The Top 10 Things I Learned from My Father

IMG_1649Like most young men, I grew up with my father as my role model. I wanted to be “just like Dad!” Twenty-six years later, not much as changed, and this Father’s Day, I’d like to celebrate a man I love dearly by sharing the top 10 life lessons my father has passed on to me.

  1. Leaders Eat Last. Ironically enough, my dad was the cook in our family, so this statement could be taken both literally and figuratively. That said, of the almost 18 years I lived with my father, I can’t recall a single day he put himself first. Everything, and I mean everything, was for either my mom or ‘the kids’: where we ate, what we ate, where we vacationed, what we did on weekends, what neighborhood we lived in, what we watched on TV…everything! Now that’s not to say my Dad didn’t take care of himself, no. He’d usually be up 3 hours before us, get his reading and/or cycling in (two of his favorite pastimes) before we woke up, but by the time I’d roll out of bed and walk downstairs, it’d be all about me, as my hot breakfast would be ready and waiting for me. For the rest of the day, I was the focus. Now, whenever we, ‘the kids’, get the chance to take care of our Dad like today (hope you like your present, Pops!), we spoil our dad rotten. It’s the least we can do after all, to show appreciation for the man who always put us first.
  2. Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, Feed Him for a Lifetime. After reading the previous lesson, you may be under the false impression that my father did everything for us–absolutely not. And I’m glad he didn’t, or I don’t think I’d be half as competent as I am today. Whenever I asked my dad for help, whether it be with my homework, how to make a grilled cheese (loved those as a kid), or more recently, how to re-roof your home, my dad would stop whatever he’s doing (he literally flew out the next week from Texas to Los Angeles for the roof project) and show me how I can do it. I cannot stress enough how valuable this teaching style was/is for me. Not only do I have more “real life skills” than most people I know, but more importantly, by learning all these different skills so ‘easily’ (hey, I had a good teacher), I’ve developed this mentality that I can literally learn how to do anything. At 26, I run two profitable businesses, something I would have never even had the guts to try had I not been raised by a man who taught me that I can learn to do anything if I just ask the ‘right fisherman.’
  3. Always be Learning New Skills. In 2008, my father was laid off by his employer of over 25 years. My father was a chemical engineer, and at the time, no one was hiring. So what did he do? He taught himself how to day-trade, and then, how to buy/flip houses. Nowadays he runs his own vacation rental business, managing a couple of beach houses my mother and him own in Galveston, TX. He keeps reinventing himself, and somehow or another always comes out ahead.
  4. Wealth Isn’t About How Much You Make, but How Much You Keep. It’s safe to say my parents are relatively wealthy and will be “more than comfortable” the rest of their lives. However, this isn’t because they make millions of dollars a year, but because they save. Unlike me, my father bought his first car, himself, at 17. He saved up every penny he had and bought himself a Camaro (and from what I hear, quite a nice one!). He paid for his own private school college education (Villanova) by working two full-time jobs while in school, and then bought his first home himself shortly after graduation (He did take a small loan from his mom for the downpayment, which according to him he paid back, with interest, in 60 days). Well those two full-time jobs must have paid well, right? Wrong. He made minimum wage working the docks in Philadelphia at night and was a bartender at the Phillies’ stadium in the afternoon/evenings. But my dad didn’t party, take lavish trips or buy himself nice clothes. Instead, he saved and invested in himself (Villanova) and his future (his home). Growing up, I had no idea my parents had money because we rarely ate out, we owned non-luxury cars, and we lived in a modest neighborhood. It wasn’t until after college when I took my first job in finance that I learned that all those years my parents had been stashing away their incomes so that when they needed it (like in 2008), they’d be ok.
  5. Sometimes the Best ‘Advice’ You can Give Another Person is to Simply Listen. One of the first things you’ll realize about my family dynamic is that everybody goes to my Dad for advice. Everyone. Even my Mom’s parents! And 9 times out of 10, my Dad doesn’t give them any advice at all. No, not Dad, he’s too smart for that. Instead, he listens. He lets the other person talk. He asks that person what they think they should do, and why. Long ago my Dad realized that nobody likes being told what to do, but everybody likes having an external soundboard to bounce their own ideas off of.
