“You are where you are today because you stand on somebody’s shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself. If you stand on the shoulders of others, you have a reciprocal responsibility to live your life so that others may stand on your shoulders. It’s the quid pro quo of life. We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” —Vernon Jordan
I thought a lot about my dad this Father’s Day weekend. He passed away five years ago in June and I still miss him. Like all fathers, he wasn’t perfect, but the lessons he taught me have had a profound impact on my life. I wanted to share some of those lessons with you today.
Be an engineer – Plan ahead. I can’t remember a single project that my dad took on that didn’t have a plan fully developed before he started. Many times, he even had written diagrams and details. He would be frustrated when we (especially my sister and I) would act without thinking ahead. It was his fundamental philosophy. He loved seeing how efficiently he could get something done. Apply engineering discipline to problems, projects and even PLAY. That’s right, he would have blueprints drawn up for our vacations (ok not exactly but they were fully planned). But it all taught me the value of engineering, being thoughtful, solving problems with design, science and planning.
Work hard – My dad was never afraid to do the hard-manual work himself, mowing lawns, repairing his car, fixing something at home or working long hours to get a job out at the office. While not unkind he had little patience for lazy people (or his own kids). He set the example with hands-on effort, blood, sweat and tears.
Be considerate – My dad would say “leave things better than you found them”. When you can, go above and beyond when dealing with others. If he borrowed something he expected to return it in better shape. Being considerate was really about the golden rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Don’t make others have to wait on you or clean up after you.
Details matter – Craftsmanship and precision artistry should be in all things. My dad would say, looking at a car, a tool, or anything else, “See how the seams line up? Notice the precision of the gap.” You can see and feel the quality. If you were cleaning he would help you see if you missed a spot. Underneath? Did you get the crevices? Check the edges. It taught me to have an eye for detail.
Enjoy each moment – You should savor and soak in life. Laugh and smile. Anytime we tried something new, my dad would provide instructions: slow down, observe, enjoy and taste all the flavor. That mindfulness approach to living life transcends all the chaos, turmoil and Coronavirus pandemic world we live in. It reminds me to look for the good and breathe it in. Appreciate each moment and celebrate life together.
Many of us can look back to others, our parents, grandparents, friends or mentors and think how their lessons and investments in us have made profound differences in our lives. The foundational opportunities we were given are gifts, unmerited and incredibly powerful. Not everyone receives the same investment or shoulders to stand on. As Vernon Jordan eloquently put it, if we stand on the shoulders of others, we have a reciprocal responsibility to live our life so that others may stand on our shoulders. It would be unjust for me to take what I have been given and not share it with others.
What are you doing to help others in your family, on your team or in the world? Don’t miss the great opportunity to pay it forward, encourage others, invest your talents, time, energy and resources in helping each other. Plan to make a difference in someone else. “We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.”