I Understand What Dad Meant: Always Improve

Do you ever have those “ah HA!” moments as an adult, when you realize the underlying lessons your parents were trying to teach you?

I have a 3-year-old son, and those “ah HA!” moments are starting to occur more frequently.

As adults, I think it’s cool we get to evaluate the parenting methodology used on us, and as we have children, we get to implement some of the same tactics they did, and in some cases, take a different approach.  This is the true evolution of primary group influence, with the hope that we pass on more and more each time, to our offspring.

I remember vividly in my younger days, there were moments where I felt like I had “arrived”, to the pinnacle of childhood or adolescence; however, my dad would remind me I had room for augmentation.

We used to have family meetings growing up when I was a kid; progress reports where we would detail how we were maneuvering in our everyday lives.  We all took turns, giving presentations of the strengths and weaknesses in our walks of life, and when it got to be my turn, I exclaimed that I was doing wonderfully and I had no adjustments to make.

“I’m making A’s and B’s on my report card.” I exclaimed. “So, I’m doing great”.

My father, was right there, ready to pounce on my brimming ego. “But your conduct was ‘needs improvement’ and ‘unsatisfactory’”.

Like a shark sensing the first droplet of blood he continued, “and you didn’t cut the grass, or wash the baseboard, there’s always something to do around here”.

This exchange ensued through many moments in my life.

I remember when my name was in the Charlotte Observer; it was senior year and I had made 2nd team all-conference and all-county as a lineman in football.  I ran up to him grinning, “I know you seen my name in the paper, all-conference, all-county. . .2nd team.

My father, to my chagrin, gave a light chuckle and said, “Yea, but you didn’t make 1st team”.

At some point in my mind I was like “man, what a (insert derogatory term here)”, but as I grew into adulthood, I started to have the same attitude towards myself, as I achieved certain things in life.  That’s when it finally hit me:

You as an individual, MUST be your toughest critic.

We as individuals must not fall under the lull of complacency.  The moment you think you have arrived, you regress, you become lax, and you potentially could lose out on the next big opportunity in your life.  When I would come to my father with the good I had done, I’m sure he was proud, but he never allowed me to feel like, “ok, I can stop here, I made it”.  “The world does not reward you, for doing what you are supposed to be doing”, was one of his favorite quotes, and he’s right in a sense.

The truly elite get the biggest return on investment when they are willing to continuously improve where others think they’ve done enough.

ALWAYS IMPROVE. ALWAYS ALWAYS IMPROVE.

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Those at the top of the mountain do not always stay there. As time passes, the learning curve sharpens, and the effort that was once exceptional at one phase, quickly deteriorates to inadequate.  A few years ago, a bachelor’s degree in your industry sector was amazing, wasn’t it?  Now? It’s just run-of-the-mill.  CPA? MBA? Everybody has those too.  When I played HS football, you had three to four exceptional athletes on the field, in college everyone is highly decorated: all-state, all-conference, all-everything.

Do not mistake stepping-stones as being the end goal.

When I got out of college in 2009, and I worked entry-level jobs, I said to myself, “Man, all I want to do is make 50K, and I’ll be set”.  50K with inflation, in this country, will do nothing for you, especially if you have a family to provide for.  Even when you get the job of your dreams making what you want, challenge yourself to always be thinking big picture.  Invest your discretionary income, constantly be thinking about the legacy you will leave behind.

You accomplished something great? Reached a significant milestone?

WHO CARES? Work HARDER.

As my son grows, I will let him know I’m proud of all that he achieves, but I will kindly let him know, “your job is not yet finished. . .”

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Weather Your Storm, Maintain Inner Reign -E

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