  6. Never Rush a Conversation. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday afternoon or a lazy Sunday morning, if I call, my father answers. Not only that, he talks to me as if he’s on an island somewhere in the South Pacific, sipping a Pina Colada without a care in the world about what time it is. Is this because my Dad isn’t busy and has nothing better to do than hear me complain about my problems? No, in fact, my Dad doesn’t know what the words ‘idle time’ even mean! But what my father does know is how to make others feel important, and nothing says “you’re wasting my time” like rushing someone to finish a conversation. I remember talking to my Grandmother once on the phone (my Mom’s mom, mind you), and she was raving about how great of a listener my father was. “Oh your poor father,” she exclaimed, “I must have cried and cried about X for almost an hour when I stopped and realized…he’s still listening! I wound up apologizing for wasting so much of his time, and he told me ‘ Never Laura, if at any moment I wanted to get off the phone, I would have said so.’ Brian, your father is the best!” Yes, yes he is.
  7. Never Do Anything Just Because ‘Everyone Else is Doing It.’ My father grew up in an era when “smoking was cool” and “racism was normal”, but he never gave in to either ‘trend.’ I remember once at a family reunion I noticed that everyone on my father’s side of the family was in the backyard smoking, and the judgemental me was commenting on how disgusting people who smoke are. My father, instead of agreeing with me, defended them, saying “You don’t understand, Brian. When we were growing up everyone smoked, and this was before all of the medical research came out about how harmful smoking was. By the time they knew how bad it was, it was too late. They were already addicted.” My response, of course, was “well then how come you never smoked?” To which my father replied, “I never saw the ‘need.’ When I’d ask a friend why they smoked, they’d reply ‘because it’s cool’ or ‘because everyone is doing it.’ Those never seemed like good enough reasons to do anything, let alone start a habit my friends couldn’t seem to break. I decided it wasn’t for me, and that decision’s still paying dividends for me.”  Today, I’m proud to say I’m a lot like my dad. I don’t drink alcohol (or smoke), I’m vegan, and I spend my free-time “working.” I’ve made a lot of life decisions that were “against the grain,” and I’m fine with that because they’re my decisions. When you do something because “everyone else is doing it”, you’re no longer the one in control of your life, everyone else is. And if you live your life they way “everyone else does”, you end up with what “everyone else has”, which in America, means: you’re 25 lbs overweight, at least $10,000 in debt, and just elected an orange reality star as your President. (Yikes!)
  8. Women are NOT Objects, They’re Queens. Truthfully, this lesson didn’t even make my first draft, as it seemed too obvious. To “not treat women as objects” as a lesson in my family would be the equivalent of saying “to drive your car, start by turning on the ignition!” However, given the fact that 1 out of 4 women are sexually assaulted in college, our NFL stars are knocking out their finances in elevators, and our President thinks it’s ok to “grab women by the p*ssy” if you’re famous, I thought I’d include this one “no brainer” lesson here. I grew up with all sisters, and my father treats my mom like she’s the Queen of England, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t raised to “objectify women” or look at them as “lesser than” men. But even beyond the obvious, my father instilled in us (especially my younger sisters) that women can do anything men can do, and probably better. For example, I have male friends that feel “insecure” if their girlfriend/wife makes more than them…not my dad. My mom is (now) the highest-ranking woman in her company (a Fortune 100 Company, I might add), and makes significantly more than my father. However, this wasn’t always the case. My dad made considerably more than my mom in the early years, but instead of belittling her achievements or ‘asserting his dominance as alpha of the household’, he supported her dreams. We moved to Houston (from Philadelphia) to support my Mom’s career, not my Dad’s, at a time when my Dad was the main bread-winner of the family. My Dad changed around his work schedule so he could come home early to watch us kids after school so my Mom could stay late at the office. And today, my Mom is one of the most influential women in her industry, in no small part because she had a husband who supported her success, instead of being intimidated by it.

