Lessons from Dad

Published 8:56 pm Monday, July 22, 2019

A couple of years ago, we said good-bye to my father. To me, he was many things. Like most parents, he was a teacher. My father was a very savvy businessman. He taught me what it was to be a professional. My father was never a chief executive officer, or overtly ambitious. He was clearly sought after (I never knew how much until recent years) and had a great deal of influence. My father was a true professional, and he taught me what that means. Here are the essentials of what he taught.

  • You can always dress down, but it is often too late to dress up. There is nothing worse than walking into a room full of suits in a polo shirt. That is why Dad always wore a suit or sport coat and a tie. He could always take off the tie and roll up his sleeves to be more casual. He always had a laundered shirt, sport coat and tie behind his door on dress-down days. You never knew who you may be called to meet with. When you fly, you dress for the meeting, not in travel clothes. You never know what may happen to your luggage.
  • Everybody is somebody. This was said to me recently, but it truly embodied my father. He once said, you never know who will be your next boss. Could be the annoying new guy, or the one who always talks poorly behind everyone’s back. I remember picking up an Egg McMuffin for the security guard when I went to work with Dad on a Saturday. You would have thought we had brought him gold. It was not until I became a business leader that I understood the real value of a $1 breakfast sandwich. At the end of the day, it is all about relationships. You surround yourself with the right people, and life is better. Not easier, or smoother, just better. You value every one, show appreciation, then it is not difficult to get help when you need it.
  • There’s nothing like a handwritten note. My father worked before email and texting. Like his mother, he wrote many notes to colleagues, friends and his kids. As we cleaned up the house, I found a stack that he had sent me in college. One even still had a $5 bill in it (thanks for the ice cream money, Dad). Sometimes the notes were stern, telling me to get it done. Others shared funny stories of him, my mom and their friends. They often had newspaper clippings, comic strips or money. As I reviewed them, I could see him concluding his day, writing his notes. I was fortunate enough to be one of the recipients. Through the years, I have run into former work colleagues of Dad’s. As conversation would sometimes linger, they would share the impact of a note from my father. In a world of digital where we scan past a laundry list of emails, there is nothing like receiving and opening a handwritten note — then putting it in a drawer and rediscovering it at a time you most need it.
  • Own your mistakes, and learn from them. Despite some recollections, my father was far from perfect. He was a faith-filled person. He never shied from a mistake he made or the chance to correct it. I will never forget, I worked near Dad and would swing by to have lunch with him. One day was a bad day. A colleague was working with Dad on a presentation and messed up the numbers. Dad couldn’t go because he needed to fix “his mistake.” When I asked why the other guy wasn’t fixing it, Dad explained it was better to be remembered for the solution, than for whom you blamed for the mistake.

These simple lessons remain timeless. I feel they are timeless. In a time when people confuse views, likes and shares as having impact or reach, I can say that I noticed the real influence of my father, standing in a full church, as so many paid their respects and shared the joy of his presence.
Thanks, Dad!

Patrick Belcher works with local non-profit organizations. He can be reached at patrick@pbjmarcomm.net.

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