Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Diary of a Stay-at-Home Dad

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

— John Lennon

For a while now, my wife Lina—and others—have been urging me to publish a blog post chronicling my adventures as a Stay-at-Home Dad. The paragraphs that follow are my acquiescence to these requests.

Country music legend, Garth Brooks, famously sings: "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."  Over the course of the past year or so, I've experienced a lot of God's greatest "gifts."  One such gift came disguised in the form of a stalled career.  This camouflaged present of Providence has afforded me the unique opportunity of being a Stay-at-Home Dad for a time.

I confess that my current station is not a place I ever envisioned myself being at this point in my life.  Nevertheless, over time I have come to recognize that this trial and adventure is worth its weight in gold for the blessings it is bringing into the life of my family and me.

This blog post contains TWO (2) parts.  PART 1: It All Began With Failure, provides background information and details surrounding the entrepreneurial failures that led to my becoming a Stay-at-Home Dad.  PART 2: Dad Quixote, recounts some of the specific challenges, opportunities, and blessings that have accompanied my journey as a Stay-at-Home Dad.

Part 1: It All Began with Failure

My opportunity to be a Stay-at-Home Dad was rooted in my many failures as an entrepreneur. In sharing my journey of failure, keep in mind that failure is only a permanent state if you choose to give up.  As such, I wish to make clear up front that I do not view myself as a failure; far from it. I have, however, experienced a great deal of temporary failure in my personal and professional life.  And in the words of Michael Jordan, "that is why I succeed."  Therefore, when you hear me speak about failure in the pages that follow, keep in mind that I am referring to temporary conditions that are, in fact, the seedbeds of important learning and future successes.  And now, in the words of Maria from The Sound of Music, "Let's start at the very beginning..."

I am an entrepreneur.

For the past 13 years of my life, I have been on one, long, continual journey to build a professional training company called, Freedom Focused. Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), I have not been particularly successful in doing so—at least not in any measurable sense of earned revenue.

My perpetual failure to get Freedom Focused off the ground has led to many career diversions over the years, including forays into a variety of glamorous positions of employ and activity, such as: product packaging, drying washed cars, groundskeeping, nannying, substitute teaching, full-time classroom teaching, and a doctoral sabbatical.

In the process, I have learned a great deal of humility, and discovered first-hand the great truth that there is dignity in any work honestly undertaken and diligently engaged that provides meaningful and needed service to others.  I have also learned how bad it sucks to fail over and over and over again in a pursuit that is near and dear to your heart.

Clowning around with my kids
My latest career diversion born of entrepreneurial failure has afforded me the unique opportunity of delving more deeply into my own home life, including the lives of my two children (Tucker, aged 3.5; and Kara, aged 18 months) as a Stay-at-Home Dad.

This adventure/blessing/crucible has been one of the most difficult, yet valuable and rewarding experiences of my life. Aside from being humbled to the dust yet again in the ongoing pursuit of my perpetually elusive entrepreneurial vision, humility is not the only virtue I have gained from this unexpected career tangent. While I'll confess there are days when I feel as though I'm teetering on the delicate precipice of my own sanity, I have also grown by leaps and bounds in my own capacity for courage, compassion, conviction, empathy, faith, patience, and respect.

The Jensen Family circa 1982
I am the three-year old on my Dad's lap
Indeed, I now look at Stay-at-Home Moms as the true heroes of our society that they have always been.  It's not that I didn't respect and admire the work of stay-at-home parents, professional childcare specialists, and homemakers before this experience.  After all, my own Mother worked miracles raising seven children in an era when it was more culturally acceptable for fathers to contribute only minimally outside of their primary breadwinning duties in the workplace.  It's just that you never really know what an undertaking truly entails until you undertake it for yourself.

This blog post is a confession of sorts. In the pages that follow, I will touch on the ecstasies and elations of entrepreneurialism—while highlighting its difficulties, dilemmas, and doldrums that led me into the world of Daddy-Day-Caring.  Afterward, I will recount the blisses and misses, the joys and noise, and the pains and gains of being a daddy-day-care bumbler-turned-semi-specialist over the course of completing parental boot camp, which, over the course of the past nine months, I have just barely survived.

A few days ago, my two children and I dropped off my beautiful wife (and their beautiful mother), Lina, at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where she caught a plane to Miami and then another to Guyana, South America, for a work trip. Tonight, I will strap my two little darlings into their carseats once again for a return trip to the airport to pick Mommy up. The three days in between were a bit lonely (and I've allowed the house to be a bit messier) without the heart and soul of our family in our midst.  Nevertheless, with a couple of dinner appointments bummed off of friends, a 3-hour preschool stint for Tucker, and a 4.5 hour childcare stint with a neighborhood friend, somehow we will survive, and I will still manage to meet a professional writing deadline I face today.

Lina sailing the "Miss Ginger" on the Gulf of Mexico
earlier this year on a work trip
This is not our first extended rodeo without the Mama to guide our home ship safely into its harbor each day and night. Earlier this year, Lina had other, extended business trips to Korea, Newfoundland, Louisiana, and the high seas of The Gulf of Mexico—where she sailed on a medium sized data-gathering vessel giving direction to career sailors and others nearly twice her age for a week. Later this month, she will visit North Carolina to attend professional training.

