A few years ago, my whole world looked very different. I was working crazy hours building my medical cannabis card platform, and living it up as a young entrepreneur in San Francisco. My wife Chantelle and I were struggling to find time for each other between our busy schedules, and I was feeling incredibly burnt out. I’d put on about 40 pounds and rarely exercised. All my energy was focused on building my company, which would help destigmatize marijuana and provide more people access to the benefits of medical marijuana, and breaking the stigma of being a Black entrepreneur in the cannabis industry.
Flash forward to February 2020 — one of the best and most life-changing months of my life — when Chantelle and I, now in New York, welcomed our son Nile into the world. I’d also changed so much in preparation for fatherhood, adopting new habits and taking care of myself in a more proactive way. When the pandemic hit, we were still very much basking in the glow of being new parents. But, you don’t get to take a break or disconnect from the world while you’re tending to the needs of a newborn and managing a multi-million dollar company. Lockdown was tough, made that much worse because my family is in Chicago. I had to come to terms with what I could do then and there to keep my head above water, keep my family safe and healthy, and not crack under the pressure. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
1. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s essential.
I put on a lot of weight back in 2017 as my company was taking off. You know how it is: late nights, fast food, no time for exercise. Something had to give. Then and there I committed to my own well-being and health. As a then 20-something guy, self-care wasn’t something I had ever really thought about.
Carrying all of that excess weight around crushed my self-esteem and depleted my energy. I knew I had to do something and was fortunately introduced to the idea of radical self-care by my friend Solange. Radical self care is the idea of taking care of yourself and doing whatever it takes, no matter what people think. For me, that looked like committing to HIIT training and lifting three to four times a week, regular colon hydrotherapy sessions, and a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. I lost the weight quickly and even though I was embarrassed to talk about the colon hydrotherapy at first, after telling a few people and seeing how much it benefited them, I quickly got over it.
These days, I still exercise regularly, try to eat a salad a day, get massages, and am in control of my stress relief. Taking charge of my self-care has been life changing.
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2. Family time needs to be a priority.
Your priorities get a serious shakeup when you have a kid. Nile is always my number one priority, and I have to be really intentional about my schedule and how I spend my time. I make sure to block out family time on my calendar. At work, I know that I need to focus and get shit done — basically everything has a greater sense of urgency so that I get to have more family time. Lockdown with a new baby was no joke and obviously, in our apartment, there wasn’t much room to explore. Now that we can get outside and the weather is warmer, I’m all about spending time outdoors and in nature with Nile and Chantelle. We love going to the park and walking along the water. I’m fortunate to live in Williamsburg where there are green spaces and a zoo nearby. I can’t wait to take Nile to the zoo, and to see his face light up when he sees all the animals.
3. Meditation, therapy, and cannabis are my secret weapons.
You’ve gotta use all the tools available to you, right? Vaping or smoking a joint is an important part of my self-care routine and it’s when I do some of my best thinking. For me and so many others, cannabis is medicine and we need to get to a point where it’s completely decriminalized and de-stigmatized in all communities, and especially in communities of color.
I recently got into meditation and it’s a nice way to relax and re-set. I have a few apps, but mostly I use YouTube videos and experiment with different HRZ and frequencies. Some frequencies are known to be more calming than others, some are good for focus, and some are more energizing, I would like to do it every day but I’m still working my way up.
I’m a big believer in talk therapy as well. If you are taking care of your mental health, you are more productive, a better father and partner, and better at work. This is what works for me; as a parent, it’s important to find what works for you.
4. It’s okay to ask for help.
Not long after the start of COVID, Chantelle and I realized we needed help managing Nile so we temporarily moved back to my mom’s house in Chicago. It was a good decision. It was really nice going home with a new baby. They love having Nile around. It was great to have that support and, of course, the free babysitting.
Now that we are back in New York, I’ve had to develop tactics to help myself and lean on friends more than family. I started to talk to family members more and more — they’ve been so helpful. I’ve learned to appreciate the wisdom of my older family members and seek out their advice much more. The best advice I got from my parents is to set and stick to a schedule for Nile. During the work day we set alarms to make sure his meal, play, nap, hygiene and learning activities are completed. Nile had adjusted well to the routine and it helps us when planning.
5. Becoming a dad changed how I see the world and my business.
Since I became a dad, I’ve become more focused. I feel more responsible, and I feel a greater sense of purpose. This little guy is a sponge; a blank slate. It’s my responsibility to teach him everything. It’s cool and fun but it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s changed my priorities for sure. Before, my priorities were mostly work, wife, and family. Now it’s Nile, wife, and work.
I also think more about things that I do and always ask myself, “Would Nile be proud of me?” I think about making the world safer for him. How do I explain things to him? How do I protect him?
6. I’m prouder than ever to work in the cannabis industry.
When I was a kid, my dad and other family members were negatively affected by the war on drugs. People close to me spent time in jail for weed. It was very traumatic and hard to overcome the challenges that those kinds of experiences create. But since 2015, when I started my company, cannabis has changed my life for the better in so many ways.
On a daily basis I get to experience the positive effects that it has on helping people with various ailments and improving their quality of life. I’m proud of what I’ve built and will continue to work towards equity and inclusion so that my son will grow up in a better world. We have a long way to go and I’m all in.
Rob Tankson is the co-founder and COO of PrestoDoctor.com and lives with his wife Chantelle and son Nile in Brooklyn, NY.