Oct. 29, 2020

43 Truly staying connected & living purposefully with Jeff Neufeld

43 Truly staying connected & living purposefully with Jeff Neufeld

Jeff is an amazing man & father of three from Canada. Previously professional concert pianist gone CEO & entrepreneur he understands the impact of clarity, choices and putting in the work - consistently. Jeff shares his journey, why he stopped alcohol & the power of sleep. We discuss balancing life, the value of time, mentorship & how to stay emotionally connected as a dad and partner.

I love the session & I hope you will benefit as much as I did. Thanks for listening, please do share this.

“The solutions will be simple, but the process is anything but.” Jeff Neufeld on DADicated.com


“The solutions will be simple, but the process is anything but.” Jeff Neufeld on DADicated.com

Jeff Neufeld lives in Calgary, Canada, with his wife and 3 children who are 8, 5 and 1.5 years of age.

Jeff once was a successful concert pianist performing in Europe and North America and now is the owner of a leading manufacturing company and an industrial racking company.

In this session, Jeff shares openly about the impact alcohol had on his life and family-life, what changes he made and the benefits gained.

Furthermore Jeff opens up about the hardest and best things he has done for himself and his family as a dad and how he allocates the 168 hours we all are gifted with every week. We discuss what it was like for him becoming a dad and how he learned to balance a blended life of work and family.

He also talks about having to challenge parenting gender roles and shares amazing insights into the importance of seeking mentorship, not only in business, but in life and parenting.

The most powerful takeaways for me as a dad were:

  1. When you are not feeling connected, look at how you are spending your time.
  2. Humility makes you a better father.
  3. I don’t have to have all the answers as a dad.

“I don’t have to have all the answers and be everything to my children. What has changed is I view my role with my kids to teach them respect for themselves and others and imbue in them a sense of joy and awe and marvel astonishment about the world. That’s it. If I can do that, I think they will have pretty good lives!” Jeff Neufeld on DADicated.com

GUEST (Jeff Neufeld):

Books:

  • Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker

https://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Sleep-Unlocking-Dreams/dp/1501144316

Philipp Hartmann (host):

--- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/dadicateddotcom/message

Transcript

The best advice I can give myself as a dad is this: The solutions will be simple, but the process is anything but. The hardest and the best things you can for yourself as a dad in the future is this: 

  1. Seek mentorship from those who are great at things you hope to be great at. Find another business owner with a happy family who seems like you want to be one day. Call that person and talk regularly about your goals.
  2. I want you to throw away your alarm clock
  3. Stop drinking and see what happens
  4. Decide how to allocate the 168 hours you gifted every week. Be intentional with every single one of those hours so they are in line with your purpose, and then you will have capacity to give the best to yourself in every area. 

If you will do these things, I promise you will be transformed in just 8 short years. 

 

JN

Calvary, Canada. 3 kids – 8, 5 and 1.5. Wonderful wife

Spent childhood reading business investment publications to my blind dad and practicing piano. I played piano professionally for 20 years, performing in Europe and north America. I loved it. In my early 30s I decided I wanted to get into business but couldn’t get a job. I took the funds I had saved from concert fees and put together a deal to buy a manufacturing company called Trimet Building Products. We make metal construction products. A few years after that I started an industrial racking company called Trimet Storage Solutions and we distribute those products around North America. I thoroughly enjoy that. I am reasonably good at analysis, enjoy people and love learning. Moving into new industries has been satisfying for me. When we had the kids, I started to think more seriously about everything in my life and where I was going and what that all meant and what was I going to do to help these kids have a really wonderful life? I had great parents. My dad was my first and best mentor. He made things simple and easy to understand. My mother was a tremendous influence in my life, teaching me self-discipline and self-belief. My parents have been the tail wind all of my life which is fortunate for me. 

I did fairly well at piano and enjoyed it which made it easier. I had success as a kid. It confirmed the right direction. Because I was reading to my dad, I was always interested in the investment side of business. I was trying to make sure I wouldn’t be a destitute musician. 



PH

Amazing when parents teach kids how money works, value of money, energy of money. How was it to have a blind dad?

JN

He went blind when I was 10. I didn’t think anything of it. It was just how it was. My dad was a positive determined person. I don’t think he ever used the word blind in his life. Refused to use a white cane. He would say, pardon me, I have some visual difficulty. So a large part of my determination to view life positively comes from my dad. It is always in the back of my mind that if my blind dad can have a positive life and never complain about the disease that took his sight, didn’t feel he needed to retire, always found a way to get things done and keep accomplishing the things he wanted to do. Always kept him going.

