Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some Things I Learned from my Dad

Well, are you holding up under the strain?

If you spent much time around my Dad, you probably heard that question, or one of the variants like:
  • Are you still percolating on all cylinders
  • Are you still moving under your own power?
Dad loved to laugh and joke around.  When I was a teenager I wired a cable from our stereo console to my desk so that I could listen to my music on headphones.  One of Dad’s favorite tricks was to sneak over and nudge up the volume on the console a little at a time.  It was like a frog in a pan of water on a stove—when would I finally notice that things are amiss?

From my Dad I learned that humor is a great equalizer, and a great way to put people at ease.

Dad did a lot of different things in his life:
  • Helped manage the creameries he and my grandfather owned
  • Sold mutual funds
  • Ran a ranch
  • Fixed farm equipment 
  • Started churches
  • Along with my Mom raised 5 kids 
  • Helped start a college
  • Developed land
  • Built a golf course
  • Sold real estate
When he started something new he didn't fret.  He read whatever he could gather on the subject, consulted with a lot of people, and got started.

From him I learned the best way to understand new things and finish big projects was to just jump in.

I was put to work on the ranch when I was 12.  This involved getting up at 6am to move irrigation pipe (you can imagine how much I enjoyed that), picking up thousands of hay bales, chasing cattle, and another one of my favorites—fixing fences.  It always seemed like the fences that needed repair were halfway up the side of a mountain, and we would have to carry all the required supplies on our backs.  One time we arrived at the repair site, dropped the heavy roll of barbed wire, and watched it roll 2000 feet down the mountain—hitting trees and bushes as it went.

Dad paid me $100 per month.  We worked long hours, six days a week—I figured that I was making less than 50 cents per hour.   When we worked we didn't walk from task to task—we were expected to run.  And when we ran out of assigned tasks, we learned to look around for what needed doing.

From my Dad I learned how to work hard.

When I was 15 I wanted to do some tractor work around a reservoir we were building.  My Dad thought about it and said no—the task had some risks and he wasn't comfortable with me doing it.   I was mad—but later I realized he was right.  Some risks are just not worth taking.

In the 50s and 60s we had a steady stream of missionaries and foreign pastors visiting at our house.  Some were Black; others were Asian, Hispanic, Italian and even Jewish.  In spite of the visitors differences from us my Dad treated them with the utmost respect.

As I was growing up I realized that my Dad and I were pretty different.  He was an extrovert—I’m an introvert.  He liked magazines, I liked books, new cars vs. used cars, sales vs. R&D.  But in spite of our differences he didn't try to change who I was.

I learned from my Dad that regardless of skin color, culture, or personality that it’s possible, actually required that we love and respect those that are different from us.