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How To Become A Great Parent (By Thinking Like A Bad Parent)

A process that most parents never do, but should be because it’ll make them much better parents than they are now...

Even if they are great parents already.

In this blog post, I am going to break down one of the simplest and most effective strategies for becoming a great parent.

And I’ll show you how to do that by thinking like a bad parent.

That’s right, think like a bad parent.

In fact, think like the worst parent on the planet.

I literally want you to try to ruin your children’s lives.

It’s a great idea.

Here’s why.

Why “Trying” To Ruin Your Children’s Life Is A Great Idea

One summer night, Nicki (my business partner) and I were hanging out with a few friends and the guy who rented us our Airbnb. He happened to be very cool to chat with, and during our conversation, he mentioned that he worked for IBM for over 20 years and was now investing in real estate. Being startup founders with no tech experience, we wanted his advice.

So I share the idea with him and how we plan on executing it, and then Nicki asked him, “What are we not thinking about that we should be?”

In order to make a long conversation short, I’ll just say he absolutely tore our idea apart and pointed out every single reason it wouldn’t work. I stood there pretty speechless at first because it was the first time I heard that our idea was “not good.”

I then remembered, “It’s about the mission, not the product.”

So I was able to take the rest of his advice with open arms, which I was glad I did because what he said next absolutely changed my life…

“When I worked at IBM, I was the guy people hired to find every possible way to break a product.”


This was literally what my brain was doing when I heard that^ As I reflected on why this was such a “light bulb” moment for me later that week I realized it was exactly what my business partner had told me about prior. “If we write down how we can fail with Zamio we will know exactly what not to do.” And THAT is why this way of thinking is important.

It shows you what you NOT to do, which is just as, if not more important than knowing what to do.

As Charlie Munger said...

“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

So if you get clear on what NOT to do as a parent, or step inside the mind of a bad parent then you will have a clear roadmap of what to do to ensure you are a great parent. It’s simple.

But before I share with you how to apply this thinking to becoming a better parent, let me make sure you understand this key distinction.

Try To Ruin Your Child’s Life, Don’t Actually Do It

Make sure you read the subtitle closely, “Try To Ruin Your Child's Life, Don’t Actually Do It”

The definition of “try” is “To make an attempt or effort at something.”

What I am asking you to do is to make an attempt.

Not accomplish.


Imagine this…

Your hand is out and open with your palm towards the ceiling.

I then place a pen in your hand and say, “Try to pick up the pen.”

You may immediately use your other hand to grab the pen, but this goes against the rules. I said “Try to pick up the pen,”

I didn’t say to actually pick it up.

To try means not to do. In the same way, I want you to try and ruin your child’s life.

Don’t actually do it.

Just try.

Here’s how.

Step One:

Get Clear On Your Biggest Hope & Desire For Your Children

Take the time to sit down and get very clear on what you truly want for your children.

What do you want them to accomplish? How do you want them to live? How do you want them to feel?

A great way to do this is to apply the same thinking that Gay Hendrick uses with his “Genius markers” in his phenomenal book, “The joy of genius.” Here’s how it works:

Ask yourself, “What is my single biggest desire for my children?”

Let yourself sit with the question if needed and write the answer clearly. A few parents we’ve asked this to said: “That they know how to overcome life's circumstances and find happiness for themselves without needing a fix to fulfill them.” “That they FEEL safe, healthy, and happy. That they love and respect others. That they are just awesome, kind humans who live the life they love, and love the life they live. “My biggest hope for my children is that they are happy and can live a life where they can be themselves without fear of judgment.”

“To live a life full of experiences that I never got the opportunity to have.”

With some inspiration, grab a piece of pen and paper and write down what you’re biggest hope for your children is.

Step Two:

Get Clear On How To Ruin That For Them

This step is simple.

How can you do everything to fail at helping your child create that?

How can you rob them of that?

How can you make sure they experience the opposite of your biggest hopes for them? How can you ruin their lives?

Begin brain dumping out onto that piece of paper everything that you can possibly do to fail as a parent and rob them of a great life.

I am going to use a business example to help you understand this from a different perspective. When it came to Zamio, our platform for children’s mental health to thrive, I wanted to get clear on how we could absolutely bomb it.

Here are our answers:

How to ruin Zamio: 1.) Build the product based on our opinion rather than the customer's behavior.

2.) Don’t measure KPIs.

3.) Set the wrong KPIs (Numbers unrelated to our growth engine)

4.) Ignore the customer's pains and desires.

5.) Accept unnecessary funding from investors. 6.) Get funding from investors with different visions than ours.

7.) Ignore the customer's user experience.

8.) Stop improving the product. 9.) Make decisions that are misaligned with our company's values.

10.) Keep the wrong members on the team. 11.) Micro-manage every team member. 12.) Fall in love with the idea and not the mission. 13.) Stop producing content that adds goodwill to the market.

14.) Fail to protect the privacy and safety of the children. 15.) Avoid paying taxes and creating tax strategies. 16.) Give too much equity away. 17.) Treat our employees like numbers and not real human beings. 18.) Make decisions that only benefit shareholders and not stakeholders.

19.) Bring on teachers who have no idea how to teach children.

20.) Fail to be transparent with our mistakes.”

Do the same thing. Write down every way you can ruin your child’s life in the same way I listed different ways to ruin my business.

Step Three:

Narrow It Down To The “Big Stupid”

Now you are going to ask yourself, “What are the three stupidest things that if I did, would guarantee I ruined my children’s lives?” In my example with Zamio, I used the above list to narrow down to these three. “1.) Build the product based on our opinion rather than the customer's behavior. 2.) Put children in danger.

3.) Hire the wrong people.”

Now you do the same, what three things would guarantee you ruin your child’s life?

Step Four:

Create Preventative Solutions

The final part: creating a clear way to prevent any of the “big stupids” from happening.

This is where you write down a single proactive solution for each “big stupid” you came up with. Ask yourself, “How can I avoid the big stupids?”

And create a solution for each one. Be clear enough to know exactly it is without being extremely detailed. I will finish off with my example with Zamio, here are my preventative solutions. “1.) Set “Pivot Or Preserve Meetings” every single quarter and hire a product manager and someone who dialogues with and collects data from customers.

2.) Invest heavily in a cyber-security department and leverage facial recognition technology and other measures to prevent adults from using the platform.

3.) Have an intensive hiring process with 90-day probationary periods and fire somebody the moment we consider it.”

Now create your preventive solutions.

What would help you prevent yourself from ever being that parent?

Step Five:

Implement Your Solutions And Don’t Forget This…

The most important step. IMPLEMENT your preventive solutions because this entire thing is useless without it.

Don’t hesitate to act, immediately begin doing the things you need to do, and focus on the solutions.

And it’s of most importance that you remember this…

Do not focus on the big stupids.

Where your focus goes your energy flows, and things grow where energy flows. Therefore you want to make sure you finish this off by focusing on the solutions to the big stupids, and not the big stupids themselves.

If it helps, get yourself an accountability buddy outside of your spouse to help you stay on track with being the best parent.

Finding a community is a great way to help you feel more on track. But most importantly, work on yourself as a parent and overall you’ll be the best parent. This is a great step, or first step, in being the best parent you can possibly be.

Now go be the amazing parent that you are.

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