On Falling Forward.
Catching up with 29-year old financial advisor, Brian Wyborn, was a bit of a challenge—only due to a 17-hour time difference. When we spoke, it was a Tuesday afternoon for me and a bright sunny Wednesday morning for him—Wyborn and his family are currently living in Brisbane, Australia. At the time of this interview, Brian was a dad awaiting the birth of his second child so it was the perfect time to check in about life in this moment and the change that was on the horizon.
After a bit of getting to know you banter, we got right into it.
Andrew Wollenberg: You married your high school sweetheart, Renee. How long have you been together?
Brian Wyborn: I believe it’s since 2005. We got introduced by mutual friends in high school—in grade 10 actually—but we didn’t start dating until grade 11. It’s been really cool. You grow together. You learn about the world together. The way you think about life and how things are supposed to be in the world gets formed as this joint opinion.
Andrew: And you both have have a daughter, Eliana?
Brian: Just dropped her at daycare. She’s awesome. Just getting over being sick. Your kid gets sick, when they are on the end of it, you pick it up. She had a tummy bug, for five days—I picked it up on day five.
Andrew: Man, that’s rough. I know you changed jobs right before Ellie was born—what was behind that big decision?
Brian: I am one of those people that when I give myself a goal, I put my head down and keep on going. It's good when I need to complete a task but it can be a problem when I don’t stop, pull my head up and look across the weeds to say, “am I headed in the right direction?”
I actually write it into my calendar quarterly—for my wife and I to go away quarterly—at least camping, go back to the bush, have a fire and sit there. I need those days to pull myself out, look at the horizon and see if I am going in the right direction. Get our bearings.
Before Ellie was born, it was one of those moments where I would have kept cracking along and realized it would have been at the detriment of me. As much of an opportunity as this was for me, I realized I don’t like the culture at this job; I don’t like how they treat their people. Long story short, I made the tough decision and when you have a wife going on maternity leave for 12 months and you’re the main breadwinner and I throw in the towel and go, “this isn't right,” it’s kind of scary. I knew it was the right decision for us.
Andrew: Was your wife cool with it?
Brian: She was the one who told me to go! She said, “You can’t keep doing this to yourself.” She actually pushed me. I think because we’ve grown up together, she really knows me and knew it wasn’t right for me, even from the start. She was all for it. We planned to have some time off together we knew we’d be financially ok, and if it takes some time to find the right place in the long term that’s going to be the right spot for us.
Andrew: That’s so cool and a kind of a gift from your daughter. She’s coming in almost saying, “You’ve got to clean up your act, Pops! Re-evaluate.”
Brian: Totally! Makes you change how you think about things before they even get here. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience with your friends but I don’t think dads actually bond until the kid gets there. You don’t really know—you haven’t got that connection until they pop out and they are there with you. And that’s when I think they really change you.
Andrew: Have you noticed a shift in your thinking—knowing you have another one due in October, right?
Brian: So much. I guess it's also being a financial advisor—this planning side as well. I’m already thinking about Eliana’s education where I want her to go to, not only her having the ambition and desire to do that but also putting her on the road to actually do it.
For me, it's something I was conscious of before having a kid. But now, actually having a kid, it’s more at the forefront of your mind. You don’t know how to articulate what love is for a kid until you have a kid. Leaving that legacy—I’ve had the want to do it or pass onto them. I knew the idea of it, of what it might look like, but once the kid is there there...let’s just say, I watch sappy movies now and get teared up at parent kid moments.
Andrew: Tugs on some new heartstrings.
Brian: Being in the army reserves, I'll often watch things and documentaries and moreso now, I see the children’s side of it. It’s someone’s kid, it’s someone’s child. You're more connected to it now.
Andrew: Have you noticed if becoming a dad has shifted your relationship to adults?
Brian: Mostly what I see in adults is resilience. I joined the army when I was 19 or 20, and here I am— the fittest, youngest thing there. And I’m carrying 40 kilos on my back and we are going uphill and I am struggling. I’d see this old sergeant, in his 40’s and he is just chucking along and I think “how the bloody hell are you doing that?” I’m younger, fitter, stronger and I’m struggling. I think it's that resilience. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I think I started to grasp that with sleep deprivation when you have a newborn.
Parenthood and raising kids gives you that resilience. I am here for them. I’ve got to keep putting one foot in front of another. Keep going. I use that analogy a lot now in my army life. When it gets tough, you’ve got to keep doing it.
Andrew: Is that thinking something you gained in the army?
Brian: It’s made me more resolvent. Not to the level that I feel now as a parent however—I’ve got a mission bigger than me. You’ve got to do it—for them. It will sort itself out.
When I was on deployment, I had a pivotal change. I thought, “Ok, where am I right now? I was 25 years old, I think. I am at that point where I need to take this—our life, my relationship with Renee—to the next level. I need to start setting down some plans and groundwork on the next phase of my life. That was my turning point. This is it. This is where the next phase of our life begins.
Question for you, Andrew! How did you came up with the idea for this idea for a men's baby carrier? It looks so similar to a chest rig.
Andrew: I think the idea was primed in me for a while. I have a background doing search and rescue. Also rock climbing—lots of outdoor adventuring. And my brother had just had his second child. My brother was a bounty hunter. I know, pretty bad ass! Also a big time hunter, volunteer firefighter and is currently an EMT. We both love gear and he is a very loving and active father, but there is nothing out there for him.
