Monday, 24 March 2014

Things My Father Has Taught Me (So Far)


Today is my father's birthday and it is one year before the big 6-0. I can't really believe it as he looks about ten years younger, but he is 59 and 31 years older than me. He told me he wasn't really interested in his birthday this year. I told him I generally hated my birthday too and that I have learnt to use them not as a time to self-analyse, but to count your blessings. 

But on his birthday, I also thought I'd count a few of mine.. 

Of course, there are countless things I could say, many things little and others less so. I could write about learning to ride a bike in the street outside the back of our house and screaming that he lied to me and begging for the stabilisers to be put back on. I could write about him earnestly explaining to me how to change a plug, showing where the wires all joined up (still can't do this without You Tube), but he tried. Swimming, skiing, fishing, climbing trees, a little economics, modesty, ambition, competition and stocking a good bar. However the seven things below are the things that stand out and matter to me now and these are the things I still learn from every day.

1) Work Hard

I've never know someone who works harder than my Father, except maybe my little sister. He puts his all into everything he works on... cares about it all, sometimes to the detriment of himself. From childhood I remember watching the hours he put in and admiring it. Sometimes I did not get to see him a lot, sometimes he would be on his phone a lot when we were on holiday. But I rarely resented it, except for an occasional short tantrum which soon passed.

Indeed it is his work ethic and the voice of it that has always given me the ambition and drive to want more and to understand that being successful doesn't grow on trees. 

2) Give a Shit About the World

Even now I am twenty-eight and my peers are starting to become more interested in things that are greater than themselves and their circle, I still feel amongst them there is a certain sense of disengagement in politics and world issues unless it is a sensationalised national talking point. 

I have voted ever since I've been able. I've argued vehemently with adults five times my age from around age 13 about politics, youth issues, international problems and the media. I was one of the geeks who ran in the school elections.

My father has encouraged me both in my natural curiosity and passionate standpoints since I was young. We certainly don't always agree, don't get us started on some modern art or the role of the free press. But he helped shape my ability to argue, investigate and actual care about something other than my own little world. 

3) Family is Important

I thought being brought up as one of four was tough in terms of attention, but try both your parents having four older siblings  each and try and keep up. Thing is, often, I did not want to. 

"Family is important", my father would always say as we were dutifully trounced up and carted round to another auntie's for another party or family gathering. I remember getting dreadfully bored at times and was often told off. Pulling spaniels tails or trying to fish the Koi carp out of the pond was not much admired. However, eventually I came to realise what he meant, for it is not really just about being related, it is the mutual shared experiences, the understanding, the years of going though similar trials and conversations.

These days I love my siblings and like quite a lot of my extended family. I even spend time with them out of choice these days. Who'd have known.

Yes, family is important.

4) Be Honest and Trust People

Basically my father has kicked arse in his business and working life. Much of that is due to how hard he works, but it is also due to the way he does business. He is honest with his clients, colleagues and work acquaintances, he doesn't bullshit. Tell people the truth, whether is is complimentary and advantageous or difficult and troubling for you or for them. Once they know this of you, they will trust you and are generally loyal.     

Trust other people also, most people will react well to trust being placed in them and the ones that don't will show their true colours quickly. I have taken this advice too and generally, people flourish when they are trusted and given opportunities. The odd times that your trust may be betrayed or misplaced, it is usually a lesson they need to learn.. not you. Never close that trust line and that desire to see the good in people.

My father taught me about honesty and trust mostly through stories about his business. However, I see in the way he conducts himself in life too, because he still sees the great in new people he meets and that is something one should never lose.

5) All Men are Not Arseholes

Here's how this went. I went on my gap-year aged 18 and reasonably naive and went to work out in Hong Kong where I was born, where I'd left when I was three and where there is a somewhat of an ex-pat scene and somewhat of a men on business trips scene if you catch my drift. Working in PR, I attended a lot of events with a lot of men, most of whom were a lot older than me and away from home. I went from naive to cynical in three short months. 

After I got home, I sort of mentioned it vaguely to my father about these kind of men I'd witnessed, yes he said to me, but not all men are like that, most aren't. So I trusted that.

6) People are People.. Travel

See my father didn't travel as a kid, he wasn't privileged like that, he spent holidays on the South-Coast if he was lucky. Now he travels the world North, South, East (a lot East) and West. For business, hobbies and pleasure, he travels the world  meeting people from all walks of life. He treats them all the same and people are all the same. Wherever they are brought up, however much money they have or don't have, whatever they eat, drink, watch, wear, do. Whatever their hobbies or customs are, whatever their language is. Travel teaches you that and people you meet when you travel teach you more and the more you travel and meet people, the wider your mind becomes and the more powerful you can be in your strength and convictions. This is one of the things that I am most grateful for learning.

7) You Can Do Whatever You Want (Even Though You are a Girl/Even Though That's Unlikely to Happen)

Since I was a small child, my father has made me believe I could take over the world if I wanted to. Both my parents have instilled in me a powerful belief in myself and my own abilities if I want something and work hard for it. That (Even Though You are a Girl) bracket in the title was not from my father, that was from other peoples' fathers, other men that I saw as a child, that I still see now that clearly had a very definite opinion of women and daughters. Oh yes darling, go and get that little job for a while, but really your main job will be marriage and kids. Or.. that's not really a girls job.. oh darling are they working you too hard. I never felt that at all from my father, I never felt there were any restrictions of what I could say I wanted to do or achieve. This may seem like something which should be the norm, but it unfortunately isn't.

(That's Unlikely to Happen) Another bracket I never felt, but a lot of people did. In my life I have wanted to be: a famous actress that wins Oscars; a killer barrister and then a judge; writer (still trying with this one). Again, I never felt restricted or that something was unrealistic. I always felt fully supported and that if I put my mind to something, I could achieve it. My father taught me to believe that I could do the big things; ever so grateful for that.

So those were the seven top things.. Thanks Daddy, Love You, Happy Birthday. :)

PS readers... this may become a series as it's Mother's Day on Sunday. 

None of the photos are (c) mine..

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