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"I'm a Dad" // Nathan Leland

Posted by Andrew Peters on

Welcome to the first article in a new series we've (creatively) named "I'm a Dad." The genesis of this series was born out of our founder's experience of starting to answer the age-old question of "What do you do?" with "I'm a dad" instead of with his current job title. That experiment conducted over the last several years has led to some amazing conversations (and some big eye-rolls). One of the great gifts we've had in our professional careers are exposure to some incredible people across a wide variety of social and professional settings, and we love engaging them conversations around how they navigate the tension between their role as a parent and their role as an employee (or entrepreneur).

First up is a brilliant creative who also happens to be a kick-ass father. Nathan juggles leading creative at a terrific firm called Inhance based in Hollywood, CA while also being dad. His role is typical of many of us; on paper, it's a dream job, but behind the scenes, there's a constant tension between the two worlds. His insightful answers are worth 2 minutes of reading time (as is the acknowledgment that no matter how "cool" your job sounds, it's competing with your family for your love and attention. 

Introduce Yourself

I'm Nathan, a father to two wonderful, loving children and husband to a sensational woman and mom. I am also a creative director at a small agency in Los Angeles. 

I have family that I want to spend time with, explore the world with, and enjoy (almost) every moment with. I also have a career that I enjoy. It pushes me creatively and intellectually to solve problems and tell stories for companies and product teams. I get to dive into remarkable worlds of technology, revel in their genius and try to make others stop and notice... or at least make something cool.
Basically, I am one lucky guy. 

How do you manage a family and work? 

These two worlds, my family/friends and work, were manageable once upon a time. I worked with friends, we played at work, and tried our damnedest to make interesting products. It was easy to spend 12+ hours at the office, it was most of my world in one place. 
Love, and then children, expanded my world emotionally and physically. It is no longer possible for everyone and everything (needed for work) to coexist effortlessly. Tension is the boundary between these two worlds. It is the thin barrier that separates the mental space required to be present in either world.

How do you live with that tension? 

Luckily that line is movable, adaptable, and every changing. There are times that my children need me, sometimes desperately, and I need to be there for them. Conversely, my projects or teams do too. Sometimes it is easy and their needs compliment one another. In more difficult times everyone needs more of my attention than there is to go around, this is when I decide where to place the line between the worlds.

Who wins? 

Personally, my line favors my family.
I thoroughly enjoy what I do for a living but it does not define me. My work will not change the world or be my legacy, but my family will.
Knowing that, I try to force limits on the hours that I work or am available. In a creative field that is hard. I need time to find research, be inspired, and craft compelling ideas...these can all be time intensive. 
When your dad's a creative director, your childhood photos look like this.
Nathan's son (not in danger of being struck by lightning)

How has fatherhood changed you? 

In a world where time is at a premium, I have to limit anything extraneous (goodbye social media, feeds, and personal email/messages), and maximize every moment. Get a coffee? Bring a colleague and talk about the project. Travel for work? Try to visit a friend, see something interesting, or experience the local culture. I have to re-examine when I work. If I need a couple of quiet hours to sit and write, I start my day at 5am to take advantage of the calm and then wrap my day earlier to see the kids. 

Also, when I am off the clock it means I am off the clock. I try to resist the urge to read work emails on the weekend or evenings. (What are the odds that a work email will boost your mood?) This has freed me to enjoy my personal time. Whether that is making what kids want for breakfast (almost always pancakes) or cuddling or playing on the floor in PJs, I can be there with them.


Describe what it feels like to be a father who feels this tension. 

As I write this I know it sounds like I have it all figured out and that is simply not true. I feel guilty when I meet my friends for a drink or go to my weekly basketball league. I have accepted that parenthood is a blend of joy, pride, and guilt. Every day I try to re-examine who needs what and how badly do they need it.

Nathan captures a feeling beyond the regular "I'm busy" mantra of work. It's not always that simple, answerable or understandable. That's why we love his answers. Nathan leaves room for the push and pull of life and does it all with intentionality, humor, and killer creative skills. If you need a ridiculously creative team to solve a problem, you should contact Nathan and get to work. 

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1 comment

  • This is my son…… when I look at him now, and spend time with him and his family, I realize for all the “wish I would have, could haves” that parents can feel, his father and I did a pretty good job of launching a good man into a complicated world. And now it is his turn to launch two more sweet little souls into an ever changing world.

    Cece ilia Stanford on

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