It was the fall of 2012, and we were sitting in the dimly lit pub. Seventeen televisions were playing seventeen different college football games. We had a pair of chilled beers in front of us, and we were talking and catching up on life as we did every Saturday.
Scattered throughout our own analysis of college football (which we believe to be much better than the ESPN guys), there was a real-life truth bomb. I was venting about how I am falling behind my peers and friends. They’re all graduating school and getting badass jobs and I am teaching fitness classes at the local gym for $7.25/class, living with my sister rent free, and dropping F-bombs on the internet.
My dad puts his beer down, looks me right in the eye and says,
Then proceeds to take another sip of beer.
I stared at him blankly. “EWOP (pronounced eee WOP)? What the hell does that mean?” I said.
“Everything Works Out Perfectly.”
For some reason, I felt all of the weight lift off my shoulders. It reminded me of the Mark Twain quote where he says, “I have had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
It’s true, most of the shit we are worried about either works out fine over time, or never happens.
When I moved to North Carolina in 2011 it gave me an opportunity to spend real, quality time with my pops. I grew up with divorced parents, and although by no means do I come from a broken home, I did grow up slightly different from many of my friends whose parents remained together. Until moving to NC, I never really had this kind of quality time.
My pops grew up as one of seven children in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He started selling newspapers at the age of nine where he made two cents a paper. Two cents! JFK once patted him on the head. He once ate laundry detergent because he mistakenly thought it was a bowl of sugar on the table. He fought, and was shot in the Vietnam War.
At age 33, he quit his secure job (security, retirement package, etc.) with the city of Boston to start a milk route. Yes, a milk route. On day one of the milk route his one-and-only truck broke down.
He’s invested in real estate, made money. He invested in businesses, lost money. He built up a lobster business and ran a restaurant. He’s had and lost love. He’s made friends and lost friends.
I have learned a lot about life and being a man in these past four years with my father, and I’d like to share a few of the many lessons that have stuck with me.
“Gradually, Gradually, Gradually…. Suddenly”
We believe life occurs in a few large, life-changing events. But it does not.
Small, consistent actions over a period of time, “all-of-a-sudden” lead to big time results.
This is why people “suddenly” put on weight, or why a stock index fund can be worth millions “instantly” (read: after 50+ years). It didn’t just happen over night. It happened as a compilation of millions of mini-habits, actions, and decisions made over a period of time.
Warren Buffett advices us to, “Form success habits.”
Rather than fantasizing about winning the lottery, invest in an index fund every month. Rather than waiting for the perfect girl, become the person the perfect girl would date. Rather than planning 7 hour-long workouts per week, do 3 days of twenty-minute workouts. Create small, daily habits that will help in creating the exact life you want.
“Work Smarter, Not Harder”
My dad has said this ever since I was a kid. Don’t just put your head to the grindstone and work your ass off, because what if you’re working in the wrong direction?
My biggest pet peeve is my people who “work” 40 hours a week talk down to me because I work 25 out of a Starbucks and a gym. Just because you go to an office for 40 hours doesn’t mean you’re putting in 40 hours worth of productivity.
Being busy does not make you productive.
A basketball payer can work on his golf swing 8+ hours per day, but that won’t help his 17-foot J, or her ball handling skills.
“Do what you love, the money will come”
As long as I can remember my dad has told me to do what I love. He has always said, “If you love what you do, you’ll be great at it. And if you’re great, money will come.”
Lately I have been reading a lot of experts who say that following your passion is bullshit. I disagree. In my experience, doing what I like has brought me the most productivity, effectiveness, and happiness in my life. When you like what you do, you are way more likely to stick with it when inevitably times get hard.
“I can cover the walls with rejection letters from jobs I didn’t get”
When I was in sixth grade I got cut from the school basketball team. And I was better than the scrubs that made it. I knew I was. I was crushed. My dad picked me up from the final cut of the tryouts, and my eyes began to water up.
He pulled the car over to the side of the road, look me in the eyes, and told me “I can cover the walls with rejection letters from jobs I didn’t get.”
It’s an important lesson. Rejection will come over and over in life. But that doesn’t mean what you’re trying to do isn’t meant to be.
From 7th to 12th grade I never got cut from another basketball team, and I have letters from colleges that wanted me to continue my basketball career at their school.
Now, that doesn’t quite make me Michael Jordon, but the point is that there will always be rejections in life. One rejection, or enough to cover the walls, does not define you, your skills, or your value in the world.
“Good Is The Enemy of Excellent”
Ah yes, one of my favorites. My dad has always emphasized that if you are going to do something, do it great. Doing a “good” job, or an “average” job, will make you a “good” or “average” human being.
Do things with excellence. The difference between good and excellence is effort. I have often missed the mark on this lesson. I sometimes take the “work smarter, not harder” advice to the extreme and I cheat. That is one of the few things I regret in life: not doing things with excellence.
It’s always a choice. You can’t always control the result but you can always control your effort.
“If You’re Going to be a Garbage Man, Be The Driver”
I was 9 or 10 years old and I cracked a joke about my younger brother saying he wanted to be a TV repairman when he grew up. Not that there is anything wrong with that job, but it’s not the typical dream job of a 7 year old. My dad didn’t crack a smile at my (hilarious) joke. He pulled me and my two brothers in close, looked the three of us with this fierce intensity, and said,
“I don’t care if you want to be a freaking garbage man.. if that’s what you love then do it. But be the driver.”
Meaning, do whatever you want. Anything. But be the best. Be the boss, the go-to, the leader.
“Friends will come and go but family will always be there.”
Finally, love the people in your life. So many of us are concerned with being cool, or admired, or looked-up to by people we don’t even know, and take our closest family and friends for granted.
They are the ones that we blow up on when we had a bad day. Not cool.
They are the ones who know all of our quirks, yet like us anyway.
My father is now in Ireland and I’m in Salt Lake City. There are no more Saturday cocktails and weekly catch-ups for us.
In May of 2015, we were in Tucson, Arizona for my younger brothers graduation. We split a bottle of wine and then we hugged each other goodbye. Both of us shed a tear because we knew it was the end of a chapter. It wasn’t “goodbye” per se, but it was the end of a scene.
We both were full of love and gratitude for those four years, and didn’t let one Bud Light go by without appreciation.
It was the last lesson, but it was also the first lesson he taught me in life. Friends and acquaintances come and go, but your family will always be there.
Whoever you consider your family, make them a priority. Treat them as such. Be grateful for the moments you get with them because that’s what matters in life.
And every once in a while, grab a beer with your family, and listen to the lessons they offer.