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    My Dad and younger sister, Ashley.
  9. Find Joy in Work. You’ll Never Be Happy if You Hate Your Job. My dad’s photo should be placed next to the word “work” in the dictionary. He is the embodiment of “hard work”, and spends most of his free-time working on any one of his little ‘projects.’ With how much time my dad spends a week working, it’s no wonder why he’s always believed in “doing what you love.” “You’ll spend more time at work than you will everywhere else combined,” my father would always say, “so why be somewhere that makes you miserable?” Hard to argue with that logic. I’ve spent the last 4 years doing just that, working on my own companies, Buddytruk and Foley Properties, and I wouldn’t change my life, or my career, for any in the world.
  10. At the End of the Day, the Most Important Thing You Can Be in Life Is…”There.” I grew up in a neighborhood where most of my friend’s fathers worked and their moms stayed at home. This lead to a lot of soccer games and dance recitals where the mom was there to cheer their kid on, but dad was nowhere to be found. I remember how upset this would make my friends, but unfortunately, I was never able to relate. My dad was, and still is, always there for me. Every game, every practice or tryout, every track meet, every show our little high school rock band played, every graduation ceremony or other awards my sisters or I received (mainly my sisters), he was there. My dad has been a great role model for me my entire life, but I couldn’t appreciate that aspect until I became an adult. But as a child, looking over to the sidelines, to see my Dad, there, cheering me on after I score a game-winning goal for our soccer team, that, is something I’ll never forget.

I love you, Dad. Thank you for always being there for me, as well as all the other lessons you’ve taught me along the way. I hope you have an amazing Father’s Day, and be selfish for a change and do what YOU want. You deserve it.

 

The Best 60 Seconds of Your Day: 5 Daily Reminders

  1. You are perfectly imperfect. You may not be quite where you want, or be quite who you want (yet!), but you’re well on your way. Without the journey, it wouldn’t be worth it.
  2. Everyone else is perfectly imperfect, as well. They’re on different journeys, to different destinations, but they’re trying just as hard as you. Love them for it.
  3. Growth = Happiness. Every day you improve yourself, whether it be by learning a new skill, working on your health by exercising, or simply reading something educational, will be a happy day. Growth is also relative, so the only ‘improvement(s)’ that’ll make you happy long-term are those that bring you closer to your goals.
  4. Spreading Happiness = Fulfillment. Nothing in life will ever be as fulfilling as bringing joy to another person.
  5. Size of Impact = Size of Paycheck. At its core, work is about serving others. The more people you serve, the wealthier you’ll be. Help someone new every day, and continue to find more ways to help those already around you.

 

“It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis”

– Margaret Bonnano

 

5 Tips for Creating Inspiring, Achievable Goals

What is the one habit that all successful people have in common? They all have goals, and they spend their time working towards those goals every single day. As simple as it sounds, one of the easiest ways to ‘get ahead’ in life is to create goals–for your year, your month, your week, and day. But with so much to accomplish and so little time, how do you create goals that not only inspire you, but are actually achievable? Below are 5 easy, quick tips that will help you create such goals:

  1. Keep the list short. The Chinese have a saying, “a man who chases two rabbits catches none.” As tempting as it is to create a laundry list of goals and try to ‘maximize’ your list, don’t. Keep it short. Ask yourself over and over again when creating your goals, “is this really just a sub-goal of something larger?” For example, if you had two separate goals such as “I want to lose 10 lbs” and “I want to be able to do 50 pushups”, is there really a bigger goal that you could shoot for that would encompass both of those goals? If so, go big, and condense that list.
  2. Start Long-term, and work backward. It’s true that you have to set high, lofty goals in order to create the self-inspiration and motivation you’ll need to pursue them, but sometimes, large goals can feel more like ‘distant dreams’ than realistic goals. The key? Start long-term, and backward. For example, “I want to read 50 books this year” sounds lofty, but when broken down, that’s less than 1 book a week, and if the average book is 150 pages, that’s roughly 20 pages a day of reading–very attainable.
  3. Make your goals OUTPUTS. One of the biggest ‘mistakes’ I see in goal setting is making a goal that’s intangible, like “I want to be happy” or “I want to lose weight” or “I want to become fluent in Spanish.” In order for a goal to feel attainable, it must be concrete, and it must be measurable. So instead of “I want to lose weight”, which is a feeling more than it is a goal, pick a number. “I want to lose 20 lbs this year” is a lot more attainable than simply “I want to lose weight” because it’s measurable. The ‘output’ is being 20 pounds lighter, and that makes it very easy to say either “yes I achieved this” or “no, I did not.” Instead of “I want to read more”, say “I will read 50 books this year” or instead of “I want to start journaling”, say “I will write 4 journal entries a week.” By having your goals be ‘outputs’, you make the status of your goals binary: complete or incomplete. This is not only the easiest to track, but also more rewarding for you, psychologically. It’s easy to look back at your year, read your goal of “I want to read more” and feel like you came up short, even if you didn’t! By making your goals ‘outputs’, you eliminate that internal ‘feeling-biased‘, and your goals instantly become more attainable, and more rewarding.
  4. Breakup goals by category. I’m sure most of you, like myself, have several different ‘personalities’ to manage. There’s the ‘work you’, the ‘home you’, the ‘you with friends’, the ‘you with family’, the ‘private you’, the ‘charitable you’, etc. How do you keep your list of goals short while still appeasing all the different ‘yous’? Solution: Categories. Create 2-4 categories, and create 1-2 goals for each category. For example, I have 3 categories: Professional Goals, Personal Goals, and Character Goals. Then each week, I will create 1-2 goals per category, that are small steps towards my Yearly Goals for such category. Last week, I had a Professional Goal to “finish our web app and push it live”, a Personal Goal to “post twice on Medium”, and a Character Goal to “help 1 stranger a day.” By breaking up my goals by categories, I can keep my goals concise, and appease all the ‘Brians’ in my life.
  5. Every day, work on the most important goal first. The easiest way to feel ‘accomplished’ every day is to get the most important goal out of the way first thing in the morning. I recommend waking up at least 3 hours before work, and spending that early-morning, quiet-time tackling the most important goal for that day. If that’s “lose 1 lb this week”, start the day at the gym, or if you have a goal to “be able to hold a 5-minute conversation in Spanish”, start your day by doing a Duolingo class. Life has the habit of “getting in the way”, and at times, it’ll be challenging for you to try and juggle “life” and your goals. However, the best way to mitigate this is to do what’s most important to you before anything else! No, you don’t have to check emails in the morning, and no, there’s nothing on the news you ‘have to see.’ Wake up, brew your coffee, and knock out that first goal, first!

33 Reasons People are Everything

Since Donald Trump has taken office, I’ve seen a lot more disrespect amongst people. I’ve heard more arguing amongst friends (and no, not the productive kind), seen more name-calling, more racist and hateful remarks, and much, much less respect for others–from both sides. Not only is treating people with disrespect wrong, because it’s hurtful towards others, but I also believe it is extremely hurtful for the person delivering the disrespect, as it negatively affects their ability to live a productive, fulfilling life long-term.

I’ve always preached that “people are everything”, and that no matter what you want in life-love, riches, fame, recognition or appreciation-it’ll only come to you with the help of other people. Since people seem to be forgetting just how important it is to treat their fellow human with kindness, I decided to make a list of 33 times you’ll need people on your side:

