“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” —Shannon L. Alder
When I was seven years old, my dad asked me what I want to be when I grow up. I never even hesitated, I told him I was going to be a teacher. He smiled at me, his whole face beaming and said ‘That’s wonderful, like a school teacher?’ I shook my head and told him ‘no but I’m going to be a teacher’.
My dad ended the conversation with a polite yet condescending grin and we carried on with the day. I really cherish this story because at the time, we both had no idea how true that would be for both of us. He was an accountant and I later started my career in advertising and branding yet we both gravitated to the path of personal development.
My dad was my greatest teacher and he instilled in me three powerful lessons which have been integral to how I have navigated my life, especially the new challenges that Covid-19 has provided.
Lesson 1: Life is choice
“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor”- Rumi
My father’s mantra was ‘life is choice’ and there is great power in that. This applied from how I showed up to my school work and the decision if I would let someone upset me with a nasty comment. He reminded me ‘No one can make you feel the way you do’. He taught me it was a choice to let someone else’s opinion distress me, I could make a different decision not to take it to heart. That was a very profound lesson from a young age – it is up to me to decide if I will let someone dim my light.
Another choice were the words I use. Instead of saying ‘don’t forget to do something, he trained me to say ‘remember to’. He also instilled in me that ‘can’t and try’ are swear words because of the limiting beliefs they place on you. I have shared the same words of wisdom to my kids. When my son tells me he can’t do a particular skill like soccer; I tell him can’t is a swear word and that if we practice together, he can learn anything he wants. I added my own spin and told him practice makes progress, not perfection.
My father’s ultimate gift to me was that I have the power to choose my attitude every day; it is the lens through which I view the world and I should I always use the lens of positivity. He lived this daily despite what external circumstances arose.
He was diagnosed with Cancer and found a way to befriend it for 12 years. In 2012, things took a turn for the worse and he had to start intense treatment.
I would call him to find out how it went on the Chemo days when I couldn’t be there with him and you could literally hear his smile through the phone. He said ‘Lo, it was fantastic!’. And I can tell you that he genuinely meant it. My father had his bad days but he always chose to experience the world through the lens of joy and positivity and that was his legacy.
I continue to lead by example by demonstrating that even in these challenging times, there is a lesson and a positive aspect to focus on if you make the decision to choose your lens.
Lesson 2: The power of thought
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale
My father left the world of accounting to follow his passion of education and help children with their learning challenges. He would help them break limiting beliefs and change their thinking to start seeing into their possibilities rather than their weaknesses. This translated into adult education where he coached people on the sport of bowls and how to shatter their limiting thought patterns. He branched into sport psychology and ultimately ran fire walk seminars.
At the age of 17, I did my first fire walk and this was a huge paradigm shift for me. It was a full day workshop followed by a 5 meter walk on flaming hot coals at 12 000 degrees Fahrenheit and I completed it with no burns or blisters. That was a massive turning point because if I could walk on fire, what other limiting beliefs can I let go of?
He exposed to me to the world of positive psychology, the power of positive thinking and we attended many courses and workshops together in my early twenties. These shaped me greatly because I left with a feeling that I had been given permission to think big and it completely changed the trajectory of my life.
I became the architect of my mind rather than the victim of it. I was conscious of the seeds I was planting by choosing to focus on what I wanted, not what I didn’t. This has been incredibly valuable during lockdown because the inner critic can wreak havoc if you are not aware of the internal dialogue.
‘It’s not the external voice that will break you down. It’s what you tell yourself that matters. The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself. You wake up with them, you walk around with them, you go to bed with them, and eventually you act on them. Whether they be good or bad.’ – David Goggins
I instill the same lessons in my kids by exposing them to a growth mindset and that they can develop any skill they want by practice and dedication. I love to have chats about what they want to be when they grow up and encourage them that anything is possible and they must dream big.
Lesson 3: Unconditional love
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ― Lao Tzu
From childhood to the day he passed away, my father loved me unconditionally. It didn’t matter the grades I got at school or if I failed at something, he was always there for me.
Now more than ever, when he is no longer here to tell me, I appreciate it so much. I live this lesson daily through my kids and tell them every day how much I love them and how proud I am of them. I emphasize that they don’t need to do anything to earn this; they must just be themselves and that’s always enough.
What I have realized is this lesson is more than loving my family unconditionally but loving myself. When the negative critic shows up because I feel like I’m enough, I have my dad’s voice in my head reminding me that I am.
I am blessed to have had him in my life. I am truly his child and I have followed his path in nearly every aspect from our career choices, a love for the spiritual world through yoga and meditation and a deep connection to writing. This hasn’t been a conscious choice but an organic one that I naturally gravitated to. I am honored to continue the journey he started but could not finish.
During lockdown when I was home schooling my kids online, I would always smile and think of my dad because I did land up as a school teacher after all.
Here’s to my dad and his legacy,