Dad
June 16th, 2014

What Are You Bringing To The Table?

Matt Goold 👀
Design Director, Partner

With Fathers Day just passing us on the calendar, it has me thinking about my dad.

Except this year, I'm looking at him through a slightly different lens as I am soon to be a father myself. As it’s been known to do—before my child is even born—my perspective of the world has begun to shift. With my mind rushing at that thought of me being someone’s parent, I’m often thinking of the things I want to be as a father. What did I learn from my dad? What can I pass on to my daughter? Thankfully, I have a really wonderful dad who I learned a lot from and the answers to those questions come at no shortage. When I start thinking about the things I want to be as a father—what I want to represent—I can’t help but also think about the person I want to be at work, for my friends, for my family. The person I want to be in general. It’s hard to make improvements that impact only one these aspects. And that’s a good thing. My dad plays things pretty cool. He’s invested in the things he does, focused on the tasks at hand, and painfully fair and balanced. As a kid, I remember challenging him to choose which drawing he liked more—mine, or my sisters. While mine was clearly better (sorry, Anna), time and time again I’d hear something to the tune of “Hmmmm. I like them both equally!” What kind of an answer is that? Such a dad answer. So fair, so balanced. For him, it wasn’t about playing judge in a make believe competition he did not ask to play judge in, it was about demonstrating a fair, equal, and honest love to his children. This scenario played out in many forms over the years, almost all of which ended in my dad doing his best to diffuse the situation and smooth things over. It occurred with comical predictability.  When a familial dispute arose, it wouldn’t be long before my dad would chime in with an answer equivalent to “I like them all equally!” When these types of situations occurred outside the realm of silly sibling competition, outside the boundaries of our family, my dad was somehow still able to approach them with the same concern, empathy, and love for the people involved. Being able to see this take place from the outside is quite remarkable. Last year, my dad became a pastor. It was something people had been telling him to do his whole life, and he finally did it. For a guy who takes confidence and joy in the “I like them all equally” view point, it’s a fitting field of work for him. His ability to approach situations with focus, investment, and balance makes him great at what he does. Pastors face no fewer challenges than fathers do. People everywhere need to feel loved equally. While I no longer have any interest in church, I love my dad and have total interest in his success. So when he invited me to come to his very first service at his new church, I was happy to see how he’d apply his demeanor in this setting. I expected to take pleasure in seeing him at the podium, hearing him deliver his sermon—which I did—but I had no idea I was going to be impacted by his words in the way I was. Towards the end of that sermon he posed a question. “What are you bringing to the table?” He paused. “Is it peace? Or is it hostility?” There are moments in your life when you hear something and suddenly it applies to everything you do. I had that moment. What AM I bringing to the table? How do I approach my work? How do I treat my wife? How do I respect my friends? How do I communicate with my family? How do I use my free time? Am I showing people the type of person I really am? How does all of this relate to my own success and understanding of myself? It was a loaded question that required more than a simple answer in a pew on a Sunday morning. Since then, it’s been a question that’s stuck with me. I’ve continued to ask myself this at different points during my normal routine days. It’s a way to keep me on a track. If I can quickly answer this question for smaller tasks, I can easily see if I’m moving in the right direction or if I need to adjust something to better achieve my ideal self. I don’t believe there is a right answer to this question, I only believe that answering it is right. Simultaneously, I believe that we each have core values—principles that guide how we go about things—that help inform our actions, and that this question is an effective way of keeping us on track in fulfilling them. Those values are the things I want to bring to the table. I know that doing so will make me a better person, allow me to do better work, to be more invested, to be more focused, to approach things fairly. It can sometimes be hard to do the things I know are right—doing things that are easy often get in the way. Deliberately asking myself “what are you bringing to the table?" has improved my ability to bring my core values to the forefront of my actions and decision making. As obvious as it sounds, working in a team environment requires the ability to work as a team. At P’unk Ave we have all sorts of teams and each one requires different types of behavior from the different types of individuals who make it up. Since the success of these teams is so fundamental to how we work, it’s important to be mindful of how we as teams interact with each other.  So, while asking ourselves this question has obvious benefits for us as individuals, it more importantly is a great way to ensure we are approaching decisions while thinking of the respect and concern for the others. Your team, your clients, your user. Thinking back to my dad, he wasn’t settling a competition between his children for his own sake, but for ours. Did I need someone to tell me my drawing was better? No. I needed someone to demonstrate a real love. Thinking in this way doesn’t always make difficult decisions easier to make, but it makes our decisions that much more informed. Those who know better do better. I’ve enjoyed the benefits of taking the time to ask myself this question and complicate my life a tiny bit by facing the answers. It’s made me more honest and in turn, I can move forward with clarity. I’ve seen the benefits of approaching a situation with this question and its answers in mind and I’ve seen the troubles when I forget to properly address it. It’s become an important part of my process and routine. I don’t know what my dad’s core values are. I don’t know if he’s ever taken the time to think of them or write them down. But given what I’ve seen him bring to the table—the way he shows concern and respect for himself but most importantly for others—they would be something about being invested, being focused, and of course being fair and balanced. If my daughter could one day say the same of me, I think we’ll all be okay.

Matt Goold 👀
Design Director, Partner