PH 

It is important to have that perspective. That we not bad off. There are people who have bigger problems. It is fine to have problems. But it is good to remember how good we have it. Good reminder. How was it for you becoming a dad?

JN

When my son was born, I was excited, but it was also very confusing. Felt like I was in the wrong place all the time. When I was at work, I felt disloyal to the family. Was wondering what they are doing, I should be there. When at home, I felt disloyal to my team. I had always been one of those guys that tried to work the most hours to be an example to people. That was no longer possible. So it was a struggle. I knew a few things the day my son was born, I knew I wanted a blended life where I got to do a little bit of everything every day. I knew that I wanted to allow my wife to live the life she wanted - she has a lot of professional interests. I wanted to model that kind of a blended life to my son. I didn’t want to be that dad that had business success at the expense of my family. There are too many people like that. It is worn like a badge in our culture. I did it all for my family but lost them in the end because I succeeded in my business – I didn’t want that. So I started by staying  home on Wednesday’s. My wife had professional interests. And decided to take it from there. This forced a number of changes in my life.

One - I had to get everything in the business out of my head and start creating a real busines that depended on processes and people so that it wasn’t dependent on Jeff solving every problem. That also forced me to learn to have the confidence and the skill to take care of a baby for 12 hours at a time. It forced me to really and truly accept my wife’s desires to learn and grow and work and have intellectual stimulation as equal to his own. And accept that. I found that difficult at first. In the end it has been very freeing as I feels I have an equal partner and the family is not only dependent on me. 

PH

Why did you find this hard?

JN

Theoretically I thought I viewed us as equal but when it came to dispensing our time in the week, I would go off to work and if there was a work emergency that would take priority over what she was doing and it never really went the other way. I realised that I had grown up in an environment where generally the man works, and the woman stays home with the family and I had been influenced by that. So, we had conversations to address that and figure it out together. It wasn’t easy but I learned that it works better for my family when my wife is growing at the same speed that I am. 

PH

That has opened my eyes in a different direction. I do this podcast to empower dads and to help change the narrative around dads. That when society perceives dads as a real strategy for success for the home, that there is more optionality for women. I never thought about that this includes dads. Dads also have to allow that mothers are just as equal. 

JN

When we had Charles, there was all this conversation in my wife’s workplace that she would be less engaged at work because she had  had a child, but no one said that about me because I became a dad. Maybe that’s because the man is being a chicken shit and not leaning into parenting. In my case, what has worked has been to view ourselves as equal and tackle it together. 

JN

What happened was that as family and business grew, I started to feel like walls were closing in on me. I felt like I had no time for myself. I stopped participating in some of the sports that I was doing to give myself free time. The responsibility felt relentless. I missed that feeling on a Saturday morning where I had nothing to do. I had less connection with my wife. I was tired, discouraged, had a lot of feelings of guilt, and inadequacy, and my dad died. There was a feeling of what next? What I did was throughout my life, I had a lot of coaches for professional endeavours. When I was a young concert pianist, you study with older concert pianists – how to sleep, how to prepare, what to eat. When got into business, I wanted that training. I would call top CEOs and have meetings with them about how they managed their time and insight into what a top leader does with his time. I realised that I had only done that in my professional endeavours. Determined to figure everything out on my own. Viewed myself as one man against the world. Fortunately, my wife is much better at getting other people’s help when it is necessary. Somehow, in the conversations with her, and being part of EO, I came across Warren Rustend. He was one of the first business leaders that I met that I felt had figured out every aspect of life. He is a top human being, business man, wonderful family and relationships, and helping community. My idea was that I would call him up and have him solve my problems. It wasn’t that simple! I couldn’t get a lunch with him. Warren made me take it very seriously. So, Warren said, fine, you can learn from me but here is the process. You are not the first clown to call me, I am happy to help but you have to put something into this. So I went through a process to get his attention. It started by agreeing that I didn’t have to do anything he said, but that if I did, I had to commit to it. It was clear that once we agreed to things, anytime I did not do that thing, that would be the end of the relationship. It felt familiar and good to have a mentor like that in my life. Warren said 2 things on the first day (listed 2 central problems):

  1. I had a time management problem
  2. I had a drinking problem

JN

That’s where we started and they were hard for me to admit and address. I always took pride in my time management skills. I had to face that my time management skills were inappropriate for being the top leader and dad I wanted to be. 

