When my parents started their family, they were young. He could have ran away, but he didn’t. Instead, he spent less time with his band and more time looking for work. Over time, he built a reputable career as a carpenter while raising five kids. He was determined and focused on both his family and his work. He worked hard to provide for us, and worked hard to create lasting memories.
Later in life, with the encouragement of my brothers and me, he and a close friend started their own construction company. Their successful company would win contracts not just based on price, but on the integrity of their word and the quality of their work. In the construction business, especially in the Chicagoland area, this is quite an accomplishment.
So to my dad I say: while it’s hard to just pick a few of my favorites from the many lessons you’ve taught me, I’ve tried my best. Dad, thank you for teaching me these 10 lessons:
- Expect more of yourself. You not only modeled the intense power of self-expectation, you demanded the same from us. You didn’t tolerate “mediocre” performance from your kids, because you knew we were smart, talented and capable. You always insisted we did our best, no matter if it we were doing our chores, school work, or jobs.
- Complaining doesn’t solve problems or get you ahead. There were a lot of things in your life that you could have complained about, yet you didn’t. You didn’t let your kids complain. You reminded us that we had so much in our lives—and that no amount of complaining will solve a problem or move you forward. You correctly taught us that complaining was a waste of energy—energy that we could use towards actually solving the problem or driving towards a goal.
- Do stuff that you’re scared of. I remember driving through downtown Chicago and asking you to point out all the buildings in which you had put windows. I thought it was cool that you had a small part in creating my favorite skyline in the world. What I hadn’t fully appreciated until I was much older is the courage that it required for you to work on those windows, considering you are scared of heights. That’s just one example of how you didn’t let fear hold you back—in fact you leaned into many things that you were scared of. I imagine raising a family at such a young age was another one of those things. Whenever I’m scared to do something, I remember how you didn’t let fear hold you back, and I lean in.
- Each generation should be better than the previous. This is your measure of success in your life. And I want to tell you that you’ve accomplished it. Your kids are successful, happy, confident and have a strong sense of ethics and responsibity. Your grandkids are well cared for and set-up for success in life. We will hold ourselves to this same high standard, and hopefully our kids feel that we’ve done as well for them as our parents have done for us.
- Music is awesome. Your musical talent and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of this art has been such a great gift. I could sit and listen to you play your guitar for hours—and have fond memories of doing so as a kid. You cultivated an appreciation of music in all of us, and this appreciation helped drive my love of dance, provide an emotional outlet during tough times, and connect with different people, places, times and cultures. Now, when I see my young daughters writing songs and playing the guitar and piano, I can’t help but have a big smile on my face, knowing that your spirit is living within them.
- Education is a key differentiator. You may not have finished high school the traditional route. But you did get your GED and, as you jokingly remind us, even some college credits. You were working hard in the extremes of the Chicago weather to provide for us, so you didn’t have the luxury of getting more education, but you did instill in us that education was the key to a better life. This lesson, together with a mom that believed and modeled the power of this lesson, has led to 4 bachelors and 3 graduate degrees (with at least one more on the way) among your 5 kids.
- Care less about what others think of you. I’ve wasted a lot of energy in my life worrying about what others think of me. Every time I let someone else’s opinion of me have too strong of an influence, you reign me in and remind me that what matters most is what I think of myself. That’s the standard I should live up to (and as mentioned earlier, those expectations should be high).
- It’s not the size of your bank account that matters. It’s how well your family is loved. While we always had a roof over our head, there were times where money was scarce. And yet, as children, we never realized it. We were too busy laughing, playing, and having fun. You were driven by your love for us, and we experienced that love every day. When I think about my childhood, I don’t remember what we didn’t have, but rather I think about all the love we felt.
- I can do anything a man can do. As a daughter, this was a powerful lesson. You didn’t tell me I couldn’t do things because I was a girl. You expected the same of me and my sister as you did of our three brothers. Whether it was handing us tools to help remodel the house or pushing us to continue our education, the boys and girls in our house received equal treatment. Now, as an adult and working professional, I expect to be treated equal, and know that it’s possible. This lesson has not only influenced my career, but influences how I raise my two daughters. The fact that I can also take care of things around my house on my own is pretty cool too 😉
- Family comes first. Always. You sacrificed a lot for your family. Whether it was your dream of becoming a rock star or buying stuff for us instead of yourself, you sacrificed your wants to put us first. We were your purpose in life. Yes, your career was important and you were very successful. But you never put your career before us. To this very day, you continue to make sacrifices for your kids and grandkids. Thank you for all you’ve done for us. And for modeling how we should live our own lives.
I’m so blessed to have an amazing dad. I’m also blessed to have a wonderful stepdad who reinforces these lessons, both in how he lives and how he encourages us. My brothers are amazing dads as well and I learn a lot by watching them. Thank you to all of you for modeling what a honorable man is. This is a great gift not only to me, but to my daughters as well.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!