leematthewjackson

Podcaster, business owner, open source advocate, dad, husband, geek... in no particular order.

Aged 38 with two daughters I realised I still had so much to learn the moment my son arrived. Sure I could change a nappy, make a bottle and all that stuff but could we bond?

Would he gain comfort, safety and security from my embrace, voice and smell? Not being as young as I was, would I have the patience to support this little chap?

My concern was bourne from recognising my many failures in the past, my desire to improve my relationship with my daughters and my recent burnout. I talk about my quest to improve relationships in this post:

Ignoring the advice as we raise our children.

In the post I share how we are adopting a more “attachment” model when seeing to the needs of our baby and here's what has worked well so far for Daddy and son bonding:

Baby wearing

Using a sling I wear my boy daily. He loves it and so do I! Our hearts beat together and our breathing forms a rhythm. Being one of his favourite places to fall asleep it's also a space he uses to explore the world with his eyes.

As I go about my duties in the house and the home office I often glance down at him. He takes so much in, either looking up and me and getting used to my smell, voice and face, or by exploring the room and noises around him. As an adult I wish I could regain that feeling of fascination with the world around me and find satisfaction in just chilling taking it all in.

I now refer to my sling as my “magic power”. When he's upset, tired, wants a sleep, frustrated or simply any emotion he can't fully process, I pop him in the sling, and we both cuddle up.

Skin to skin

Within minutes of him being born, the midwife shocked me by encouraging me to take off my top and cuddle him “skin to skin”. Having never heard of this concept for our past children, I figured I would give it a try. I took off my top and held naked newborn son close.

As a family we'd been singing “You are my sunshine” to him inside mums belly, so I began to sing it to him. Emotions bubbled up inside me and my wife and I are sure he recognised the song.

From then, I've continued to practice skin to skin with cuddles before bed. At 5 months old he beams from ear to ear, and he grabs a hold of me. His new (not so fun) hobby is to pull my chest hair.

Supporting feeds

The first few days were so exhausting for my wife and I too hardly slept as I felt guilty for her. After about a week or so she relented to let me support the feeding process by feeding him expressed milk or formula in rare cases that my wife was unable to express.

What I didn't expect was this amazing maternal feeling that overtook me when I began to feed him his first bottle. Something that has not subsided. It's a privilege to be able to feed him, hold him, cuddle him and watch him as he develops and grows. Every bottle-feed is another opportunity to be together, to recognise and associate smells, to hear softly spoken words and to bond.

Cuddles

Sure skin to skin, baby wearing and feeding are all cuddle opportunities, but there are more beyond that. I've found I want to sit with him for hours doing nothing other than being together. He loves to sit on my lap and lean against my chest, my arms around him.

He will often look around the room from a position of comfort and safety, and will look up to me, offer a smile or seek encouragement. It wasn't so long ago he was safe in the womb, this world is still so new to him. We can be an ongoing place of safety that he knows he can always return to whenever he wants.

The best part is when he falls asleep during cuddles. We will sneak some more snuggle time with him as he falls deeper into sleep then gently pop him in his crib for a well-earned nap. We don't go far and when he awakes he's beaming at us recognising us from across the room knowing we are there for him.

Conversation

Finally, I talk a lot to him. As if he could understand every word I say, I tell him what I am doing, where I am going, how I am feeling and most importantly how much I love him. Though he cannot understand words as yet, he can sense my tone, and he continues to get used to my voice. My voice, warmth and smell are all important parts of his development and sense of security.

My wife shared also that apparently many children who are exposed to lots of conversation and stimulation will learn to communicate at a faster pace. If his smile is anything to go by, he's already a great communicator!

How am I doing?

Better than I thought.

The concerns I had were based on my previous experiences. When I was younger I didn't have the same patience nor ability to imagine life as a tiny baby. I so often remember how tired and stressed we were and that feeling on inadequacy.