I was also very mentally committed to the idea that I was a social drinker. I enjoyed booze and allowed myself to have freedom in an orderly and disciplined life. It was hard to consider it might be something holding me back. So, the first big shift I made as a dad, was really figuring out how much sleep I need in a given day. Easy to figure out but tremendously hard to do. Go around your house and collect all your alarm clocks and throw them away and commit to sleeping as much as you need. My wife had professional commitments, work, young kids, took a lot of conversations between my wife and me. Reorganising my schedule so I could really commit to sleep until I woke up. The first 6 or 8 months I slept 10-12 hours a night and it was disruptive to the family. But what happened was that I got happier. Got calmer. I became a nicer version of myself. I realised I had been depriving myself of the rest that I needed to function at my very best every day. Once the family saw that, they were all over it. Over time, I learned how much sleep I actually need. I simply go to bed about 8 hours before I wish to wake up. Quite a process getting there. You should not take this lightly if you choose to do it. Benefit of waking up feeling like I have the world by the tail and anything is possible. Great tail wind on my life every day. Another amazing aspect of that is I find it striking, of all things Warren could have said first, to improve, was get your rest. Incredible!

PH

I had to learn how to sleep and can understand this experience. I had burnout beginning of last year, business was hard, we cashflow issues. We had twins and triplets at the same time and I wasn’t sleeping much. In December and January, I had coffee, and the coffee would knock me. It took me 2 months to get back. I had constant adrenalin that wouldn’t stop. I need 8 hours sleep now. There is a great book on this topic called “Why We Sleep”. I read that later and was wowed. Sleeping is so amazing, it fixes your mind, body, if you don’t sleep you have a higher chance of Alzheimer, suicide, etc. Schools start way too early for children. Teenagers, their cycles are different. Sleep is big topic. It is so important. Many young parents will not sleep enough. 

JN

It changed everything in the family. Wife and kids live that way and it provides them with a fundamental level of happiness every day because they are well rested. 

PH

Issue of going to sleep at 9. Would love to wake up at 5 but just can’t change habit of going to bed so early. How did you change your time scheduling? What are the time management skills you can share?

JN

I divide everything up hour by hour, between things that I call personal, family, business, community. I know in a given week that I need 50 / 60 hours of sleep. That leaves the rest of time to dispense between these areas. I want 18 hrs a week for personal activities and need 45 hours for business. That leaves about 41 for family and 8 for community endeavours. So, I plan a core schedule in my iCal where I illustrate for myself how I intend to spend my time every week. Recovery time in iCal (water, walk, calories, etc.) Best thing for the family, is I have planned out the number of one on one hours I want with my wife and kids. I have done a series of experiments over time to figure out how much time I need with each person one on one. In order to feel emotionally connected and enjoying life together. I learned that when I can have 8 hours one on one and 5 hours one on one with each child, life feels better and connected. Every Friday I look at the data. I look where I spent my time in those different categories and how it lines up with my intention. Sometimes by Friday, I will think I feel disconnected from my wife, and the data will show we only spent 3 hours together in the week. I’m not falling out of love, I just haven’t spent time with her. When we together, we feel love and connection. When I don’t feel connected, I know it is a matter of time, and I have the data to figure that out, instead of my emotions. I do things 1 on 1 with the kids, we ride bikes, swing, I get down on the ground, get down to their level, look them in the eye and give them attention. 

PH

I track the same 4 buckets but failed to look at the data. I don’t correlate the outcome with having spent time.  I will do that going forward. 

JN

On a blended work and family day I work from home vast majority of the time. My wife and I divide the hours of the day. With the rest of the hours we divide up the childcare. The pandemic forced us to be with the kids all the time as we can’t have help right now. I pre-plan and coordinate with my wife to make sure the other 2 kids are cared for when having 1-1 with one child. Simple activities. Take them to field and play soccer. 30 mins / hour. Then we join the family again. 

PH

My biggest challenge is getting 1 on 1 time. My kids are so close in age. They don’t have their own interests yet. All together all the time. To remove 1 is hard. I plan slots and am starting to implement boys week and girls week and share this with my wife. Not at a set time. My business partner is doing the 30 peak challenge and is taking one child per peak challenge. Extended solo date. I’m aware that once a month for one child is not a lot but it is a lot of time to find time for 5 kids and wife and work. It is so important to think about time in this way.

JN

It helps to include the kids in the conversation about it and be direct. The purpose of this next time is to have 1-1 with my eldest, what can you do for the next hour when I have special time with your brother? They know their time is coming so they understand, and it solves jealously. 