Since 2009, Lina has worked for ExxonMobil Corporation, the largest energy company in the United States, and a Fortune 2 corporation. Only Wal-Mart generates more annual revenue than EM.

Ten (10) years ago — almost to the day — I met Lina in Atlanta, Georgia. She was a sophomore in college and was attending the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech — a top-5 engineering school) studying mechanical engineering on a scholarship. At the outset of her collegiate career, her impressive academic resume already included the title of Salutatorian in conjunction with a better-than-perfect GPA and a nearly perfect SAT score.

Lina doing homework at Georgia Tech 
And well on her way to eclipsing my
pay grade many times over
My academic career had been far less illustrious. Graduating high school with a 2.9 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) and scoring an ACT score that matched the National average in 1998, I was rejected to the university to which I applied. I had, however, salvaged things somewhat by earning a Bachelor's degree in English from a up-and-coming State College that would soon gain university status. I finished my undergraduate studies with a 3.2 GPA.

When I met Lina in 2006, I was living in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, where I was working as a stay-at-home "Manny" (male nanny) caring for my cousin's two sons, whose family I lived with at the time.  Little did I know at the time the foreshadowing this challenging 5-month experience was providing for my future!

So SHE's saying
I've got a chance???!!!
My foray into nannying had been a move of personal and professional desperation—and compassion on the part of my cousin.  It was a result of my failure to get my fledgling business off the ground.

Later, shortly before Lina and I started dating, I resigned from my "Manny" position to become a substitute teacher in a local school district. I admit that such seeming relegations proved underwhelming to even the lowest expectations I had held for my life and career.  It was also a stroke of pure karma for the way I had once treated a poor substitute teacher when I myself was an immature 8th grader.

In an "apples-to-apples" comparison, there is no doubt about it: Lina Tucker was way, Way, WAY out of my league. The good news for me was that for some reason, she didn't seem to know it. And in light of her intellectual capacity, it surely must have been one of the only things she didn't know.

Realistically, it was less a matter of intellectual hiccuping and more a result of her Godly capacity to look past one's outward appearance and station and into one's mind and heart. [1]  But then again, I am probably giving myself too much credit in making this assumption.  A more likely scenario is that she was merely suffering from a momentary delusion; I just happened to be the lucky fool on the other side of her misguided mirage.

Whatever her deal was, as for myself, I had made a conscious and determined decision years earlier that I would never see myself on the outside of any woman's "league." In light of my resume and head shot, this was an admittedly brazen conclusion to settle upon.  And considering I was rejected 130 times by 80 different women before I met Lina—many of whom must have surely believed I was way out of their league—my resolve was perhaps as delusional as it was obstinate. Nonetheless, the matter was decidedly resolved upon in my own mind, and no one on the planet was going to persuade me otherwise. Thus it was that I strived to keep all doors wide open—or at least a bit cracked—until I decided to shut it myself, or until a woman from the other side opted to slam it in my face.

I had stars in my eyes—and a lot less weight 
on my bones—dating Lina Tucker
Delusional or deific, this young woman—whose talents, intelligence, maturity, and beauty could only be eclipsed by the authentic goodness and steely integrity of her magnanimous heart—took a liking to this tall, lanky, drink of water—a "Manny" turned substitute teacher with no concrete career path on the immediate horizon, a result of my lingering and menacing entrepreneurial morass.

Nevertheless, I remained immovable in my resolve to never settle for anyone less than the very best—for me. And it didn't take my little brain very long to begin recognizing that Lina was indeed a "best" one for me. Thus it was that our concurrent conclusions, or delusions, or the merciful Grace of God, or a combination of the three, produced a spark of mutual attraction at just the right moments in time, thus paving the way for a very sweet romance to commence, blossom, and eventually mature.

Sir Winston Churchill
I should note here that this cursory explanation of our relationship's progression fails to mention just how hard—and long—I had to patiently and persistently labor in order to perpetuate Lina's delusion sufficiently for her to finally succumb to any kind of connubial commitment—which I so anxiously desired to extend.

Winston Churchill, who was arguably the most inspirational and famous orator of the 20th century, once remarked that the greatest speech he ever gave was the one he delivered to his beloved "Clemmie" (Clementine), in making an impassioned appeal for her hand in marriage. Winston was clearly a greater man than I; thus it was that winning Lina's hand and heart required my greatest speech"es" (plural). Indeed, the journey was long and the road was hard, and included two breakups and one failed proposal before her heart was prepared to take the ultimate leap of faith into a future with me by her side.

Come what may in my career, I am already a wealthy man
On August 8, 2008 (8-8-08), my dreams came true, and I found myself sitting in the matrimonial catbird seat—where I remain blissfully ensconced to this day. Winning the heart of this extraordinary woman was, is, and ever will be, my life's single greatest accomplishment.

Four-and-a-half years later, our son Tucker was born. Two years after that, our little Kara graced our home from Heaven above. Less than a year later, I became a Stay-at-Home Dad.

Before I move on to the details of this extraordinary, yet ordinary life adventure of Daddy-Day Caring, I must share some of the details of my entrepreneurial failures, without which, my unique foray into full-time fatherhooding would have never come to pass.

