Friday, June 17, 2011

Things my Father Taught Me

We started a program with all our guest contact people using a new secret oath:  “Everybody sells!”-- "Think Strawberries", James H. Lavenson

Most people believe that their father was a giant among men. In this, I'm no different. My father, Jim Lavenson, was an extraordinary man. His career had three major peaks: advertising, corporate hotelier and entrepreneur. He conquered all of them and set the standard for excellence in each field. That said, what I remember most about my Dad wasn't his glory and achievement in the business world. It is the lessons about life he taught me. He was courageous, he was terrifyingly smart and he was unbelievably witty. He taught me to strive for those three fundamental principles in everything I do.

Here are some other lessons I learned along the way:

  • Never lose your sense of humor. I'm serious by nature and Dad taught me that maintaining my sense of humor in all earnest matters will save me from continual heartbreak and hurt feelings. I also learned that a sense of humor can diffuse conflict more quickly than a need to prove that I'm right.
  • Never take anything personally. This is part two "Never lose your sense of humor". When someone makes a snarky remark to me, I need to think "They can't possibly mean me". 
  • Everybody sells. This was the cornerstone of Dad's business plan. It also meant to be gracious, to be outgoing, to be knowledgeable and to be enthusiastic. It doesn't matter if one is in a sales job or not. We are all sellers of our talents, our time, our point of view and our dreams.
  • Keep your eye on the objective.  Sometimes, when we're reaching out for our goals, there will be stumbling blocks. A lot of the time, those stumbling blocks are awful. We may have to eat crow in order to move forward. Therefore, keeping our goals clearly in mind when we are in a situation we hate, but must pass through, will be the key to 'sucking it up' to get where we want to be.
  • Never say "Here I am" when entering a room. Say "There you are!" to someone else. Humility is far more important in building character than a large ego. Dad taught me to always treat others as honored and inspiring, and to avoid puffing myself up with pride.
  • Family is everything. Despite my father's keen business success, I knew that my mom and I were the most important things in his life. I knew he had to work very hard. But, I also was always aware that I was the center of his universe. I never equated his long hours with his not wanting to be with me.
  • Nature is extraordinary. Dad was a conservationist before the term was ever a political buzz word. While he never managed to impart his love of camping with me (I still loathe it), I appreciate the beauty of the natural world. I want to maintain and keep stunning the unspoiled magnificence just as Dad did. In spite of a dislike for sleeping outdoors, Dad did teach me to ride (both a horse and a bike), sail (albeit poorly), ski (again, albeit poorly) and hike. My lack of 'Maine Guide' skills aren't Dad's fault. 
  • Root Beer Floats make an excellent lunch. So do Banana Splits. 
  • We are dog people. Both of my parents are dog people. Dogs, whom my father trained and loved, were always a part of our lives. If we had to claim a kinship to any animal, it would be dogs. 
  • The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. I had this gift in spades. My father deeply loved my mother. He was a romantic until the end of his life and always surprised her in sweet ways.
There are dozens more lessons that Dad taught me. The tears in my eyes, despite his being gone for almost 13 years, are too heavy to keep writing. Above all, my father taught me, through his example, to always strive for excellence, but never to proclaim it for myself. He taught me to work as hard as I possibly can and to learn as much as I could throughout my life. He taught me to take chances, that it's never too late to try something new and to be brave in the face of my many fears. He also taught me to stand up for injustice and strive for peace in all areas of life.

I miss you, Dad. I love you always. And every time I see an "X" in the sky, or a heart shaped rock on the beach, I think of you. You were the best.

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