March 14, 2010, was hands-down the worst day of my life -- it was six years ago, to this day, that I lost my dad to cancer.
I was his little sidekick growing up. My first job was working for him at a very young age -- he was a photographer and that meant on most weekends I was attending weddings with him, carrying equipment and setting up lighting. While most kids my age were watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was working hard. I received a hands on lesson about business ownership and hard work at a very young age.
Those are some of my best memories as a child. We traveled all over together. He always made me feel like I was an important part of his business; and he’s the main reason why I became an entrepreneur. I think about him every day, and the following five things that he said to me are still engraved in my head to this day.
1. 'Never work for someone else.'
He used to drive this into my head all the time, but he didn’t falsely paint the picture of self-employment as being constant sunshine and good times. He explained that it would be stressful at times and very difficult, but he also emphasized that it would always be more satisfying than working for someone else.
He was right, and I’m thankful that he was so persistent -- it’s the reason I went down this path and started my marketing agency.
2. 'There’s no such thing as a free lunch.'
If I had a dollar for every time he said this, I wouldn’t have to work another day in my life.
He really stressed the importance of hard work and said there were no shortcuts when it came to success. If you want something, you need to be ready to work hard for it. Nothing was handed to him; he learned the art of photography on his own and was entirely self-taught. I get out of bed every morning ready to work hard because of him.
3. 'The game of baseball allows adults to never grow up -- find your baseball.'
My dad was a big kid. I’m a spitting image of him -- I got his sarcastic sense of humor and his never-ending supply of youthful energy. I can remember my mom calling us in for dinner, over and over, until she had to physically come outside to get our attention. Almost every time she would end with, “I swear, sometimes I feel like I have five kids!” while giving him the evil stare and a mischievous grin.
We were a huge baseball family, and still are. My mother is the biggest Red Sox fan you will ever meet and one of my brothers works in professional baseball. My dad would always talk about how being a professional baseball player was the best gig in the world, because adults got to play a game for a living. He always told me to find my baseball -- something that I loved doing, so it didn’t feel like work.
4. 'Money doesn’t define you -- there are plenty of rich a**holes.'
This is something he stressed a lot. As a kid, I used to say I wanted to be rich when I grew up. He would respond by saying, “That’s fine, just don’t be an a**hole.” I can think back to several times he would bring up examples of celebrities and professional athletes that he photographed and worked with, that were complete a-holes to work with.
He was big on respect and always said that your actions define you, not the amount of money you have.
5. 'You take care of your mom, brothers and sister for me. I love you.'
These were the very last 14 words that he spoke to me. His body shut down soon after, and that moment continues to replay in my mind every single day. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to neglect family and not give them as much of your time as they deserve. We are busy and have a lot on our plates.
That’s a horrible excuse though. Our window of time is limited, and the sooner you realize this, the more quality time and memories you will enjoy with your loved ones.
(Side note: If you are ever looking for a charity to donate to, please consider giving to the American Cancer Society.)