Community//

The Entrepreneur’s Daughter: 6 Lessons that Have Shaped My Life

As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, I've been given the gift of imagining what's possible. Here's what I've learned from my greatest mentor - my dad

Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Being raised by two entrepreneurs, who have been married for 40 years, has given me unique insights into what working, living and loving can look like.

My parents have shaped how I live and have encouraged me to think differently and to dream about what is possible. I’m so grateful for the model they’ve given me and how it has impacted everything I do.

In September of 2019, I followed in their footsteps and launched my own business. When you’re raised by entrepreneurs, it’s in your DNA to do your own thing!

My dad, in particular, has influenced me throughout my life and has been one of my wisest and greatest mentors. He has taught me so much about pursuing work that I love, treating people with kindness, and dreaming big. He has run his own corporate consulting firm for nearly 40 years and does so out of his home office.

As a kid, I remember greeting clients as they arrived at our house to meet with my dad…and getting in trouble more than a few times when my brother and I were too loud while dad was meeting with a client.

My dad gave me a priceless gift when I was growing up that I have carried with me into the working world as an expectation of what work can be:

I never saw him hate work.

I never saw him come home, head down, defeated by his employer. I saw that his work brought him joy. I saw him get excited about it. I saw him being diligent and hard-working but never, ever prioritizing work over family.

He always made time for me, especially when I struggled to feel like I fit in as a little girl. He always made me feel seen and heard and accepted.

I’ve spent some time reflecting on what I’ve learned from him, and I want to share those lessons with you. Think of these lessons as advice from my dad: Dad + advice = DAdvice.

Photo credit: Arleen Wiese on Unsplash

#1 Challenge Yourself

It’s one of the phrases I’ve heard my dad say more times than I can count:

“Do something every year that scares the crap out of you.”

He practices what he preaches.

He turned 70 this year and is in better shape than I have ever been. He started competing in Ironman triathlons (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) at the age of 56 and and has since finished six of them. He was ready to participate in Ironman #7 this year to celebrate his 70th, but COVID19 postponed the race.

My dad shows me and everyone around him that the greatest roadblock to what we can accomplish is our own limitations.

When he tells people he’s training for another Ironman, Half Ironman, or Olympic-distance triathlon, the first response is often a simple, “WHY??” followed by, “I get exhausted just THINKING about that!” 

He’s not out to prove anything to anyone but himself. He knows that continuing to challenge himself in this way physically and mentally keeps him feeling and looking younger than he is. He learns new lessons with each race. He applies it to his work with organizations and their leaders.

My greatest challenge in the past year has been launching a business in the midst of a global pandemic, flipping my entire business model on its head when live speaking engagements were canceled indefinitely, and bouncing back from a car accident that left me with a fractured back this spring.

Seeing my dad tackle challenges the way he does has taught me how to be resilient and creative and to lean into instead of run from challenges.

DAdvice #1: What’s one thing you can do in the next 6 months that excites you (and scares the crap out of you)? Take one step today to move in that direction.

Photo credit: Morgan David deLossy on Unsplash

#2 Question What’s “Normal”

What is “normal” anyway? Most of us decide that it’s “normal” to feel old and achy as we age, to be in a less than fulfilling job, or to settle for an “okay” relationship instead of an awesome one.

Why do we do this?

We don’t question it. We accept it.

Because we assume it’s how things have to be. It is what it is.

My dad has taught me by how he lives that those things don’t have to be normal. We can, in fact, shape our lives and the lives of those around us not by accepting what is but by thinking about what could be.

I’ve seen by how he lives that we can age and be well and have energy. That we can do what we love, love what we do, and get paid for it. That we can feel even more in love as we grow older instead of drifting apart or putting up with the other person.

My dad notices that most people his age have accepted that losing energy, feeling rundown, and having aches and pains are “normal” just because they’re common. But he refuses to accept that.

Because of his age, people often ask him when he’s going to retire.“From what, to what? I’m already doing what I love!” is his response. That mindset has had a significant impact on my life and how I look at and pursue work.

He knows that moving his body and fueling himself with nourishing food are two of the keys to being able to compete in triathlons; spending his leisure time biking, swimming or running; and being so successful with his business. His life is a testament to these wise words:

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?

Satchel Paige

DADvice #2: What’s one thing you’ve accepted as “normal” that might not be? What might the alternative be?

#3 Embrace What Makes You Different

If you’re someone who grew up feeling “different” from other people, you can likely relate to this one.

My dad was always small for his age and maxed out at 5’6″, so he’s never been much of a commanding physical presence. He was once asked whether his family was in the circus because of his size. He’s always told me that he liked being small because he could always make himself taller. He felt badly for tall people because it was much harder for them to make themselves smaller.

He moved more than a dozen times when he was a kid due to his dad’s job, so he learned to be adaptable. He learned that humor is a great way to make friends, so he used it to his advantage throughout school (and to this day) as a way of disarming and connecting with people.

He inspires me to do things differently in my work, just as he does with his. He’s totally comfortable doing things differently than everyone else. He’s always looking for contrarians – people who challenge the status quo and offer new ideas and ways of doing and being. He embraces what makes him different and has taught me to do the same.

I’ve always felt different from from people around me, which led to challenges fitting in and connecting socially as a kid. I now realize that I was just modeling what my dad taught me about being comfortable questioning what is and exploring what could be.

Thinking differently has helped me stand out in my industry of corporate wellbeing. I was recognized in 2015 as the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. for my passion, impact and unique and compelling vision for the future of the industry.

A quote I have framed on my wall captures this insight perfectly:

Why blend in when you were born to stand out?

