As a hormonal, hairier-than-most Greek girl in my early teens, I often referred to my dad as a "broken record." If I tried to tell MY teenager that, he wouldn't quite get the metaphor as he never had to weigh down his phonograph needle with a nickel to avoid skipping on his beloved Rick Springfield 45.
My dad was big on monologues. He knew the history behind everything. Imagine Gus from My Big Fat Wedding and how he knew the etymology behind every word. That was my dad -- minus the heavy Greek accent and the restaurant. My dad was one of the few Greeks on the corner who didn't own a restaurant, and instead, got a college degree and dove in to the finance world via Merrill Lynch. As a girl, I never understood what on earth my dad did so when my parents would purposely set me up in front of friends and say, "Andrea, what does dad do for a job?" I would answer confidently, "He breaks stocks." Their friends would erupt in laughter and my parents would continue to collect dividends on that joke for years to come until I finally understood that my dad was a stockbroker.
It was hard enough being a teenager in a sheltered Greek world where I was the darkest girl in my high school and the one with the strictest parents, so to come home to lectures in the evenings was like biting into baklava when you're allergic to nuts; I'd immediately start feeling my throat closing up and my skin getting itchy at the mere sound of my dad's voice telling me the same things over and over in hopes that they would one day stick in my brain, should a situation arise that I might need them. Little did I know, many situations would arise where not only would I need them, benefit from them and use them, but would come to understand his wisdom beyond his years and his love for me that ran deeper than the Mediterranean itself. My all-time favorite advice from him came when I was in my thirties: "Always remember you are an asset to your husband, never a liability." And along the same marriage advice he told me to always put wind in my husband's sails and to expect the same from him. Great words of advice to any married couple.
And now, I'm happy to share with you My Dad's eight greatest hits so that you, too, might benefit some day from them.
1. The difference between an A and a B is just (pinch your thumb and pointer together) this much effort.
This lecture came during high school -- and he was right. I wasn't using my time wisely. I wasn't putting every drop of effort in and I certainly wasn't managing my time well. All I had to do was focus just a few more minutes, try just a little harder and put a little more oompf into my work, and the A's would come. And they did. To this day, I still use this saying and I replace A & B with whatever appropriate word applies to my challenge in life. Like "The difference between losing three pounds and losing six is staying on the treadmill 10 more minutes and working just a little harder than you usually do."
2. If you always tell the truth, you don't have to have a good memory.
He started this mantra very early in life. It was simple, really. Just be honest. Tell the truth, and then you'll know that whatever you said, you said -- and whatever you did, you did -- and you wouldn't have to work too hard to remember anything. Honesty, to my dad, was one of the Ten Commandments in his life. I refer to this one constantly, and my kids have heard me say it one million times. I am re-making my dad's greatest hits for my kids, you know.
3. Sometimes, you win by not losing.
Sometimes you have to make decisions that you won't like. They may not get you to where you want to fast enough. Too much instant gratification can lead to hasty decisions. Take your time, be patient and think things through. A seller didn't accept your offer on their house? It wasn't the right house. The car you wanted got sold before you got to the dealership? Move on. Follow cues and believe in yourself and the way things happen and just keep going. Sometimes you win by not losing: so simple, yet so hard to apply to daily life. (This also applies to hitting the casino. When you walk away even, you walk away a winner.)
4. There's no traffic on the extra mile.
My dad always believed that doing things right the first time, even though it may take longer, was always the right road to choose. He believed that many people did the bare minimum to get a job done -- just to be done quicker, so if you were willing to just do a little bit more than the other guys, to spend more time, to give just a fraction of extra effort, that you would always come out on top. In this day we live in, where someone just doing their job feels like the extra mile, actually going the extra mile can set you apart from so many others and really allow you to shine.
5. Nothing good happens when you're out on the road after midnight.
This was definitely coming from a place of fear. I know and completely understand that when he didn't let me do something as a kid, or he said no, or told me I couldn't go here or there, it was fear-driven. He was so afraid something was going to happen to me or my brother that he couldn't bring himself to say yes to some things we asked to do. Back then it felt like it was the end of the world, when really he was just protecting us. As a parent, I totally get it now. As an adult, I can't stand being on the road after midnight -- it's like inviting disaster to your doorstep. If I can't help it, I'm home at a decent time. I can still hear his voice saying that to me like it was yesterday.
6. If you have... give.
I'll never forget the story my dad told me about when he was Student Council President at his high school. He was organizing a school dance complete with a very talented group of singers from his school. He was thrilled that they agreed to perform at the dance because they would be a big hit. One day, not long before the date of the dance, one of them came to him after school with his head down and told him they would not be able to perform. When my dad asked why, the lead singer shamefully answered that he didn't own a pair of shoes that didn't have holes in them and he was too ashamed to wear those. My dad went home and a few hours later, he had a nice-looking pair of shoes and a pair of pants to match. I always remember that story because it is important to understand that you need to be grateful for what you have and be mindful of those who don't, and do what you can to help people when you can. I learned that generosity of spirit and self is one of the greatest gifts you can possess.
7. If you ever want to know what to invest in, invest in what you know, what you use, and what you can't do without.
One day I asked my dad about his job, about Wall Street, and about the stock market. I didn't understand any of it. In simplest terms, he told me to just remember when it comes to investing, put your money in something you believe in. He asked me one simple question when I was 16. What's one thing you and your friends couldn't live without during the day? As a 16-year-old, I answered, "makeup." He said, next time you have some money from your jobs, from Christmas and Birthdays, we'll buy some stock in the makeup you and your friends use. So we did. We bought a very small amount in Cover Girl and left it for several years. It paid off nicely over time. He said to always put stock in what you know.
8. Always remember the toes you step on today may connect to the a** you may have to kiss tomorrow.
Also -- the bridge you burn today might be needed to travel on tomorrow. Never burn your bridges. If you part for some reason, part in peace. If you leave somewhere, leave with a smile. Shake a hand. Say thank you. Be gracious. You just never know how truly small this world is until you've experienced something like this in your life. Someone knows someone who you used to know or work with our babysit for -- you just never know. So always assume you'll run into them again and be thankful.