosity. Most importantly, I want to him to know I love him regardless of the path he chooses to follow. And he will hear those words often. Love is unconditional. His programming will be different. One that has the sense of community, trust, and love as the foundation.
As I curiously await fatherhood and the many educational adventures it will bring, I’ve made the choice to have a different countdown in my head:
Three. Meals I want to share with my family on a daily basis.
Two. Minds are better than one.
One. Beautiful baby boy on the way.