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Lessons From My Father

 

All of last week I did a series of blogs in which I shared some of the lessons I have learned from my father. To be entirely honest I have been surprised at just how much that series of blogs resonated with my peers. It has been greatly encouraging. The feedback I have gotten has only made me appreciate the man even more. I have also felt vindicated for having the courage not only to write those lessons down but also for having shared them. I often worried that maybe I was just indulging the nostalgia junkie in me with all the trips I was taking down memory lane. That no one really cared much for the high esteem in which I hold my dad. The rest of the time I felt I wasn’t playing my own little beautiful games with the language. But I was very wrong. Many of of the lessons had an almost universal appeal. And I also learned that sometimes simply sharing a story that resonates is the most beautiful game you can play with words.

The irony is that even though I have been blessed to have such an amazing father and role model I haven’t always looked at it from that perspective. As I’ve hinted at before on this blog, growing up I was a mama’s boy. My mum coddled me and I almost always had my way with her. My dad on the other hand was the tough one. The disciplinarian. Even though he always made a point of saying “well done”, he would no sooner point out that I could do even better. And I resented this. But he would go on to remind me that I had one father and he was the one person in my life that would always tell it like it is. He would say that some day I would be thankful that I had him by my side to navigate this crazy little thing called life. I never thought that day would come.

But here we are many years later and I am proudly writing about those very things he has always tried to instill in me. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I am more conscious of the kind of man I want to be and with that came the realisation that I already had a blueprint for that in my father. As a result the older I have gotten the more I have started to see the wisdom in my dads words to a younger me.

Ever since I turned 30 I have found myself thinking more and more about the kind of man I am and the kind of father I would like to be one day. What started out as a quest to celebrate my father’s impact on my life snowballed into me sharing those lessons with readers of this blog. Many conversations have grown out of that and I realise that I am not alone in my experiences. More importantly I have also reminded myself of many of those lessons. The challenge now lies in actively applying them to my own life.

In case you might have missed them I have shared links to all the blogs in the series Lessons From My Father below

1. A Few Good Men

2. Let’s Talk About Sex

3. Put That Woman First

4. My Very Own House Of Stones

5. Head of The Household

6. I’ll Never Let My Son Have An Ego

 

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I’ll Never Let My Son Have An Ego

iTunes shuffle is the best thing since sliced bread. There. I said it. Now that we have gotten that out the way , back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Earlier I was contemplating what exactly I was going to write about for this series of blogs I have been doing this week on the lessons my father taught me. There are so many lessons and I was struggling to pick one particular lesson to share today. But whilst listening to the song ‘New Day’ by Kanye West and Jay Z I knew I wanted to talk about my father’s legacy to me and the legacy I hope to one day pass on to my own son should I ever be fortunate enough to have one.

‘New Day’ is one of the more emotional and introspective tracks off Jay Z and Kanye’s collaborative album ‘Watch The Throne’. In the song both Kanye and Jay have conversations with their unborn sons. A constant theme in both rappers lyrics is a desire to give their future sons better opportunities and a better life than they had growing up. They are not necessarily speaking about material wealth. Their wish is that their sons become better men than they were. They want their sons to not have to make the same mistakes they did.

‘And I’l never let my son have an ego. He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go. I might even let him be Republican so they know he loves white people …. Don’t want him to be hated all the time. Don’t be like your Daddy that would never budge’ – Kanye West ‘New Day’

Most fathers are accused of trying to make their son’s into miniature versions of themselves. If it’s not that then they are accused of trying to live out their broken hopes and dreams vicariously through their sons lives. some mistakenly believe providing their kids with material wealth will suffice. But there is also another narrative. Father’s whose aim is that their son’s become their own man and best possible man they can be. Father who spend time and make an effort to nurture the character of their sons.These father’s are more focused on the legacy that they live their sons. That legacy is often some aspect of their character or lessons learned from their own mistakes. The values that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

‘Sins of a Father make your life ten times harder. I just wanna take you to a barber, bonding on charter’s, shit I never did. Teach you good values so you cherish it…. Took me 26 years to find my path, my only job is to cut your time in half …’- Jay Z ‘New Day’