With age has come a calmness, a patience and most importantly an empathy. Instead of being the “impatient and tired old man” I thought I would be, I'm the calmer understanding dad whose life is being radically changed and blessed by my children.

It's a struggle to put into words how everything has changed, but what I do understand is it's working. Instead of training my son to work on our schedule, we've embraced his and bonded on such a deep level.

Lee Matthew Jackson – PodcastMastodonOdysee

Grown-ups need to play too you know. For many years I'd forgotten the art of exploration and play. I would work long hours, spend a little time with family then retire to bed only to repeat the process.

Conscious that I'd let hold passions and hobbies die, I convinced myself my work was my hobby. I got to code every day, build websites and create content, surely this wasn't “work”.

The work mindset

Whilst very true, I have a passion for code and content, over time I realised that there is a huge difference in mindset when you are engaging in work. Whilst I call code my hobby, when developing within the scope of a project and to a specific deadline, code is no longer a hobby. It's a task with expectations and pressures.

Whilst working on the clock, you don't experience the joy of play or the excitement of new discoveries. Instead, you have to focus on the job at hand. A new discovery is met with relief as it fixes an issue you were struggling with, yet there is no time to marvel, you need to keep going.

My businesses had formed from the talents I developed from my hobbies, but the day-to-day activities of running the business were in no way a substitute for the benefits of relaxation, play and engaging in passions with no agenda.

Burnout forced me to stop and play

Mid 2020, I hit burnout. This affected my productivity, the enjoyment in my work, my motivation and my ability to be present with those I love. We decided I needed to rest, so we all worked to ensure I could take most of December off in order to fully relax, spend time with the family and... play!

Yes I planned to spend much of my month off exploring interests I've had but neglected for years. Electronics, quantum physics, open source software. I also wanted to discover new programming languages that were in no way related to my businesses. I had my eye on Python as I knew there was potential to merge my development skills with the new electronic kit I was going to explore.

What changed

December 2020 was one of the most fun times I'd had in many years! I learned to play again. Old interests rediscovered and new passions unlocked. The feelings I experienced were close to those I'd experienced as a child. The excitement of discovery, the pleasure of time and the expanse of unlimited imagination.

I'd been focused on creating holidays and going to magical places like Disney World to get that fix! Now I was experiencing the magic I'd long forgotten in the comfort of my own home!

Priorities quickly changed. I removed social media, stopped reading the news and became very intentional about the time I would spend with the family. We started talking more, sharing our worries, thoughts, hopes and dreams. We began to laugh more, cuddle more, listen more.

Dad was much happier and that lifted everyone. It didn't take long for the change in Dad to start to rub off on our teenager. She started trying new things on her computer, her artistic flair blossomed and her willingness to spend time with us all grew exponentially.

We are in February now and things have continued to improve. Our anxious daughter has grown in confidence and spends loads of time with her little brother. My wife worries about me less than she's ever needed to. My business partner has never seen me so happy. My baby boy has hours of dad time every day and is an extremely content and happy little lad.

The future

Learning to play again as an adult has changed our future forever. New discoveries in play are now affecting the direction of our business. My business partner who helped lead me to these life-changing moments is too on his own amazing journey which is helping us both develop an exciting culture for our company.

Play has become a part of work. We've discovered that exploration, relaxation, rhythm, exercise and fun are all “part of the work”. Rather than a culture where being busy is a badge of honour, we are focused on creating and building an exciting vision through exploring our passions.

It's been three months since I started to play and explore new hobbies.

So much has changed and I've no intention of stopping yet.

As I learn and experience more, I'll be back here to share.

Lee Matthew Jackson – PodcastMastodonOdysee

Over the years I've considered productivity to be the pursuit of doing as much as possible, in the most efficient manner. People adopting productivity measures are looking to make time for other activities, accelerate the growth of their company or to simply catch up where they have fallen behind.

My relationship with productivity

For years, I have chased company growth and numbers whilst placing productivity on a pedestal, preaching it to my team, and trying to model the latest techniques. This has lead to varying degrees of success in many areas of my life apart from one. Home.

