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Lecture Series: A Tribute to Dads on Father’s Day

Growing up I spent a lot of time with my dad. We would go on what he called “drives” which were actually him working on weekends, but I had no idea because we talked and sang the entire time. The “drives” were to properties he needed to visit, but to me, they were adventures filled with life lessons, songs, math equations, and “lecture series.”

My dad always had a curriculum of material he was teaching me on those drives, with hidden lessons in every story, activity, and adventure. Going to the bank was about personal finance, grabbing nuts and bolts at the local store was about fiscal responsibility and resourcefulness, and trying the 27th math problem was about perseverance. We had philosophical conversations on value systems, what it is to live a good life, and personal agency.

I loved time with my dad. Growing up, I didn’t realize how lucky I was. He was someone who operated outside of systems built to constrain you. He taught me a way of being in the world that provided a massive advantage in life – namely how to think.

The times I’d bring him an issue, he wouldn’t give me an answer but ask reflective questions back. It was infuriating and I hated it, but I see now he taught me how to figure things out for myself. How to think differently from the crowd about what’s possible and challenge anything someone tells you is certain. I learned everything is negotiable and “when you lose, don’t lose the lesson.”

He modeled being kind to wait staff, grocers, customer service professionals, and anyone you think of as, “the little guy,” because they aren’t little. He taught me how to spot the games being played around me – and then make a decision about how to play them (or whether to at all). He taught me how to think differently about how to be in the world. And to never miss the beauty that’s in front of you (even if it requires you to drive 45 minutes to get hush puppies, but damn they were good).

The topic of fatherhood is anguished for me today. When I observe other families that have both parents involved, I feel a sting in my heart for all the beauty I see and that my daughter doesn’t have. It hurts. But it also sits next to a gratitude and grace – of how much she has gained in losing a dad*. Uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends have all stepped up to include us and make this new normal feel like we’ve gained more than we’ve lost.

(*her dad is alivehe’s not in our lives much)

Today is Father’s Day here in America and I want to thank the men and women who have stepped up to be fathers. You don’t have to have children or be related to children to be a dad. That’s something I’ve been humbled by the last few years. Fatherhood is an identity, a being, and a choice. You can offer your biological sperm, make your identity about money (“providing and protecting!”), complain about attending baseball games, and grill in the backyard – that passes in America for “being a dad.”

But it is not fatherhood. To be a father is to take on the personal responsibility and accountability for stewarding the life of a tiny human.

I think one of the things I’m most grateful for is how much my dad wanted to be with my sister and me growing up; to the point where we wanted him to go away. He worked a lot, but we never felt second to his friends or work or desire to go out and “blow off steam” because he never did that. There were no Sundays of golf or poker nights in the den filled with smoke – there were lecture series and drives and boat shows and bike rides and The second he walked in the door, every single night it was nonstop engagement, curiosity, care, and lecture series.

I wrote up some of the lessons from those series for Inc. a few years ago. You can read the piece here.

To all of the men and women who are showing up as Fathers in the lives of tiny humans – you are doing the work of changing the world. Infecting the youth with the belief that they matter and are cared about and someone notices and loves them – THAT. That is everything.

Happy Father’s Day.


PS: As a reminder, men – call out your friends. Today is a great day to start.

To my own dad, who said he’d never judge me for losing, only for not having tried, I love you. Thank you. For everything.