Lessons From Dad, Part I

12 Feb

Sure, I was always somewhere around the top of my class & in virtually every extracurricular activity, but I, like many kids, had a bit of a rebellious streak (I know you’re all shocked, SHOCKED to hear this).

I was born into what I’ll call the Tier-2 or 3 Lucky Sperm Club; both my parents have graduate/doctorate degrees, make pretty decent $, went out of their way for me (and still do) and are just good people.  Without them, I don’t even know how I would have turned out.  While I got alot from Mom, I want to talk a bit about what I got from Dad.  Sons, I assume you understand why; daughters, well, whatever you’ll get it eventually.

Last night, all my friends wussed-out of going to grab some food/beers.  My dad got home around 11pm after getting to work around 8am, and he said “what the hell, I’ll go out with you.”  So, I decided, however pissed off I was at my friends, hanging out with the old man isn’t really bad, not at all, especially when beer & food are involved and he’s paying…

Dad’s father passed away suddenly and prematurely, when my Dad was about 18 years old.  I don’t know about any of you, but if my Dad passed when I was 18 I’d probably be running a meth lab or locked-up in loony bin right now or something; I just don’t think I would have been able to handle it considering how close I was/am with my dad.  His mom, god bless her heart, didn’t have any money.  If I remember correctly she was still working into her late 60’s if not 70’s just to pay the bills.  Anyway, Dad spent over a decade in college.  Started as an auto-mechanic (he was a go-kart racer in HS), decided to get his BS in Engineering from a State School, graduated at the top of his class & got a scholarship to an Ivy League school for his Masters in Engineering.  Then he decided medicine was for him.  Another state-ish school and another Ivy League scholarship and he earned that Dr. before his name on his business card.

Here’s the beginning of the list of things dad taught me (most of which I could have  simply taken his word for, but stubbornly insisted on learning the hard way).  In no particular order:

Lesson 1:

When faced with unimaginable adversity, when you’re nowhere near ready to deal with it, take a breath, shed a tear, down a bottle of jack, whatever you’ve got to do, but when life throws you lemons, make lemonade.  Then piss in it, and sell it back to the same people who threw them at you. (I kid…)  When shit happens – and one day it will – the hardest, yet best way to get through it is to roll up your sleeves, put your head down, and bust your ass.  The fear, the heartbreak, the uncertainty, the guilt, the anxiety, all of it is still going to try to overtake your thoughts, but FOCUS!  Apply yourself.  If your dad died, what would he want for you?  Would he want you to cry & hide under his desk in the fetal position for the rest of your life?  HELL NO!  He’d want you to get your ass in gear and make him proud, so do it!

Lesson 2:

I don’t care if your shrink (or the one your ‘rents made you see) says you’re bipolar or have ADHD or whatever.   Dad never had adderal (although I’m told back in his day they had black beauties & caffeine pills or whatever the hell they were called), but he learned, after taking 3 years to complete a 2-year associate’s degree, that hard work is 1. HARD but 2. pays off.  This applies to everything.  On the court, in the trading pits, in the classroom, at the negotiating table, wherever.  The harder (and smarter) you work, the more likely you are to succeed in whatever endeavor you pursue.

Of course, I realized this around the same time I began frequenting bars in college, but that’s another conversation for another time… Unless you have SERIOUSLY SERIOUS disabilities you have no excuse.  Will power is an amazing thing; when I was on Adderal, I felt like when I did well on an exam or paper, it was less a result of my intelligence or hard work and more a result of this artificial motivation from the meds.  When I stopped taking it – and this was NOT a smooth transition – I had to learn how to focus and be disciplined on my own.  It didn’t always work perfectly, but I can tell you, getting an A on a paper or an exam sans ADD medication because you studied & worked hard is infinitely more rewarding than it is when you’ve had artificial discipline/motivation.  I really can’t put it into words.  You feel like you really earned it, and it feels great.

Lesson 3:

No matter how rich or famous you get, you’re NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. 
It’s not all about you.  You think your life sucks?  You think life’s unfair?  You think you’re the only one that has to deal with bullshit all day?  WRONG.  You don’t even have to go to Somalia or whatever oppressive totalitarian nation, just look around.  You’re pissed your boss screwed you on your bonus by a few grand?  What about the homeless guy pan-handling outside your office in the freezing cold, you know, the one you stroll into wearing $300 loafers and a $1,000 tailored suit?  Your life is FUCKING AWESOME!  Take some time to talk to those less fortunate than you, whether its their own damn fault or not.  Have some sense of humanity.

We all make mistakes, maybe you lost some money on a trade or went a little too crazy partying one night and got yelled at by your boss when you showed up at work 4 hours late looking like Charlie Sheen after one of his epic benders.  BFD! Everyone screws up eventually, don’t look down on the homeless guy bumming half-smoked cigs, you don’t know how he ended up like that and it does.not.matter.  Do something nice, something humane; donate your money – or even better – time to helping those less fortunate.  Help those who lack your education/experience learn (one of the goals of this here website).

I didn’t get all this until college or even years later, after I’d gone through some relatively rough times and worked a low-level job or two just to try to pay the bills.   Do something, anything, even if its just treating the guy who pumps your gas or cleans your car with the utmost respect.  You get pissed when your waitress at dinner takes “forever” to bring-out the bill or the busboy isn’t quick enough to refill your water glass.  Their life – compared to yours – sucks.  Say please and thank you, and say it with a smile.  It goes a long way,  trust me.

Treat people like humans.  Be nice, hold doors, help the single mother carry her luggage/stroller up the escalator, buy a homeless person a hot dog, whatever.  If you’re reading this, your life is better than  99.9% of the World’s population.  No matter how easy it is to get caught-up in your day-to-day life, try to take a step back and have some perspective.  You don’t have to quit your job as a Goldman Sachs Rainmaker to join the freaking Peace Corps, just have some damn perspective.

There’s probably a few dozen other lessons from Dr. Dad I’ll share with you guys, so stay tuned.  Dad is not only a wise man but generally a pretty funny one, too!

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6 Responses to “Lessons From Dad, Part I”

  1. hedge February 12, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Interesting read, but probably could have been summed up more quickly by just saying “work hard and respect others”.

  2. David February 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    As the author of a book on the subject, I’d like to say that your portrayal of ADD treatment and medications strikes me as inaccurate.

    • The Analyst February 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

      As a guy who was on it for 7 years I think I know a little more about what its like than you, hoss…

  3. jo6pac February 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I practice radom acts of kindness and yes it does go a long ways. I think trying to make people that are waiting on you to feel comfortable in dealing with you goes a long way. I bought a used Porsche the other day and because I was different than the Doctors/lawyers/other Professionals that come into the dealership, I received really great service because I treated everyone how I like to be treated. I’m Blue Collar and what the hell does HLS need to know I’m buying a car?

  4. Ryan February 13, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Spot on my friend. Don’t BS people or yourself. Second, you think your having a bad day, then your not thinking. Best advice my Pop gave me.

  5. gums1 February 20, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    Nice article showing a different side of you Wall Street types. Makes all Dads proud of their sons. If you appreciate what your parents did for you, tell them “In the Living Years”(From Mike and the Mechanics).

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