January 3, 2017 is a day I will never forget. It was the worst day of my life.
It’s the day my Dad died.
At just 65, he passed far too young and much too soon. He was a great guy, and he will be missed by far more people than he would have ever realized. For someone who never wanted attention, he left a positive impression on all who knew him.
Through his final days, with my family and I by his side, I found myself replaying my whole life over and over again.
I couldn’t help but remember all the fun times we had. The annual summer camping trip to Fort Bragg, CA, our first trip to Disneyland, and all the sporting events and family moments we shared together are all pieces of my life I’ll never forget.
Even more than the great experiences and memories, I’ll remember all the lessons I learned from my Dad. They were simple in explanation, always well thought-out and timeless.
Now that the dust has settled, and I can actually get through this without electrocuting myself from the tears dripping into my keyboard, I’d like to honor my Dad by sharing the best lessons I learned from him:
1. Do the right thing
When faced with a tough decision, do what’s right, not what’s easy or popular. Even two days before he passed, I had a tough business decision weighing heavily on me. His response: “Well, you’re a smart guy with a good head. I’m sure you’ll do what’s right by all involved.”
2. Always do your best
My Dad was a perfectionist and took pride in everything his name was on. Nothing left his desk, our house, or his shop with his name or reputation attached to it if he wasn’t proud of what it looked like or represented. Even the bird houses he loved to build were the perfect example of his attentiveness and appreciation to detail.
3. Be on time
In my 35 years, I never once saw my Dad show up late. For anything. If he had promised to be somewhere, you could always count on him to be there, on time, and present.
4. If you believe strongly in something, hold your ground
His convictions were always well-thought out and usually involved many points of reference. I never saw him bully anyone, but he never let anyone bully him either.
5. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind
There wasn’t a conversation my Dad was afraid to have. With anyone. Good or bad, you always knew where you stood with him, and everyone who knew him respected him for that.
6. Don’t call in sick, unless you really are
I can count on one hand the number of times I ever saw him call in sick. At his funeral service, the CEO of the company he worked for said he was the most dependable employee they’d ever had work there. He could always be counted on to show up and produce great work.
7. Live how you want to, not how others want you to
In a world that has turned into keeping up with others and living up to others’ expectations, my Dad was the best role model in knowing the life he wanted for himself and his family. He always had his priorities straight and never cared about keeping up with anyone else or material things if they didn’t serve him and his family.
8. Family always comes first
The most important thing to Dad was being there, supporting, and providing for my mom, sister, and me. During my entire upbringing, he always worked 40-plus hours a week, yet he never missed a single back-to-school night, concert performance, or sporting event my sister and I were a part of. I don’t know how he did it, but he did.
9. Figure things out for yourself
There wasn’t a thing he couldn’t build, design, or figure out. If something was hard or required a lot of patience, he always took the time to figure out what skills, tools, resources or effort was required, and he did it.
Other than the family he built, I guarantee he would say his greatest achievement was taking a year off work and building the house we ended up living in. My mom still lives there today.
10. Never quit
I never saw my Dad quit anything. He was married to my mom for 37 years and he never quit on that or wavered in his commitment to her. He never quit being a parent to my sister and I. He never quit being a great sibling to his brothers and sisters, nor did he quit being a great son to his mother.
Most of all, he wouldn’t let any of us quit either. Of everything I’ve learned in my life, that is the most valuable lesson of all.
Never quit, regardless of how bad things are, or how challenging things may seem. You never know how things will turn out, but if you quit, you’ll never find out what may have been.
I learned more from my Dad than I could ever sum up in one article. While he wasn’t perfect, he was the perfect dad for me, and I couldn’t imagine growing up any other way with any other person leading our family.
I miss him more than I could ever have imagined.
He taught me everything I needed to know to head in the right direction. And then he supported me and gave me the space to create the life I wanted for myself and my family.
I can only hope to be half as good for my kids as he was for me.
Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and Presidents’ Club-winning sales rep and is a top-producing sales leader in the medical device industry. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit bretbarrie.com.