You may have heard a little bit about my story and my family. The Buckley Kiddos (there are 5 of them) never chose to have their father as a business traveler, but it’s the hand they’ve been dealt with at least right now.
Early on, I didn’t put much thought into my contact with my family when I was on the road. Compared to everyone else, some business trips I did better than other trips and justified my contact because it was more than the average business traveler.
But when did I ever care about comparing myself to THAT GUY?! I came to a point where I felt the lack of engagement with my family especially with my kids because I was traveling so much.
I was uncovering my “WHY” I wanted to connect more back home.
The WHY gets me to do things when I don’t always feel like it, especially when I’ve had a busy and long day on the road.
I created the Flat Kiddos Concept. It’s a way for me to connect with my kids when I’m not at home. Take a look at them at the Elite Road Warrior website here.
One of my biggest challenges as a father on the road is staying connected with my kids in very intentional, thoughtful, and creative ways in general let alone on a consistent basis. I would take pictures of my locations, but it was more about “Dad’s cool hotel or rental car” and how they weren’t a part of my trip.
But then I asked myself, “what if I could theoretically take my kids with me in a creative way? You can now with Flat Kiddos. These are 9×6 inch characters that are on thick poster board for durability.
I had my kids color their own Flat Kiddo and now they can’t wait to see their picture on my next trip. This gives the opportunity for the Flat Kiddos to be seen in Dad’s World and how the kids are now involved.
Why I Use the Flat Kiddos Concept
The “why” is critically important and far more important than the “how”.
For far too long on the road, I was what I called a Check-In Guy. This guy “checked in” when it was convenient for me only.
I had a gift of calling at all the wrong times:
- Dinner time
- Kids at practice
I sent the occasional check-in update text.
I did FaceTime but was usually distracted. Sadly, one of my kids would call me out and say “Dad, you’re not paying attention.” Pathetic. I have just a few minutes to really connect with my family and I’m on email?
After a “come to Jesus” moment with my wife on how disconnected I was at home while on the road, I started looking for ways to leverage the road and what it can do for me instead of making excuses of the limits of the road and what I can’t do.
Remember, if you want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
When I first started out I took pictures of the locations in my trip thinking my kids would want to see where Dad literally was in the world or my awesome meal or upgraded rental car.
At best I would get a COOL or LUCKY YOU response.
Often it was silence. Painful non-response.
I had that coming.
It came across in two ways:
- Dad’s bragging
- We’re not with him
But that wasn’t my motive and definitely not my heart.
I had an industry connection I had interviewed on another podcast called “The Energy Edge” Podcast, and listening to David Vasquez, had this little character called Peg Daddy that he traveled with and it hit me.
I revisited this concept with David Vasquez on episode 046 of the Elite Road Warrior.
But after that initial interview and the Flat Stanley story, I thought, what if I created Flat Stanley of my age-appropriate kids that traveled with me on the road?
For those of you who’ve not heard of the Flat Stanley story or concept, let me give you the 411:
Back Story – Stanley gets squashed flat by a falling bulletin board. Stanley’s parents rolled him up, put him in an envelope, and mailed him to his friend in California. We did the Flat Stanley project for my cousin’s kids from SoCal having Flat Stanley visit Chicago. Our kids loved it.
I had to figure this thing out.
Now, I had my WHY of wanting to connect and not just check in with my kids and I had this idea of doing something with Flat Stanley. Now what?
How I Use the Flat Kiddos Concept
I needed to begin to look through the eyes of my kids and what would be relatable to them in my road world.
I have five kids but not all are age-appropriate for Flat Kiddos.
For example, my high school sons prefer postcards from every location and it allows me to speak an encouraging word that I know they’ll read in this form.
Currently, I have two elementary-age kids and one four-year-old.
My 3rd and 5th graders are perfect for this age and my little guy is now ready for his Flat Kiddo too.
How Do You Make Your Flat Kiddos?
I’m often asked, how did you actually make the Flat Kiddos?
My two were basically an art project:
- I went online and printed out a boy and girl Flat Stanley character
- I cut out the characters
- My wife glued them to strong poster-board
- I had my kids color their own Flat Kiddos
It was simple but took some time and energy.
The favorite part was having my kids color their own Flat Kiddo and therein was the Buy-In.
Now, there are many road warriors who either aren’t creative or resourceful or just simply don’t have the time or won’t do it. Just recently I had a business traveler tell me: “Love the idea but this will never happen if it relies on me but I would buy them immediately. I can definitely tell my kids to color these for me.” You can buy them here.
So, you make or purchase your flat kiddo, you have your kids color them. Now what?
Here are Six Ideas for my Flat Kiddos
- At the Gate or in the Terminal (up on the window with the plane in sight / checking the departure board/massage chairs)
- On the Plane (in the seat / looking out the window)
- With the Pilot or Flight Attendant
- Working at the desk
- Watching TV
- In the bathtub
- On the toilet
- On the bed
- In the kitchen (since I stay at a lot of hotels with kitchens so I can prepare as many meals as possible)
- Fitness Center – working out with the dumbbells/on the treadmill/bike
- Pool catching some sun
Rental Car or RideShare
I’m in a rental car often because I fly into one city (for example, SD then drive to OC then to LA and fly out there or Tampa to Orlando to Fort Lauderdale) – I get some great upgrades and my kids love to see their Flat Kiddos in the driver seat
- The driver seat of a cool rental car
- Back seat watching an iPad
- In the trunk!
- Sitting next to me in an Uber or Lyft
I have my Flat Kiddos in my work bag so it’s easy to pull them out in a restaurant setting
- Ordering food
- A plate in front of them
- The Alamo
- Space Needle
- Sunsets on the coast
- In the mountains
The possibilities are endless – the key is just leveraging the city you’re in AND taking a few minutes for downtime – remember the definition? Time to Be, NOT to Be On and this is a great cause to take a little downtime.
People You Meet
People are often more than willing to join in a picture for such a cause – you just have to be willing and courageous to simply ask.
- I mentioned Pilots earlier
- Hotel front desk
- When I speak, sometimes I’ll ask some people in the group to take a picture with my Flat Kiddos. I did that a few weeks ago speaking to 16 CEOs and these guys loved it!
- One of my mentors from afar who I met, Michael
Get creative and ask for your kids
This is Possible Road Warriors…
Let me tell you about a quick story.
I met Barry in an airport before a flight when I was taking pictures of my Flat Kiddos in a couple of places near the gate. He asked what I was going but in a curious tone. So, I let him know WHY I do this and my desire to be a Connect-In Guy, not a Check-in Guy anymore on the road.
Barry paused then said, “If I were honest, I’m a Check-in Guy and this is a great idea that I can do to become a Connect-In Guy. Thanks for being an example and for giving me this inspiration.”
The key to being an elite road warrior is leveraging the road and what it CAN give to you if you let it.
I wouldn’t do Flat Kiddos at home obviously because I’m with my kids. But I can take a few minutes here and there to have them enter my Road Life through their Flat Kiddos.
You Got This!