I am very fortunate to have had multiple “father figures” in my life to learn from. Each of them taught me vastly different life-lessons. They did not preach their ways to me. Instead, they simply lived their lives and I gained valuable insight just by hanging around them. As Father’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking about them. I will take a moment to share some of the things I picked up from them over the years.
My dad taught me there is no substitute for hard work. He did not own a company. He was not the President or senior executive. He wasn’t a manager. Titles did not matter to him. He showed up every day to perform a service and he did his job until he couldn’t do so anymore. Today I find myself attracted to professionals, regardless of title, that commit themselves to their company and their profession and who put in a full day’s work.
My step-dad taught me the importance of having sports in my life. He loved professional sports, especially football and baseball. His teams were the NY Mets and the NY Giants. Every Sunday during football season he would sit in front of the television to watch is Giants play. I don’t recall him missing any games unless he had to because someone wanted him to be somewhere else. I grew up in the Bronx so it was easy to become a Yankees fan but I think I became a Jets fan because he was a Giants fan. It was fun to root for the other team. I later realized the team we rooted for did not matter. What mattered was having a common bond of sports between us. We sat together and we watched the games. We broke down the plays, the poor officiating, the commentators, the weather and anything else that influenced the outcome of the game. My step father died on super bowl Sunday in January of 1987. Guess what team won the Super Bowl that year and guess what team won the World Series that year? I will give you one clue. It wasn’t my Yankees or Jets.
My boss and business partner for many years taught me a number of tough business lessons. As I reflect back on our years together, two lessons stand out. First, he taught me that no matter how hard I tried, I could not make everyone happy. He would tell me to be consistent in my actions and not to deviate from the plan to please everyone. If they were not interested in you then it probably wasn’t meant to be anyway. Second, he told me to return everyone’s call within 24 hours. If someone calls you, they are important enough to get a return call by the next day. He did not care who called. Everyone got a returned call. With the addition of email, text messaging and social media, I receive fewer phone calls today but the premise remains the same. Be respectful and return communications promptly.
My father-in-law taught me the importance of being there for family. Over the years, I watched in amazement as he always helped out family members in need and how he always found time to be there for his kids and grandkids. When he came to visit us, he wasn’t just there sitting on the couch talking. He got down and dirty playing games with my boys. He was always in shape and played sports well. Looking back, his skill level did not matter. His being there and truly being involved is what we appreciate most.
This Father’s Day, try to find a few moments to write down what life-lessons you learned from the father-figures in your life. I am glad I did. Happy Father’s Day.