Whilst I chase efficiencies in the workplace, I've so often lost sight of those that are most important to me. Despite achieving so much I was still finishing late, still feeling anxious and stressed whilst at home and still struggling to be present in important family moments.

Productivity had become an addiction, one where I have to continue to achieve more in order to feel productive. Whilst I spent time with family, I still always felt that I could have been doing more. Anxieties would rise over the business and new ideas would form whilst I tried to enjoy time with loved ones.

How silence changed everything

For many, including myself, lockdown and global pandemics worsened my mental state. Eventually my business partner shared with me a video from Richard Rohr about contemplation and meditation.

I was challenged by his idea of the false self and recognised that my own ego had been driving much of what I do. My reasons for productivity whilst had some root in wanting a better family life, also had deep roots in my own desire to be seen as successful and hard-working.

Following this video I decided to make time for contemplation. Instead of charging around doing things, I'd instead sit in silence. I'd focus on relaxation, on the contemplative process. Initially my only reason was to help improve my mental health through ensuring I took rest. I wasn't aware of where it was eventually going to take me.

The first few days of silence were of course relaxing and positive, and I enjoyed the process but over time something began to change in me. My focus turned to simple things, and I began to experience awe. Awe at the structure of a leaf or gratefulness for the warmth of my home.

This process continued and birthed thankfulness and appreciation for what was around me and all that I had. Silence had allowed me to stop and see that in an amongst all the productivity I was missing the point. I wasn't enjoying the wonderful things around me I was already blessed with.

Thankfulness

Over the next few months I found myself becoming happier and happier. I began to feel content in the life I'd been blessed with. We had what we needed and the time and space to create a wonderful home with lasting memories.

The relationship with my wife and three children improved as I began to value them more that I had ever before. I began engaging in better conversations with my daughters and when my son was born all thoughts of “training” my child slipped away. As you'll read here, our parenting style has changed forever.

Recognising how truly blessed I already was helped me look at the work I was doing with a new perspective. I was engaging in hours tasks, content creation, social media, research, project management and more. I ran several brands and was also working on a personal brand for myself.

My thoughts initially were to spread out the workload and get others involved in helping me, but then it struck me. Why?

Why when I already have so much do I need to work so hard? Why do I need to build a personal brand that allows me to be seen and respected by others. Why do I need to run so many brands and businesses? Why do I need to continue to engage in social media in such a time-consuming and draining manner?

Of course, I still have ambition and I do want to change the world, I believe we are all born with that seed. Yet my motivations, my ego and pride had all been challenged over several months of contemplation. As the luckiest man on the planet, I had a duty to care for what I already had and methodically and carefully build a bright future.

My view of productivity had been changed forever. Productivity wasn't about doing more and growing quickly. Productivity is about doing the right things, for the right reasons for results I believe in.

Productivity is about doing the right things, for the right reasons for results I believe in. Lee Matthew Jackson

How productivity looks for me now

Now, as I engage with this new world view I am learning how to be productive. This has lead to significant changes in how we parent, how we live, what we spend our time doing, what we spend money on and how we work.

I've since closed several brands I was working on, I've reduced clients in one of my businesses to just a handful and I've transferred most of my team to the core business with my business partner.

With significantly less distracting me each day I am able to focus and take my time methodically building our businesses. A great example is a new product we are designing. Our normal path would be to find the quickest route to market utilising any third party tools we could to get it out there fast.

Instead, we've decided to start from the ground up, designing it in purposeful stages over a period of several months. We are taking time to consider the bigger picture, where we want the product to be, how we want it to be used and how we will both support and scale it.

We are still ambitious but with a thankfulness for where we are and a new sense of confidence and purposefulness for where we are headed.

Silence

Productivity for me really began with silence.

Lee Matthew Jackson – PodcastMastodonOdysee

For years, I have struggled to achieve my goals. Either I fall short, give up or even fail to start. This cycle would affect my self-confidence and even my motivation to do anything no matter how simple.

