Saturday, June 17, 2017

I Learned from my Father

Lately my house has been a frenzy of graduation prepping, picture taking, formal ceremonies, and congratulatory parties. I am blaming all of this wonderful craziness for allowing Father's Day to sneak up on me. So here I stand on the threshold of Father's Day, realizing I have yet to write down any personal thoughts.  No better time than the present.

It seems to me that much of what we gain from a father—what we learn from him—comes through observing the way he lives his life.  What I wrote two years ago I still believe to be true.


"The greatest lessons I learned from my father didn't come from lectures or discipline or even time spent together. What has stuck with me is his example. From watching, I chose whether to be or not to be like him." 
— Richelle E. Goodrich (Smile Anyway)

Example is a mighty teacher, but that was not all my father offered me.  He was good for words of advice that fell from his mouth more than once.  One of his top maxims helped solidify my self-confidence at a young age:  "Do your best and nothing less."  He told me this when I first started school, and I took those words to heart, believing on some internal level that it was my duty.  As a result, I put forth my best effort in school and in developing budding talents. That full effort to "do my best" made my accomplishments more impressive than they might have been otherwise.  In the process, I earned compliments and recognition that bolstered my developing confidence.  Thanks to my father, I have seldom considered any goal above my ability to achieve.  

Another repeated word of advice I heard often was "Don't waste your time worrying about what other people think of you.  So long as you can look yourself in the eye every morning with a clear conscience, that's all that matters."  I will admit, criticism and praise both affect me. Words have that power over most human beings.  But this advice from my father did help develop a most unique and useful ability. I take criticism and hold it apart from me like a book which I read and evaluate and then toss aside if my own opinion differs.  Likewise, I have learned to treat praise in a similar manner, appreciating kind words but then setting them aside rather than internalizing what might puff up my ego.  My father taught me to form my own opinions and to be true to them.  People will enter and exit my life, but I am eternally stuck with me.  So, as Shakespeare declared, "To thine own self be true."  I do not mean in an egotistical or selfish manner, rather showing sincerity and goodness to oneself.  The same as you show to others.

I recall one day coming home from work—one of my first jobs after high school—and grumbling to my father about how difficult the work was and how my boss wanted a greater amount of production from me than I felt able to give.  I wanted to quit.  And why not?  I was unhappy.  The job was a menial position that could easily be replaced by another.  Why return to more days—weeks—months of having to endure criticism from a grumpy boss?  My father set the bar for me at that moment, one I would sustain for the rest of my life. He said, "You don't quit.  Struggling at work, being unhappy, feeling disliked, enduring rebuke, or any other hardship that might come along is no excuse to quit.  You get in there and you work hard. You make yourself reliable and teachable and available.  And after all of that, if they fire you then fine—they fire you at your best.  But you don't quit."

So I went back to my lousy job and did as my father said.  I worked hard.  I learned to move faster.  I found ways to make better use of my time.  By the end of that year, my grumpy boss promoted me to assistant supervisor overseeing the other workers.  I was given the task of scheduling hours and granted the power to fire and hire employees in certain positions.  My father taught me that rewards do come to those who stay the course and endure well. You don't quit.

There are many other things I learned from my father, other words of advice that helped shape my character.  I won't list them all.  I think I turned out alright by him.  So I would like to say "Thank you, Dad" for the valuable lessons. I love you and wish you a very happy Father's Day.








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