My father took his role as a parent seriously and frequently reminded my siblings and me that certain values were important to him. He unabashedly told us at different times that if we wanted to make him happy, we too would abide by these five principles: And conversely, if we didn’t, well…he’d be deeply disappointed. Somehow, he pulled this head-trip off in that we all listened to him and have been fairly consistent in following his charge. Probably because he preached to us 5 percent of the time and he was light hearted and playful with us for the other 95 percent.
Be Honest in all Business Dealings: My dad treated all of his employees like family. He endeared his many employees and colleagues as he cared about their personal needs and treated them with respect and equality. I have one friend who worked for my father who repeatedly tells me how he accommodated her scheduling needs to leave early on Fridays and gave her encouragement that she was doing the right thing for balancing her work and family life. His fairness and empathy actually inspired her to work harder, more efficiently and put in extra time on other days to make up for this lost time at work. She liked working for my dad, appreciated his genuine concern for her as a person, and that endeared her so in turn she wanted to earn his respect.
Shoot Your Arrows High and Aim Them: My dad was not saying that we could do absolutely anything but he was trying to communicate that we shouldn’t place arbitrary limits on what we could accomplish if we were driven to pursue something. He was trying to build our esteem, help us see our capabilities and encourage us so we wouldn’t be sidetracked by naysayers who questioned our goals and/or our abilities. My dad made me feel that obstacles were merely there to overcome; He admired those who took initiative, pursued higher education and acquired practical skills. He also encouraged us to associate with high quality people who were smart, had good values and were focused on doing good and being resourceful. This is how he defined success.
Look Out for the Underdog: Despite the fact that he was known to be a tough guy, my dad showed us he had a soft spot for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves. He did what he could to help people out who couldn’t afford his services. He stopped bullying wherever he saw it (sometimes risking his own personal safety) as he cared more about justice than anything else.
Make Sure You Protect Your Good Name: My father took this principle to heart. He told us about many opportunities (business deals) he passed up where he could have made a lot more money but it would have required him to be attached to unsavory people who in his eyes had questionable morals. His good name, he said, was the only thing that would be eternal and no amount of money would tempt him to give that up.
Anticipate Your Mother’s Needs: This was the hardest one for us kids to understand. After all, we couldn’t read our mother’s mind and even if we didn’t anticipate her needs she would still love us all unconditionally. In retrospect, what my father was trying to teach us was that we should not be strictly focused on our own needs. He wanted us to think about my mother and her pressures so we would stop for a minute and focus on everything that was being done for us; His goal was to get us to think about everything that was needed to run the house and to find an area where we could make it easier and better for my mom. This exercise was an essential ingredient for teaching us empathy. It also translates perfectly into a skill needed in today’s competitive workplace. The most valued employees do more than just what’s required of them, they go above and beyond the call of duty to anticipate the “pain points” of the business and try to lighten their boss’s load.
So in short, I have some heavy superego stuff swimming around here in this article but each has helped me ensure that my career (and life) choices were based on more than my immediate needs. Whether I’m coaching students, speaking or volunteering I have these ideas in mind. It helps me focus on what’s important and model the lessons I teach clients so they see what it feels like to work with someone who is anticipating and attentive to their needs, ethical, fair and focused on helping them reach their highest potential. Thanks Dad! Your wisdom was good for mom, good for your marriage, good for your kids and great advice for aspiring young grads who are trying to get ahead (and sleep soundly) in today’s challenging workplace.