I recently became a three-time father with my third son being born on June 21st. Drake Andrew Snyder has brought about a great amount of reflection for me personally, and in many ways reflects a new phase of my life. For me, each of my sons represent something unique to me in regard to the journey my life has taken thus far.
Little Drake represents a fresh start. He has been born into a portion of my life where I feel I am the most balanced, personally and professionally.
Dominick Angel, our middle son, represents redemption. Dominick was born during a dark portion of my life, and early in his life his feelings for me reflected my feelings for myself, internally. Today he is a daddy’s boy, and that too reflects the love that I feel for myself, and pride in the man I have become over the 4 years of his life.
My Journey with Dante
Yesterday Dante turned 7. Dante, like my wife Samantha, was part of my journey as a marketer from the beginning. I’ve already told this story before, but when I found out Dante was going to enter my life I was a first-year English teacher with a degree in Creative Writing and a strong belief that my current occupation was pit stop before I published my first novel.
I had grown up always wanting to be a writer. I would walk around with notebooks scribbling short stories and poetry in high school and college. My life’s goal was to live a literary life, and be unbound by conventional ties.
This did not mesh well with being a father and husband, and I opted for the more mature route.
Dante was born on August 30th, 2005, just as I entered my second year of teaching. I began to supplement my income by tutoring and picking up service positions within the school for stipends. I did whatever I could to help provide for my family.
It wasn’t enough.
By my third year of teaching we had already found ourselves without a home twice, and were living in a one-bedroom, 600 sq foot apartment. My wife and I slept on a futon, and Dante being the king of the castle got the bedroom.
In my quest to constantly improve my family’s life, I found a few writing jobs on the Internet. From there, I started my first blog, which I hand-coded in HTML; No database or CMS. I was an idiot, but it helped teach me a lot. I also taught myself PPC and SEO during this time.
The summer of my third year of teaching I hit a low point financially, and decided it was time to wade out into the workforce.
This was a dark time. I felt like a failure.
At the same time, that summer was magical. I spent every day with Dante: Pure daddy and Dante time. He was already the center of my life, but we bonded so much more during those summer days spent in the pool, at parks, and just clowning around.
When I received an offer from a company to become their Online Marketing Manager, even though I felt I was under qualified, I took it with the hope that I could use the same hustle I had used during my time teaching to escalate my pay grade quickly.
During my first 3 months at this job I drove 3 hours round trip each day, spending almost any extra money I was making in gas and tolls, but I knew that it could provide me with the social mobility that teaching just couldn’t. The bigger sacrifice was my “Dante time”, but I rationalized it with the idea that I was making things better for him. The reality is that spending time away wasn’t good for him or me.
One of the things that stuck with me during this time was my love for writing. I looked at my son and wanted to give him the world, and I knew that in order to do that, I had to hold on to my own dreams to set an example. This thrust me into the world of blogging within this industry. My first legit byline came from Andy Beal at Marketing Pilgrim. This offered me not only a way to continue my passion, but also proved to be a great way to brand myself, and to grow my network.
Following my passion and honing my newly found skills in online marketing paid off for me as I moved into a higher paying position in my first 12 months in the business, and began my own consultancy.
Being a Dad is Tough…
I often give other entrepreneurs the advice that they should wait to have kids until they’ve become established and secure.
Do as I say, not as I’ve done.
The reason I give this advice is because my role as a father has made it difficult for me from time to time to make the correct decisions in regard to business. Things are much easier if you can live off of a few hundred dollars a month, and that’s not really possible with a family of 3, 4, or now 5 (what am I thinking!?)
However, the flip side of that coin is that I strongly believe I wouldn’t have tasted any success without my family being a catalyst for me.
Here are the ways that Dante has impacted me on my journey as a marketer and entrepreneur:
- Focus on stability – Without having Dante to provide for, I am pretty sure I would have become a full-blown black hat SEO, hustling and grinding. Being a dad made me stray towards the force, and stray from the dark side.
- Knowing how to deliver a message – Dante is a super smart kid. Most parents think this, but he is at a level of intelligence that makes me uncomfortable sometimes that I am not so thrilled. Dealing with a kid like that teaches you how to deliver a message in order to get positive responses. This is a skill set that really served me well.
- How to make messages stick – It isn’t a coincidence that The Tipping Point devotes so much time to how Sesame Street and Blues Clues made their content stick. If you can figure out the formula to make a 3 or 4 year old remember something, you can make anything stick. I think this really helped me in my marketing career.
- Focus on time with family – Over the last four years time with my family has grown in importance. There have been several times I have thought about packing it in and taking a normal day gig to stick with concept #1, but the freedom to have time for my loved ones always draws me back in. This keeps me mentally balanced, and I believe helps fuel my creativity.
- Sparking my childhood imagination – Ever since Dante entered my world, he and his brothers after him have reignited my childhood imagination. I love building things with them, reading stories, and getting lost in wonderment. This is something that fueled my desire to write when I was young, and continues today.
- Kept my passion for the written word – Dante is an avid reader and writer. God help him, he is a smaller version of me. His love for reading and writing has greatly inspired me to continue to hone my craft, and educate myself.
- Ethical boundaries – Most people don’t need to have kids to learn this, I did. I am not wired like other people I have discovered, and I strongly believe the reason I am the man I am today is completely due to the morals of my wife, and the desire to lead my children by example. This didn’t come quickly for me unfortunately, and there have been dark times. But I pride myself on the way CopyPress is run today, with an unparalleled level of transparency internally and with customers. This is how we run our household today, and I believe it is another reason I am able to maintain such a balance.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Be Transparent – Kids are funny. They will blurt out noises, smells, and words no human should. They tell people exactly what they think of them with zero remorse. There is something freeing about this. This is an essential for running a business and a marketing campaign. The amount of information we share with our staff and community at CopyPress would likely make most managers sweat, but we think it gives us a unique edge.
Everyone’s journey is different. I really believe there isn’t a “perfect formula” for life. My perfect formula is what I live today. I have realized especially over the last 6 months, that what I am really best at in life is being a Dad. This is likely what people will remember me for, not my career; that makes me happy today, where it once frightened me.
On another note, this has actually taken me to new heights professionally, and thus has lifted me to a level of balance that I didn’t think I could achieve.
The point of this post is not to say, “Dude’s with kids are better,” or “this is how to get awesome”. What I am trying to say is that the path to true happiness in and out of your career may come from a source you did not expect. Keep your eyes open.
Mine sprouted from the smile and love of a child named Dante …
…and man, how that beautiful garden has grown.