Almost two years ago I wrote a post, Lessons From Dad, Part I. I’m not very good at this sort of thing, I’m not Josh Brown or James Altucher or the other folks who are, but this is happening, and I think many of you may be able to relate.
I wear my heart on my sleeve and a massive, massive chip on my shoulder. My father has overcome adversity the likes of which I cannot imagine, but that was largely explained in Part I. I’m writing this to try to focus on my mistakes in dealing with Dad (and Mom, and Sister, and…you get the idea, though there is a limit for sure), especially recently. If you follow me on twitter, you’ve hopefully ignored these things, but I categorically refuse to delete them nor any tweet that doesn’t have a ridiculous typo messing it all to bits.
Now to the point, and why I hope you learn from my mistakes, and why I hope I learn from my mistakes; after all, it’d be pretty embarrassing to have the blog motto “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” if I didn’t follow my own advice, no?
As I routinely warn investors, myopia is, for lack of a better phrase, a bitch, to put it as gently as possible. I’ve learned or been reminded recently that this applies to family relationships as well. This is not an unimportant distinction as it has many analogues to finance and our lives we so chose therein. My last post went into a bit of detail about what it is like when your family has nary a clue what you do all day besides stare at a screen (or several) all day. And heaven forbid you start your own firm, oye vey! My reaction since I did the latter has been to try to explain what I do to my family, to little, as far as I can tell avail.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I haven’t explained it properly or accurately. Naturally I doubt this, but that is, I think, something endemic to alpha males particularly, and while I’m no Darwin, I don’t think you can deny heredity. I didn’t get (relatively) intellectually curious, scientifically oriented and become a decent musician by sheer luck (with the caveat that I’m not a Dr, again, I imagine this is also while I’m Steven Schwartzman’s height, too). I presume I also didn’t inherit my father’s – and I can’t spell this word to save my life despite being in the 98th% or something on my SAT verbal – sticktoitiveness – tenacity, stubbornness, and tendency to psychology repress many emotions. I’d talk about what I inherited from mom but that’s perhaps a post for another time. I love both of my parents, but as I approach 30 years, given my audience, Dad is now a better lesson, I think.
Dad taught me how to solder, about building electronic circuits, how to check mostly everything on a car, how to tie a necktie (although I’m better at it now, naturally), and so many other things. More importantly, he taught me not to be a total prick, even if avoiding so doing hurts me financially or otherwise; a rarity, I think, in a business that has rewarded so many so much for being exactly that. How some of those lessons happened is unimportant, but over the years, they happened, the most recent over the past month or so.
I was, I don’t know, bitter, that my father, while brilliant and perhaps the best Dentist in the U.S, never asked me, if memory serves correctly (it may not), for financial help (dare I say advice?) until it was too late. The details are, again, largely no one’s business outside the family, but bear with me.
You only get one mother and father. They brought you into the world and if you’re half lucky, your upbringing didn’t suck. I am still struggling with this, but I am pretty damn sure I would be endlessly depressed were one of my family members to cease to exist unexpectedly. Like if you have 100% of your money in 1 stock that turns into Enron, but so much worse. Inexplicably worse. 1,000,000 million million times worse, but infinitely worse than that.
Dad (and Mom) tried to explain all this sort of thing as I was growing up, but I have been known, particularly with family, to be difficult at times (see my heredity comment above). I’m still working it out or at least trying, imperfectly so, but the point is even if you’re a black-hearted asshole with an irrevocable trust fund, try to make it work with your family; they’re the only one you’ve got, and even if you’re a complete pragmatist, family stress due to stubbornness (etc) is going to make your professional life so much more difficult. Trust me. Been there, done that, and it is so horrible, just horrible; its not in your own best interest to be a bastard to them, however uncomfortable the dynamics can get.
As my Dad has said, I’ve a unique talent for shooting myself in the foot. Whether he is correct in his assessment matters not, his point is well made. While we may argue sometimes, he and my mother care about me, even if they have ways of expressing it that I don’t always understand or comprehend. I’ve spoken with a lot of people from various backgrounds, and this seems, in my experience, to be fairly universal, even if your parents are complete sociopaths (which mine are not, in case you’re still wondering).
I don’t know about you, but I never want to regret anything. Academically, professionally, personally, whatever. I certainly do not want to regret anything happening to a family that despite me being an ass sometimes, worked so hard to make me into a person they’d be proud of.