All They Can Tell You Is, “No!”

/, Women’s Leadership/All They Can Tell You Is, “No!”

When I was growing up, that’s the advice my dad offered me whenever I was worried about how I was going to do anything – get a job, ask for money (usually from him). And, “What do I do if they DO tell me, “No!” I’d ask him. His answer, powerful and simple, “Figure out another way to the answer you need.”

I’ve used that simple philosophy in more ways than I’d ever imagined in my life, including overcoming a myriad of blockades in my entrepreneurial journey. Reducing sales resistance, finding avenues through financial constraints, you name it. Dad’s philosophy of not being afraid to ask for what you want and knowing that there are ways to overcome anything, has had a profound impact on my self-confidence, resiliency, and unbelievable positive attitude.

He wasn’t just a philosopher. He knew what it took to overcome any negative situation. He had a pretty rough childhood. His mom had three small kids to raise, when his father died suddenly and unexpectedly of a brain tumor. His grandparents were not supportive – emotionally or financially. At the age of 12, he was given a hardship license to drive in order to get a job and help the family out financially. His mom worked three jobs to support them, but Grannie somehow managed to make it to as many of Dad’s softball games as possible. Softball became his ticket to fame and financial security. He landed a job with Goodyear Tire & Rubber to play on their promotional softball team (corporate-sponsored teams were abundant back in the ’50s) and was skilled enough to make it into the Amateur Fast-Pitch Softball World Series games and World All-Star Teams at least five different times. A requirement for induction to the World’s Softball Hall of Fame requires only three different stints in the World games. It’s a grand achievement for someone who had so little going for him and so much going against him. “No” was never a word to stop him, and he certainly wasn’t going to let it stop his kids. Thank goodness.

Throughout my struggling career-building years in corporations, my father would always suggest that the hours and effort that I was putting into those companies would be better spent in a company of my own making. After 15 years of learning the ropes in the corporate world, I left to start my own business – finally. At a time in my life when I can express my gratitude and share with my father how his philosophy has shaped not only my career but my life, words are no longer useful. The same year that I started my own consulting firm, my father was diagnosed with vascular dementia. The guidance and council that I had come to rely upon was gone. And although I can’t communicate to him in words that he understands, I know that won’t stop me from expressing my love and gratitude for all that he has given me. I can still see the pride and joy in his eyes when he sees me and, in rare moments of clarity, he can put his arms around me to give that familiar hug telling me that he’s proud…not just of my business, my career, but proud of me and the person that I’ve become.

In watching him struggle with his disease, I realize that he’s following his own advice by refusing to give up even when life has dealt him such a cruel curve ball. His resistance to the disease that incapacitates him more and more each day is an unbelievable journey in courage and determination to overcome a horrible human condition. He still utters the words, “Sure,” and “We did it,” to express his confidence, joy, and gratitude when attempting and accomplishing the simplest of tasks. His struggle to be part of life when life is nearly gone for him never ceases to amaze me. At holidays and birthdays, Dad gathers all of his energy to sustain a level of alertness to share with us in our celebrations. The exertion exhausts him, and he sleeps for days afterwards.

When I look at the events in my life on a daily basis, especially on the business side of my life, the issues that I manage are just that….manageable. There is nothing with a client, project, or business deal that is so overwhelming that it can’t be managed successfully. Determination, resiliency, passion to keep going forward…these are the messages that my father sends me on a daily basis. As mountains appear on the horizon, I know there’s nothing that can stop me or prevent me from finding a million different paths to cross it. Thanks, Dad, for continuing to show me the way.

Footnote: I found this “Letter to Myself” as I was cleaning out old files. My Dad passed away five years ago. Although this letter was written 10 years prior to his death, it feels like I wrote it only yesterday. Wisdom is timeless.