  1. Every job you ever get will be because a person hired you, and most likely because you were highly recommended to that person, by another person.
  2. If you ever start a business, you’ll need to convince people to buy from you, people to work for you, and people to invest in you, and you must have all 3.
  3. If you’re looking for love, people will set you up on dates.
  4. People will be who you date.
  5. People who date you will want to know what other people think about you before dating you.
  6. People who date you will change their minds about how they feel about you if their friends, or parents, don’t like you.
  7. People will save your life if you ever go to the emergency room.
  8. Or come to your rescue if you’re unable to get to the emergency room.
  9. People will keep your neighborhoods safe so your children can play outside without you worrying about anything happening to them.
  10. People will watch your children when you need a night (or nights) to yourself.
  11. People will deliver your children.
  12. People will teach your children.
  13. People will teach you!
  14. People will be there celebrating for/with you as you pass every major milestone in your life. Every birthday, job promotion, school graduation and of course, your wedding day!
  15. If you’re renting, a person is giving you a place to live without having to buy a home.
  16. If you’re buying an old home, a person is selling you their home.
  17. If you’re buying a new home, people are building that home for you.
  18. If you ever run for any office, you’ll need people to vote for you, and lots of them!
  19. Every piece of food you’ve ever eaten unless you’re a farmer, was grown, harvested, and checked for ‘safe to eat’ by other people.
  20. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can go out and have food cooked for you, by other people.
  21. If like me, you stop for coffee every morning on your way to work, your caffeine fix is being prepared by another person.
  22. If you have a cavity, there’s a person for that.
  23. If you need a massage, there’s a person for that.
  24. What about a ride? There are people for that.
  25.  All the news, information, knowledge and wisdom you acquire throughout your life will be acquired through other people.
  26. And everyone needs a hero! Guess who yours is? Another person.
  27. A Mentor? There’s a person for that.
  28. A God? Depending on your faith, that could be one ‘person’ or several. And if you’re looking for a person who can bring you closer to God, there are Rabbis, Priests, Pastors, Nouns, and several other spiritual leaders for that.
  29. If you’re looking to excel at anything athletic, you’ll need a coach. And a trainer! There are people for that.
  30. But most sports are team sports, so you’ll need other people for that, too.
  31.  If you’re looking for a book to read, you’ll need people to write those!
  32. If you’re looking to write a book, you’ll need people to read it!
  33. If you want to create anything, ever, you’ll need people to create it with, and people to create it for. You think Thomas Edison invented the light bulb by himself, for himself?

This list took all of 5 minutes to jot down. If I had the time this morning, I’m sure I could come up with 1,000 other reasons why people are everything, but I hope by now you get the picture.

Every time you’re unkind towards someone, sure, it hurts that other person in the moment, but it hurts you far more because it negatively impacts your ability to enjoy any of, or several of, those 33 things. In the moment, it may feel great to ‘blow off steam’ or tell that jerk at work ‘how you really feel’, but in the end, the person you’re really doing a disservice to be being unkind to others is…..yourself.

So go out there today, be kind to every person you meet, treat others with respect and love, and selfishly, your own life will flourish.

People are Everything.

I’ve been very fortunate in life. I’ve had a lot go my way. I’ve worked my tail off as well, no question, but I’ve had luck on my side for most of my life. I hear that Ben Franklin quote running through my head right now, “The harder I work, the luckier I seem to get!”

Of all the beautifulness that has flowed in my direction over the years, the things I’ve cherished most are the relationships I’ve created. There are some special people on this planet, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet several of them, one of whom I’m hoping to spend the rest of my life with.

It makes me think, why do we work so hard? What’s the ‘end goal’? And every way you slice it, it always comes back to people.

“I want to provide for my family.”

“I want to be able to give back.”

Or, slightly less idealistic..

“I want to be able to impress (girlfriend, husband, women, men, etc.).”

Almost everything we do, we do for others. Whether it be altruistic, or out of a negative energy, like fear or jealously, another human is the catalyst. That’s why, I believe, if you have positive relationships, your life can’t help but be a positive one. If people are the catalyst of every decision we make, and we love those around us, wouldn’t every decision we make be out of love? And on the contrary, if we were jealous of those around us, envious of what they “have” or “who” they have, wouldn’t every decision we make be out of jealousy? Either way, people are the catalyst.

If we can cherish the relationships we have, and constantly build positive relationships with everyone we come into contact with, I believe (in a selfish way), your life will have to be a positive one. One filled with love. Peace. By always keeping “the relationship” at the forefront of our minds, whether it be with our spouse, our co-worker, or a complete stranger, our actions and decisions will always be positive ones, because we will always be thinking of the other person’s wellbeing. And since we get what we give, the world will be FORCED to always be thinking about YOUR wellbeing. Reciprocity at its finest.

And that’s how I arrived at the first sentence: I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been fortunate because I began my life with positive relationships. I didn’t have to go out and “seek” positivity, it found me. That’s like having the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow arrive at your front door. You didn’t have to go chasing it, it came to you. And for that, I’m forever grateful.

Thank you to all who’ve been a part of my life, you are my pot of gold.