My dad was full of lots of great advice — he was raised by polar opposite parents, a reserved NASA engineer and a high-energy, life-of-the-party mother who was always a great hostess. His wisdom comes from a diverse career that includes working at McDonald’s, selling microwaves when they were first available, selling real estate, teaching sixth graders, working in the tax industry (H&R Block), providing customer service at Home Depot, delivering car parts anywhere they were needed, and mentoring teenagers who made some bad choices early in their life:
- Prepare for big purchases long before you need them: I remember going car shopping when my father when I was about 12 years old. Our car was running fine, but my father wanted to know what car he would buy if one of our cars died suddenly on us; so he wouldn’t have to rush into a decision. And I think he was excited to try to convince the salesmen that his young son was really the car purchasing decision maker, which was pretty amusing.
- Whenever I was competing in something, my father was quick to find ways for me to observe others to learn what to do, and what not to do. When I was taking swim lessons, we’d go early and watch other kids jump off the diving board. When I played sports, we’d come early or stay late to watch other kids play. When we went to the boardwalk at a beach, we’d want other kids play carnival games to figure out if you could win and if so, what the trick was. My father is also always quick to ask recommendations and tips from people, like waiters at restaurants (“What’s your most popular dish? What’s your favorite?”)
- Think through the total cost of ownership of things — he loved to remind me that he thought dual exhaust was so cool when he was shopping for his first car, but his father reminded him that he’d have to buy twice as many mufflers when they failed. And those 17″ allow wheels means your tires will just cost that much more to replace.
- “There’s no such thing as extra credit in this house“: You might think this means we didn’t have to do extra credit when it was offered in school. You’d be wrong — this meant that extra credit in any form, when offered, was required; just like completing all our required assignments.
- Never be a afraid to try: I remember several times as a child where my dad would encourage me to do something that seemed impossible to do or win. In elementary school, there was an annual egg drop contest where kids would build contraptions to protect an egg that was dropped from an extended fire engineer’s ladder. My father encouraged me enter both the standard category and the category where the entire egg-holding-contraption could only be made from toothpicks and glue. It sounds like a crazy mission, but we created a football-looking thing with a little egg compartment, and I was the only kid to even try to make anything for that category. It’s a great lesson to teach: You can’t win if you don’t show up and try
Growing up, my dad loved to quote Mark Twain — it was frustrating at the time, but I appreciate him reminding me:
When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.