Thursday, October 04, 2007

Lessons From My Dad - Encouragement

My father and I didn't have many heart to heart discussions. However, he was always there when I needed him, as a mentor and with words of encouragement. Here are several of the instances that I remember most, where his guidance helped me stay on track.

Freshman year of college. The first year is usually the toughest. It was no different for me. I was attending Princeton. Needless to say, in the first week of school, I learned there were many people smarter than me. In my class, there were chess champions, a million valedictorians from top prep schools, debate champions etc. And then there were the upperclassman. Since I had placed out of freshman chemistry and math, I was with sophomores in half my classes.

As it turned out, Physics was my toughest class. For the midterm, I managed a 40% on the test. Needless to say, I felt bad and told my dad I wasn't likely to be getting A's in my classes any more. My dad made me feel better when he said, " That's OK. Just work on learning the material and don't worry about the grade. It will work out."

And it did work out, as I ended up with an A in the course and eventually graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Chemical Engineering.

Early years of work. My first year of working was average at best. I wasn't advancing my project or career very much. I thought about leaving to start a business through franchising. After all, I had ran a successful student business while in college and I expected to be able to be successful at running one in the "real world."

My dad understood the challenges and provided perspective that it would be worth sticking it out another year before taking action. As it turns out, it was great advice. It gave me another year to adjust to the transition from school to work. Since then, I have had a terrific career, with several advancements, and an international assignment. Also, I was able to recently retire from this company.

Running for public office. While in my twenties, I ran for public office in a major U.S. city. It was my first attempt and I was running as an independent. I was up against experienced Democrats and Republicans and only had a small campaign budget. However, we developed a great platform that is still important today.

While this was outside my dad's expertise, he reminded me of how perseverance had paid off in the past. And he even made an out-of-state contribution to the campaign. As it turns out, I lost but I only finished one place behind a candidate that spent 10 times what I did. It was a great experience and I am glad I did it.

Doing an overseas assignment. My company offered me an overseas assignment with a promotion, which we turned down. Without consulting our parents, my wife and I felt it would be better for us to be close to them, given that they were older and the assignment would potentially be 7-10 years.

Several months later, I was offered the assignment again. This time, we talked with our parents. Both of them thought it was a great idea, even though we would be half a world away. My dad encouraged us to "go do it." He thought it was a great career opportunity and didn't want me to miss it.

This turned out to be one of the best assignments I in my career. I learned more about our business and competing globally that I did in any other assignment. While it was a challenging assignment, both personally and professionally, I will always be glad that I took it.

My dad passed away two years ago after an extended fight with pneumonia. I miss him very much. However, a part of him will always be with me, through the many words of encouragement he gave me. I hope I can be as much of an inspiration to my daughter someday.

For more on Crossing Generations , check back every Thursday for a new segment.

This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2007 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


Anonymous said...

That's really inspiring. I have three kids of my own. I hope I have the same impact.

Kay the Encourager said...

I agree with you on this one. Encouragement is my passion, because I know it makes a difference for me! I believe if we could learn to say encouraging words to each other, we could change the world one person at a time. Please check out my website and blog at
How to encourage

Super Saver said...

@ Jonathan and Kay,

Thanks for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

@ Kay,

Thanks for the link.