The earliest memory I have of my father disciplining me was when I threw a hissy fit as a 4th grader. I went into his office and tore up all his meticulously typed work papers and went to bed crying because he didn’t allow me to do something. There was no computer to save your work then, just original copies that had to be painstakingly retyped if something was off.
Instead of waking me up for punishment, my father waited until the next morning when I had calmed down. I knew what I did was wrong and felt a tremendous sense of guilt and trepidation. He sat on my bedside and told me calmly, “Son, what you did was wrong last night. Those papers took hours for me to type. Don’t do that again.”
My father was stern, but compassionate. Because he didn’t yell or hit me, I developed an enormous sense of appreciation for his guidance. I began seriously listening to all his advice, and being more compassionate as a person as I grew older. I am all about second and third chances.
WHAT MY FATHER TAUGHT ME
Besides teaching me compassion, my father also taught me how to be frugal and allowed me to discover new interests I wouldn’t have discovered without him.
Frugality / Money
It was my father who instilled in me the attribute of frugality. I always pushed for him to buy a nice car growing up, but he always refused. He once drove us around in a 1976 Datsun with no paint, and three missing hubcaps. I was a middle schooler then in 1989 and I literally ducked whenever I was driven to school because I was embarrassed to ride in such a 13 year old POS.
Thankfully the car was so beat up that when I took it out for a spin during a monsoon one evening as a 13 year old and lost the 4th hub cap, he had no idea!
Whenever we’d go out to eat, he’d always encourage us to order tasty lemon water instead of over priced drinks. Ever since I can remember, we’d always go to buffets to get the best bang for our buck. Alternatively, we’d go eat at a restaurant where he had found a coupon in the paper. The food was always good and I learned to always look for deals before spending any money.
Until this day, I still have a very difficult time ordering something other than lemon water. Even when I crave a deep-bodied Cab to go with my 28-day dry-aged prime rib, the most I’ll order is a glass and not a bottle. I feel too guilty paying a 100% mark-up for alcohol.
Being frugal is about finding value and avoiding waste. By learning to be frugal growing up, it wasn’t difficult saving 50%+ of my after tax income every year no matter how little or how much I made after the first year of work. My lifestyle inflation grew much slower than my fellow colleagues who bought fancy cars and huge houses. Without embracing frugality, I wouldn’t have been able to escape Corporate America at age 34.
My father gave me freedom.
It was my father who introduced me to the stock market when I was 18 years old. He was looking over his monthly statements at the breakfast table when we began to have a discussion on how to read the latest stock prices in the paper. From there he introduced me to investing online through his Charles Schwab brokerage account.
As a senior in college I was so enthralled with investing online that I purposefully bunched my classes together so I could spend two days a week trading the stock market without interruption. I always wanted to be a “business man” growing up overseas. But it wasn’t until my father introduced me to the stock market where I knew I had to find a career in finance.
Most people want to go into investment banking when they talk about a career in finance. But I wanted to have nothing to do with creating pitch books for clients. I wanted to trade stocks and speak to clients who invested in stocks. Equities was the department of choice.
Thanks to my father, there was no need to meander through my 20s figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I had an inkling of what I wanted to do by the time I was 14, and knew full well what I really wanted to do by first semester of senior year.
Life would be incomplete if I didn’t have sports in my life.
My favorite activity was playing catch with dad after he came home from work. He used to play in college and he taught me how to sling a ball. I played third base as a kid, a scary position since I would often have to catch rocket blasts from the majority of right-handed batters. Even more intimidating was trying to ground hop the ball, which would sometimes bounce funny and hit my face. One day he told me to instead of passively wait for grounders to come to me, to aggressively run towards the ball. His advice helped me conquer my fears of getting hit. I still remember rushing towards a worm-burner, cutting off the shortstop, scooping up the ball in mid stride, and throwing out the runner at first base in front of a crowd. It was one of my proudest moments. Go after things and don’t let them just come to you.
Unfortunately I had to choose between tennis or baseball in high school because their seasons overlapped. I chose tennis instead, another sport my father taught me. We used to play every week at the one court at the American Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. I remember finally taking a set off him when I turned 13 years old, although he might still deny that fact! Tennis is a beautiful game that tests the mind. There’s nobody to bail you out, and the pressure is all on you to succeed.
Without sports, I wouldn’t have had as much discipline or endurance to work those long hours or take the constant pressure on Wall Street. Sports beats you down all the time, but it also teaches you resiliency, team work, and the need for a good work ethic.
INTENTION IS EVERYTHING
My father doesn’t mean to be overly critical. He just wants what’s best for me. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t read everything I write or give me tips for improvement. It’s hard to take criticism sometimes because I put a lot of effort into my work. I know there is constant room for improvement. I generally have this “I’ll show them” attitude, but sometimes criticism makes me not want to work hard at all so that I’m less emotionally invested.
Giving constructive criticism without deflating someone’s motivation is a skill that few people are adept at deploying. We all need to constantly work on our communications skills. Learn to listen. Learn to empathize. Learn to understand how much the other person has tried before unleashing advice. Start off with a positive, discuss an area that needs work, and end with a final positive is the best way to go.
I’m absolutely thankful for my dad, and I would much rather prefer having strict parents growing up over parents that just didn’t seem to care.
How about you? Do you wish your parents were more strict on you growing up?
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