Yes, my dad looked like the Godfather – and he certainly did make me a few “offers that I couldn’t refuse” – but his unique brand of tough love also taught me the true value of respect, loyalty and hard work.
While there were times when daddy definitely veered over into the gray area of what could actually be considered good parenting (he had a volatile temper that could flare up without warning), he really did want to see us all do well in life. He died when I was 25, so he never got to meet my kids or share in many of my life’s milestones so I often wonder what he would think of me now.
Despite the fact that he’s gone, his gruff yet well-meaning advice still echoes in my ears all these years later:
1. “Don’t be Stupid!” – This was my Italian father’s way of saying, make your choices carefully and think about what you’re doing. Now that years of self-therapy have revealed to me that I’m actually not stupid and simply trying not to show it – I can see the value of the deeper message. We each steer our own ship – and it’s our job to make sure that it stays on course. We need to own our own power and take that job seriously. Got it.
2. “I’ll cover my own ass first, and then (maybe) I’ll cover yours” – While this may sound rather harsh, when you think about it, it’s true. It’s the mindset of a survivor. While it might be more polite to say “In the event of an emergency, place the oxygen mask over your own face first, and then help others” – the fact is that you can’t help anyone unless you’re first in a position to do so.
3. “Pace Yourself” – I think this advice has been the most useful to me. It seems like life can easily take on the speed of an out of control freight train – if we don’t consciously decide to put on the brakes now and then. It’s important to slow things down enough to keep your clarity, energies and priorities all focused in the right place. While we’re a society that prizes achievement, being deliberate in your actions will help ensure that you’re happy with the outcomes.
4. “Give it 110%” – While this may sound in conflict to “pace yourself,” I think he was really talking about perseverance here. Never stop trying. Even if you have to start at the bottom and work your way up the ladder one step at a time – just keep climbing. When you think about it, that’s what really separates the winners from the losers – staying in the game (both physically and mentally).
I talk a lot about growing up with my dad in my book Pain, Passion & Purpose (that’s the self-therapy that I was telling you about) and sometimes I feel a little guilty about pointing out his imperfections. But then I realize that maybe that was actually the greatest gift he ever gave me; the realization that we don’t have to be perfect for our lives to matter. And he did matter to me – and still does after all these years. Thanks dad, I sure hope I’ve made you proud.
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Marci Wise is the author of Pain, Passion & Purpose. Copyright © 2013 marciwise.com. Material is copyrighted but free to repost as long as proper credit is listed, including our website address.