1. Treat Everyone Like a VIP
My dad worked hard and he progressed rapidly up the corporate ladder. Late one evening we stopped by his office in Santa Monica. As we entered the tall building my dad personally greeted the security guard. In the elevator he talked to another security guard and as we exited onto his floor he greeted the cleaning crew. What impressed me was the depth of communication my dad had with all of them. He asked about their families, he knew the names of their children and he showed a genuine interest in their well-being.
My dad had a large network of friends, colleagues and family. I remember seeing him write hundreds of letters and messages to send in personalized birthday cards. He kept a detailed calendar and he always seemed to remember birthdays with a card or phone call. He treated everyone like they were important.
2. Give Back
Community service was a big part of my dad’s life, particularly church. Our family attended church every Sunday and I remember seeing both of my parents actively involved in serving others. When someone needed help, my dad was one of the first to volunteer. I remember many times in the winter when he would help people get home when their cars were stuck in the snow.
3. Show Up
I remember that whenever my dad made a commitment to do something he was there. Not only was he there, but he was out front doing everything he could to make the event better. He never asked someone to do a job that he was not willing to do himself.
4. Make Family a Priority
I remember my dad going to work extremely early every morning to avoid rush hour traffic. He left work in the evenings to be home in time for dinner. We ate dinner together as a family almost every evening.
Dad also knew how to make chores fun. I remember once he let the grass grow a bit longer than usual and then he mowed various patterns. As a child I remember running all over the backyard along these newly created paths. Certainly it would have been faster for him to just mow the lawn, but he saw the value in creating family time.
It was easy to talk with my dad. We often had late night snacks around the kitchen table where we would talk and have competitions like seeing who could eat the most jalapeno peppers.
5. Take Time to Play
My dad knew the value of spending time to relax and recharge. I remember dad waking up early on the weekends to spend time in the garden. Many of his activities included the family. Some of the ways he relaxed included skiing, hiking, camping, golfing, watching movies and listening to music.
6. Keep a Positive Attitude
When my dad was 45 years old he was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma. He spent the next twelve years having numerous operations and struggling with poor health. During that time I remember him having a positive attitude. Often, when others would come to visit him in his frail condition, he ended up making them feel better.
7. Leave Things Better Than You Found Them
My dad showed me how to leave things better than I found them. This included things like cleaning up other people’s trash left at picnic sites and tidying up neighbors’ yards.
Once my dad needed to borrow a neighbor’s shovel. It was old and a bit worn out. Before my dad returned it he sanded the wood handle, stained it and removed the rust from the shovel. It looked brand new when he took it back to the neighbor.
I have learned a lot of valuable lessons from both of my parents. Of course there are many more lessons I could add to this list. If I can teach even just a few of these lessons to my family I will feel successful.
What lessons have you learned from your parents?