Saturday, June 16, 2012

Five Lessons My Dad Taught Me

Who your Dad is will have a huge impact on your life. It can help push you to the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. A father’s influence shapes who you are as a youth and who you become as an adult. This is true whether your father is a business professional, a craftsman, a day laborer or a multimillionaire. Each of these occupations will have an impact on your life in one way or another. Regardless of how positive or negative your view of father is, it is important to learn from your experiences with your dad. Love your father for the lessons he is able to teach you and not the ones you wish he did. As a young boy I had hoped for the multimillionaire father but as a grown man I am thankful for the one I had.

I came from a relatively large family. We had 7 children, four girls and three boys, and we lived in Torrance, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. My father was a finish carpenter, my mother a stay at home mom who ran a day care out of our family home to make ends meet.  My father was a perfectionist and was very good at doing custom carpentry. Torrance, CA was at most 20 miles from some of the richest cities in Southern California that included Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Palos Verdes Estates to name a few. A finish carpenter is a trade job – you get paid a decent hourly rate but with seven children you can image how difficult it was to survive.  For additional income my father would take on side jobs doing carpentry for some of the richest people in Southern California. 

When I was about age 7 he needed a helper to go with him. A second hand got the job done in much quicker time and I worked very cheap. We started a weekly routine of me going with my father to his side jobs; I became his carpenter’s assistant.  As a result, I got to travel to marvelous homes all throughout the Los Angeles area. Saturday mornings became pretty special for me. I got up early between 4:45am – 5:00 am, made sandwiches for our lunch and left the mundane life in the suburbs to go help the mega wealthy with their special carpentry projects. On the drive to work, typically 30-45 minutes, I would ask questions about the job. Who owned the home and how did they become so successful? At lunchtime I would sit down on a curb or in the truck to eat my sandwich and ask my dad whatever came to mind. Along with this routine my fascination with these wealthy families developed. I became enamored by their success. I longed for my father to take the risks these great men & women took so that we too could move from the suburbs and live like the mega rich.  As you can imagine my father never took these risks and we never lived like the mega rich.
What my father might have lacked in financial prowess, he made up for it in his values and wisdom. He was able to teach me five valuable lessons that have helped me become the man I am today.

World Events & Love for Knowledge
My father loved to read and was a great conversationalist. He would read at every opportunity he could, he also liked to listen to books on tape and was a wealth of knowledge. His favorite magazine was National Geographic so he had an abundance of knowledge of the world and its happenings. My father had no difficulty having content rich conversations with his clients. Those he worked for would tell him bits and pieces about their successes and what they did. He in turn would relay to me, and of course I soaked it up like a dry sponge.

Business Skills & Dealing with Clients
One of my jobs was to clean up the mess at the end of every day.  My Father would insist our work area be left better than when we found it. In some cases we would be coming back the next day but that didn’t matter. He also taught me never over charge a client and make sure they are happy with the work you have done. If they weren’t we had to redo the work at no cost to them. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my first and most important lesson in customer service. I use it to this day.

Being Rich Doesn’t Make You Happy
I got to see how the top 1% of the population lived. It didn’t take long for me to realize that there was a difference in the home that I lived in with 9 people & the homes the mega wealthy lived in. I rarely saw the owners of these homes, but after years of going to their homes and seeing how they lived I naturally asked the question, “Dad why are their homes are so much bigger and better than ours”? My father never really gave me a good answer; I could tell that he never wanted fame or success that just wasn’t in his DNA. He had opportunities to go to college but after taking a few classes decided that it wasn’t right for him. For him success was being the best finish carpenter he could be.

We drove to these luxurious homes in my father’s 25 year old powder blue ford F100. While seeing the homes and fancy cars I learned that it didn’t matter what you drove, that wasn’t what made who you were.

My father focused on his family, faith and being a good person.  It wasn’t your bank account that made you what you were. It was better to be humble and have respect for others.
I learned a lot about the world and myself from working with my father. As I look back on my view of my father I feel like I didn’t appreciate the lessons I was learning at that time, I took them for granted. Now as a Man I am very happy I did not get the father I had wanted as a youth but I did get a humble, loyal carpenter who taught me more about life than any of the multimillionaire clients he worked for ever could have.

Thanks Dad I Love You.
Your Son,

P.S. I am now a father of three beautiful daughters, I ask myself on a regular basis what are some of the lessons I am teaching them? I chose a different path than my father. I therefore know they won’t get the opportunity that I did to sit on long car rides and eat sandwiches. I guess I’ll have to wait until they grow up to learn the answer to that question.


  1. Thanks John, as a single mother of three beautiful and smart daughters, I aim to teach them the values and correct attitude they will need to make the most of their lives, respect others and find contentment. The honest sincerity of your article held much appeal for me and I wanted to thank you for sharing such a special story. What a great Dad!

  2. Beautiful article John, thank you. It provided great insight and meaning at the perfect time. Hope you are doing well old friend.

    Best, B.Bolduc


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