Each of us has dreams and demons, goals and baggage. Sometimes in equal measure, sometimes not–and not always in favor of the good stuff. We have trauma from our own childhood, things that we’re hooked on, bad habits, personality flaws. We have issues. At the same time, we have big, new, important things we want to do in this life–which we only have one of by the way.
When any one of these things, good or bad, takes a disproportionate amount of our attention or consumes too much of our time, they make us selfish. It happens to everyone, to each of us. Admit it, right now you’re being selfish about something. Don’t worry, we all are.
In our careers, particularly if we’re quite talented, we can get away with this. When we were single, we could get away with this. Maybe we could even get away with it in the early days of our relationships. But no one can get away with it forever.
Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has been shockingly honest on his podcast about his past struggles as a husband and as a father. Reflecting on his nine-year marriage, which ended in 2011, he admits he was self-absorbed and selfish. While this cost him on the basketball court, his real regret is the damage inflicted at home. “When you are a narcissist,” he explained, “mama takes the kids away from you…when you are a narcissist, things start to just go away.”
It was one of the worst things that ever happened to him, watching his wife leave with his four children. It cost him boatloads of money, but more painfully, it took from him priceless years with his kids as they were growing up that he can never get back. It cost him joy and memories. It sentenced him to many days and nights alone.
The same thing will happen to you if you continue down the selfish track, with your baggage onboard and your demons at the wheel. Because parenting and marriage are not about you. By definition, it’s about them. It’s an us thing. If you can’t meet these tasks with humility, they will humble you. If you only care about yourself, you will be left, in the most humbling way, only with yourself. It will be the most soul-crushing experience of your life…and what will be most painful of all is that you were always the only one who could have prevented it.
So you better work on it. Fast.