Last weekend I went to visit my dad’s final resting place. Beautiful spot at Ft Rosecrans National Cemetery with breathtaking views of San Diego and Coronado.
It was the day before Father’s Day in 2008 and the US Open was in San Diego. We were going to watch the action that weekend on TV and in person. Instead, my sisters and I were huddled around him, preparing ourselves for the inevitable.
Two weeks before his death, we were out golfing. He had been battling cancer. He had lost tons of weight. He was losing his balance and barely finished the round. He never complained. He never griped. He pushed through. It was my last round with him (I think he beat me as usual). A week before that, he had a hole in one on his home course. This was the second time on the same hole. I wish I had been there.
Family: My parents divorced when I was young and I didn’t see my dad much for a few years. After my sisters started having kids, the ritual of 2 Christmas celebrations, 2 Thanksgivings (or one @ each) evolved into everyone being together at the same time for everything. I am sure this awkward for the adults at first but it meant a lot to the younger generations.
Anytime anyone needed anything done around our houses, dad was there. He would help lay tile, install kitchens, build walls, or just about anything else. He even rebuilt my car after I crashed into a tree. This led us all to help each other to this day. Moving or home improvements, just call in the family for help.
In 2002, my wife and I took my mom, my stepdad, my in-laws, my dad, and my stepmom on a cruise. We all sat together at dinner. I challenged the waiter to figure out how we were all related. I don’t think he got one right. I am lucky to have had such a tight family.
It’s hard to be so dedicated to work and remember to put family first. I have forgotten for short periods but am reminded every time I think of dad.
Humor: My dad was funny, witty, and a bit sarcastic. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. He could say things that no one else would get away with. He could say “eff you” with a smile, and mean it but no one ever got mad. He had a way of connecting with people through humor that I have never seen from anyone else.
I picked up much of this sense of humor from him. I even told one of his favorite jokes at his funeral (thanks Xanax!). Laughing makes everything easier.
Love what you do: He worked in the defense contracting business for most of his career after the US Navy. He didn’t particularly like much of the work but loved many of the people. There was quite a bit of travel and writing long proposals over long nights and weekends. He told me stories of delivering proposals with a briefcase literally handcuffed to his arm. That sounded awesome to me.
Because he wasn’t fond of his work, he told me to do what I love, whether it was mopping floors or running a company. He probably only told me this once or twice, but it sticks with me to this day.
Networking: One thing my dad was very proud of was his network. Whenever there was a job change on the horizon, he wouldn’t worry. He said that people will hire him for his Rolodex (if you are under 30, you might have to click the link). He had a vast network of people that would both hire him or buy from him. He had built trust and demonstrated his value to so many people, he never had to worry about a job. We talked frequently about buying a business and running it together. We never went through with it. Maybe it was a good idea not to go into business with family or maybe it would have been awesome.
Networking is a cornerstone that my dad laid for me. It isn’t that I am looking for my next thing. My network helps me all of the time.
Here are some recent, relevant examples:
– 2 years in a row, I received enough contest votes to go to the Superbowl. I wish I could have taken my dad.
– When I needed to change companies, I had a small army of people looking for positions on my behalf with many great leads. Ultimately, my network hired me.
– When I started writing my first blog in March, my network stepped up and helped spread the word. This resulted in thousands of views, likes, and comments.
– I stay in touch and read the posts of my network. They are really smart people to connect with.
We might be the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, but our network can reach thousands. My first and second degree network on Linked in is 308,000 people. That is a lot of people with only one degree of separation.
Commitment: My dad had unrelenting commitment to everything that he decided to do. He never had to say it. He would go to work when he was sick, he would complete projects with a sore back, and he would be there if he said he was going to be there. He didn’t like to golf in the rain, but nothing else stopped him.
When I started working @ McDonald’s at the age of 14, I was the same. I would arrive early and stay late. We broke all kinds of labor laws. When I was working in a hotel and cut 3 of my fingertips off, I only missed 1 day of work (I was in the hospital). I could have taken 3-6 months off. It wasn’t that I was so important or irreplaceable, it was that I had made a commitment to be there.
Both my dad and I have never been a one toe in the water type. If we are in, we are all-in. No wavering, not stopping until the mission is complete. Demonstrating this early in my career led to many opportunities including promotions. It is also great around the house. Putting in the insulation until 3am means that the drywall crew can start working at 7am!
Investing: My dad was a bit materialistic. He liked his toys and loved to show them off. Cars, new golf clubs, the latest TV. I inherited this gene but I also learned to invest from him. He helped me with my first stock trades. I remember at 16, he took some of my money and we made a trade on his account. It was an IPO. I almost doubled my money in a day. I was hooked.
He also invested time to teach me other things that had a return on investment. Doing things myself, investing in myself, and continuous improvement.
We often talked stocks, personal finance, the next toy, or the next project. As I sat at his grave site, I remembered those talks. I hope that I can create those same memories for my daughters.
On this Father’s Day weekend, I am proud that I have become a mini-me version of my dad. While I wish he was still here, I am thankful for the time we had together and the lessons he taught me. He guided me to be a better father, leader, and person.
– My dad with most of his grandchildren