My Uncle, Hyrum W. Smith
Co-Founder of FranklinCovey
The story begins nearly 30 years ago in the late 1980s in Mesa, Arizona. I was seven or eight years old when I attended my first professional time management seminar. It was taught by my uncle, Hyrum W. Smith, who, along with Dr. Stephen R. Covey, had co-founded FranklinCovey Company. Despite my tender age, various aspects of that seminar deeply resonated with my young mind and heart. At that time, I received my first Franklin Day Planner and as a second grader, began using it assiduously at school, at church, and at home.

Seventeen (17) years ago, I left home to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. During my two year, voluntary mission service in Alberta, Canada, I discovered that I derived enormous pleasure, satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy from teaching and speaking publicly.

Thirteen (13) years ago — almost to the day — I began building a professional training business of my own—a FranklinCovey of sorts for the 21st century.  I called my company Freedom Focus, and later changed the name to Freedom Focused.  I was inspired in part by my Uncle's work with FranklinCovey as well as the influence that the writings of Stephen R. Covey had personally had on my life.

I was further inspired by a profound existential dilemma I faced, which was personified by a profound lack of interest in doing anything other than building my own company around the development of my own, original material. After I had returned from my mission, my older sister Jody vocally animated this dilemma before I even began building Freedom Focused when she wondered aloud: "What are you going to do with your life now, Jordan? You know it's hard to just walk into a company and become its CEO." We both chuckled at her comment, but we also both understood that she had made her point only half jokingly, while concurrently capturing both the desire of my heart and the reality of my dilemma.

Thirteen years after founding Freedom Focused, and after a lot of highs and even more lows, I am still trying to get my business off the ground.  As such, I remain the CEO of a company of one—well, two if you count my brilliant and beautiful CFO (Lina). Before delving further into the details of Dad-dom, I must further describe how I got there within a framework of my entrepreneurial failures.

My initial attempts to build Freedom Focused began in the fall of 2003 in Marietta, Georgia, when I began developing content for a personal leadership seminar designed for high school students. Utilizing a personal contact, I was able to meet with and persuade an assistant principal at a local high school (Lassiter) to let me teach a couple of my brand-new seminars for FREE to some small student groups with the agreement that if they liked my content and presentation style they would invite me back to do a paid assembly with 500 students.

I taught my two seminars; they didn't invite me back.

Failure may the other side of success;
but that doesn't make it fun.
A few months later, I pursued a public speaking opportunity with a youth organization affiliated with my church. After preparing for and delivering a seminar audition in front of a live audience, the organization's bemused representative who had come to judge my audition wanly replied: "Maybe you should try again in five years."

In an effort to get my writing career off the ground at this same time, I submitted three articles for publication to a magazine; all three were rejected.

Shortly thereafter, in the late winter of 2004, I moved back to Utah from Georgia. I was broke as a joke, but managed to find some cheap housing and obtained temporary work doing a variety of menial labor in conjunction with a job serving food in a Mexican restaurant. In my spare time, I continued to eagerly develop my personal leadership seminars.

Around this time, I got a job working as an assistant to Dr. Bruce H. Jackson, the Director of The Center for the Advancement of Leadership, at my alma mater—Utah Valley University. Though it paid pennies ($7.72 per hour with a cap of 30 hours per week), it was worth its time in gold because of the knowledge and experience I gained being personally mentored by Dr. Jackson—an unusually educated and impressive professional, not to mention a generous human being.

Not yet six months into the position, I began to grow restless, a feeling which drove me back to work on my original seminars in my spare time. By January of 2005, I was lining up dozens of pro bono seminars at high schools throughout the State of Utah.

By April of 2005, I had grown too restless to think about or do much of anything that wasn't related to building Freedom Focused. Moving in with my mom and acquiring several sizable loans from family members, I went to work with great passion, vigor, and energy. My efforts included legally incorporating my business, producing a professional website, writing my first book, continuing to teach pro bono seminars, mailing out nearly 5,000 marketing brochures advertising my seminar services to high schools in all 50 States, and making in-person marketing trips to several cities around the country, including San Antonio, Houston, Chicago, and Atlanta.

Georgia on my Mind
Shortly after Christmas, I moved back to Atlanta, Georgia, which provided me a much more sizable high school and college market where I could continue trying to sell my seminars. I also began blogging and individually signed up over 30,000 high school administrators to receive my newsletter—no small clerical task.

In April of 2006, my first book, I Am Sovereign: The Power of Personal Leadership, rolled off a self-publishing press in South Carolina. I immediately began shipping out copies of my book to my network and potential clients. Despite mailing out nearly 100 copies, selling several hundred more, and generating my first few paid speaking engagements in California, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, I had gotten in over my head in debt with no means of immediate extrication on my horizon.

While I was successful in securing a literary agent, unfortunately, every effort to sell my self-published manuscript to a major New York house failed. We finally found a smaller publishing house located in the Western United States that was willing to sign a contract to publish my book. However, shortly after signing the contract, the publisher lamely and unethically reneged on the deal, leaving me in a lurch after having spent many hours revising my original manuscript. To this day, that updated I Am Sovereign manuscript, which was meant to become a second book for teens entitled, Leaders for Life, continues to gather dust in the deep recesses of my computer backup files.

