On this Fathers Day, along with the whoopie pies I sent, here is the rest of my gift to my dad – or more accurately my thanks for the gifts he’s given me.
1. Work Ethic. My father has an unshakeable work ethic and this has been firmly instilled in both my brother and I. “If you’re going to do something, do it right” is something I remember hearing over and over again during my childhood; however its worth noting that this was delivered more as an imperative than an ethos (anyone who knows my father is nodding and smiling right now). It was his expectation. I can tell you that I’ve had many a happy employer over the years due to my work ethic.
2. Brevity. Conversations in our house were typically direct, and to the point. We didn’t really pull punches; we said what we meant – assessed the damage – and moved on. We didn’t belabor issues into the ground. While sometimes these conversations were uncomfortable, you knew where everyone stood. My husband comes from a family of conversationalists. They like to talk and talk and talk, summarize things, and then look at it from a different angle. Its pure torture for me and I’ve come to call it “heel grinding” because that’s what it feels like to me. I find beauty in brevity and try to apply it both to my oral and written communications.
3. Fearlessness. When I tell people about my dad, at some point their mouths start to gape open a bit. It might be the fact that he’s started and sold 3 very successful companies over the course of his life, or that he was a charter boat captain, a lobster fisherman, a race car driver, a Busch Grand National crew chief, a private pilot who owned his own plane, etc. - you get the idea. I’ve always thought of my dad as fearless; if he wanted something, he just went about getting it. I like to think I have some of that in me too.
4. Making your own way. Every now and then my husband has to remind me that we’ll never be handed anything; we’re going to have to work for everything we have. I’ve known this along, because it’s the same message my father always delivered to me – count on yourself and you’ll never be disappointed – but every now and then I would forget it; usually at those times where you just look to the sky and say “Really? Really?” because you can’t imagine any worse luck, taking on any further burden, or having anything else go wrong. But I’ve always had confidence in myself, and now I’ve also got my husband to count on, and I think we’re doing pretty good.
5. Jumper cables. I still have the set that my father gave me when turned 16 years old and got my first car. No matter where I’ve lived, eventually everyone always figures out that I’m the person that has the jumper cables in the neighborhood (as our mailman did about 3 weeks ago). I’ve received more compliments on a) the fact that I have jumper cables b) what a nice set they are and c) that I actually know how to use them!
6. Change. The amount of change in our lives when I was growing up is probably directly related to #3 above. My father was never afraid to make a change. If he wanted a better (or warmer) life, he evaluated what needed to be done and a plan was put into action. This applies to himself - his hobbies and his work life - but also to the family. We moved a lot; I attended 8 schools in 12 years, but looking back it was a great lesson to not accept less. Less than what you want. Less than what you dream for. I took this example to heart and moved so much in my 20s that family members learned to record my new address in pencil, not pen, lest they loose an entire page in their address book to scratch-outs. But I don’t regret any move (location or career), even though some were lateral changes, they all led me to where I’m at today and that’s a great place!
7. Mirrors. No, not those mirrors, the mirrors on your car. Growing up I had a horse and so therefore we also had a horse trailer. When I turned 16 my dad said that I could start driving myself to horse shows – as soon as I could back the truck (a regular pick up truck with a cap on the back – which means you can’t look out the back window!) and trailer up our driveway, from one end to the other. No big deal you say? Our driveway was almost a half-mile long, had two hills, and more curves than Pamela Anderson. I practiced every day after school and after about a month I took the test, and passed. At virtually every show I ever attended, I was asked to back up somebody’s rig for them; I was the go-to person after they had seen me park mine. To this day I back up my car with the side mirrors even though I can see out the back window, something my mother commented on during her last visit; “Just like your father, you back up with the side mirrors.” I took it as a complement.
8. Leadership. As I mentioned above my father has started and sold 3 very successful companies during his life and at each he developed a strong following of dedicated and satisfied employees. No matter your background, pedigree, resume, or degree - my father values people – and those people that he values are treated and appreciated accordingly. This is a strong contributing factor to his success. The number one reason employees leave a company is always thought to be money. It isn’t, that’s just something employers tell themselves to justify the turnover. It’s lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for their work. I’ve tried to apply the same principles in my career and based on feedback from the people I’ve worked with, and for over the years, I think I’m on the right track.
9. Letting go. My dad’s got a temper and I inherited that from him in spades. I’m not thanking him for that, because sometimes even I hate my temper (it can frighten those around me), but what I remember most about my dad’s temper was how quickly it passed. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a real shuttle-launch (his term, not mine, but he does use it to describe me – I’m enjoying turning the tables on him :o), but once the initial blast was over, it was all about moving on. I’m exactly the same way. If I have to have a temper, I take a small amount of solace in the fact that I don’t scorch the earth – just the immediate area around the launch pad.
10. For being the family’s “go-to-guy”. My dad has been everyone’s go-to-guy for as long as I can remember. He just knows things, and people. No matter what the issue, people would call my father. He’d have an answer, or at least an idea, or know who to call for the same if he came up blank. This has been a heavy burden over the years; family funerals come to mind – there’s always one person who must carry the weight for those who are unable to in their grief and more often than not that’s been my dad. He’s always there for anyone who calls. Sometimes it’s his time, experience, connections or advice – but I believe people think of my dad like State Farm; he’ll always be there when you need him most. I know I do.