In this post I'm going to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time: express gratitude to my parents and articulate some of the things I've learned from them during my brief existence. Why now? First, Thanksgiving will be soon upon us and expressing thanks is the name of the game. Second, when Tim Russert tragically died a few months ago, there were plenty of touching articles about his relationship with his father (documented in his book Big Russ and Me) and on that day I vowed to write this post. Third, over the years my mentor Brad Feld has written movingly about his father and mother and inspired me to do the same. What follows are informal comments which seems appropriate given that the learning is not over!
Dad has taught me the value of hard work. So many people talk about hard work. Yet actions speak louder than words. There's no better way to internalize the hard work habit than to witness it first-hand as a kid every day growing up. In building a successful career and life for himself, Dad embodies the value of focused perseverance.
In addition to work ethic, Dad's writing and speaking skills have taken him far, and he's shared those gifts with me. Dad taught me how to write. In the early days of my fledgling business career, I showed him literally dozens of drafts of business plans, memos, brochures. On each page, he deployed his red pen to suggest ways to make the writing more economical and precise. Dad prized clarity above all, and so from age 12 on I have been pushed to articulate my thinking in as straightforward a manner as possible.
I've also learned from Dad what it means to be serious about something. You can't be "serious" about everything, so choose wisely which things deserve your focus and then hold yourself to high standards when pursuing them.
Dad's taught me intelligence matters but effectively communicating the fruits of your intelligence matters more, that dreams and imagination are nice but one must be grounded in the messy realities of life, that most any scenario can be analyzed by evaluating options, costs, and benefits, and that, through it all, you must never surrender your sense of humor. Seinfeld, after all, was the one TV show that we were encouraged to watch growing up.
(Dad and me in San Diego, December 2005.)
Mom was the central figure in my childhood. As a kid I went to museums and parks and the library with her. Throughout the adventures she imparted valuable life skills. She taught me how to shake someone's hand and look a person in the eye. She taught me how to sit at a dinner table and be courteous. The little things.
When I began expressing business interests, Mom didn't push me back to "normal" activities, but neither did she irrationally cheerlead like many moms I see. She was happy if I was happy, a sentiment that's easy to talk about but extremely hard to believe, let alone convey, as a parent.
Mom has taught me about frugality, about doing more with less, about how to use coupons at the supermarket and find wearable clothes at Goodwill.
An intellectual through and through, Mom has showed me the pleasures of unleashed natural curiosity. She reads more than anyone I know and brings to bear an outstanding command of history, art, and literature. As a student, she lived overseas and through her example I took an interest in traveling, now one of my greatest passions. Together we delight in the mysteries of other cultures.
The life of the mind aside, above all, Mom has taught me that heart is more important than brain and that who you are matters more than what you know or do. She's taught me that a rich interior life can sustain a person through stretches of solitude. And that a strong family is the best way to feel a little less alone in the world.
Dad, Mom: I love you. Thanks for being there for me every step of the way for my first 20 years on this planet.
(Mom and me in the Japanese alps, June 2006.)