For half-a-year in 2007,
I labored as a professional
groundskeeper on this property
in Sandy Springs, GA
More opportunities arose for both paid speaking or pro bono gigs in additional states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas, and Missouri, but it was too little, too late. I had failed; and I knew it. From nannying back to substitute teaching and temp work and groundskeeping, I did what I could to avoid bankruptcy, eviction, and the repossession of my car.

Desperate to find some kind of stable employment, I got a job as a groundskeeper for my church. It paid $11 per hour—not bad compared to other positions of employ I had previously occupied, but rather pathetic pay for a college graduate with professional training experience.

Around this same time, while attending an employment fair at my church, I learned about the contract training industry and became greatly intrigued by it.  After a little research and effort on my part, I soon secured a phone interview, followed by an in-person audition with a contract training company called Fred Pryor. The audition was held in Kansas City. Virtually broke, I drove my car from Atlanta and stayed overnight at rest stops. Once in Kansas City, my church helped me find a place to stay with one of their members for a couple of additional nights.

Fortunately, my audition was successful, and in October 2007, I began teaching professional seminars for Fred Pryor on a variety of different business soft skills. As a result, I was able to forego pursuing a backup plan I had begun to formulate, which involved enlisting in the Armed Forces in pursuit of an officer's commission.

For the next year-and-a-half, I traveled around the United States teaching as many as 15 seminars per month. For the first time in my life I was making a wage that, while nothing to brag about, was at least decent for a college graduate—a first for me.

Our Wedding Day: 8/8/08
It was during this period of time that Lina and I dated and got engaged. I felt quite certain that my newfound career success had bolstered my conjugal chances with this bright, beautiful, rising star of a woman. I was right.

Nevertheless, I remained deeply in debt and badly scarred from the horrors of failure I had already encountered. These wounds were sufficiently deep that it took several years for me to heal sufficiently to stomach pursuing my entrepreneurial dreams again.

After the Great Recession hit, all my contract training work dried up, and I went from getting 10-15 seminars per month to only getting one-to-two. I resumed my work as a substitute teacher at this time.  I also began the process of becoming certified to teach high school English in the State of Texas—where Lina's job with ExxonMobil was located.

After moving to Houston following Lina's college graduation in May 2009, I began the challenging undertaking of securing a teaching job. After numerous virtual efforts and personally visiting every high school in the school district where we lived (Cypress-Fairbanks), I managed to land three interviews. My first interviewer (Principal) hired me almost immediately, and my adventures as a high school English teacher began. Talk to any first-year teacher and they will fill your ears with the tales of terror that often accompany serving in that precarious, inexperienced position—even in the best of circumstances.  It was no different for me; that year of teaching was one of the most difficult professional tasks I had ever undertaken.

Hebron top sides; the offshore oil project Lina has
worked on for most of her career, which will
begin operation in 2017 off the coast of Newfoundland.
Halfway through my first year teaching school, Lina accepted a job transfer to Newfoundland, Canada with ExxonMobil. After the difficulties of my first year of classroom teaching, I admit to feeling grateful for the gift of such a graceful exit strategy. Moreover, I had begun a doctoral program about the same time I started teaching school, so the move to Canada provided a meaningful educational sabbatical whereby I could work through the majority of my doctoral program.

My doctoral work, which was in education, reignited my desire to resume building Freedom Focused.  It also provided me with an opportunity to lend greater credibility to my message by strengthening its academic moorings and bolstering its theoretical rigor.

The Self-Action Leadership Model, which I had begun developing in my book for teenagers, was expanded in my 1,149-page dissertation to include a theory and philosophy—all of which was rooted extensively in qualitative, autoethnographic research conducted on my own life's unique, self-leadership journey.

2013 Edition of Self-Action Leadership
In 2012, we moved back to Houston and in 2013, I spent the summer turning my doctoral dissertation into a more readable book for the masses. After self-publishing this extensive (800+ page) work, I mailed out 45 or so copies to my network or potential clients. Most recipients did not even acknowledge receipt of the package, much less show any gratitude for having received the gift. No business was derived there from. I also self-published a collection of my poetry in 2012. However, I was not expecting any immediate success from this particular, pet, side project, so it came as no surprise when I didn't achieve any.

Through personal or work travel, I have visited all
48 of the continental States.
By 2011, the economy had sufficiently rebounded to allow me to resume contract training with Fred Pryor in Canada and then back in the U.S. after we returned to Texas in 2012.

In 2013, I began contracting with SkillPath Seminars instead of Fred Pryor. My training work thrived once again. In all, I had opportunities to train in 47 U.S. States and territories, 9 Counties of the United Kingdom, and 5 Provinces of Canada. I led public seminars as well as on-site corporate seminars for small, medium, and large organizations including five branches of the U.S Military, the U.S. and Canadian Governments, and several Fortune 500 companies. In total, I trained over 20,000 professionals on a variety of different topics spanning 50 different seminars in 600 day-long courses. It was excellent experience and robustly built my resume.

