The 7 Things I Learned From My Father
My dad passed away earlier this month, on February 10th, 2018. Just 17 days ago, as of writing. Those closest to me know that he was a mild-mannered, kind and honest man. I love him very much and I miss him very much. We all do. For those who were able to listen to my eulogy, they now know that he was a man of many lectures. I learned quite a lot from him and these are the things I'd like to share. And because the last two weeks for my family and I have been an exercise in recalling all our best memories of him, I'd like to share some of the things I've learned from him; in business, in marketing, in work and in life. This is also an exercise in processing my grief and making sure that the world (wide web) has a record of my father being an incredibly great man.
So this post is dedicated to my father. I love you, Dad, wherever you are. I can't wait to be with you again. We all can't wait to be with you again.
Not a lot of people know this but Joey started out in marketing. He was the reason why I even considered studying marketing in the first place. I remember looking at photos of my third birthday and he brought in the mascot of Granny Goose. He was the Brand Assistant of Granny Goose at the time. He also became the Brand Manager of Alaska in General Mills Corporation. I remember thinking that my dad was such a big shot. So any chance I got of being like him in any way was always an opportunity for me to gain his approval, but I digress. Similar to what I had done, he changed careers in his twenties and ventured into business and real estate. This placed him in a unique position to use whatever skills he learned in corporate and apply them to his business. He would inject these little nuggets of wisdom in our daily conversations and they will forever be embedded in my psyche, and I have found that most of my decisions have been based on a principle of his that I have learned over time.
1. You can market ANYTHING.
When I was still in corporate and working for an agency, I remember complaining to him about certain products I had to sell and that I was reaching my creative breaking point and had absolutely no idea how I was going to pull a pitch out of my ass. Calmly, he told me to revisit my 5 Ps. He also said that anything and everything could be marketed. Sometimes, he said, it was just as simple as slapping a "New and Improved" label on the item. Other times, rethinking about who the target market was could also be helpful. It was all a matter of perception, he said. How does your audience think about your product? How do you get them to change their minds and then later on, their behavior?
So whenever something seems like it's impossible to market, I always go back to this conversation. Whenever I am tasked with the responsibility to market something seemingly unmarketable, I go back to this principle. Anything is marketable. It is always just a matter of stepping outside of yourself and reassessing elements of your product and the landscape. Then, you can come up with marketing solutions.
2. Never bite the hand that feeds you. But if you must, do it for the right reasons.
Joey was never a fan of burning bridges. But he always qualified that if you must burn any bridges, you do it for good reasons. While I was still in corporate, I would always tell Joey about my nightmare clients (clients who would call before the fireworks display started on New Years' Eve... I MEAN WHO EVEN DOES THAT) or temperamental bosses who would pit employees against one another or lay blame when uncalled for or even touchy-feely company owners who would impinge on my personal space. And he would always, always, ALWAYS remind me to never kowtow to anyone IF and ONLY IF they were being unreasonable and untoward.
He told me to always make sure that I show decency and respect to those who have been generous enough to give me a job or to give me work or to give me a project but NEVER at the expense of my own human dignity. He taught me to be brave in the workplace; to make sure that if I were to call someone out on their bad behavior, I do it in a respectful manner because context still wins out and I was still one of the lucky few to even have a job.
3. Always negotiate from a position of power
This lesson was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. I had been an account manager for several years before this lesson really resonated within me. I was always so used to giving in to clients' whims, sleeping in the office to finish whatever project had to be finished, shortchanging myself and giving into budget cuts that totally undervalued the work I had produced. I found myself completely empty and burnt out, Joey told me that it was okay to ask for what I deserved, commensurate to my output, that I should always negotiate from a position of power because at the end of the day, the client still needs a good or a service that ONLY I could give.
Of course, this had to be qualified by the value I was offering to clients and to my bosses, but he said that if the work was good, then there is absolutely no reason to cheat myself by either charging low or overpromising that work could be finished in a ridiculously short period of time. As long as I wasn't combative, defensive, and still maintained mutual respect, the customer might be right but only if they are willing to pay the price.
