Seven Secrets of Success from Sam

Today is Father’s Day here in the United States. I mention my country, because not all countries celebrate Dad today. For example, Australians celebrate in September. I’m sure others will be sharing stories about their Dad today. I have already seen many photos on social media. Sadly, too many friends of mine are experiencing the first Father’s Day without their dad this year.

My father, Sam, has been a father figure to many people over the years. I wrote about Dad last year as part of my 30 Days of Thankfulness. In that post I included some pearls of wisdom I’ve learned from Sam. I would like to expand on those today, in tribute to my father. Happy Father’s Day Dad. Thank you for always believing in me, and for teaching me to believe in myself. I love you, and even though I’m not with you today, hopefully one of the sisters who is there will share this with you.

Dad
Sam, barking orders at a family picnic. Photo courtesy of A. Conklin.

1. The Customer is Always Right.

Dad managed the grocery store in my small hometown for more than thirty years. He was many people’s “first boss.” As a manager, he went out of his way to make sure all his employees knew this phrase. Even when they’re wrong, the customer is always right. My first career was not in sales, but still involved customer service as I was providing speech therapy to clients every day. I realized many times the “customer” (the client or person being served) just wants to be understood, and feel validated. Making the customer feel “right” does not always mean you are “wrong.” It can also mean you have made them feel important. Dad made, and still makes, people feel important.

2. Learn How to Get Along with People.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard my father say “It doesn’t matter what job you do or what you learn in school. The most important skill you can possess is the ability to get along with people. If you can do that, you can do anything.” There have been many instances in my life where my ability to navigate a social situation was more important than the book knowledge in my head. Dad was right about this one.

3. Be Self-Sufficient.

The night before I started kindergarten, Dad sat with me on the couch and told me it was important to do well in school. I don’t remember his exact words, but his advice was something like this. “You’ll have to learn as much as you can, because when you grow up you’ll have to rely on your brains for work. Your muscles won’t allow you to do a physical job, so you’ll have to have smarts.” He also told me repeatedly as a teenager that I would have to be able to take care of myself, without relying on anyone else to support me. This was often followed by a reminder that he and Mom would not be around forever, so I shouldn’t rely on them. I don’t have to look too far to find the source of my stubborn determination and my need for independence. I am grateful Dad encouraged me to seek ways to do things on my own. I know too many women with disabilities who are trapped in unsafe co-dependent relationships because they have not found a way to live independently.

4. Laughing is Important.

Dad is a fun guy. He is quick with a story, and will laugh frequently during the telling. You find yourself laughing with him, as he reminisces. Dad is not afraid to laugh at himself either. A few years ago at our family holiday cookie bake, Dad wore an elf hat all day. Towards the end of the day, as we were packing up cookies and saying goodbye, he took the hat off and started laughing harder and harder. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, he had been growing increasingly worried about his hearing all day due to a constant ringing in his ears. He didn’t notice the tiny bell on the end of the hat until he removed it from his head. All day long, the bell had been ringing next to his ear, causing him to think something was wrong with his hearing! We laughed so hard we cried as he told us this. We still laugh each year at cookie bake when we think about the ringing in Dad’s ears.

Birthday
Photo courtesy of S. DiNoto

5. Show Your Love.

My family members are “huggers.” We greet and say farewell with hugs and kisses. We say “I love you.” As a child, I learned to demonstrate affection by watching my parents and my older sisters. Dad would come home from work, and greet Mom with a hug in the kitchen. The first year I went away for two weeks of summer camp, he sent me a card telling me how quiet it was at home without me, and how he missed me. When I was an exchange student, he sent me a Christmas card reminding me distance doesn’t change the love you feel for someone. My best friend, Steph, routinely washes and reuses Zip-lock bags. While I was visiting Mom and Dad, I found a fancy bag dryer in one of their catalogs and mentioned it would make a great gift for Steph. Two weeks later, upon my return, I found Dad had made me a bag dryer from corks and dowels, telling me to save my money and give this one to Steph. He may not always be the first to say, “I love you,” but he shows his love in little gestures all the time.

Dad & Mom
Dad pulled Mom onto his lap for a photo on her birthday.

6. Get Involved.

Growing up, I watched Dad volunteer in the community with the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club and the church. When he retired, he helped serve “the old folks” (his words, not mine) at the senior meal site in town. Dad has always believed it is important to give back to the community, to help those who need assistance. As a teenager, I was occasionally invited to join a Rotary Club service project. The motto of Rotary International is “Service Above Self.” I can’t prove my understanding and experience with this motto in action helped in my own acceptance to the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, but I know my willingness to become active in service didn’t hurt. Dad often said, “Everyone can do something, even you.” I’m grateful he encouraged me to do for others, rather than just letting people help me without giving something in return.

7. Go Fishing.

When I tell people I have five older sisters, their response is usually, “All girls? Your poor father!” While I’m sure it wasn’t easy living with so much estrogen under one roof, the truth is when my dad needed a break, he went fishing. He would take a day, maybe invite a friend, drive out to Cayuga or Seneca Lake, and hopefully come home with dinner. I would often ask to go along, and on the rare occasion I did get to fish with Dad, I was repeatedly reminded that the fish don’t like to hear talking. I’m sure this was because Dad just wanted to sit quietly with his thoughts. I have yet to find scientific data to support the theory that quiet fishing results in increased catch rates. Maybe fishing isn’t your thing – it’s not mine. The point is, everyone needs to take a break and spend a quiet day in nature to recharge. Dad knew this.

What lessons did you learn from your dad? Share them in the comments!

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12 thoughts on “Seven Secrets of Success from Sam

  1. I still have my Zip Lock bag dryer. And I still use the “learn to get along with people” line, giving credit to Dad each time. After all, he did tell me it was THE most important thing to learn! I’m so lucky that he has been a part of my life. He never treated me like anything less than one of his own and I will be forever grateful to be known as “#7”. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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  2. This is an awesome tribute to your dad! How blessed you are to have him in your life. I could’ve used him to teach me the “learn to get along with people” one. It took me until I was well into my thirties to figure that one out. 😉

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  3. It’s amazing how much we learned from this father of ours. I have been accused of “being Sam” by my family when I feel it should be “my way”, or stubborn. Both of our parents taught us we could do anything we put our mind to it. I remember the ” customer is always right” motto. Many of my classmates worked for dad and though some made comments about his loud voice, they always said he was fair and honest. And, he was fair honest with everyone
    I loved listening to him tell his stories and then laugh. How fortunate we are to still have this wonderful man in our lives. Every time we make the trip from Florida to New York he thanks us for coming. Family is important to Sam and I’m so grateful he belongs to us. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Love you.

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