2015 Edition of Self-Action Leadership
Nevertheless, in the back of my mind, the nagging desire to teach my own content continually ate away at me. As a result, I spent another two years carefully revising, editing, soliciting feedback, and polishing the work I had completed as a doctoral student as well as in my 2013 self-published version of Self-Action Leadership. Perhaps most importantly, I took the time to collect a dozen or so glowing endorsement quotes from highly credible people in my field. A complete redesign of my book's front-and-back cover gave the product a much more professional appearance by including many of these endorsements.

In addition to the newest version of my book, Lina—also my company's CTO—helped me revamp my website in 2015 to reflect added offerings of a dozen or so typical, in-demand soft-skill seminars, similar to those I had taught for Fred Pryor and SkillPath the previous eight years.  I also started publishing weekly blog posts again in the fall of 2014.  Since then, I have published 158 articles and received nearly 40,000 hits.  While several of these posts included chapters from my book, over 100 were original articles that had never been published elsewhere, like this one.  The problem is that none of these efforts have generated any tangible business.

Good ideas sometimes seem less so
when no one else thinks that they are
By Halloween 2015, the first shipment of my newly self-published book arrived! Over the next nine months or so, I mailed out 65 copies of this $30 book ($20 wholesale price) to my network and potential clients. As before, most recipients did not even bother to acknowledge receipt of the gift, much less show any gratitude for, or interest in, it.  Nor did any of these recipients contact me with any interest in Freedom Focused or referrals for its products or services.

In a return letter to one of the few individuals who did extend such a courtesy, I confided the following: "In most cases, I would rather be rejected than ignored." As distasteful and unpleasant as rejection can be, there is something extra deflating when someone fails to acknowledge your existence, much less what you might have accomplished that might be worthy of his/her attention.

In describing these failures, and the pain they have caused me, I do not wish to elicit pity; nor do I desire my readers to feel sorry for me. I take complete responsibility for the pathway I have taken in my life and career, and feel grateful for the freedom and opportunity I have had to pursue the goals of my choice.

The cold, hard, and often harsh reality is that entrepreneurial pathways of all kinds are often laden with rejection, disappointment, disillusionment, and failure; that is just often the way it is. I recently contributed some case and other teacher notes to a new entrepreneurship textbook that SAGE is publishing next year. In the 16-chapter manuscript, an entire chapter was dedicated to "Failure." In this chapter, it reads: "The reality is that many startups fail; therefore it is important to include the topic of failure when discussing entrepreneurship." [2]  Statistically, the vast majority of entrepreneurial startups (over 90%) fail—at least initially. While there is no question it hurts to be a statistic, I am motivated by eventually evolving into one of the 10% instead of the 90%; I'm just not quite there yet.

Whatever your past successes or present blessings, it is
still possible to feel at times like you are drowning
in a sea of difficulty and failure.
I knew about these realities (at least generally) when I began. I understand them more fully today. As such, I do not feel sorry for myself; nor do I wish for you to feel sorry for me either. Besides, the game isn't over yet, and rest assured, I will continue to persist until I eventually succeed. In the encouraging words of Napoleon Hill: "All who succeed in life get off to a bad start, and pass through many heartbreaking struggles before they 'arrive.'" [3] And in the rich perspective of Russell Conwell: "The rich men of today were the poor boys of 40 years ago ... The discipline and hard knocks a poor boy gets are worth more to him for future success than capital." [4].

Two-and-a-half months after the publication of my latest book — Self-Action Leadership: The Key to Personal, Professional, & Global Freedom — I received an e-mail from an academic colleague of mine with a notice about a job opening to teach business management courses at The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Frustrated and discouraged that I was not finding more successful in my efforts to market my book and seminars, and aware of the virtues and value of taking a more measured and conservative approach to my career (in light of my many past failings), I thought perhaps this was a sign worth paying attention to that might just take me in a different, more temporarily productive direction. Furthermore, as an American patriot who takes great interest in military history, I began dreaming of the opportunities a West Point faculty job might present.

For the past 13 years,
rejection has been my
continual career companion
Soon thereafter, I determined to pursue jobs in higher education with vigor and determination to secure a position therein. Recognizing I may or may not land the coveted West Point position, I secured a couple of key mentors who already had teaching jobs at major research universities, and went to work applying for jobs under their tutelage.

In the months that followed, I applied for 100 different positions at 75 different colleges and universities throughout the nation and world. Nine months later, my rejection/ignore rate has been 100%.

One of the reasons I have not had any success in higher education is because my doctoral degree is in Education, but my professional expertise is in leadership and management. Despite my wealth of experience training on leadership and management topics, business schools are looking for MBAs and DBAs, not Ed.Ds like me.  On the other hand, education schools are mostly looking for classroom educators and school administrators, not professional leadership and management guys like me.

When I communicated to my older brother my frustration at being a round peg vainly trying to fit into a square hole, his reply to me was: "Maybe you are an octagonal peg who needs to find an octagonal hole."

His insight intrigued me, and I forthwith contacted a couple of university Presidents I had communicated with before in an effort to negotiate an octagonal opportunity that doesn't currently exist. Neither executive bothered to even respond to my letter.

