As humans, we learn a lot through observation. What we see is what we know. And what we know shapes who we become. I learned a success technique early in life called modeling, which is finding someone doing what you want to do, and then doing exactly what they are doing or have done, to get those same results. You can deliberately find people that have what you want, are doing what you want to do, or have achieved what you want to achieve, and pick their brains to find out what it took for them to achieve what they achieved. Then, by mimicking their behaviors and actions, you too can get those same results.
While we can consciously model those around us, most of our behaviors, traits, and philosophies are shaped subconsciously. This happens when we are around someone a lot. Family usually has the most influence on us because this is who we are around the most growing up. We learn how to be a mother or a father by watching our mothers and fathers. We learn how to be a grandparent by watching our grandparents.
I have always been very, very grateful for having had phenomenal models in my family. Because fatherhood is so important to me, I am especially grateful for having had my father. Of course, he reprimanded me when I was out of line, taught me how to do things like cut the grass or check the oil in a car, and slapped me on the back of the head when I needed it, but his greatest lessons came not through instruction, but observation. He lived his life, day in and day out, in a way that instilled in me the finest and most important qualities I have today.
My dad always put us first. He wasn’t worried about having nice things for himself because giving us kids the nice things we needed and wanted came first. He was an incredibly hard worker. He put in long hours, usually being gone before we woke, and returning home late in the evening. He loved sports, listening to or watching every game the Browns, Cavs, and Indians played. Somehow, he managed to attend all of our sporting events (quite a feat with four kids). He told the best stories. And he was the most honest man I ever knew.
One of my two biggest motivators in life is living in a way that gives my children the best model possible. I know that my lifestyle choices and behaviors will be mimicked by my children. Their parenting will reflect my parenting. I know that the words I say to them have power and influence, but only a fraction of the power and influence that the way I live my life will have.
So… fathers… live the way you want your children to live. They are much more likely to do what you do, rather than what you tell them to do. You are giving them the model of how a father should be. Your actions, reactions, how you treat others, how you act about work and play, and how you view the world are all rubbing off on them.
As I head into this Father’s Day without my dad, the first one without him, I will keep my heart full of gratitude, extremely thankful for having had a man like him as my father. I will also carry on his legacy by honoring the most valued traits and characteristics he passed on to me… hard-working, honest, being extremely knowledgeable in the things that interested him, not pretending to be an expert in the things he wasn’t, and keeping family the number one priority. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads. Keep being the best role model you can be. And to my dad… I miss you tons, think about you often, and see you daily in our family members’ characteristics and behaviors. Thank you for not just telling me how to be a great man and father, but being a great man and father!