It took me 40 years to find my voice.
What made my father great wasn’t what he accomplished it was the lengths he would go to help others grow. If you knew my dad he gave a bit of himself you. He would push you as he did me. He didn’t get the best out of us, he helped us find the best within ourselves.
My dad was what he called a student of behavior and everything he learned he wanted to teach me. Before we got to the inner workings of people we had to get some of the basics out of the way. By five years old he taught me assets minus liabilities equaled net worth. By nine I had my own business selling Pepsi’s to the workman around our neighborhood sponsored by my dad’s unknowing and generous donation of inventory at no cost and subsequently punished by his recovery of my first summer’s profits to pay for that inventory plus penalties and interest when he found out. By sixteen we began what would be my intensive training, spending weekends at our local bagel stop, maybe a car dealership after and then back to his house where we would assume our normal spots, him on his large leather chair and me on his matching leather couch. We would begin about 10 am and sometime around 7 or 8 pm I would be excused for the day. Truth is I wouldn’t have left, he needed to get rid of me.
We talked for hours on people, on life, on what was going on in business, in school, my mom, health, tennis and girls. There was nothing we wouldn’t or couldn’t talk about. This tradition carried through my college years, my first job, the days I spent working with him and grew to include my wife and kids once I began my own family.
My father shaped every facet of my life. He expected the best of me not because he wanted it because he knew I was capable of it. He modeled vulnerability for me every day in every conversation. He had a way of reducing his greatness to a humble and relatable story that humanized his emotions and made me understand the most basic primal fears that plagued him or fueled his success.
My dad was my mirror. A reflection of what I wanted to see and what I didn’t. He wasn’t afraid to tell me what I needed to hear regardless of my feelings. He loved me that much. I counted on my dad to be the counter balance to my most important life decisions. And no one could debate a decision like my father. We explored every possible outcome. Famously “expecting the worst because anything else is better.” We dissected conversations, people, motivations, emotions, intentions. It was exhausting. It was amazing.
Over the years we became an unstoppable team. When we were aligned and with the help of our team no one could beat us. When we were opposed we battled. We fought. We hurt each other. We reconciled. We loved deeper and then we did it again. Each time I thought it would break me. It would break him. Each time we both found more. We both found more honesty. More vulnerability. More about ourselves, more about each other. More about life. Those around us couldn’t understand it and there were times I didn’t either. Through it though I learned about life. I learned about myself. I learned who I was and who I am not. I learned how to be a better leader, a better man, friend, a husband and a father myself.
I found my voice.
Who is your mirror?