Feeling increasingly desperate, I recently turned my attention back to the high school market. Several weeks ago, I sent e-mails to principals in schools throughout several neighboring school districts communicating my availability to teach English and coach cross-country and track beginning the 2017-2018 school year. To my surprise, I secured two interviews the very next week. Unfortunately, for fortunately—depending on how you look at it—I did not land either job.

Thus it is that I am back to square one with the only opportunity I presently possess: my entrepreneurial vision of building Freedom Focused by promoting the Self-Action Leadership Theory, Model, and Philosophy.

My Un-illustrious Entreprenurial Jousting Career 

Part 2: Dad Quixote

As I doggedly pursue the daily pathways of business-building — which for the past 13 years has been a lot like jousting with windmills — I often grow frustrated, and even a bit discouraged in my perpetual pursuit of what sometimes seems like "The Impossible Dream."

"To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

To dream the impossible dream:
Don Quixote jousting with windmills
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star." [5]

Click HERE to watch a video clip of this timeless musical number from the famous musical, Man of La Mancha, which tells the story of Don Quixote, the eponymous hero of Miguel Cervantes' greatest novel.

This past January, right as I began making applications to teach in higher education, I decided to terminate my contract training work. I was no longer growing in the position; nor was the pay, opportunity, or contribution commensurate to the sacrifice that my family and I had been making by spending so much time apart.

Thus my latest round of entrepreneurial failures has opened up the unique opportunity of being a Stay-at-Home Dad until I finally figure out a way to get my fledgling business off the ground.

Parenting can be the means of
great mental stress and duress

In describing this special opportunity and experience, I wish to start off by saying what a tremendous blessing it has been in my life, as well as the relationships I share with my wife and two children. I am infinitely closer to my family because I have spent so much quality and quantity time with them the past year.

On the other hand, and I'm not going to sugar coat this part, being a Stay-at-Home Dad—while concurrently dealing with deep professional challenges and other trials, some of which are too personal and private to publish—has been one of the most difficult, stressful, and anxiety producing life experiences I've ever had, and has stretched my patience and sanity like never before.

I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a nervous breakdown, but if lying face down on the floor of a dark closet, screaming and crying like a baby, and pounding my fists on the floor like a toddler for short intervals from time-to-time come anywhere near the clinical definition, then I'm pretty sure I've lived through at least two or three miniature nervous breakdowns in 2016. I don't mean to sound overdramatic, nor am I exaggerating in my explanations of these occasional experiences. And while I'm sure it sounds sad and pathetic, I feel the need to be honest in retelling the realities of this challenge, and the truth is that there have been times in the recent past when I found myself feeling that desperate and low.

One of our trips to local fire stations
This is not to say there haven't been good times or fun adventures. Quite to the contrary, since I became a Stay-at-Home Dad this past January, my kids and I have been to the Houston Zoo 8 times, the Houston Children's Museum 6 times, the Woodlands Children's Museum 3 times, the Woodlands Trolley 3 times, fire stations more than once, Buc-ees Convenient Store nearly a dozen times, the pet store 5 times, dozens of trips to "see trucks" or play at the park, and enough trips to McDonald's to hold their corporate stock price steady through the end of the year.

The memories we've created together over the course of these, and other, adventures are priceless beyond measure, and the pictures I've snapped along the way virtually chronicle and preserve them for generations to come.

I'd like to think I'm an okay, and perhaps even a good Dad; but I'm far from being anywhere near Super. I certainly can't hold a candle to the wonders performed by their multi-talented mother. Indeed, the experience has illustrated for me in real time the extent to which God endowed women with special nurturing capacities and other virtues that men simply don't possess to the same degree or extent, especially as it relates to small children.

Lina working her magic
with our little ones
The sorry truth is that my kids eat too much fast food and sugar when they are in my care. They also watch more t.v. and I-pad videos than they probably should. I am certainly a long ways from being any kind of daycare specialist, but I do read to them on a regular basis, and we periodically turn on music and dance together.

I admit to taking naps from time-to-time, and perhaps more often than I should. Nevertheless, I think I'd probably die without these blessed therapeutic escapes from consciousness, and am thankful for Little Einstein's (Netflix), Kara's nap schedule, and my wife's I-pad for making such desperately needed personal power charges possible.

My little Darling and my Diet Soda
Diet Coke, a menagerie of other soda pop brands, sugar and fat of all kinds, chocolate, ice cream, and fast food have also helped me to keep my head above water. I know it isn't the healthiest of lifestyles, but the good news is that I'm a devout Mormon, which keeps me away from alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs; although after this experience, I can see why parents who are less grounded in a strict code of religious health might find it tempting to consult the bottle—or worse—from time to time.

My growing need to self-medicate with eatables and drinkables has greatly expanded (pun intended) my empathy for stay-at-home moms who gain weight (sometimes a lot of it) after having kids. I now understand the perfect storm for weight gain that stay-at-home parenting provokes. And speaking of girth, my own has grown to an all-time high. I recently broke #200 for the first time in my life. I was #155 when I got married. I ideally should weigh in at around #175. As a former runner, my saving grace lies in setting a half marathon in my sights five or six months down the road and striving to gradually train for it. But that will have to wait until I've healed up from undergoing a foot surgery three weeks ago, which has left me on crutches or a severe limp ever since.

