Happy Father’s Day! 7 Life Lessons Learned from My Father

  1. Whatever you do, do it 100%. – My father taught me to water ski when I was 7 years old. I remember the little red skis with the white string to keep them together. It was not long before I was popping out of the water and criss-crossing back and forth across the wakes. My dad would sit me on the edge of the boat, put my skis on and pick up my little body and toss me in the water unceremoniously. I’d fly through the air, hit the water, the skis would threaten to drag me down and drown me, so I had no other recourse but to start doggy paddling like hell in a frenzy of fear and determination. Just matter of fact like that and then he’d walk away without looking back. It was always a sink or swim moment and I learned from an early age to keep my head above water, to hustle hard, and it is the most valuable skill I learned for adult life in the rat race. Fathers are good about that. Mothers will hover over you and helicopter you out of love. But Fathers will throw you in and feign to walk away, knowing that is the best thing for you and it is also an equal love, just a different kind, perhaps a better kind in the long run.
  2. Hold on no matter what. – Another water skiing lesson. After a few rounds about the lake going at an easy pace, we’d generally pick up speed or go over rougher waves or even go in tight circles. My forearms would get really sore but I got a reputation for hanging on. I wasn’t the kind of kid that could get thrown easily and I never went down without a stubborn fight or total wipe out with water going up my nose. I learned that life would be like a Tetris game or maybe Lucille Ball working in the Chocolate Factory with the conveyor belt speeding up and she’s stuffing chocolates in her bra to keep going with the supervisor yelling in the background to move faster. I learned from lesson #2 that you had to work hard and stubbornly maintain your work and speed because eventually, things are bound to get rougher and harder down the road. Show up to work most every day. Be present. Clear your desk as much as you can. Don’t get behind. Work earlier or later if needed so your “tetris pieces” or piles of paper don’t start stacking higher and higher. Whatever you do in life, do it with intensity. Even if things get faster and more out of hand just go with the flow and ride the waves as long as you can. If you succeed, succeed immensely. If you fail, fail brutally and embarassingly. The kind of wipeout that makes everyone laugh and ask if you’re ok and becomes a great story in hindsight. But just know, either way, there is no room for regret that you didn’t try hard enough. Avoid being lukewarm.
  3. Being strategic is far wiser than being charismatic. – Strategy will get you a long ways but it requires some important elements, listening and learning to move in silence. You must be willing to sacrifice ego to attain greater goods of security and persistence. “We spend our first 2 years learning to talk and all the rest of our lives, learning to be silent.” – Aristotle. My father was a vice president at a university for 30 some years. He managed the money. He was a strong, silent type that came in to work daily, did his accounting, and then went home to his wife and kids and his gardens. Many times, he would listen and give wise counsel but he never really stepped up to be the charismatic designated leader of the organization although he was the influence behind it. Presidents came and went and he stayed on through the years. Being the bureaucratic leader is a far more sustainable and advantageous position within government and where the real power lies, the power to raise up presidents and the power to undermine their authority if necessary to maintain the rule of law. If you don’t believe me, look at the Executive Branch.
  4. The best way to get along in the work place is to be quiet. – Adopt an attitude of calmness and others will feel that. “Aggressive people are a vexation of the spirit.” – The Desiderata. Think like a flight attendant and remain calm under most all circumstances. The more drama and gossip you involve in, the worse the work environment becomes for all members. Punch in. Do your work. Go home. When you get home, don’t discuss work. Keep home life and work life two separate spheres in order to maintain the peace, calm, and happiness of your home. I struggle very hard with this one personally as I often want to confide my work problems with my husband but as I get older, I learn that it really does him no good and instantly turns his attitude sour and pessimistic. If you love your family, do not burden them. If you gotta sit out in the car in the driveway a few more minutes and relax a bit or maybe hit the gym to release pent-up frustration, try to do so. My father used to go to work, come home and have dinner every night at the head of the table with us and then disappear for a few hours to watch television in his room. I get it now. Television has a way of mellowing a person out and instantly improving their mood. It is easy, effortless, and sometimes entertaining. As I get older, I realize that one must strike a careful balance between play and work every day. If you grind 8 hours and drive 2 hours and then cook dinner and clean dinner and do laundry until 8 or 9…….you are just burning yourself out internally. You need down time to maintain a positive mood which is the number one determinant of future success. Work smarter, not harder. You can get more done in the workplace with others with the right personality and attitude. What is that line, you can catch more with honey….something like that.
  5. Manage by walking around. – If you really want to know what is going on at the front line level in your organization, you must leave your office and be seen. Get out on the factory floor everyday and make yourself accessible to others. When I took classes at the university, I would often see my dad do this. He’d be examining the flower beds or talking to a custodian or I’d see him maybe talking to a faculty member here or there. He was observing what people needed help with and he’d go back to his office and work on those little things for them. The little things eventually become the big things if not attended to. During his tenure, the university campus was the most beautiful I had seen with carefully manicured and attended to lawns and the university was constantly in the process of building and acquiring donated funds from community contributors to expand in technology and engineering and the arts. “Pumping the flesh” as they call it, or shaking hands on all levels, is a very important part of managing. Like Zig Ziglar says in regards to sales, when you meet someone for the first time, learn what they are in need of and help them to fulfill that need and you will develop a life-long client.
  6. Leadership is not about you, it’s about being of service to others. – Go to work with the frame of mind that you are providing customer service to everyone that enters your office. What can you do to help them today? When you answer the phone, ask them how you can help them. Build networks through being of service to others and in turn, when you need help, they will be of service to you. Humble yourself and you will connect better with others.
  7. The best leaders are the ones who don’t want the job but take it because it needs to be done. – They see a vacuum and they fill it because they are responsible, not because they want the attention or the power.

