Advice from Dad
Steve Strauss, founder of www.theselfemployed.com, recalls advice famous entrepreneurs received from their fathers.
Well, it being the seasons of dads and all, I of course reflected on the role of my dad in my life. I lost my dad when I was quite young – 20 – and for many years felt ripped-off. But lately I realized that I have actually been blessed because I have had two great dads in my life: Dad, and his best friend Seymour who became our surrogate father in the years since. Lucky me.
But it got me to thinking about the role a dad plays in the life on an entrepreneur. Not surprisingly, for many entrepreneurs, a dad’s advice is not only important, it is often decisive. Consider the words of wisdom these famous businesspeople received from their fathers:
Martha Stewart: “The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father when I was 12 years old. He told me that with my personal characteristics, I could, if I set my mind to it, do anything I chose.
“This advice instilled in me a great sense of confidence, and despite the fact that sometimes I was a little nervous, I stepped out and did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I think it really often is up to the parents to help build confidence in their children. It is a very necessary part of growing up.”
Similar advice was given to the founder of LinkedIn:
Jeff Weiner: “As a child, I can’t recall a day that went by without my dad telling me I could do anything I set my mind to. He said it so often, I stopped hearing it. It wasn’t until decades later that I fully appreciated the importance of those words and the impact they had on me.”
One of the most famous pieces of fatherly business advice was given to author and entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki. In fact, it was so important, he wrote a book about it, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In the book, Kiyosaki explains that he too had two fathers, his “real” dad, and a close family friend who acted as a dad. While his real dad (the “poor dad”) was steady and a solid employee, it was his “rich dad” (the friend) who taught him about money and entrepreneurship and investments.
Now, consider this great advice given to the youngest woman ever to be named to Forbes’ list of billionaires:
Sara Blakely (Founder of Spanx): Growing up, Blakely was, daily, asked by her dad, “What did you fail at today?” Failure was a sign that his daughter was taking chances, trying new things, and was willing to risk.
For Ivanka Trump, her famous dad gave her an entrepreneurial spirit. “My father allowed me to learn by doing while always watching and making himself available should I need advice or counsel. Growing up, my parents fostered an entrepreneurial spirit in me and my brothers. I was encouraged to think outside the box, take risks that were well calculated, and make my own decisions after listening to the best counsel available to me.”
And finally, let’s consider the childhood of Bill Gates. When asked what the best advice he ever received from his dad was, the great philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder says:
“Well, my dad and my mom were great at encouraging me as a kid to do things that I wasn't good at, to go out for a lot of different sports like swimming, football, soccer, and I didn't know why. At the time I thought it was kind of pointless, but it ended up really exposing me to leadership opportunities and showing me that I wasn’t good at a lot of things, instead of sticking to things that I was comfortable with. It was fantastic, and now some of those activities I cherish. They had to stick to it because I pushed back a lot, but it was fantastic advice.”
As for me, I would have to say that it was one of my dad’s famous jokes that I remember best. He would love to tell people, “Take a chance. Columbus took a chance, and you know what happened to him, right?” And the answer, usually, was, “he discovered the new world?” “No,” my dad would deadpan, “He died.”
Not only did it always get a good laugh, but it was and is a reminder to not take oneself too seriously, and yes, to take a chance.
Happy Father’s Day, dads!
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