Saying hello to the live lobsters at Kroger
Whatever negative vices have accompanied my Stay-at-Home Daddying have been compensated for by the potpourri of positive habits and skills I have added to my resume. Such skills include include changing diapers (including changing the diaper of one child while another one balances himself on my achilles heels and hangs onto my shoulders; it's quite a skill in personal equilibrium for my son and me!), constantly cleaning and tidying up our home, washing dishes, doing laundry, trash pick-up and removal, taxi cabbing, continual comforting, book reading in a variety of different voices, potty-training, conflict resolution, first-aid, dressing, undressing, bathing, grocery shopping, cooking (well, more like pouring cereal, making sandwiches, and taking trips to McDonalds), hair combing, and the list goes on.

As I reflect back on a hellish and horrifying, yet in its own way, heavenly, year, I cannot forget the agony and angst of my mind, the harrowing grate of failure that burned in my heart with regards to my career crucibles, or the knifing grief born of constant professional rejection that too often soured my soul day-after-day. At the same time, I cannot help but reflect on the countless joyous moments, precious glimpses, and sweet, sweet sights and sounds of a young lad's laughter, a little girl's giggle, and the buoyant bouncing of fresh legs attached to little bodies as they mirthfully glide along carpet and tile—giddy in their freedom of joy and the joy of freedom.

Similarly, I will never forget the warmth of little arms thrown round about me in a tender hug, or the sweet, but painful pathos of those occasional crocodile tears that well up from time-to-time in priceless innocence in a child's guileless eyes before spilling over and down their fresh-faced, ruddy cheeks.

Perhaps the best thing of all is that special feeling that swells up in my heart and soul to realize that there are TWO pure, precious, and adorable little darlings that are both sincere and firm in their conviction that I am the greatest and coolest person in the entire world.

Daddy Kangaroo & his little Kara Joey
Such rewards come stealthily, but surely, in those many moments when—annoying as it initially seems—the little devils, I mean angels, just can't seem to stay away from me. I guess it must be because they love me so much. Otherwise, why would they bother to constantly seek out boring, careworn, dilapidated old me with such a predictable consistently when there are so many other options to be and do in our home.

I confess that such childlike attention makes me feel like a million bucks.  Indeed, it does wonders for my self-esteem to know that at least in the eyes of a couple of the world's children, the party is pretty much right where I am at—much of the time.  Such moments cause me to regularly gather them up in my arms, frustrations and all, give them both a big squeeze, and exclaim out loud with all the authenticity and exuberance I can muster: "Oh, how I love my kids!"

And with all my heart, I mean it.

One day, earlier this year, we decided to visit the Aquarium in downtown Houston. At one point while riding the ferris wheel, we found ourselves stopped at the very top of the 100-foot high ride. There we were, just Kara, Tucker, and Daddy, on top of the world together looking down on the sprawling metropolis below.  To our right was the I-45/I-10 interchange. To the left was the beautiful downtown Houston skyline.  In front of us we could see the famous Houston Medical Center, Midtown, and the Galleria.  Had we inspected closely, we no doubt could have seen the sprawling energy corridor, including the Memorial Hermann hospital tower where Tucker was born back in March 2013. There were no seat belts on the ride, causing me to hold my little darlings extra close as we dangled there together at such an angst-inducing height.  It was one of those tender, sweet, and precious moments I shall reflect back on fondly for as long as I live in this world—and forever afterward.

Despite the sometimes dire difficulties of this Daddy gig, I can't help but bask in the pure sweetness of such moments—which have not been uncommon occurrences the past 9 months. I strive at such times to take conscious mental pictures that I can store away and then forever reflect back upon as foundation stones of the deathless love I have for my dear, sweet kids.

At some future date, when Freedom Focused has finally taken off I am am at long last consistently busy, perennially successful, and likely traveling again more often than I would like to, I will call up such pictures from the dusty recesses of my memory, where they will forever serve as a source of joy, remembrance, and perhaps most of all, of gratitude to God for loving me enough to hurt me, and for caring for me enough to prevent me from succeeding as quickly as I have so deeply desired throughout my careworn life.

Somehow, someway, someday, it's gonna happen!
Yes, for better or for worse, Freedom Focused will eventually take off. I know so because my obsessive mind and compulsive character simply will not rest until it does, and when it does, my mind and character will be busier than ever.  Whether I like it or not, Freedom Focused seems destined to remain my career's most authentic fate, destiny, desire, and goal.  Moreover, it appears that it—and perhaps nothing else—is the aberrant, bizarre, and unorthodox, octagonal hole that will finally provide a home for the ever awkward and often audacious octagonal peg that for better or for worse, is me—and which can't for the life of me seem to find a home anywhere else.

Despite investing untold thousands of dollars and hours building Freedom Focused, most of which seems like a huge waste when measured only in tangible receipts, I firmly believe that no good-faith effort to learn, grow, serve, and contribute meaningfully to others ever goes un-utilized or un-compensated in the end. Thus will the law of compensation eventually compensate me and my company wholly with our due in due time.

