15 Minutes

Right where I need to be in this moment

15 Minutes, that's how much time I wanted to spend just focused on my daughter, Kenzie, each and every day. I didn't choose this number because I thought it was a particularly large amount of time, it isn't. In fact, it felt like a laughably small amount of time and, as it turns out, was even below the average

While the time focused on their offspring still comes in at a fairly low average of 35 minutes a day for working fathers, it is far higher than the five minutes registered in 1974.

No, I chose this number because I thought I could do it, every single day, and that any higher number might be setting myself up for failure. Basically, I was following B.J. Fogg's behavior change advice of choosing a tiny, concrete goal, and sticking with it.

B.J. Fogg, head of Stanford's persuasion lab and his own Tiny Habits, challenged the room to just floss one tooth a day, and if we committed to doing that, then B.J. could come back a year from now, and we would all be flossing all our teeth, the key was we couldn't do less than flossing one tooth, and we had to commit to that.1

I hoped I would be around my daughter for more time than that each day, but these 15 minutes would be different, they would be special, they would be 15 minutes just between the two of us.

Throughout the nearly four years of Kenzie's life, these 15 minutes have come in many different forms. When she was a teeny tiny baby, I spent a lot of nights programming late into the night2, and so after my wife would feed Kenzie, I would take her and rock her to sleep.

When she got bigger I would help her pick out her pajamas, get dressed for bed, and read her a bedtime story.

Now, we watch Phineas and Ferb together each night. She no longer needs my help getting dressed, and when we read our bedtime story, we sound out a word together and as I read the book I point at the word any time I see it so she can read it to me. She's growing up, and as she's gotten bigger, our 15 minutes have changed accordingly.

I remember one of my professors talking about why he quit his job as a senior executive at a big technology company and became a professor. My professor had gone to visit his mentor in the hospital right before he died and while they were talking my professor had mentioned that he had been traveling quite a bit and had recently missed his daughter's flute recital.

Before my professor left, his mentor pulled him close and said, "less traveling, more flute recitals" and my professor took that to heart, quitting his job not long after.

We went to Kenzie's first dance recital last week, and I definitely can't wait to go to more of them. I'm also looking forward to spending 15 other minutes a day with our second child, who will be joining us in the not too distant future.

  1. This is adapted from my own notes from a talk B.J. gave. 

  2. or early into the morning