The End of History Illusion and Becoming a Father
Updated: May 1
On February 11 at 4:48AM, Ashley and I welcomed Rory Jennings Birchard into the world. Rory weighed in at 8 lb 7 oz, was 22 inches long, and has a big old head just like his dad. For those not familiar with our story, Rory’s arrival is extra special in a couple ways. In addition to being our first child, we had a few twists and turns along the way. Ashley and I had struggled through some unsuccessful fertility efforts in Utah and after moving to Ohio in August 2019, decided to adopt. We persevered to activate our adoption profile in the middle of COVID-19 (think virtual home fire inspection, challenges with home study due to social distancing, lots of fun stuff.) Then, within just a few short weeks of activating, we found out the adoption agency was going out of business due to the pandemic and surprise surprise, we were pregnant! We even shocked some family and friends with the news on what was intended to be a virtual adoption shower via Zoom…the facial expressions and reactions were priceless. To say this was a roller coaster would be an understatement, and we feel beyond blessed to have Ashley and Rory both happy and healthy. Below is a picture of him in his car seat for the first time ready to leave the hospital and head home.
In the couple weeks leading up to Rory’s birth, I was reading The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel. Now some of you are probably thinking that’s very much like Tom to read a finance book as he’s about to become a first-time father, and on top of that what does that have to do with Rory, we want more cute pictures 😉 In my defense I had recently read a couple of books as well about becoming a father so I wasn’t totally slacking, and in terms of making the connection back to Rory I’ll get there in just a minute. One of the chapters in the book was titled You’ll Change and within it Housel references The End of History Illusion. Housel writes, “The End of History Illusion is what psychologists call the tendency for people to be keenly aware of how much they’ve changed in the past, but to underestimate how much their personalities, desires, and goals are likely to change in the future.” In other words we can appreciate how much we’ve changed up to this point. However we’re walking around with the illusion that we’ve finally become exactly who we were meant to be and will be for the rest of our lives.
I’ve personally fallen into this trap many times. From a fitness standpoint I feel great and my workout regimen looks very different than it did say 10 years ago, and if I’m not careful I fall into the trap of thinking I have it all figured out. I find myself at times in a similar mindset with work. I look at what I believe is a poor decision someone else is making and think to myself “I might have made that mistake 5 years ago, but certainly not now with the experience I’ve gained and all I’ve learned.” Honestly there are probably elements of this illusion in all aspects of life and it’s hard to conceptualize that as different as I am now compared to 10 years ago, I’ll likely change just as much in the next 10 years and in a way I should strive for that as I continue to learn, evolve, and develop.
I think becoming a parent can service as an abrupt escape from The End of History Illusion. I know in my case it wasn’t long at all after Rory was born that it became very apparent that life moving forward would look very different than it had up to this point, and in a way a new history was just beginning. If I was to offer some advice to Rory related to this principle as he grows and develops and eventually (although it’ll probably happen quicker than we’re prepared for) transitions to adulthood, I think it would be…
· At any given point in life you might think you have it all figured out. You don’t, and neither do I, continue to learn and gather new experiences at all phases of life
· Figure out what matters most to you, your purpose, and try to live a life consistent to that and reevaluate occasionally. Be more flexible with the surrounding details that support your purpose…”strong opinions, loosely held”
· Avoid extremes, everything is a spectrum and try to find the right balance knowing that what’s important to you today may not be in the future
· Don’t fall into the sunk cost fallacy because you will continue to change. It’s good to persevere and demonstrate resilience but not simply because of the “costs” you’ve already sunk into that endeavor
· Because you’ll continue to grow and develop, don’t take whatever you’re going through in any given moment too seriously. What seems like a big deal now may be a faint memory in the future and if it really is that significant, use it to improve yourself and those around you and you’ll very likely look back at it as a positive despite not feeling that way in the moment. Enjoy the ride
If you’ve enjoyed reading this I’d encourage you to enter your email and subscribe at the bottom of the page. I’ll add you to the list of people I email an article like this to every 2 weeks along with a few recommendations of books/articles/podcasts etc. I’ve enjoyed. Speaking of recommendations here are a few from the last 2 weeks:
· Video - Common Sense in a Senseless World on Thomas Sowell – My dad turned me onto Thomas Sowell as a very clear thinker and communicator and I thought this video was very well done. I especially appreciate his focus on facts and data and the acknowledgement that just because something sounds good in theory, doesn’t mean it works out that way in reality.
· Podcast Episode - How the Stock Market Works by Ben Carlson – This is a short 7 minute audio clip explaining in laymen’s terms how the stock market works.
· Article - How to Build an Invention Machine - 6 Lessons That Powered Amazon's Success – I was surprised how many of these lessons resonated with me and were applicable within the company I work despite totally different industries and business models.
· Quote – Our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward … In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement ... It’s really not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, ‘I raised a good son or a good daughter.’... People who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness. by Clayton Christensen