My day will come; Freedom Focused's day will arrive; and someday the agonizing challenges of the past will seem more like a distant memory than a clear and present demon of my mind, heart, and soul.  And when that long-awaited day finally arrives, other, different trials and challenges will be there to replace them!  Such is life and the nature of this mortal existence.  Thank God that there are brighter days ahead, not only in this world, but more importantly and lastingly, in other realms beyond this "vale of sorrow," which we currently inhabit. [6]

Lina with Kara & Tucker
Special Tributes: I'd like to pay tribute to my amazingly talented, intelligent, good-looking and good-hearted wife and sugar mama, Lina Marie Jensen.  Without her successful career and support, I would not have been able to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams to the extent that I have, nor would I have had the challenge/opportunity of being a Stay-at-Home Dad this past year.

I'd also like to pay tribute to Lindsey Law, Misty Meng, Meilene Shumway, Ramsey Weaver, Sarah Gessel, and others who have provided part-time child care, pre-schooling, or occasional babysitting services to us along this journey.  When you consider how much help I've had, it makes the extent of my difficulties look more pathetic than they probably already do; nevertheless, it is important to remember Viktor Frankl's words about the relativity of suffering when we feel tempted to judge another in his/her circumstances.
“A man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas.  If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber.  Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little.  Therefore the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative.” [7]  

Note: If you'd like to help my business someday succeed, please click on the link below to buy my book. Then, if you like its contents, please tell your family and friends and associates about it.

If, on the other hand, you'd like to see me continue to enjoy the challenges and blessings of being a Stay-at-Home Dad, then kindly save your money and spend it at McDonald's, or better yet, at Dairy Queen, on your own spouse and kids. And take comfort in knowing that whatever you decide, you'll be helping me out.

Click HERE to buy a copy of Self-Action Leadership.

Self-Action Leadership:
The Textbook of Authenticism
SELF-ACTION LEADERSHIP is the key catalyst for initiating transformational leadership that lasts in any organization. The truth of the matter really is that simple; and the transformation of organizations through the holistic development of individuals really is that difficult—yet altogether possible for anyone willing to invest the time, effort, and sacrifice required to achieve authentic, transformational results.

Unlike any training program that has ever preceded it, Self-Action Leadership provides a single vehicle wherewith individual self-leaders can discover—and then act—upon the great truth that HOLISTIC personal development and growth spanning the mental, moral, spiritual, physical, emotional, social, and financial elements of our individual natures is within the grasp of each one of us.

NoteFreedom Focused is a non-partisan, for-profit, educational corporation. As such, we do not endorse or embrace political figures. We do, however, comment from time-to-time on historical or political events that provide pedagogical backdrops to illuminating principles contained in the SAL Theory & Model.

Click HERE to learn more about the SAL Theory & Model.

To receive weekly articles from Freedom Focused & Dr. Jordan R. Jensen, sign up with your e-mail address in the white box on the right side of this page where it says "Follow by E-mail."

Click HERE to read more about Dr. Jensen's book, Self-Action Leadership, and to review what experts in the leadership field are saying about this groundbreaking new personal development handbook.

Click HERE to learn more about Dr. Jordan R. Jensen.

Click HERE to visit the Freedom Focused website.


1. A reference to 1 Samuel 16:7 in the Old Testament
2. Entrepreneuring: A Practice-Based Approach, by Christopher P. Neck, Ph.D., Heidi Neck, Ph.D., & Emma Murray, BA, H. Dip. 2017. SAGE
3. From his book, Think & Grow Rich
4. From his book, Acres of Diamonds
5. Lyrics from Man of La Mancha (the words of the lead character, Don Quixote) 
6. Alma 37:45 (The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ)
7. From his book, Man's Search for Meaning


  1. Jordan

    You have been blessed with a beautiful family! The world measures success in dollars and power. Real success is measured in growing out of ourselves and focusing on investing in relationships. This starts and ends with pursuing God through Jesus but this also includes being passionate about your family. I see this passion in your story. Rejoice that you have been given an opportunity to do this with your children while they are small and hold you in awe!

    Best Wishes Brother


    1. Thanks Warren!

      It is good to hear from you, my friend. I hope you and your family are well.


  2. Thanks for sharing your story Jordan. I'm sure it benefits many people, including myself. I relate very much. You're an example of humility and faith. You are obviously a very gifted writer as well.

    1. Thanks Jason! So glad you enjoyed the article and found it helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to read.

  3. Syntax:
    Catalyst Training Services

    Great Blog,And Blog Is About Dedicated to expanding the personal and professional Freedom of self-action leaders everywhere.

  4. Jordan,
    From one former stay at home dad to another what a great read! Thanks for sharing, it brought back tons of memories of my 8 months off with my three little ones. It truly is an experience where the lowest of lows and highest of highs are experienced every day and sometimes every hour! It's been three years since my time off with the kids and I look back on it fondly wishing sometimes I could do it again, and glad other times that it's just a wonderful memory. Overall I'm grateful formula much closer it brought me to my kids and how much appreciation I now have for my dear wife. The real unsung hero of my family.

    Keep up the fight and soldier on in so great a cause for the rewards are eternal. Love you brother.



Taking Pride in Doing the Right Thing

In the short run, a team, organization, or other entity can lie, cheat, and manipulate its way to a competitive advantage.  But in the LONG...