My dad’s personal career success meant very little to me as a child. It is his character and the man that he is that has had a greater impact on how I approach my life. That is what I believe is his legacy to me. From an early age my dad taught me that people will treat you the way you allow them to. He also taught me that I should never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t achieve anything. It was very important to him that I became my own man and that I learn to make my own decisions from a very early age. He afforded me a great deal of autonomy on my life. This is not to say he let me just be. Whenever he thought I was losing my way he would never hesitate to gently guide me back onto the right path. And all the time he managed to make feel like I was in control and in charge of my life but I knew if I ever needed any help he was always there. My dad gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give another person. He always believed in me, even when I doubted myself.
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Whenever I tell my dad any of my plans he always says the same thing. I remember when I first told I wanted to write a book. Despite my trepidation he was true to form and said to me” Make sure you follow through with it. Whatever you start, you must always finish.” Anything my dad has ever started he has always seen it to the end. So in that regard he has led by example. And that is probably one of his greatest legacies to me. Because for all the things he has taught me the greatest lessons I have learned have been from following his example. I just hope by the time I have a son I will be able to do the same for him.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Lessons From My Father

 

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My Very Own House Of Stones

The ruins of Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe is Shona for "House Of Stones") – the capital of the Queen of Sheba, according to an age-old legend – are a unique testimony to the Bantu civilization of the Shona between the 11th and 15th centuries. The city, which covers an area of nearly 80 ha, was an important trading centre and was renowned from the Middle Ages onwards.

The ruins of Great Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe is Shona for “House Of Stones”) – the capital of the Queen of Sheba, according to an age-old legend – are a unique testimony to the Bantu civilization of the Shona between the 11th and 15th centuries. The city, which covers an area of nearly 80 ha, was an important trading centre and was renowned from the Middle Ages onwards.

My dad was a company man for over 25 years before he ventured out on his own and started his own business. During most of that period Zimbabwe’s economy was the envy of many a nation on the continent. So much so in fact that that it was commonly referred to as the bread basket of Africa. As is often the case in such a stable and vibrant economy being a company man has it’s vast array of perks. In my dad’s time these included company houses (rent free) and company cars with a fuel allowance to boot. Your kids school fees were also taken care of by the company. My dad being a hotelier, had other benefits specific to his profession, and these included fining dining and free holidays to some of Zimbabwe’s most picturesque and prime tourist destinations. And you still got paid your salary at the end of the month. Man, that was the good life. *le sigh*

Despite all this my dad never once let us believe that the many different houses we stayed in and the cars he drove were his. In fact he made a point of drilling into us that at any moment these could all be taken away from us. In the end when he retired from being a company man he had managed to build a house of his own as well own his own cars. To this day that is a lesson he never tires of repeating to me. That you should not get to comfortably with life especially when you are working for someone else and when you don’t have any assets of your own, because at any moment they could be taken away from you. And if you haven’t prepared for this eventuality you will be left exposed.

For me and most of my generation of Zimbabweans the company has been replaced by the diaspora. Over the last decade or so Zimbabwe’s economy has become a pale shadow of itself.  So much so that what once was  the bread basket of Africa became the basket case of Africa. As a result many son’s and daughter’s of the soil have left for greener pastures in the diaspora. And so the diaspora became the company for us, although I am not sure it offered quite the same benefits. It did however present new opportunities and possibilities that we are the better for. Some that immediately spring to mind and that I can personally attest is an enhanced world view and rather ironically a more heightened sense of patriotism. But I digress.

The thing about the diaspora though is that it can still offer the same trappings as the company did back in my dad’s time. When you are living in your adopted country it can just be as easy to get comfortable and not plan for your future appropriately. It is often because of an indecisiveness founded on not being entirely sure where your long term future lies. If you you are going to build or buy a house, do you do so in your adopted country or back home? For most of us this is not an easy question to answer and we often just push it to the back of our minds and continue paying the rent. Our indecision tempers our motivation to invest in assets of our own in the same manner as say for example my dad did during his stint with the company.

I found myself mulling over this a lot in the weeks after I turned 30. At the time I was going through a bit of an existential crisis. In those quite moments of reflection I remembered a story my dad once shared with me about how he ended up building his first house. I would like to share that story today.

