GREY MATTER: Episode 51: Five Lessons From My Father

Last Updated: November 29, 2022By

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Albert Einstein once quipped that there are only three ways to influence others: (1) Example; (2) Example; & (3) Example. The following are five lessons from my father. They are presented here in order of ascending importance. Here is an excerpt from the eulogy given at the funeral of my late father

(1) TAKE RESPONSIBILITY When I was 10 years old, my father noticed that I was an early riser. I had a terrible habit of waking everyone up in the house, especially on weekends. My family is still tormented by this proclivity. I have always been restless. Dad called this “having ants in my pants”. That gave me a great idea about how to make fun of my eldest brother, Lance. Ants, France, Dance, Lance, etc. One day, I made the mistake of asking my father about this cool thing that the other kids at school were talking about. Apparently, there was something called “an allowance”, by which sorcery children actually got money from their parents through the application of some childhood version of socialism. When I asked for an allowance, my father’s response was one that will be both familiar and ominous to my siblings: he said “we’ll see”.


A few days later, I was rousted out of bed on a July morning at 6 a.m. Dad was careful to get to me before even I awakened. Bleary-eyed, he led me to the sidewalk outside of our rented duplex in Kensington. There were newspapers, and I was to deliver them. Dad explained how this was done, and for the first two days, he walked the route with me and we delivered the newspapers. This was fun; the best part was just being with my dad. It felt special to have alone time with your Dad in a house filled with five kids.


On the third day, I got up on my own. Dad was not around. I went to wake him up. He said that as of today, I was on my own. If I wanted money, I would need to deliver those papers every day, rain or shine. I would have to collect the money from customers. All of the profit would be mine. He did not force me to deliver those papers. He gave me the choice. I kept delivering those papers and came to fancy myself rather an Elon Musk.

One day, I decided to show off to my friends by flashing all of the money I had collected from customers to my friends at the local arcade. They were so impressed. I was on a real high until I noticed on the way home that all of the money was gone. I had not yet paid the Sun for the papers I delivered, and had no money to pay for them. I had a sort of Justin Trudeau approach to fiscal matters back then. My knees were trembling and my palms were sweating when I told my dad. It was like walking down death row. He was not above a spanking, especially when it was deserved. Dad would go for that belt like Burt Lancaster went for his gun as Wyatt Earp in “Gunfight at OK Corral”, one of Dad’s faves within his favourite movie genre. I thought that I was really going to get it—and I did. But not the spanking. He paid the Sun but then made me pay him back. Every cent. For two months, I was working for the man, just like Roy Orbison. There was no profit. Just debt. This was lesson #1: Take Responsibility. I have never forgotten this, and it guides me in my business and private life to this very day.


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