What I learned from my Father

“A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.”
~ Frank A. Clark

My Dad is a real man. A man of action, a man of thought. A man who led a life of virtue. Every boy is searching for his role model to man up. I was unbelievably fortunate to have found mine in my father. He never gave me eloquent pep-talks on what makes a real man. He never shared his life philosophy. But he did something better. He embodied it.

When I first arrived in South Korea, I was surprised to discover that men respect each other only because of the difference in age. In Korea, even a 1-year gap is big enough to create a significant distance of power and consequently govern the overall dynamics between two men.

This aspect of the Korean culture reminds me of an old anecdote about Napoleon. One aristocrat who used to hang out on the same parties with Napoleon and was quite tall once wanted to provoke the emperor. He is purported to have said to him: “You see, your Majesty. I am taller than you.” Napoleon replied: “You are not taller than me. You are longer.”

This is the way I see the conception of respect in Korea. People revel in their sense of superiority that rests solely on the fact that they happened to show up to this planet slightly earlier. Nothing bad to say — it is the culture difference. But back from where I am from respect is not something that is taken for granted. As my father puts it: “In this world, a man does not respect another man for nothing. Respect has to be earned.”

My Dad is an introvert. This is partly the reason why we haven’t talked a lot all these years. Of course, I wish we had spent more quality time together, but in retrospect, his silent nature is exactly what became his lifelong lesson for me.

My father has embodied his personal philosophy that a real man is never a man of talking. A real man must be reserved. He must make sure that his results speak for him. My Dad taught me: “A man’s worth is the weight of his word.”

This sentence engraved in my brain. Throughout my life, I worked with many men who didn’t grasp this simple lesson. They were as cheap as their talk. They declared their high ambitions, oftentimes publicly, and didn’t change a shade while failing to deliver. Our collaborations were always a total fiasco but I learned a lot from them.

I guess the size of this book gives away how hyperverbal I am. Language mastery remains my personal objective, and now, in the face of a new challenge — the mastery of writing, I have to produce thousands of words every single day. Luckily, all these words are manifested in written form so I kill two birds with one stone: I fulfill my urge to talk and spare many ears. I do say a lot but I never disavow my word. Integrity — the ability to match actions with words, that is the quality that has been inculcated in me by my father and for that, I am deeply indebted to him. Adamant confidence in your own reliability, being a man of your word is priceless.

Here is a simple but truly empowering lesson that I learned from my father: “If you want to see something done, do it yourself”.

Most people don’t understand this. Many resist understanding. Some people understand but don’t act accordingly. Maybe these three are just different stages a person must go through before starting taking full responsibility for what happens to him. The term “full responsibility” is used to describe responsibility that encaptures every single aspect of your life. Here are some examples of a full responsibility mindset:

- Got betrayed? My fault. I was naive, stupid and immature to see what is coming and trusted someone who didn’t deserve my trust.

- Got cold? My fault. It is not some external virus to blame. It was my responsibility to keep my immune system coldproof.

- Did someone hurt me? It is a red flag: something is wrong, my relationships are not working which means that something is malfunctioning inside.

The list can go on. You get the point. The mindset of full responsibility implies that you must reframe every negative situation so that you could understand what’s in your power to change and act upon it.

Responsibility is like weightlifting. You can’t start lifting heavy without adequate preparation. You must apply the principle of progression and slowly expand the areas of your responsibilities. The endgame is to take all-embracing responsibility for every single aspect of your life.

When I asked my Dad about what it means to live a good life he said: “There are not that many things that a man should know in life. Take care of your family. Don’t do evil. Do your job and do it well.

The simplicity of it struck me. To think about it, this is exactly how my father lived all his life. When I notice that an unhealthy proclivity to overcomplicate things by overthinking overshadows my Pole Star hindering my navigation in the sea of life, I look at my father’s unfailing sextant. “Family. Virtue. Mission.”

One day I called my Dad after a fight with my girlfriend: “Dad! She is impossible. I do not understand her!”

My Dad replied: “We don’t need to understand women. We just have to love them and take care of them. That’s all.

It helped. I struggle but I try to act on his teachings. When my relationship gets bumpy and there is a part of me that wants to explode, I hear the voice of my Dad: “Calm down. You look silly.

This is one of the most treasured things that I learned from observing my father for years. The insight that the best thing that a man can do for his kids is to love their mother.

My Mom always says: “Your Dad is an epitome of a family man. He was always a brilliant husband. He fostered a quality of provider in himself and now this is just who he is. Whenever I needed anything for you or your brother, snap! And it “magically” appeared at home on the following day. Life is long. After many years I understand it better than ever — he was always that perfect man for me.

I am married now. Thanks to my father, I am not a man who needs to find an external model of the family to build his own, a man like my Dad once was. He never had a proper family so he made one. And I am so lucky because I know what a good family feels like. Thanks, Dad.

My Dad got his job when he was 25. During his 35-years long career, he never changed his job neither he had a proper vacation. Never. As long as I can remember him, he worked hard. He worked relentlessly.

My Mom told me that after the dissolution of the USSR the country was in chaos. Many people starved to death in the famine. But our family never had to face such a horror.

Today my father is 61 years old. I heard him complaining only once: When I was younger, I used to work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. Can’t do that anymore. I am getting old, getting tired. He is saying this still putting in 8–10 hours of work each day taking work home on the weekends.

Every time I meet a youngster who whines about how hard he works and how miserable he is because of it I want to slap his overfed face. At times, I want to slap my face too. I don’t think I will ever come close to my father’s inhuman productivity.

All of the hard work he does up to this day was for the sake of the family. He worked hard so that my Mom could stay at home and raise me and my brother. My mother had her fair share of sacrifices too. She was a bright doctor with a brilliant career ahead but instead, she chose to devote herself entirely to her family. I learned that if there is one thing in the world that could be a measure of Love, it is Selfless Service.

As I was growing up, I was watching my Dad walking calm through the storms of life. The wild 90s, financial crises, inflations — no matter how hard the times were he always found ways to help others. People betrayed him, people turned away from him, people didn’t appreciate his tendance — he helped them still.

Whenever the choice was between giving away time for doing something himself and paying to someone who would provide more quality services, my Dad always chose the latter. He said: “Good work must always be rewarded. He always expressed his gratitude to people in a way that exceeded even the highest of expectations.

Whenever he was in a group of people and there was a collective expense with a bill to split my Dad always stepped up taking care of the situation while others were shying away from payment holding tight to their wallets. Not being a greedy ass that drools over cash, that’s what my Dad taught me.

Being a giver is a quality that was imprinted on my mind by my father. I learned how to serve others. I learned how to be generous and how to give selflessly. I learned what it means to be a true friend. It is because of my father that I eventually understood the true meaning of manhood.

Thank you for your guidance, Dad.
Thank you for raising me a man.

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Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.

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