When I was 3 years old we lived in a penthouse suite at the city hotel my dad was working at. On occasion my dad would take me to the nearby park to have a kick about and also just so I could enjoy the great outdoors. According to him every time we had to go back to our suite I would throw get hysterical and throw a tantrum all the way back. I hated being cooped up in that suite. There was no backyard. And to make matters worse my mum was always telling me not to touch stuff for fear I would break anything.This just exasperated me even further. But hardly anything in that penthouse was ours, it belonged to the company. So in hindsight I can understand her position. Long story short, every time I would return from the park with my dad says he would be consumed by guilt. One day the guilt became too much and he finally bit the bullet. He went to his bank and applied for a mortgage so he could buy a piece of land and  build a house with a large backyard for his family in the suburbs.To this day he says my tantrums are what finally gave him an impetus to go to take out that mortgage. And that is the story of how my dad finally built his first house, even though the company always gave him a place to stay.

Looking at my current station in life I have to constantly remind myself not to be so hard on myself. The lesson has stayed with me. I know all too well not to get comfortable or relax without a concrete plan for my long term future. I know I want to build my very own house of stones eventually. I have my dad to thank for that maybe all I need is just that push that overrides my indecisiveness in the same way my tantrum prompted my dad to act.

 
 

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Put That Woman First

My parent’s relationship is the blueprint from which I have tried to mold all the relationships I have had so far. Albeit with a far lesser degree of success than they have managed over the 32 years that they have been together. In my eyes, my parents are the dream team of the marriage game. This is not to imply that theirs has been a perfect marriage – no marriage is. And that is probably the most important thing I have learned. Theirs is an imperfectly perfect union. They are each other biggest fans. They continue to consistently make sacrifices for each other. They have an innate understanding of each other strengths and flaws. They complement each other. And even more significantly they are the very best of friends.

My parents do almost everything together. They spend as much time as they can together. They are open and transparent with each other and whatever their differences they have always presented a united front to me and the rest of the world. They even have a joint bank account! Having had my fair share of relationships I am fully aware of the level of trust and openness that is a prerequisite for such a decision. Most of us won’t even allow anyone we are in a relationship anywhere near our phones, let alone our bank accounts.

As a team, my parents each had their assigned role when it came to raising us, their kids and they both did it exceedingly well. I am a living testament to that. Growing up I naively assumed that this was the modus operandi in most marriages and families. It is only in my teens that I actively started noticing how this was not always the case. That some of my school mates came from either abusive, single parent or ‘broken’ homes. How often one parent had to shoulder all the responsibility and play both roles that my own parents shared between them. That only served to magnify the gratitude I continue to have for my parents. Everything I am is direct result of the sacrifices they have both made. And I become more and more preoccupied with the purpose of my life I have begun to look more and more at their example and to try and learn as much as I can from it.

Being a man I have looked more specifically looked to my dad for guidance as I try to navigate my way into manhood and what it means to me. A lesson I have learned from my dad and his relationship with my mum is about putting your significant other first. This manifest itself best by you able to find happiness in your partners happy.

The best example of this come from when I started working my first professional job in Melbourne. My parents flew over to visit and take what was to be their first holiday alone for the first time since they had had me. Detouring through they arrived in Melbourne two love birds crazy in love with each other. This is probably the first I actually looked at them as two people just truly, madly and deeply in love even after all the years. During that visit I realised that they were not just my mum and dad. They were soul mates.

Whilst I ran the rat race during the week they indulged themselves taking in the sights and going on dates. It was only on weekends that I got to spend time with them and even then I felt like I was the third wheel. On one particular weekend I decided to take them shopping. I remember I bought my dad this really nice suit that he absolutely adored but on that day in that particular mall my mum couldn’t find anything that was to her taste. So she went home empty handed. What happened as we made our way home and for most of that evening will always stay with me. My dad was visibly upset and disenchanted.

Later that night I worked up the nerve to ask him why he had been in such a foul mood, his response surprised me. This guy was even more disappointed than my mum was that she hadn’t been able to find anything during our shopping trip. I was pretty certain he loved the suit he had got, but he couldn’t get himself to appreciate it because his wife hadn’t been able to get anything on that day. When my mum caught wind of the reason for his sourness , she told him to stop being silly and reminded him that she still had time to get something she actually wanted. To which my dad responded ‘ You know I can never be truly happy if you are not happy. You are my happy.’

It might seem like it was a trivial matter, but in that moment my dad taught me an important lesson. Always put your woman first.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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