Today is my father’s birthday. He’s notoriously difficult to buy gifts for, so this post is one of the ways that I’m marking the occasion! Here are seven gifts that he’s given me that I’m thankful for:
- Expectations. One of the biggest presents my dad ever gave me came in the form of a warning. Before I started college out of state, my dad told me to “Make a B average every semester—or you can come home and study here.” At the time, I wasn’t a bad student, but I had my shares of C’s in Math and Science.
Knowing my dad had confidence in me to perform at a higher level helped me stay focused at school. I missed a lot of weeknights out with my friends, but I didn’t see any C’s. The work paid off when I got into the University of Virginia for grad school--a feat that I could not have imagined after high school Geometry!
- Pride and Non-Prejudice. My dad is a professor, and he takes great pride in the work he undertakes—from his golf swing to his own research and writing. I’ve seen him rehearse a simple lecture reading up to four times just to get the intonation right. But he’s also fully aware—and accepting of the fact that not everyone wants to work as hard as he does. On many holidays, he takes leave of our family for a few hours to help out his students so that they, too, can have a break. He’s a poster “nerd” for work ethic but isn’t judgmental about it. I admire that.
- The importance of heroes. Over the years, I’ve watched my dad go through some tough times—who doesn’t? He’s always persevered, and one of the strategies he uses is to look for guidance from others—both real people and those who lived before us. He keeps quotes and aphorisms everywhere to remind him to keep perspective—it’s a strategy that has worked for me in tough times, too!
- Time management. My dad is a master of getting things done. Borrowing guidance from one of his heroes, the late and renowned physician William Osler to “live in day-tight compartments,” he creates a schedule for himself every day and prioritizes his work. His desk is never completely clear, but he’s consistently making progress. (He’s also a master of the cat nap and an avid Boston Red Sox fan but that is another story.)
- A talent for remembering names and creating long-term relationships in the community. My dad loves to talk to people, and asks everyone their names. As a result, the staff at his local Starbucks has his order memorized, and the dry cleaners know him by sight alone as well. These relationships make even the most mundane errands much more fun.
- Perseverance. Several years ago, my dad wanted to write a book. Like many aspiring authors, he received a polite rejection note from a potential publisher, “We think this is a great concept, but we’re not sure the book will sell.” He surveyed the needs of his potential audience, pitched the book on his own, and presented the would-be publisher with an advance order of several thousand copies. They published the book.
- The ability to make the most of any moment. My dad once taught me to “shag” (the South Carolina state dance move) in the waiting line at Wendy’s. “Would you like fries with that?” I was 14 and mortified. Now it’s a treasured memory that I will never forget.
These are just a few of the life lessons my Dad has given to me along with compassion, support , and understanding. He’s helped me succeed both professionally and personally—so here’s a formal thank you. (And happy birthday, Dad!)
Do you have any similar life lessons to share?