JN

The second big shift – a major shift in my life as a dad was when I reconsidered my decisions around drinking. I enjoyed social drinking. But I discovered I had a drinking problem. It is interesting to share that I lived within the guidelines of the health system in Canada. I talked to my doctor about it and she said it sounds like I don’t have a problem. I talked with business friends and people I knew well enough to quiz them regarding how much they drank and how did I compare. I felt like I was an average drinker. I was not stumbling drunk or abusing anyone or hiding booze. It was routine events of going to a dinner and having a few beers and wine and then it felt too often. I started to wonder what the impact was on my life. So I did things like an entire year where I only drank on Fridays. But then I got hammered every Friday. I did a year where I only had one drink a day. The conclusion was I could do those things so I don’t have a problem but I had never actually done a control experiment with zero alcohol. So I had a control period with zero alcohol. And what I found was that at that point it was actually a little difficult to do. So I have faced the fact that I have lost my drinking privileges if I wasn’t to function at a high level. I am sober now. The number of benefits that have come into my life are huge. I realise now that I had this drag on every single day of my life and was slowly getting a little bit angrier, shorter, less gracious, more selfish, a little more alone, and all building up and realised that if I wanted to find my outer limits as a human and a leader and a dad, I had to do an experiment without it. When I started to face life sober, and saw life more clearly, it helped open my heart to the idea that I am not actually in charge of everything. There might be a higher power. They hard things to talk about. I don’t know but I do know that I am not it. And there is a humility that comes from that attitude that I could not have found if I was drinking. That humility makes me a better father. I don’t feel like I have to have all the answers and be everything to my children. What has changed is I view my role with my kids to teach them respect for themselves and others and imbue in them a sense of joy and awe and marvel astonishment about the world. That’s it. If I can do that, I think they will have pretty good lives. I wouldn’t have figured that out if I had continued to be a social drinker. It has changed my life. 

PH

How long have you not had alcohol now?

JN

I tried a new programme of self-control about 14 months ago. Took alco-hadical. Still had 1 or 2 blow outs a month where I would intend to have 1 or 2 drinks and would go off the rails. After 6 months of trying that, I decided to join a community group to help myself stay sober. I’ve been doing that for 7 or 8 months and life has been better since. 

PH

I have done 3 months without drinking as I had to get fit for surfing. The results were amazing. I felt clearer, stronger, fitter, able to get fitter quicker, incredible. But the problem I found is I can’t drink one glass of wine. If open a bottle of red wine, I will finish it. Or there is not much left afterwards. I don’t open a second one but don’t have a stop valve. I try to drink maximum 2 out of 7 days and I track it in an app. I totally understand there is a drag. Costs time. More tired. 

JN

Simple example is sleep data – when I was drinking, I needed 8.5 hours sleep and that has come down by an hour which I have now gained for other things. 

PH

This is covered in the book. It prevents you from going into the right sleep phase. That’s why you more tired. 

JN

Physically and energy wise, I would come home spent at the end of the day. I got into the cycle of a bunch of caffeine to get going and red wine at night to slow down. But for me it was slowing me down. I noticed it physically. I haven’t changed anything except that and I am now down 40 pounds. And I was not overweight. But it just evaporated when I stopped. 

PH

How has it affected your relationship with your wife and kids?

JN

It is incredible. I have the energy to give the best of  myself to them all the time. Magic power to always draw a little deeper to give to them. The quality of conversations with my wife and me have – feel like we dating again. I was just a little bit disengaged because of a few drinks. Not an obscene amount. But it impacted the relationship. My kids say I am more patient. I talked to them a little bit but they little and they have noticed I am more patient. I don’t yell. I used to have 2 emotions – either anger or none. Since eliminating booze I have discovered a spectrum of subtle emotions I can access and share with people. I don’t want to pick on this but it has worked for me. 

PH

Everyone knows that this isn’t telling people what to do, just sharing experience. Lends ideas. It is really so engrained in culture – there is a big drinking culture in South Africa and Germany. It is social to go to a beer garden. You go get litres of beer. There is social interaction. That’s stopped a lot since having kids. I want to spend time with the kids and then they in bed at 7. Then I spend time with my wife, or I do a podcast. If active and social, you will drink. Very normal. Non-normal not to drink. 

What else as a dad? 

JN

We have covered a lot. 

PH

This was very valuable. Big shift. 

JN

I really appreciate you having me on your podcast! I enjoyed learning from others, and it has been wonderful to have spent time thinking about what I have learned as a dad. Helps me to be honest and stay honest with myself. It is great that I have done this as obligated to be a half decent dad. I can’t yell them into submission when I have just spoken about being a good dad.

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