Specifically, I broke my back years ago and a few years ago, the physical therapy workouts I was doing had be wearing a weight vest—the idea is equal weight front to back for good posture. So the idea sparked one day. Why don’t they make a baby carrier like this, for dads? And then why don’t they make a tactical-vibe baby carrier? Gear that is made specifically for dads, their aesthetic and their bodies.
Everyone I talked to in the early days was responding to the idea so, to use your phrase, I put one foot in front of the other and soon I had a prototype. It was such a process! And then I was pumped when I flew to the factory for the first time with my lead designer to see it. They do a presentation— “Here is your baby carrier for dads!”
I took one look at it, and said, that’s not going to work. Oh man, that is not going to work at all! It was one of those moments where I was crushed, what am I doing here? I’ve put some much into this. This is terrible.
Brian: What was it that kept you going?
Andrew: That was a super emotional moment—all that time and expectation that I was going to nail it and being instantly crushed. All of that happened so fast. And then my designer, who was a lead product developer at NorthFace—in that exact moment, he brought out the Exacto knife and began chopping it up and redesigning it on the spot. He said “This IS the process.” It took me a few days and once that sunk in, I was reinvigorated. Not getting it right the first time was part of the process.
It’s awesome that it failed that quickly and we were able to say “here are the five things that aren’t going to work” because that conversation elevated the design. Now I crave that feeling, that moment of utter despair in the design process, because it’s literally the cusp of when the idea comes.
Brian: And then you have this great name, Mission Critical.
Andrew: I’m so happy with the name because it supports our mission, literally. I think helping dads connect with their children has a huge impact over time. With the status of our planet, and how many things are changing, this is my way, of having that conversation of how we are all connected. I think the name fits in with the bigger picture.
Brian: Right. We aren’t 1960s dads anymore—where we come home and they are already in bed. We are so much more intertwined. I think it’s important that dads have an impact, a role in shaping the next generation of humans we are bringing up. We empower them. We give them the confidence to do stuff that they wouldn’t do normally in those critical formative years.
In my family, I am the more risk taking parent. If I don’t let Ellie take those risks in a safe environment she doesn’t develop as quickly. When we are walking on the street, I let her walk on the curb and do the balancing act, that gives her a sense of confidence.
Dads have to be there for that part of their kids life. It sounds so small, that little curb balancing act, but I think that’s important. I am conscious of all those little things that I bring as a dad to my children. We can be and are a big part of the development phase. We need to acknowledge that. Don’t just sit back and let mom do it. Put your work, your other distractions, later.
Andrew: Give yourself time to be present. To be outside, have an adventure.
Brian: What inspired your love of nature? It something I grew up with and I need those getaway adventures. That's been ingrained in me. Calms me. What about you?
Andrew: Some of my earliest memories are gardening with my parents—learning about that process, screwing around, being outside. The best part of my day, was after school, and my brother and I played outside. Setting booby traps, shooting slingshots or riding bikes, and spending time outside.
With my high school class, I went on a rock climbing trip. I was scared; I didn’t trust the ropes and was so uncomfortable. I remember thinking, “how can I make this work for me?” So, instead of backing away, I started getting into rock climbing, building my comfort level. Trusting myself and the ropes. Doing some climbs in upstate New York once, sitting on this tiny ledge and my feet were dangling over the edge 1500 ft down, and I think I’m glad I conquered that fear so that I can have this experience. I found the outdoors to be this magical place. Its a reset. A chance to connect—gives clarity on your mission or whatever you are wondering about at the time.
Brian: Connection is a big word. We’ve lost it a bit. With the older tribes in Australia, with Australian Indigenous people, it's about the connection to land. They always say “I have to go back to country” and what they mean by that is that they have to go back to their people and to my land and community and let that reinvigorate me and I think that's a lot of identity and what they feel is strong and core to them.
I don’t think that need is only specific to them. I think it's inherent in every human being but we’ve lost it over time. I think it's about bridging what they do well in “going back to country,” to what's core to them—how do we replicate that for the greater world? And Mission Critical’s doing that. Asking how do dads connect? Its having a sense of belonging.
For me, when you're in highschool, you have your boys and your mates—you share stories and talk about being blokes—you don't get that sense and it's hard to replicate that later when you are older. Blokes are looking for that sense of identity. Everyone is.
Andrew: What did those tribes do well that we can replicate for everyone?
Brian: The word I use is caretaking. Your care for your child, your yard, the planet. It needs to become an even greater part of the conversation and beyond that a greater practice.
Wanting to grow and contribute to your community. It's something dads need, no matter their race or ethnicity—we need to grow that community.
Andrew: Going back to the beginning of our conversation, we talk about you changing jobs because the culture of that firm was not in alignment with you. It points to this notion that business are carrying culture.
Brian: Absolutely! In modern day, culture is driven by large organizations that can impact and change the world. Used to be on the ground level, but now we have this global reach.
Andrew: Like right now! We are having this conversation on two different sides of the globe, no problem! It’s amazing.
And all because I am just selling baby carriers.
Brian: One step in front of the other.
Andrew: Just keep falling forward!