What are the best lessons you learned from your father? You can share them here if you want to. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend!

Author: J. Speer

I like to write. I have 5 books currently on Amazon, mostly fiction. I try to write positive and uplifting children's stories, expressive poetry for women, and interesting articles about personal growth, alternative medicine, and spirituality. My stories are often about diverse people but with human connection in mind through inner perspective. I love my characters especially the ones from my first book, Searching for Fire. I moved recently to Vermont. I live in the North Country region near Lake Willoughby, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. My heart will always be with Kansas but I love travel and meeting new people with diverse perspectives on life. I have found Vermonters to have many admirable qualities like stoicism and a love and stewardship of nature. My hobbies are writing, gardening, outdoor activities like kayaking, fishing, and hiking. I am an amateur herbalist. Many years ago, an alternative medicine doctor cured me of a respiratory illness by teaching me about vitamins and for that, I owe her a debt of gratitude. I recently bought a Jeep Wrangler that fits my personality and love for adventure. Associated with the military in my younger years, I have lived in Israel, Germany, and Virginia as well - all of which I loved in different ways. I thoroughly believe in the military spouse phrase, "bloom where you are planted" and endeavor to carry a positive optimism wherever I roam. Most days are good but admittedly I get down sometimes. I am prone to sadness or severe cynicism at times, so I turn to music as my consolation and source of expression or inspiration. My favorite songs currently are "How Deep is Your Love" by the Beegees, "La Vie en Rose", "A Million Dreams" or maybe Karen Carpenter singing "Close to You" or Elton John singing "Your Song." I also like "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us" by Starship or "I'll Stand by You" by The Pretenders. "Faithfully" by Journey always reminds me of rollerskating with friends in the 1980s. My favorite quotes are from the Velveteen Rabbit, Steve Jobs, and this one..."To the caterpillar it was the end of the world, but to the butterfly it was merely a beautiful beginning." Or there is the quote from Peter Pan teaching Wendy..."What if I fall? But, oh my darling, what if you fly?" I also believe in being a pearl - graceful on the outside but full of grit and gratitude on the inside. My favorite women of the Bible are Ruth, Hannah, and Hagar. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Cheers, friend.

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