Streaks

A few years back I was introduced to “streaks”. This was through an app called Snapchat where my friend and I would send a goofy image every day to each other. Should one of us missed a day we would “break the streak”. Once we hit 100+ it became impossible for us to break. As of writing we are at 1218 days!

Hitting 100 days of one small daily action made me realised we'd formed a habit and discovered a system for keeping us accountable towards a task.

My first streak

For the last 20+ years I'd had been meaning to read the whole Bible. Given the size of the book I'd set myself difficult goals such as “The 90 day Bible Plan” or if I was being “realistic” the “Bible in a year”. Neither worked. Both demanded too much of my time and within days I'd give in.

I decided therefore I would read on chapter a day for as long as it took. Streaks would be used to form the habit and keep me accountable to myself. Should on certain days I encounter a particularly short chapter or hit a “page turner” I'd allow myself a little extra indulgence but the task was one chapter minimum.

Doing the maths, it was clear it would take just over three years. That sounded like an awfully long time, but I recognised that in over 20 years I'd never successfully read beyond Numbers in the Old Testament or Ephesians in the New Testament. I figured if it took 3 years to achieve something I'd not managed in 20 years then it was well worth a try!

Being one small achievable action, I knew I could reasonably commit to this and could track my progress getting that instant reward feedback as the daily streak increased another number.

It didn't take three years in the end, in fact I rocked it in 572 days. Not because I wanted to rush but it turns out there are quite a few page turners in the Bible (and some pretty awful chapters too mind). I'd formed a small achievable habit and was able to adjust over time as I realised what I was capable of. One chapter soon became two then became three.

Small achievable actions lead to big change Lee Matthew Jackson

Beyond the first streak

Since I began this journey over three years ago I've achieved so much by breaking it down into small actions and applying the streak method for self accountability. For the times I've needed to break a habit I've extended the accountability to a friend also to ensure I keep on track.

I've been able to use streaks to:

  • Complete the Bible
  • Write a new book
  • Create 100s of articles for my channels
  • Build new products
  • Break bad habits
  • Create good habits

I am now using streaks to edit my first book that unpacks this all in detail with a view to launching the book in September 2021... so this is my accountability post!

I'll be back to edit with links in a few months!

Lee Matthew Jackson – PodcastMastodonOdysee

Over the last few months I have battled my mental health like never before. Whilst a global pandemic may be the obvious cause, I began to realise that it was much deeper than that.

My main source of communication, connection, news and opinion was social media, and it was bringing me down. Not only would it add fuel to the negativity but was clearly a compulsive habit.

Checking the apps on the way to the restroom in the middle of the night, seeing a message about work, and a political post that upsets you is not what you need for a restful nights sleep. It was one such night I recognised I needed to change something.

Thing is, with a growing personal brand online, a large following and multiple content streams, how on earth could I escape?

The steps I took

The birth of our new son changed my mindset. I wanted to be a happy and healthy dad, I wanted to help him grow up in a connected world as a grounded person. I wanted to right the wrongs I'd inflicted on my older children where I was distracted, consumed, stressed and often not present. This was an opportunity to build a new relationship and restore others.

I'm a list guy, so here's how I did it:

Removed apps from my smartphone for a month

For one month I removed all social media apps from my smartphone. It was the phone that was one of the biggest contributors to my habitual checking. If I could survive without any of the apps for a month that would force me at least to use social within set times via my PC/laptop which would be far less convenient.

The first few days were unusual with many times the family asking “did you see X” or “I've sent you it on messenger”. But once we all got used to the fact Dad was no longer using social on his phone, the language changed, and I didn't miss it at all.

That month has now become several, and I will never install FB, Instagram, LinkedIn or others on my phone again. (Nor log into their web apps).

