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How to Be Like My Dad

I once offered advice my dad gave me to one of my coaching clients. With a grateful sigh, she said, “I wish I could be more like your dad.” I smiled and moved on, but the thought stuck.

How could someone be more like my dad? Would they really want to be? (Mom, you can’t answer that.)

Maybe in our often-unsettling world, the stable, consistent qualities I admire most in my dad do indeed deserve modeling in so many situations.

So, here are four ways you (and hopefully, me) can be more like my dad.

1. Stay Positive.

No matter what’s happening, it’s rare to see my dad down-in-the-dumps. But that doesn’t mean he’s never had reason to feel sad or low—believe me, we’ve given him several opportunities. It’s just that he chooses to look at events through an optimistic, positive framework.

He’s likely onto something. Several research studies have proven that people with an upbeat view of life were less likely than pessimists to show signs of frailty and illness as they age. Healthy thoughts equal healthy lives. So, since we may all need (or hopefully, want) to keep doing our great work longer and longer, I’m staying positive.

2. Be Generous AND Cheap.

My dad and consumer guru Clark Howard would probably be great buddies if they met. Clark’s motto is to help folks “save more, spend less, and not get ripped off.” Ditto for my dad. In fact, both he and Clark have been accused of being, ah, well, cheap.

But that word doesn’t exactly fit. My dad’s generous with the things that support his values—his time, ideas, laughter, encouraging words during a hard time. Not to mention he’s generous with a pour of wine at the end of a long day.

If the item or experience in question isn’t tied to his values, he chooses cheap. If it supports his values, he chooses generosity. To make those distinctions, I now realize he’s clear on what he values—and what he doesn’t. Imagine how much simpler our decisions could be when we have our values straight.

3. Get Involved.

One of the things I enjoy watching in my dad’s retired years is his ability and willingness to get involved. Whether it’s the local hospital board or his college alumni organization, getting involved lets him invest his talents and skills in the organizations that need him.

But involvement also jolts him with additional energy and learning opportunities that wouldn’t appear in any other way. Even though involvement can sometimes be draining, he uses it to learn and connect to new ideas as well as contribute. The payoff is worth the investment.

4. Find a Great Partner.

Somehow in the scant pickings of Rome, New York almost 48 years ago, my dad found my mom. (Some of what I learned from here is here.) She’s been the crucial partner in the business of both working and living.

Today, even if you are lucky enough to have awesome people in your life, there are many other partners available to support you in your work. Coaches, mentors, teachers, authors, colleagues, virtual and in-person friends–all can encourage you to see possibilities, plan actions, and hold you accountable for moving forward and celebrating when you succeed along the way. But you have to reach to them first.

Even with a great family to encourage me, I still invest in coaching and mentoring on a regular basis. I still cultivate my professional partners who can help me grow faster, break old habits, and open my eyes to new ideas. In my dad’s generation, success was a little more independent, and it wasn’t as common to have the broad connections and support networks like we have now. Maybe that’s one way he wishes he could be more like me!

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