The Secret Sauce to My Dad’s Success
One of my favorite activities is to travel down to my parent’s comfortable lake home for dinner. My mom always prepares a special meal that never disappoints. My parents are pleasant to be around and accommodating. They are a gracious couple and are enjoying the fruits of their labor; they are truly living the idyllic American dream.
The best part of the evening is when I get to spend some special time with my dad discussing a wide range of topics and listening to his old “war” stories. On one particular evening, I asked Dad what drove him to succeed throughout his life and career. His answer was simple, fear.
My dad leads a successful life by any standard. He rose through the ranks at the Anderson Police Department to become the Chief of Police. He became the Chairman of the City of Anderson Board of Public Works, started and sold several successful businesses to include a beauty salon, a sealing and painting business, and operated several resort cottages in Northern Indiana. He was the founding president of the influential Roosevelt-Kennedy Club, the president of the Indiana Association of Chiefs Police, and an accomplished runner.
Now he is retired, debt free, with a beautiful lake home and a nice place down in Florida. He has cash flow that allows him and my mom to do anything they want in their retirement, and he built all of it with fear as a constant companion.
There are several reasons why my dad is a success. He remained humble and worked hard. He never stopped striving to meet his goals even when life dealt him a raw deal. He found a wonderful partner in my mom, he aligned and networked with influential people, but his underlying motivation was always fear.
Fear, on the surface, sounds like a horrible motivator; however, fear is a constant in all of our lives. Everyone experiences it and must deal with fear at some point or crumble in it’s presence. What separates my father from 99% of his peers is how he dealt with it. When confronted with fear, there are three basic choices. The first is to run from it, the second is to hide from it, and the third is to face it. My dad chose to recognize it and then to face it with a proper perspective that allowed him to succeed.
At one of our family dinners, Dad recounted a time during his initial Chief of Police training, where he was required to speak in front of a dozen T.V. cameras and answer several questions in a mock press conference. The room was packed and he was peppered with hard questions from his peers. He was terrified. Public speaking was never one of his favorite activities, but he understood it would be a necessary evil if he wanted to be Chief. So, he did what he always did in every difficult situation, he faced his fear and did what was necessary to finish the task. My dad felt his performance, during the press conference was sub-par, and was surprised when he viewed the tape later. He actually did pretty well, which was the case in almost everything he attempted in his life.
So what did my dad fear throughout his life? Failing? Not even close! I watched him fail so many times in his life, but I also observed him brush off those failures and try again. He continually lived and survived outside of his comfort zone, but why? Because in the end, he feared not trying to achieve his goals more than he feared failing. He ultimately feared what would happen to him if he quit. My dad understands what every successful person eventually learns. The opposite of success is not failing, it’s quitting.
Fear is an element of the success journey that we all must face. The question is how will it define us? If we fear failure and avoid life’s challenges because of it, then we settle for mediocrity. However, if we use fear as a proper motivator, like my dad, then it will lift us to new heights that will allow us to achieve individual greatness in our lives.
My dad does not get around like he used to and has slowed down a bit. His body is wearing down, but his mind and spirit are intact. He is a satisfied man, because he can rest on the fact that he lived his life with a healthy perspective of fear, but was able to overcome it and manipulate it to his advantage. In the end, he recognized it, accepted it, and used it as a tool to help him achieve extraordinary success. How are you handling fear?