Separated business and personal

Facebook and Instagram were the two most blurred lines when it came to my personal and business life. I was seen as a personal brand who was accessible 24/7 via comments and messages. There were no boundaries and people felt it OK to add my family and friends.

Therefore, I immediately converted my Instagram to a business account, changing its name, removing personal posts and of course removing the app and message notifications.

Then I deleted over 1000 friends on Facebook to only 90 members of my immediate family and close friends. It was difficult as there were “reasons” to stay connected to so many people, but if I was going to come off social, or at minimum separate business and personal I was going to need to make some tough decisions.

I then recorded a podcast and shared it with the community. This explained the journey I was going on, and I was very heartened by the response in my inbox.

Finally, I updated the business page, and began to only show up during set times, through the business page within the community. This means I can continue to represent the brand, whilst creating clear expectations and drawing that line in the sand.

Distributed responsibilities

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful team who understand our mission and love the business. Working on the business is as important as working in the business, so moderating conversations, checking social inboxes, designing graphics, scheduling posts, analysing statistics and more need not be my responsibility. We promoted Larissa to Social Media Manager and Creative Lead, and she's already blossomed within months.

Our branding looks fantastic, we post regularly on our business social channels, and we are seeing an increase in consumption and engagement. All this whilst my own personal day-to-day involvement with social media has reduced to near zero!

Utilised third party tools

Sometimes I get inspired and want to share something with the community I believe would be helpful. Having set logging onto social media as a no-go for me, I am able to use our social scheduling software instead to create all the posts I want without seeing any other distracting posts.

Larissa can review them and schedule them for relevant times and I can carry on about my day knowing I've shared what was on my mind, but I didn't go down the rabbit hole.

Blocked temptations

Muscle memory is a thing and several months later I still start typing in “fac” or “twi” or “news.sk...” into my browser toolbar. Literally for no reason other than it was a habit I formed over years and 20 minutes would pass before I escaped whichever site had loaded in front of me.

I did it twice this morning whilst writing this post! For those moments when I am thinking I sub consciously open a tab from the keyboard and start writing in distracting URLs.

The simplest solution I had without full on blocking access was to put an interrupt in my way. Distract me not is an add-on for my browser where I can input the URLs I want to block and what message I want to appear in their place.

Whilst disabling the plugin temporarily is super easy it acts as enough of an interrupt that I have to think about what I am doing. This allows me to check the behaviour, question my reasoning and 99% of the time go back to what I was doing.

On my phone the process was permanent by removing the apps, but I took a step further adding them to my DNS block list via DNS66, so I wasn't tempted in a moment of weakness to use the web apps!

Whilst blocking can be circumvented, it acts as a pattern interrupt enough to break the flow.

Deleted irrelevant accounts

Ever felt like you need to be on every social platform? Same! So having put up with LinkedIn spam for years closing that account was a pleasure. I didn't generate much in the form of leads or traffic from that resource so placing energies there seemed pointless. I took the same action with other platforms we had signed up for or extra brand pages we had created for sub brands that we didn't need.

KISS (Keep it simple stupid) is such a good acronym, and I was the one who'd been stupid. I'd created so many accounts, brands and pages there was NO way a whole team could effectively manage our social presence let alone me as an individual!

Moved to the Fediverse

Social media is designed to keep you hooked, and I believe the mainstream platforms have created a monopoly on our attention. Compulsive checking, the buzz of engagement, feeling connected and let's not mention those compelling targetted advertisements.

Being connected and being able to express yourself are not at all bad things, but I've learned over time that when you are the product, and it is commercialised, the experience becomes unhealthy.

I've since moved my form of personal expression to the Fediverse meaning Facebook and Twitter have been replaced with Mastodon and Instagram with PixelFed.

Both are open source, self-hosted web apps that federate (connect) with other instances. You can then self-host your own or join an existing instance of like-minded individuals.

No one person controls all the data, and you have the ability to manage your own information. Most importantly there are no large corporate bodies influencing its direction or development or manipulating what you consume.

How's it going?

