When I interviewed for my current job, I had to meet with the CEO as a part of the process. His interview, I was warned, was not going to be based on the technical skills that the job required, as he trusted those that had already interviewed me to judge that. His goal was to see if I was a personality fit. I had no idea what to expect. He then asked me, “What traits did you get from your father that you are most proud of?” I answered, didn’t think much of it, but looking back, realize that it’s a question we should all ask ourselves.
We all have said, “Oh no! I’m turning into my parents!” when we do something that makes us feel like we’re getting old. But what about when we do something good? We don’t often give credit when we exhibit a positive behavior Dad or Mom modeled.
My dad is one of my best friends, and someone I admire a lot. He grew up in a small town in southern Ohio, had a paper route as a kid, played football in high school, and worked various jobs (including a summer stint as an ice cream man) to put himself through college. He progressed through several finance jobs before moving into the role of CFO at various hospitals around the country. In my almost 36 years, he has given me a lot of great advice.
These are some of the most important lessons that I have learned from my dad:
Sometimes, you have to be your own cheerleader.
When I was in my 20s, I would complain to my dad about not getting the kudos at work I felt I deserved. He told me that it is unrealistic to expect that I would get a big deal made every time I did something well, and that I should learn to be proud of myself. It’s one of the greatest lessons he taught me, and it took me until I was in my 30s to really “get it.” What’s funny is that I now almost find myself embarrassed when I get called out publicly for something I did well. It’s quite a change from how I was just a decade ago!
Strive to do your best.
I was a straight-A student for most of my academic life, and am still a perfectionist. I always judged my accomplishments against a grade or compared them to other’s achievements. Then it happened – I took an Algebra class in high school that, despite hours of studying and hard work, resulted in my first C. I was so scared that I was going to disappoint my dad. Instead of getting a lecture, he sat me down and asked me one simple question – “Did you do your best?” When I responded that I had, he said “Then that is all I can ask of you. I will never be disappointed in your grades if you can come to me and tell me that you worked your hardest to achieve that grade.” His attitude was, and is, that no matter what you do in life, if you strive to do your best, and give every challenge your utmost effort, you should never be disappointed in yourself.
There is no norm.
My dad can fit into any group. He’s been the sharp businessman in the fancy suit and he’s been the bearded biker in the leather vest. He’s mastered the boardroom and the cornhole board. The reason he does so well in these seemingly different worlds is that he doesn’t see the people as all that different. He taught me that everyone has something to offer and if you judge someone by how they look or where they’re from, you’re going to miss out. People’s different upbringing gives them new perspectives and you’ll get to enjoy those varying points of view if you remember that everyone has a story to tell.
Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Growing up, I always remember my dad pining for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He was not an experienced rider, but he loved the idea of living the Harley lifestyle – hitting the open road, finding new adventures, and leaving the stresses of everyday behind you. He finally got his bike in his 40s, learned to ride it, and now goes on bi-annual cross-country trips to visit our family in Memphis. He has never been afraid to try something new, whether it’s running a half marathon, or eating escargot for the first time (which he did during one of his first business dinners). His good example and support helped me start trying one new experience every year before my birthday. I have had experiences that I loved, like participating in the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, and experiences that didn’t work out so well, like the time I took a motorcycle safety class with him, and discovered that I am too intimidated to ride safely on the open road. No matter what the outcome, the important thing was that I pushed myself to try something new.
There are dozens more ways that I find myself emulating traits that I see in my dad, but these four things seem to be the ones I see most often in my day-to-day life. I am really proud to be my father’s daughter, and his friend.
The next time you find yourself complaining that you are acting just like your mom or dad, I challenge you to stop and come up with one behavior that your mom or dad influenced that you are proud of.