the absent father

10 great life lessons from my shitty father

10 Life Lessons from a Challenging Relationship with My Mostly Absent Father

Personal Note: I’m a little late for this Tuesday because I’ve spent a long time thinking about whether now is the time to publish the two following blog posts. It’s been one year since I decided to completely cut my father from my life after what happened on our last business trip. Looking back at it, this was the best decision I could have made, as it’s finally allowed me to heal, grow, and slowly find my way back to myself.

Next week, I’m putting out an article I’ve been working on over the past eight or so months: Going No-Contact With A Toxic Parent. I’ve been debating whether to publish it. I’ve heard many arguments from the people closest to me to reconsider and had many discussions with myself about it, but I’ve made the choice based on the same guiding principles that I use for all my posts—if it helps even one person, it will serve its purpose.

The relationship, or lack thereof, I have with my father is no longer a secret since I started speaking out and putting myself first. He and his environment were toxic in more ways than I can count, and I didn’t agree with his choices or values. I believe many of his ways and schools of thought are outdated and that unresolved issues from his life caused him to be the way he is. I have lost all respect for him as a human and father, yet I appreciate that he is incredibly smart and has had his fair share of life experiences. While much of his wisdom and life lessons were questionable at best, I have carried 10 with me, which have proven to be great.

  1. Money solves most problems.Money cannot buy a few things: love, health, and respect. However, there will always be a way to make money (entrepreneurship) or to find money (bank loan, sale of assets, etc.), and if the problem can be solved with a reasonable amount of money, it’s an inconvenience, not a problem.
    No amount of money can reverse terminal illnesses or give you back time with your loved ones. However, It can solve most inconveniences, often giving you back more peace of mind and time. Money can come back, but time lost worrying and stressing won’t.
  2. The Power of Paper: “If your documents are in order, everything is in order. Everything that is agreed upon, whether between business partners, employees, contractors, or friends, needs to be written down and clearly outlined. Setting expectations, responsibilities, and methods to resolve conflict on paper before starting anything can save time, money, and relations. Having your paperwork in order and having everything signed and stored properly allows everything to continue the way it should.
  3. A manager is not defined by their mistakes but by how they handle them: Mistakes happen. Things outside of our control go wrong. We cause issues through our actions. A manager (human) should not be judged by the mistakes they made but by how they responded to them and learned from them. A quote connected to this with great meaning is: the worst mistake you can make is the mistake you make twice. The guiding principles are: stay calm, stay safe, and handle it with the utmost care. Mistakes can happen, but it’s important to learn and move forward.
  4. The only relationship you will have forever is the one with yourself: There’s a saying in Polish that roughly translates to, “If you can count, count on yourself.” It highlights the importance of self-reliance and that no one else will care about your matters/business as much as you care. It’s essential to outsource, delegate, and get help, but it’s even more important to follow up, check, and control. This is true in business, personal life and everything in between.
  5. Valuing Every Day: Life is short. We should enjoy every day as best we can and be grateful for what we have. We shouldn’t let potential issues in the future, or the weight of our mistakes in the past, affect us now. Every experience we have is something that will stay with us forever, either as a wonderful memory or a good lesson. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we should enjoy today.
  6. Quality Over Cost: The saying “I am too poor for cheap things” was passed down from my great-grandmother through my grandmother and father. It encapsulates the idea that “cheap things“ in the short term are cheaper, but in the long term, they turn out to be more expensive because of repairs, replacements, or other quality issues. Investing in good quality, especially in the essentials, is the key to a better and longer-lasting experience. I like to think that I approach buying things very economically. The exceptions to this are my phone (on which I spend most of the day), my MacBook (which I work with every day), and my clothes, which I rarely replace more than once every year or two. Quality is more upfront but much cheaper in the long term.
  7. Know your customer and test the market: Two sentences he always said were: “If you build it, they won’t come” and “Think cashflow “. (Credit to my good friend Michael F. for teaching him that one).
    This proved especially true when launching new start-ups, products, or services. One can spend a year and thousands building a service which no one will use. It’s essential to go out and test things at the lowest cost possible. In software, this is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Throwing together a quick website with an email form and pre-selling your product before building is the best way to ensure you’re making something that people are willing to pay for. The early feedback and product-market fit validation are invaluable. This is true in my world of software but was also true in his world of real estate and construction. You’re building for the customer, not for yourself.
  8. The Complexity of Success: Hard work is not enough. Success is a mix of hard work, luck, being in the right place at the right time, and getting used to failure and rejection. 9 out of 10 things won’t work. 99 out of 100 ideas will not bring in profits. The most successful people are those who are not scared of rejection and failure. There are plenty of examples out there, from J.K Rowling being rejected with Harry Potter by over 12 publishers or successful entre- and solo-prenuers such as Pieter Levels making 200k monthly recurring revenue, having only four out 50+ work and bring in money. Getting comfortable with rejection is one of the most critical steps. Then comes hard and intelligent work. The last part of the equation is luck.

The remaining two lessons are Lessons By Proxy, which is learning how to do things from his mistakes.

  1. Hire People Smarter Than You & Experts: Hiring domain experts and people who are smarter than you helps not only the company/project but also yourself. Experts in their fields, from architecture, design, finance, or other fields, have spent years learning and applying their knowledge. They will perform better, save time, money, and resources, and get it right (or closer to right) on the first try than non-experts could. This draws from the Quality Over Cost point above. Experts are more expensive now, but their value is way higher over the long term. Hiring people who are smarter or better than you allows you to learn from them and improve. Lorne Michaels said it best:

    If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
  2. How To Be A Good Father: The biggest lesson by far is how not to be a parent. Our relationship has instilled in me the drive to do better, to be present, and, if I am fortunate enough to have children, to prioritize them. To celebrate with them, to play with them, to learn and teach, and to be there for them. Children remember who showed up and gave them time, not what was spent on them. The moments we have with them are brief and will be gone before we know it; no amount of money and hired staff can replace giving them what they truly need: time and affection. I learned that I want to show up. I want to be there. I want to go with them through the highs and lows. That family comes first and that it is something to be celebrated and cherished and not merely strung along.

    The best lesson I could have gotten from him was how not to do it.

Thank you for reading, friends. If you have any life lessons you would like to share, let me know in the comments below. I will see you next week.

With love from Limassol,


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