5 Things I Learned From my Father

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful fathers in the world. Recent rebaby picsearch shows that dads greatly influence their child’s career choice*.

My father was my first and still is one of my best mentors as I grow my own company.  As an engineer and attorney, my father had a successful career from working in the underground mines in Butte, to Regional Trial Counsel, and finally Regional Administrator of the Securities and Exchange Commission for the Pacific Northwest region.  Growing up, we always had all sorts of interesting people in our home for “business dinners” and traveled with him to fun locations for conferences.

We were exposed to his work through lots interesting stories he excitedly shared with us over the dinner table. Equally important, he always did the dishes when he was home. That was his job. He still loads the dishwasher, and has added cooking and gardening to his list of jobs now that he is retired.

Over the years, my father learned a lot of life lessons and boiled them down to five pieces of advice for his three daughters and one son:

  1. Show up. He means be on time, be ready and if someone needs help, figure out how to provide it. He gave us confidence that we are smart enough to learn what we need to know, as we need to know it. These days it’s called “velocity of learning” or “just in time knowledge,” back then, you just said it like it was. He lives it to this day as an active volunteer.
  2. Stories, and the people who tell them, are invaluable. My dad is one of the best storytellers in the world, and has had an incredible life.  Or maybe he just knows how to tell the story to make it sound that way. He taught us to speak well and encouraged us to tell stories, and write well. Most of all, he told us to listen to others, “Everyone has a story and you can learn a lot from other peoples’ lives.”
  3. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. We grew up with stories of frauds that my dad was prosecuting and the people who were “bamboozled” by them. “There are no shortcuts to making money other than good hard work,” he said. “Integrity matters as much as hard work.”
  4. Family matters. My father traveled a lot as he was building his career as an attorney When he was home we got all his time and he helped with chores, schoolwork, etc. When he traveled, he took us with him when he could, and also arranged his trips around family events and birthdays.  He is now a wonderful mentor to my grown sons and loves helping out his adult children.
  5. Get outside every day. Walk, take the bus, grow a vegetable garden, and forage for food. My father was a model for sustainability before sustainability was a word.  He inspired my sister to become an environmental educator and a love for the environment is ingrained in all of us.  My best memories of growing up are of clam digging and berry picking. If you want to learn more about my father’s intense love for nature, find a copy of “Three Feet Under: Digging Deep for the Geoduck”

What do numbers four and five have to do with business?  How you run your business should be no different than how you run your life.

Bonus Tip:  If you have a partner in business or life, make sure you value that relationship.  My father and my mother were equal life partners long before that was an expectation or norm.  They dated for five years and have been married for 62 this summer.  Their marriage has been a great role model for their children, grandchildren and community.

My gift to my father is this blog, along with my gratitude and the recognition that he has shaped all of us kids into the grownups we pretend to be today. Thanks, Dad.

*From the Institute of Family Studies blog:


…daughters whose fathers have been actively engaged throughout childhood in promoting their academic or athletic achievements and encouraging their self-reliance and assertiveness are more likely to graduate from college and to enter the higher paying, more demanding jobs traditionally held by males.