Defining Priorities: When Fatherhood and Entrepreneurship Collide

Contributed by Dhiren Harchandani, an EO UAE member who is a transformation architect, speaker, author, and endurance athlete with over 2,500 hours of coaching experience. He’s the creator of several personal development programs designed to transform each area of life: Superhuman Journey, Master Your Inner Game, Guided Forgiveness, and Recode your Thoughts. He’s on a mission to show every human being on planet Earth how to Master their Inner Game.

Nobody likes making mistakes or failing. That subsequent horrible feeling is what we all would rather avoid.

The same goes for me. It’s not that I do not make mistakes—I did, I still do, and I will, just as we all will. Nonetheless, feeling weak and vulnerable is something I am not accustomed to. It’s like I wear this mask that covers my insecurities and weakness from friends and family.

Nine years ago, I made a mistake that significantly changed my life. It wasn’t my first mistake, and it wasn’t my last, but it was an incident that I will remember for the rest of my life. It made me look in the mirror and find the courage to finally unmask. I let go of my fears and finally let people see all of me. That liberating feeling made me grow, and finally, the spirit animal inside me was ready to roar.

At the time, I was entering a new phase in my life. My wife, Jasmine, and I were expecting our first child. We lived in a new house where we often took long walks on the beach—simply put, I was living my best life. On 5 June 2009, I received an unexpected call from one of my clients. “Dhiren, we have an opportunity. To make it work, we need you to come to Ireland,” he said.

Should I stay or should I go?

I looked at my calendar because Jasmine was due on 28 June. I thought, “I can do this.” However, almost instantly, my spirit animal whispered, “This is a bad idea.” But I proudly answered, “I’ve got this; I can handle it.”

After convincing myself, I anxiously told Jasmine about the call. She said, “This is an important trip for you; take it. There’s a lot of time between now and the 28th. You’ll be fine.” My wife is a wonderful woman, but her support on this matter puzzled me. I could not believe how calm she was.

Even so, my gut would not stop growling at me. I decided we should consult our doctor. After a few scans, the doctor said, “You have nothing to worry about. Stop overthinking, and go on your business trip. There is plenty of time, plenty of time.”

I wondered why I still felt unsure, despite getting reassurances from both my wife and the doctor.

Ultimately, I decided to go on the business trip. I left on 8 June and would be back by 12 June, with time to spare before my wife’s due date. After three days of intense meetings, on 11 June, I was in the hotel packing my bags to go home when my phone rang. It was Jasmine.

The worst possible timing

Looking back, I should have immediately figured out something was amiss because it was 4am in Dubai.

“Hello, what’s wrong?” I asked. Her voice cracked, “My water broke.”

“Are you sure?” I inquired, aware that she wouldn’t call me in the middle of the night to play a prank, but deep down, I wished she had. At that point, I heard a noise like a caged animal rattling its bars. “Yes, yes, I am sure,” she said frantically. My firstborn was on the way, and I was thousands of kilometers away.

I made frantic calls to try to get on the next flight to Dubai. Even if I could, it was a 16-hour trip from my hotel room to delivery room number 302 at Al Zahra Hospital. The crushing reality hit me—I wasn’t going to make it in time.

I thought, “What made me think that a business trip was more important than listening to my intuition that told me not to go? I wasn’t true to my family or myself. I shouldn’t have left.” All this while I was trying to get home to my wife and child. After a few calls to the airlines, my mother-in-law called to say, “They just took her into the delivery room. It’s happening now.” My heart sank.

At that point, I experienced my most defining moment as a man in the most unimaginable way. I was still on the phone, so I heard the doctor say, “Push, push, breathe, push.” There I was, miles away from my family, listening to the birth of my first child, all the while regretting my decision to go on this trip. After the pushing, screaming and pulling of hair (mostly mine), the doctor finally gave us the good news: It was a boy. That moment was as bitter as it was sweet.

You see, we had decided to wait and discover the gender of our child the natural way. So, it was a beautiful moment that, as a parent, you would remember for the rest of your life. But I would not have that beautiful memory. I wasn’t there to experience it with my wife as we had planned. I could not stop thinking about why I wasn’t there. I had wanted to be there; I had prepared to be there, so how did this happen?

The first time I held my child in my hands, I had a turbulence of emotions—jubilation, joy, guilt and regret. Nine years later, I honestly don’t remember what challenges my client was facing that made me go on that trip. However, I remember exactly what I missed. It was not worth it, to miss my child’s birth for something that could have been avoided.

Lessons learned

Nonetheless, my colossal mess-up taught me three valuable lessons:

  1. Always listen to your spirit animal.
  2. Nothing is so important to make you miss the truly magical moments in life.
  3. It revealed my real passion, which is being the best father I can be.

Finally, my mask was off, and I realized that being vulnerable is being strong. I can’t do it all, and that’s okay. Please learn from my story and mistake to examine your life because, after all—we are humans, and we mess up.

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Categories: Coaching Entrepreneurial Journey Lessons Learned WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION


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