During the quarantine last spring I cleaned out boxes and files. I discovered stacks of letters and postcards my Dad wrote me in high school and college. They were short notes of encouragement, simple quotes from his favorite Winston Churchill or Will Rogers, or postcard updates from his business travel. His messages were always positive- and I am convinced they were important in establishing my positive mindset and drive. I was always trying to live up to potential he saw in me.
In 2010 my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We are watching a long, slow decline of a once-spirited leader. He struggles every day with mobility, coordination, speech and medicine imbalances. Because of his condition, I am even more thankful for my Father’s notes and words of encouragement during pivotal times in my life.
Through reviewing his notes and letters and remembering stories I discovered a common thread of Lessons from Dad that are part of me each day. The leadership qualities that are embedded in his messages include positivity, presence, and passion.
“Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude.”
During the 80’s our Dad taught my sister and me about the power of positive thinking from his work and study in human resources, Zig Ziglar and other motivational leaders. He set up to “raise positive kids in a negative world.” He embedded a positive mindset in us well before that concept was mainstream. He continually used affirmations and encouraged us to focus on our responsibilities over our inabilities. He encouraged us to practice positivity by helping others, living out our faith, and surrounding ourselves with positive people.
“Showing up is essential. Showing up consistently is powerful. Showing up consistently with a positive outlook is even more powerful.”
Dad taught us to “show up” for family and friends and volunteer for difficult projects. He was always there- both figuratively and literally with his 6’4” stature. He calmed fears and made people feel safe because they were under the watchful eye of a caring leader. Many people ask about him when I am out following in his footsteps in the community. They tell me stories about how he connected them with new job opportunities, led the hiring committee for a new non-profit leader, or raised money for a capital campaign. He showed up with a positive attitude- as a mentor, a motivator, and a sounding board.
“If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”
My Dad always jumped into things with full head and heart. From work and civic duties to travel and motivating people. I am thankful for the skip in his step and the passion he displayed. When he pursued an interest or hobby- it was always 100%. He became an accomplished snow skier late in life from practice and devotion, built the best sandcastles, helped us create A+ school projects, set itineraries for educational trips and guided us to build amazing resumes. We grew up in a special era before phones and technology distractions. Road trips, delays on the ski lift or the family dinner table was where his passion was most evident. He told us stories from his childhood and work travel and the same jokes over and over.
On this Father’s Day, I am thankful for these lessons and notes of encouragement. In my work with families, I recommend that clients write letters to their children or trustees as part of their estate planning file. Words give life to the people we care about most. I challenge you today to pick up a pen and write a note of encouragement to a loved one today. Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers we are blessed to work with each day. Thank you for guiding generations forward.