Back to the Future: Life Lessons that Stand the Test of Time

By Thomas Ciesielka

You never know who the next hero is going to be. Jean Mackin’s story, “11-year-old saves choking friend with lesson learned from dad,” is about how a boy used the Heimlich maneuver on a girl who was choking on a lollipop.

It was a life-saving skill that his dad taught him, and it reminded me of what my father taught me. What he told me may not save someone’s life, but it could save someone’s reputation, and even business. Here are five ways that my father positively influenced me, which I’ve applied in my own life and share with others:

1 – Send a handwritten thank you note. I grew up in a generation where a note wasn’t optional, but a must. My father really emphasized the importance of the personal touch. So much communication nowadays is digital, and some people don’t even take the time to thank others at all. So when people do take the time, it really stands out. For instance, in Toledo, someone even gave a policeman a handwritten note during his patrol shift, expressing the person’s appreciation of his hard work. He and the department were so glad to get the note, they posted it on social media. It seems like a minor action, but it really makes a difference

2 – Give gifts. My father was big on tangible gifts. Of course, he believed that a thank you is good, and a gift is even better. When someone does me a big favor, or if I want to show my appreciation for their work, or recognize the importance of our relationship, I send them a card with brownies. The note is nice, and the brownies are usually quickly consumed.

3 – Make a phone call. My father didn’t have email, which was a good thing, because he liked to meet people in person. If that wasn’t possible, a phone call was the next best thing, especially if someone lived far away. Usually people prefer to text rather than call, and it seems easier. However, a phone call is a great way to follow up with others and can also prevent misunderstandings. For instance, just setting a date for a business meeting can lead to long email threads that could bury the date or location, and you could forget to include some important information. Phone calls can be brief, yet ensure questions are answered.

4 – Focus on everyone. You never know who can help. It’s good to pay attention to all kinds of people when you are trying to reach decision-makers. When my father was taking care of my mother towards the end of her life and had to take her to the doctor, or when he visited her in the nursing home, he wouldn’t just pay attention to “important” medical staff. He would talk with all kinds of people and often bring cookies and other treats to the doctors, nurses, and helpers. He considered everyone as offering crucial support, and made sure no one was overlooked.

5 – Bless others when youve been blessed. As a child, I never really understood why we had to give money to the church every week. When I asked my father about it, he said, “Look how God has blessed us.” Chances are, good things have happened to you this year, and there are many ways to “share the wealth.” As a result, helping others is not only good for them, but can help your reputation as well.

Just as we can pass on blessings that we’ve received, we can also pass on wisdom that we have gained not just from our parents, but our clients, friends, and colleagues. So take a moment to think about who has influenced you and what you can share with others. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, there’s a lot to be thankful for, especially our reputations.

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