5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Father
My oldest daughter Madison was excited to be interviewed for this article because, as she so bluntly put it, she’s had “a very unusual upbringing.”
You see, she was raised by a coach (me)—a dad who spent many professional hours working with CEOs and entrepreneurs learning how to be better leaders and how to make their businesses run more efficiently. Naturally, some of those lessons and discussions made their way to the dinner table from time to time.
Fast-forward to present day. Madison is in college, majoring in theatre performance. Some might say it’s a far cry from the world of business, but could the business lessons we adapted for home throughout her childhood apply to her current career choice?
Here’s some of the advice that still rings true for Madison today, and could apply for your life and business as well.
1. Prepare for each moment to be a learning moment.
“Growing up, Dad taught my sister and me that, to be adaptable and successful, we had to be prepared for learning moments, which might not always be comfortable. Success never comes without taking risks, and there will always be surprises along the way. Dad taught me to use every experience in my life as a foundational moment—not to be stopped by adversity, to look for and learn from the lessons from any situation and build from there. College is the perfect place to practice this. Whether inside or outside of class, I’m always looking for learning moments, and I welcome new experiences.”
Madison is right (of course). Taking a risk will have one of two outcomes: The situation will work out positively or it won’t. Either way, you’ll learn something. It’s true for everyone from students to leaders; learning should never end.
2. Stick to your goals.
“From my early teenage years, Dad encouraged me to set goals, whether it was something as simple as picking up a hobby, trying a new sport or learning a new skill. Setting measurable goals didn’t have to be rigorous, they just had to be things that were important to us and could be achieved.
“To this day, I still keep a list of goals. Although I’m not quite as organized as I would like to be—classes and social plans often bump me slightly off track—I still make it a priority to outline the steps necessary to reach my goals and watch how I’m progressing.”
The goals you set in life shouldn’t be too lofty. They should be attainable, actionable and forward-looking. Everyone gets sidetracked, but if you learn the value of proper goal-setting early on, the benefits will follow you throughout your life and career.
3. Preparation is the key to lower stress.
“When I showed up to college for my freshman year, I saw frantic students everywhere, trying to manage all of their newfound responsibility. I must have stood out, because I wasn’t really sweating the small stuff. I felt mentally prepared, and that made a huge difference.
“I’m almost through my first year, and I still feel prepared, because I had all the goal-setting, money and time-management skills established before I left home. And, yes, I will admit to Dad (and the world) that it’s due in part to the skills I learned growing up.”
Naturally, hearing that makes a dad proud. Priority management in particular is something that many people in business—even company leaders—still have not mastered. The earlier you learn it and practice it, the better.
4. Give people your support, but give practical and real advice at the same time.
“Growing up, when my dad gave advice, he always made it clear that he had our best interests at heart. And it was clear that he had the skills and experience to back up what he was telling us. However, sometimes the advice he dished out was not the advice I wanted. In fact, sometimes it was downright annoying and was most certainly not always fun. But looking back, I know he was teaching me the exact lessons I needed at the moment, and that has been important for me to realize. I now do that same thing for others.”
No matter how old you are or what your position, it’s important to surround yourself with people who will not only build you up but also be there when you need help or a dose of reality—offering real counsel to make you a better leader. Just as Madison said, a true mentor isn’t there to hurt you, but to give you the right advice at the right moment.
5. Value your friends and your family. Make time for both.
“Luckily, I was raised by a dad who had crazy hours and an insane day-to-day schedule. People ask me, ‘Why is that lucky?’
“Thanks to his busy professional life, Dad had to learn how to prioritize time for himself and his family, and it took work. Of all the lessons I’ve learned from him, this is the one I remember each day. Dad put relationships first, and in addition to setting aside time to make sure he was available to all of us, he also made it a tradition to take my sister and me on individual father-daughter trips each year (something we still do).”
This lesson can’t be overstated, and I had to learn it myself: It’s imperative that you don’t get too caught up in business and forget to make your personal life a priority. Set aside dedicated time for your personal well-being and for family. It might seem cumbersome in the beginning, but doing so will actually increase your productivity at the office, which is a win-win.
It’s gratifying to watch Madison as she continues to benefit from the skills she learned as a youth. Aside from being humbled by such an amazing daughter, I’m grateful that my informative (at times maybe incessant) lessons have stayed with her through childhood, teenage years and into college. This will give her a head start as she enters the business world, and she’ll be at an advantage wherever she goes.
Take a moment to look at how you can learn a little bit every day. Be prepared. Set goals and work to attain them. Get help along the way where you need it, and always put people first. Madison has a head start. Are you ready for the challenge?