Now don’t act surprised. If you read my Mother’s Day post, you knew this one was coming. This Sunday is Father’s Day, a time to practice gratitude and celebrate the fathers and father figures that have touched our lives.
My Father’s Influence
In my Mother’s Day post, I shared an excerpt from a life story exercise in which I realized how much my mother had influenced me as a leader. When I wrote that, my sense of fairness nagged at me because my father’s influence was not apparent. The universe addressed this nagging concern less than a week after that exercise. Here’s an excerpt from an email to my family in January 2008.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share in the celebration of Dad’s career at his retirement ceremony, and that provided another window into myself. I lost count of the number of people who referred to Dad’s remarkable ability for mentoring others… how so many relied on his feedback on people, his ability to lead and grow people, the fact that two section heads grew from his own group… his passion and his persistence, his drive to actually accomplish something and not just earn a paycheck. Comments that were clearly genuine and heartfelt, not exaggerated for the ceremony. I sense that a lot of these people got off easy since Dad’s not fully retiring just yet – if this were really it, more than a few probably would have had a harder time delivering their speeches without showing some emotion (a few even told me that).
So as so many people marveled at the physical resemblance between Dad and me yesterday, I was able to marvel at the resemblance inside with insight I never had before. I was able to see how much of who I am also comes from you, Dad, something you’re obviously aware of but too modest or too reserved to admit most of the time.
It’s no coincidence that back in 2008, I was already honing in on the fact that people admired my father’s ability to mentor others, and now my day job is leadership coaching. Thank you, Dad, for helping to shape who I have become.
I recounted one of my favorite stories with my philosopher-father in my Paying Attention blog post – where he convinced me to take a Buddhist approach to the dishes at an early age. That was the first of many moments where my father turned me on to philosophy.
One summer, perhaps between eighth and ninth grade, he asked if I would engage in summer studies under his direction. One course was essentially reading The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. This sparked a love of philosophy and critical thinking that is a part of me to this day.
I recall a phone conversation with my father during my second year of college. I had been pursuing a double major in computer science and mathematics while taking some philosophy classes on the side. Once math reached the stage where it was just math to do more math, I lost interest and switched my second major to philosophy. Since fifth grade, I knew I would be a computer programmer. For the first time since then, I was questioning that decision. I reminded my father of the advice he had given me often – “You will spend a third of your life working. Make sure you are doing something you enjoy.” Yes, I was great at programming, and I loved it. But I loved philosophy too. Perhaps I should be a philosophy professor instead. My father gave me his now-famous “Difference between a vocation and an avocation” speech, counseling me to let computer programming be my vocation and philosophy be my avocation. In hindsight, that was excellent advice. Thank you, Dad, for this guidance and for continuing to nourish a love of wisdom in both myself and my son.
Today’s post has a bonus for me, as my father’s father was born on this day back in 1911. Although he is not alive today, he did live to be 100! As Sunday approaches, I hope you find the time to recognize and thank the fathers and father figures in your life.
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