Bloody brilliant! But that's another post for another day!

Lee Matthew Jackson – PodcastMastodonOdysee

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a chip on my shoulder, and when I am wrong I say I am wrong. (Subtle film reference there). But when it came to having our second child together, my wife and I came to a realisation that we needed to do what felt right when bringing up our newborn baby.

When we were younger we followed everyones advice for raising our firstborn. We lacked the confidence to “make mistakes”, and often unquestioningly took onboard what others said was best for our baby.

An example that troubles me to this day is “self soothing”. This never worked for our daughter. It simply caused everyone distress and I feel certain that in someway it may have negatively contributed toward her anxiety and lack of self-confidence as she's grown.

A new life in a new world

Having miscarried a couple of years prior, we learned at the end of 2019 we were expecting again. We spent the next 9 months hoping everything would be OK, and doing all we could to ensure the health and well-being of our “Chip”.

During this time the global pandemic and multiple lockdowns challenged our sense of safety and security. So much we'd built our lives upon was extremely fragile. It's saying something when people are fighting over toilet roll.

The moment Chip was born my wife and I both felt the weight of responsibility for this fragile little life that had just been entrusted to us. We could help shape his worldview and equip him with the tools he would need to thrive in this uncertain environment.

This awakened in us a deep awareness that we were responsible for creating a more beautiful world for our children than what currently exists but neither of us knew how we would do it.

We recognised that these next few months with Chip were going to be essential. We knew it would be an opportunity to create a safe and secure environment for him to grow knowing he is loved, accepted, cared for and safe. Giving Chip the space to explore his identity and pursue his passions, imagination, creativity and make his own mark on the world.

So rather than teaching Chip how to survive in a harsh world, how about we allow him to thrive knowing he is of value and loved.

This too applies to our now teenage daughter. We've grown up so much since she was born and we've relaised it's never too late to work on relationships.

Experiencing safety and comfort

As of writing Chip (not his real name) is now 5 months old and we've been doing things a little differently this time round. We've thrown out the rulebook and are following our hearts.

This is our opportunity to meet Chips needs as he grows and develops. When he needs feeding, we provide sustenance. When he needs a cuddle, we cuddle. If at 3am he wants to sit awake for two hours, smiling at us and chatting, we smile and talk back. If Chip would like to sleep for a while in the safety of our arms, we hold him close.

This is not a failure to teach our child to “live in the real world”. He will experience that for himself one day. Our son will one day help build a world based on his own experiences. We want those first scary months of his new life to be as stress free and as happy as we can make it. We can be that positive start to his live that he can build upon.

This mindset changes everything

Instead of being stressed if he hasn't slept much, we are quite the opposite. Whilst one of us would have slept (we have a rota so we both get enough sleep), the other parent is present to support him. We get to feed him, nurture him and teach him from a place of rest, happiness and love.

He doesn't experience a frustrated parent, but instead loving support. He doesn't feel the pressure to conform, nor the need to do things to earn attention. He's already developing into a contented baby boy with two relaxed and happy parents and a thrilled teenage sister whom he adores.

We remind ourselves that he may not have an official routine, but his happiness more than makes up for that. My wife says “You can't have it all”, and she's right. We've adjusted our own schedules to ensure that we both get time together, time with our children and time to rest.

Sure this means things are very different for us, but we so often remember that this is just a season. Chip will not be a baby forever, he will not always need us in the middle of the night, he will not always rely on us. So whilst we can, we are here for him. Whilst we can enjoy, be present and truly experience life with him, we are doing it with joy and purpose.

I know it sounds “woo” yet I've never been happier. I love my wife and children even more than I thought possible because the barriers have been broken down. We all spend much more time together, talk more, resolve differences faster and are developing a much more positive family experience.

We have a long way to go. This is just the beginning.

I hope I can read back in years to come knowing we were able to help our children follow their dreams and build a better world for the future.

Lee Matthew Jackson – PodcastMastodonOdysee