In my last blog, I shared lifelong lessons from my mother. Today it’s dad’s turn. I lost my father, Edward C. Selker, Jr., in 1992 and life hasn’t been the same since. My father was a man of few words, but turns out, words really don’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things.
Although it’s been 24 years since I’ve heard his voice or have gotten his advice, what I learned from him lives on and has helped form who I am today. Here are a few of those lessons:
“Let me show you what I do.”
My dad, whose manager called him, “Steady Eddie” due to his unwavering patience and attention to detail, was a machinist for a coal manufacturing company in Western PA. He worked in a loud factory, standing on cement all day long, operating one of the most complex machines they had. One time, I had the opportunity to visit him at work and it was a life-altering moment. You see, my dad rarely talked about work and never once complained about it (when he got home, he left work at work). So when I actually saw what he did every day – to give us a better life and to ensure we got the education he never had – I was humbled, and overwhelmed. When I saw him working at his machine, my eyes filled with tears. He noticed that and just said, “Come here and let me show you what I do and how this machine works so you’ll learn something new.” I never felt more proud of him.
“Actions Speak Louder Than Words.”
My dad was a quiet, shy man; and in fact, he had a little trouble with the “L” word. For whatever reason, he just couldn’t say it; but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel it. And there was never any doubt about it. He showed us that he loved us; he didn’t really have to tell us. We knew. And to this day, I weigh the value of a person by their actions; not so much by their words. I thank my father for this.
“Being different is okay.”
All our lives, we’re taught to ‘go with the flow.’ No thank you. Not me. One day in elementary school, I came home crying because someone was teasing me on the bus. My dad said, “It’s because you dare to be different and that gets noticed. Don’t stop being different.” He was right. It takes guts to break out of the ‘same old, same old.’ But once you do, you’ll never go back.
“Remember that the big houses are nothing more than bricks and mortar, just like the little houses.”
When I left home after college, this is what my dad told me as I was saying goodbye to him before driving to Pittsburgh. He then said, “Don’t get crazy out there.” It was his way of saying, “Remember who you are where you came from.” Turns out, he had nothing to worry about. I always did and always will.
“Take care of your car.”
My dad had a thing for cars – not that he needed a fancy car. Nothing like that. He just really took care of his cars. He didn’t believe in trading them in every year or two. Actually, he didn’t like anything that wasted money. In fact, I never knew my dad to have more than a few dollars in his wallet at any given time. The man just wasn’t about money in any way, shape or form. So he taught me to drive a “sensible car” and keep it as long as possible. And I do.
“Remember that you have people depending on you.”
Someone once asked me, “Why are you such a stubborn perfectionist about your work?” Simple. For the same reason my father used to drag himself to work when he was ill. He’d say, “I have people depending on me.” I am my father’s daughter. It’s my duty to exceed my clients’ expectations and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. If you don’t show up, someone else will gladly step in. The trick, though, is to be so good at what you do that no one else can easily fill your shoes. My dad passed away one year after he retired, and his manager told us at the funeral home that my dad’s machine hadn’t been operated since he retired. No one else could tackle it, which really didn’t surprise me in the least. My dad’s work ethic was epic.
“Let people help you, and you help them, too.”
My dad taught me about the importance of independence and being self-sufficient, but with a twist. Being self-sufficient means being self-sufficient overall, not all the time. Let people help you when you need it. In fact, ask for it. Something amazing will happen: People will actually help you if they can! And then you repay the favor to them and help them when they need it. And that is how great, trusting relationships are formed.
Thanks, dad…I didn’t always do it perfectly but I threw my heart and soul into it and always tried to do my best – thanks to the example you set.