What I Learned from my Dad- Part I

My dad passed away about five years ago and I still think about him every day. Though I miss him, I feel appreciation for what he taught me. If I ever have a question, I just picture him in my mind and get the answer as if he were speaking himself. That’s how well we know the ones we love the most.

My dad was one on the most generous people I’ve ever met. He was a mensch in the truest sense of the word. He had no pretense, loved talking to strangers, and made you feel as if you were the only person in the room when he was with you. He also relentlessly pursued his own personal, spiritual, and professional development. A lifelong salesperson for Northwestern Mutual Life, he employed the modern paradigm of needs-based selling, matching products to his clients’ needs instead of the other way around.

So, as I think about the year ahead, I want to reflect on some of my dad’s advice which was both simple and profound. I hope you get a piece of my dad by reading this, and thereby improve the lives of others around you as you go into this holiday season and the year ahead.

On Personal Responsibility

“It’s always the job of the person who knows more to do the right thing.” Whether you’re the adult in the relationship, you’re more mature, or you just understand where the other person is coming from, you must set your ego aside to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. You may be at work or interacting with your kids. There are times when people are disrespectful or become entrenched in their point of view. Take a moment to understand their motivation, their needs, and perhaps why they’re upset. Try to get on the same side of the table and think about a win-win solution. Don’t make it about you. Make it about the outcome.

On Ethics

“Just because no one is watching, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the right thing.” When I first started my practice, I got some bad advice from a mentor. He said there’s no reason to report cash sales because I would just expose myself to additional taxes. While this was an appealing idea, it didn’t sit right with me. My dad’s advice: “if you always do things on the up and up, you never have to look over your shoulder.” In a medical practice, you must be crystal clear on your purpose: to serve the needs of your patients. But when your practice is also your ‘business’ there is always a financial incentive to offer more services, sell more products, or prescribe more treatment. For my twenty years in practice, I have relied on my dad’s idea of ethical integrity to make the right decisions by my patients.

On Personal Development

“Committed relationships provide the greatest opportunity for personal growth.” When my mom passed away at fifty-five, they had been married for nearly thirty years. My parents used their relationship as a way enhance accountability and personal responsibility. I remember sitting at kitchen counter watching them have discussions, resolving disagreements, all while maintaining mutual respect.

My dad had a difficult childhood and worked hard to overcome depression. He tended to hide in his head to avoid relating and my mom worked constantly to pull him out into the real world. Amazingly, he chose years of therapy, sometimes medication, writing, and meditation to continuously evolve. Before my mom died, she once told him that ‘she was having a hard time keeping up with him.’

The reason for being in a committed relationship is to have a safe place to be yourself. We are not the people we court in relationships. We are our ‘shadow selves.’ We have warts, insecurities, and blind spots. We can be petty, childish, and petulant. Having a safe place to evolve is a fundamental requirement for personal growth. Learning how argue respectfully and listen well are also key components of a lasting relationship.

Final Thoughts

If I were to ask my dad about the times we’re living in today, he’d say the same thing he always said: “control what you can control.” Figure out what your personal mission is and remain committed. Sometimes that means taking your kids to school. Other times it means taking charge of your personal health. Whatever the case for you, work to get clarity on what’s important and begin again.

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