4. It's never how much you earn, it's how much you save
This has to be one of the ultimate Joey lessons. Both my parents had come from good families. But they made it clear that they wanted to succeed in life on their own terms. This meant that they would never accept dole-outs or hand me downs. Joey was a man of pride and tremendous love for family. And while he was alive and young, he made sure that every venture that he undertook would give him more room for comfort. But. Not every venture was a success. With every try came trials; with every push came pushback. Naturally, there were some failures but in spite of all the setbacks he might have encountered, one thing was for damn sure, Joey SAVED.
He was always ready for the failures and the pushbacks. He valued the money he earned because it was his own blood, sweat and tears. He would always tell my siblings and I that life always turns and that one day, we were bound to fail somehow and need money for emergencies and sickness and other unforeseeable things. And thus, he valued having savings.
When I was in my early twenties, I was always awe-stricken by my peers who had these great job titles, who worked in big, flashy companies who would take them on trips all over the world. Joey constantly reminded me that titles, recognition and fame were all empty if a person had no savings; and companies were not worth anything if their pockets were not deep. I learned that it doesn't matter what work you do, as long as it's decent, you are fortunate enough to be in a position to let your savings grow. Joey lived by this and I hope I can live by this belief too.
5. Always learn to enjoy boredom, stillness and rest.
When I was in high school, Joey drove me somewhere. I don't remember where we were going but I remember our conversation. I was telling him about being unable to find something to do for the summer. And I remember he told me, "Hay nako. Cherish your summer breaks. When you're an adult, you will barely get any time to rest." I never really understood that until I started working.
He told me then that rest and sleep are valuable. "How can you ever be your best self if you don't get enough rest?", he said. He told me that the most creative pastimes were those borne out of boredom and stillness. He told me to read. He wasn't much of a reader himself but he knew that I was. And it's true. So whenever I get the chance to be still and rest, and be bored, I consider myself lucky. I read, I breathe and relish in the blessings that life has afforded me.
6. Always keep your sense of humor
Joey had a weird sense of humor. Very male, very slapstick, almost crude, even. But in spite of whatever it was he was laughing about, he was ALWAYS laughing. Even amid the stresses of daily life and work, he managed to keep his sense of humor. And this is something not a lot of people can do.
He would often make jokes, he would always be pilyo. And no one was spared. Our contractors, our tenants, the people in the bank, the people behind cash registers in the supermarket. He was just always making jokes. He always found something to amuse himself. Even when we would be arguing about something at work, he would always try to diffuse the tension by cracking a joke. Sometimes, it would work. Other times, it didn't but he ALWAYS tried. And this is something I learned from him. There will always be room to laugh about something. Something can be bleak and dark and heavy but your attitude should not be bleak and dark and heavy. Because it will eventually pass and you will feel silly when it's all over.
7. Kindness and gratefulness should always be your mindset
I didn't learn this until much later on, until I was already working in the family business. I learned that my father was NEVER unkind to any of our tenants. And I was a witness to crazy, abusive, contemptuous tenants and he was such a forgiving landlord til the very end. The people he worked with, contractors, suppliers and whomever had the privilege of dealing with him firsthand, never had anything but good things to say about my father. He was always kind and he was always grateful.
I admired him a great deal because of his patience. That's not to say he never got angry, he did. He was a human being after all, but he would always try to resolve conflict in the most diplomatic way he could. If a tenant demanded something he couldn't allow, he would just calmly tell them to look for another place to live. He would even offer a hand in helping them find a place more with more lenient landlords. He was just that kind of person.
Til his last days, he would always be grateful for the people who were kind to him. He prayed for them, even if they hadn't been in touch for years. And it was here when I learned that it is always easier to lose your temper, for a delayed project, at a tenant who refuses to cooperate, whatever, but it takes incredible strength and character to be kind during painful times. He had this kind of patience and kindness and strength. And if I can only be a fraction of what kind of man he was, I know I will have done well for myself.
My father was a great man and we miss him a great deal. But I am grateful to have had the pleasure and the privilege to be his daughter. And I can only hope that one day, I can tell him myself that I have taken all these lessons to heart and I am happy to share this to all of you. There are still so many other things I could say about how incredible he was and the other lessons I have learned from him. But these were the ones I knew he would have wanted to take with me forever.
My aunt told me that the greatness of a man is not measured by what he has become but with what others have become because of him. He touched so many peoples' lives and they probably were never aware of it. But we knew. Those closest to him knew. And we will be forever grateful for having him in our lives.
I am glad you are at peace and at rest now, Dad. I love you, period. Always.