Technology Lessons Learned from Parenting

Being a parent teaches you many lessons in life. One of the first (and possibly most powerful) is the realization that you don’t know anything. It is truly a humbling experience in life. By the time we are eighteen, we know everything. College often reinforces this as we begin to not only know everything, but have passionate opinions on everything as well. Then real life (and work) sets in and we begin to learn that we are not the “be all end all” of human existence and are, in fact, the lowest rung on the totem pole. By the time our life stabilizes with a career, marriage and ultimately children, we learn how inept we really are at dealing with this thing called life.

Becoming a parent teaches you a few initial life lessons: 1) you are not the most important person in the universe, 2) as true as number 1 is, the buck still stops with you, however; and 3) what it means to have the right priorities in life. While I will be the first to admit that I have many gaping shortfalls in my knowledge, I have spent the last 10+ years in the technology industry and felt it prudent to pass along some thoughts on life, business and the pursuit of technology. My experience has been well-rounded; I have personally worked in every area of website development and also managed IT help-desks and support on numerous technological devices. The majority of my time, though, has been in marketing and sales, so that’s where the angles of these lessons come from.

You are NOT the Most Important Person in the Universe

I recently posted an article on LinkedIn that I found: Why Successful People Never Bring Smartphones into Meetings. This article from the Huffington Post Business section outlines research and rules on meeting etiquette in relation to smartphones. I encourage you to follow the link above for the full article, but the findings were quite obvious—there is no good that will come out of you appearing to be more interested in your smartphone than whatever meeting you may be in at the time. You will look disinterested, unmotivated, aloof and ultimately expendable.

If my words are reaching any sales people out there and this is an issue with you, then I am afraid there isn’t much I can do to help. If you, as the sales person, are not completely engaged when in a meeting face-to-face with your prospect, then you are already lost. This is about as basic of a common-sense rule that can be offered. For some reason, though, I feel the need to explain this rule to everyone else; especially the prospects themselves! A few weeks ago, I was in a sales meeting at a company’s office of who had made it clear to me through multiple channels that they were in great need of some search engine optimization (SEO) help. While at this meeting (which lasted about half the time the originally requested for the meeting), my prospect took 3 phone calls (two from the office line, one from her cell phone). We were meeting in their conference room and they had a receptionist on duty answering phone calls. Yet this person was so focused on other things and rude to me that she jumped to answer the phone before the receptionist could get to it! Granted, one of the calls was a prospect for their business, but the other two were not. In fact, of the other two calls, one was a client who was firing that company and the other was a personal call.

This prospect made it clear she was not interested in what I had to say and that, in reality, I was barely there at all. I should have known; when the meeting began she pulled out her smartphone and set it on the table in front of her. Yet this is the exact same person why requested that we have a meeting. While the most important people in my universe are my wife and children, when I am face to face with another person, regardless of the reason, it is just plain the right thing to do to pay attention to the other person, regardless of which side of the table you may be sitting.

The Buck Stops with You

I believe it is far past time for each of us to take responsibility for our words and actions. If you have never heard this before, then please hear this now: Whatever you post online, stays online and is findable by anyone (even the private posts). In the above section I just told a story that has a negative connotation to it. While I certainly to teach that being positive goes a lot farther than being negative, sometimes a negative story is warranted. Does anyone reading this know to which company I am referring? No. My goal is not to embarrass that company, but to use that example to impart some wisdom. Were I to use their name I would only be bringing myself down to a lower level and I would in reality be nothing but a bully.

Please assume that everything you put online is going to be read by everyone else and make the choice to be wise and think through your words before writing them down. I remember another time while I was looking to hire for a previous employer of mine. There was one person I remember who very much stood out; great resume, did awesome in the interview; thus when I went to Google their name, I was shocked to find what I did. On their Facebook page was a huge strain of posts where they talked about how much they hated their job and their boss. Would you offer that person a job? They had no problem talking bad about their employer in a public setting. I promise, if you hire them, you are in for more of the same.

You are in control of your online presence. You have the ability to be a good person or a bully in the digital world. I hope that you choose to do what is right, stand behind your words and seek to do good in the lives of those around you.

Having the Right Priorities

Why are you doing what you are doing? We had to teach our three-year-old a little lesson the other day regarding priorities. While she was trying to close the bathroom boor so that our one-year-old couldn’t get in there (a good thing), she didn’t pay attention to where her little sister was and ended up closing the door on her fingers. Thankfully she wasn’t pushing hard and no one was hurt, but the baby was a bit scared for a minute. The lesson was that it is more important to make sure no one gets hurt than to keep the bathroom door closed. As adults who utilize technology in all our aspects of life, we need to watch and be aware how our actions are affecting those around us. Is it more important to check your email or to engage with the business meeting? How about instagramming your food instead of diving into a good conversation with a friend? “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, according to Isaac Newton. What we do affects those around us and we need to start watching that in the digital world.

Did you spill the beans on Facebook when you were trusted with a secret? Did you say something about your company that you now wish you could take back? Do you have an opportunity to help your company by writing an blog post, yet choose not to do it? As adults, we no longer live under the guise of our parents. Part of living in the adult world is resting on your own laurels and taking responsibility for your own actions. If luck has you down and out, it is up to you what happens next. Regardless of where you may be sitting right now, you need to think through each action and word and make sure that everything you do is in the best interest of your top priorities. For example, if you job provides food for your family, don’t blast negatively about it on Facebook. Remember, there are those who count on you at work and at home and you need to stand up to that challenge.

Technology’s Role in Society

Friends, technology was designed to be a tool used in modern day business and home needs. Much like the hammer, it is appropriate uses and inappropriate uses. Whether it is using business time to mill around on social media, using social media to complain, staying glued to your smartphone even while face to face with someone, or even using it to make someone else’s life hard (among many other options) it is not the tool that is to blame, but the user. Choose to be the type of user that lives by the principles posted above and remember that, online, someone is always watching what you are doing. And, while I am learning every day that there is more and more I do NOT know in life and as a parent, accept the same is true in your understanding of the depths of technology and live your life with wisdom and responsibility. That way, you will at least always be above reproach.

Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin is the co-founder & CEO of Atilus. He is a Certified Google Professional, author, and lover of technology. He helps Atilus stay out ahead of online marketing trends and loves driving results for Atilus' clients.

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