Photo credit: Melanie Hughes on Unsplash

DADvice #3In what ways are you “different” from other people? What makes you unique? If you can’t think of it yourself, ask your friends or someone else who knows you well. 

#4 Pursue Lifelong Learning

If any of us buys my dad a DVD as a gift, we know to buy the “extended” edition that includes the director’s commentary because my dad will want to know the story behind the story…every time.

He’s one of the most eager learners and voracious readers I’ve ever met. As a result, he stays relevant, offers new insights to his clients, and is always ready to share the latest and greatest teaching with anyone who will listen.

He describes his business as an “interest-driven” business and incorporates his new knowledge into how he consults with companies and individuals.

Whether he’s reading the newspaper or a new book, talking to a sought after expert, or learning a new swimming or running technique, he constantly pursues new skills and knowledge, so he can continue to grow and feel alive. His curiosity is boundless.

I’ve inherited both his curiosity and love of learning. Whether I’m reading a book or article, listening to a podcast, or going through a training to learn how to enhance a skillset, I come alive when I’m learning. I incorporate that into my work and I know it makes me better at what I do in helping people optimize their wellbeing, work and relationships.

DADvice #4What’s something that interests you? What would you like to learn more about? This week, order a book, listen to a podcast, or sign up for an online course. Lean into learning.

Photo credit: Christin Hume on Unsplash

#5 Be Humble and Grateful

In the spring of 2009, I almost lost my job. Health care reform legislation had been passed and the need for a full-time wellness person in a small firm was questioned. I remember when I was called into my boss and CFO’s office and was informed that I could stay on board and take on another position or hang around for a few months while I found another job.

I was stunned.

I remember calling my dad in anger and frustration, “Can you BELIEVE this?” I went off about my boss at the time and how I felt taken advantage of by her. I wasn’t feeling heard.

I had started copping a (noticeable) attitude with her when she asked certain things of me. At times, I told her “it wasn’t my job” to do what was, in fact, her job. (By the way, that phrase is, quite possibly, the LEAST effective thing to say…ever. I’d advise against it unless you have a new job lined up). 

My negativity began permeating other aspects of my work. I had become indignant. My pride had gotten the best of me.

With his years of wisdom and a strong knowledge of my heart and how I’m wired, my dad did what he does best and helped me see things differently. He was the only person who could have lovingly told me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear: “Honey, she’s your boss. If she asks you to do something – as long as it’s not immoral, unethical or illegal – you do it. You have a pretty good gig there. You get to do a lot that interests you, you have good benefits, good opportunities, and you work for a good person. Take all of that into consideration.”

He was right. I had gotten proud and felt entitled. What I needed was to be humble and grateful.

What we focus on expands. When we focus on what we don’t like or what’s not working, we will see more of that and feel worse. BUT, if we focus on what’s working and what we appreciate, we will see more of that and feel better.

DADvice #5: Think of an area of your life where you’ve been feeling negative. Reframe the situation and think about what is good about it and what is working. One strategy you can use is to jot down and reflect on three things you are grateful for each night before you go to bed.

Photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

#6 Go for It

Perhaps more than anything else, this advice from my dad has shaped my approach to what I do. Whether I’m pursuing an opportunity or a promotion or want to meet someone I admire, I hear my dad’s words over and over again and have shared them with others:

“The worst thing they’ll tell you is ‘no’.”

Most of us are afraid of rejection. It doesn’t feel good. It makes us feel inadequate, insecure, less than. But so does not trying. If we never try, we’ll never know what’s possible. It feels safer to not let ourselves dream than to run the risk of failing.

By the way he lives, my dad gives me permission to take risks, reminds me of how many times he has failed, but also how much he has learned each time that happened.

I’ve wanted to have my own business for nearly a decade, but the comfort and security of a stable corporate job with benefits and a paycheck kept me from making the move. While I was working there for over a dozen years, my dad coached me to negotiate “compensation adjustments” rather than “raises” and I’m certain I left that job making 30% more than I would have without his guidance.

After feeling the itch to leave the nest and launch my own business for nearly a decade, I finally went for it in September 2019.

My dad was one of my biggest cheerleaders, sources of courage and reassurance, and motivators to make the move. I remember him saying to me countless times: “Honey, you’ll know when it’s time. I’ll be here to help you. I have no doubt you will be successful. The only regret you’ll have is not doing it sooner!”

I’ve been more generative and profitable than ever in the midst of a global pandemic. I’ve tapped into curiosity, love of learning, optimism, gratitude, and ingenuity to navigate what could have been a discouraging time. I know I will come out of this season with greater confidence and conviction that the risk I took to trust in myself was worth it.

Imagine what might be possible in your life. Let yourself “go there,” even if you don’t know exactly how it will happen.

We’re all making it up as we go anyway. Why not make up something exciting?

DADvice #6: What is something you want that you’ve been too afraid to ask for? Who’s someone you want to meet or talk to that you think is too “big” for you? Ask. Reach out to them. The worst they’ll say is “no”.

Photo credit: Jessica Leigh Photography

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn so much from my dad and his example.

I know that his influence has shaped my mindset around my work, my health, my marriage and how I treat people.

I hope the lessons he’s taught me speak to you today.

Challenge yourself, question what’s “normal”, embrace what makes you different, pursue lifelong learning, be humble and grateful, and go for it!

More on Thrive Global about my journey and lessons learned:

My Mom Went from a Teacher to a Trailblazer

How Burning Out at 32 Changed My Life

What to Do Instead of Hustling Your Way through Life

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