I’m a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk’s book Fight Club. Who isn’t? A whole generation saw a bit of itself in the tangled identity of the book’s unnamed protagonist and his partner, Tyler Durden. The story—especially the dialogue of the main character—has become a cultural meme and metaphor. Remixes and responses abound on YouTube.
I stumbled upon one of these creative reuses recently. Playing off one of the key monologues in the film, the author of this blog post uses actual quotes from Tyler Durden as guidelines for innovation and creativity.
Great lines live on because they can be adopted and repurposed without losing an ounce of their truth. I’ve attempted to do just that: apply Tyler Durden’s philosophy to something as foreign to the story as possible: fatherhood.
The First Rule of Fatherhood:
No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.
Let’s face it: being a parent is full of fear and distractions. But what’s truly amazing is the way those fears and distractions put the rest of your hang-ups and hesitations to rest.
You rethink what matters. You boil things down. You focus in. There is a lot in this world that matters deeply, but as parents we weigh those things with new eyes and understand them in new ways.
As we hold our children at night before bedtime, as we feel them breathing, we know we’ve been given a profound gift: some perspective.
The Second Rule of Fatherhood:
No fear! No distractions! The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide!
See above. It’s worth restating. (If you don’t get it, read the book.)
The Third Rule of Fatherhood:
I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.
There is nothing like parenthood to dispel the notion that perfection is attainable. We are wild works-in-progress, and our children remind us of that all the time. But they also remind us how wonderful it is not to be complete, to continue to grow, to continue to learn.
The Fourth Rule of Fatherhood:
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
I used to sneer at people who said that once you have a baby everything changes. But it’s true. Having a baby means losing hold of everything you once knew, and there is incredible freedom that goes along with that if you are willing to let go. It’s your choice.
Parenthood can make you feel trapped, as if you’ve lost everything—or it can make you feel free, as if you have nothing to lose.
The Fifth Rule of Fatherhood:
You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.
I have the good fortune to love my job. To some extent, we all define ourselves by the work we do.
But I am not my job—not in the way I am my son’s father. Being a dad tends to drain your bank account and to make you reconsider the car you drive (minivan, anyone?), but it redefines your relationship to all these things. As for your khakis, forget about ’em. They’ll be covered in peas or sweet potatoes before you know it.
The Sixth Rule of Fatherhood:
People do it every day … they see themselves as they’d like to be. They don’t have the courage you have, to just run with it.
It’s impossible not to wonder what kind of parent you are. We all strive to be a little stronger, more patient, more relaxed. Most of the time, however, there isn’t time to wonder—you have to run with it.
It takes courage, it takes trust—in ourselves, our families, and our children—and it takes love. As my son stands up and takes his first steps, I’m reminded that sitting, thinking, waiting, and imagining is never as good as just running with what we’ve got, knowing full well that we’ll make mistakes, stumble, and fall. But at least we’re moving forward.
The Seventh Rule of Fatherhood:
Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
This is in fact a useful reminder. You can buy all the parenting books, buy the videos, bookmark the blogs—and you probably will. But all the know-how and advice alone will not make you a parent. It may not even make you a good parent. If you want to be a parent, all you can do is roll up your sleeves and begin. If you do it with love, care, respect, and gratitude, you’ll be the best you can be.
The Eighth Rule of Fatherhood:
This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.
A downer to end on, but it’s true. It’s an unwieldy paradox: we witness our children’s lives moment by moment, milestone by milestone, at the same time as we feel ourselves getting older. Oh my god, I can’t believe he’s turning 1 already! And most of us wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Our lives may be ending one minute at a time, but each minute is invested in the lives of our children. As our children learn, as they start their lives here, we begin anew with them, experiencing things again for the first time. And so, somehow, in the heart of this contradiction between beginnings and endings, we find a life so worth living that we live it without concern for the ending.