- Laura Leslie Photography
We learn a lot from our dads – even if that wasn’t their intention – and there are some lessons that stick with a person for a lifetime.
My dad, for example, taught me the valuable life skill of completing my tax return by hand – something that I have not done since high school. But still, you never know.
When the robots inevitably rise up and humans are forced to take them out with an electromagnetic pulse that destroys our technological infrastructure, I’ll still be able to file my taxes. Because, as we know, there’s nothing certain in life but death and taxes … and robot uprisings.
In honor of the men who put the father in Father’s Day, I asked my colleagues to share lessons from their own dads that have stayed with them throughout the years. Some are touching and others completely useless, but overall they go to show just how influential dads are in their kids’ lives.
Always dress for the weather
- Christina Sterbenz/Business Insider
This might sound minor, but my dad taught me to always dress for the weather.
When I was in high school, I’d try to sneak out of the house wearing a Hollister mini-skirt (ladies, you know) for football games in chilly mid-fall weather. When my dad caught me, he’d force me to change – or at least, bring a coat. After groans of annoyance, I almost never regretted having another layer.
In New York City, fashion sometimes trumps function. But when the forecast shows rain, I wear rain boots. In winter, my full-length down parka keeps me toasty while other people shiver in leather jackets.
Back in the day, my worst fear was looking frumpy. Today, however, I mostly hear, “Wow, you’re so smart for wearing that.”
Thanks for keeping me warmer, dryer, and, thus, happier, Dad.
-Christina Sterbenz, Business Insider weekend editor
Be the friend people lean on
- Meryl Gottlieb/Business Insider
My dad and I are very similar, which is not for our own good sometimes. But he always has my back and says he’s “in my corner,” and that is a notion I try to live by. I try to be the friend people lean on. I try to be the person for others that my dad is for me – well, at least half that person because my dad is pretty amazing.
-Meryl Gottlieb, Business Insider entertainment intern
Everything you say has a consequence
One of the things my dad told me that seems to have stuck is, “Everything you say has a consequence, whether good or bad.” This has helped me think before I open my mouth. But sometimes the thinking goes wrong, too!
Don’t get robbed
- Darien Acosta/Business Insider
My dad taught me that if someone is following you in the middle of the night, and you suspect that they may try to rob you, that you should glance back at them several times while holding your waistband to suggest that you carry a gun tucked in there. Nine out of ten times, they’ll go away.
I grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn … before gentrification.
-Darien Acosta, Business Insider director of analytics
If you don’t ask, you don’t get
- Sarah Schmalbruch/Business Insider
My dad has always told me, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
This has always stuck with me and taught me to be vocal about what I’m looking for – whether it’s a lower price for an item I’m buying or an internship.
During my junior year of college, I was looking for an internship to take up the time before I left to go study abroad in Germany. I was looking for something in fashion, so I went into Chicago (where I was living at the time), with copies of my résumé and walked into several high fashion boutiques asking if they needed or would take an intern. I was offered an internship in one of the boutiques that day. My manager later told me how impressed she was that I had had the guts to walk in and ask for an internship.
-Sarah Schmalbruch, INSIDER food, lifestyle, and travel reporter
The squeaky wheel gets the grease
My dad is a pretty loud guy, and he first taught me the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” As someone who’s a little more chill and subdued, I think about that often now whenever I hesitate to speak up.
-Dana Varinsky, Tech Insider innovation editor
Dress for the job you want
- Brad Streicher/Business Insider
My dad always told me to dress for the job I want, not the job I have. Every time I’m going into an interview or starting at a new company, that advice always comes to mind. I’ve found that dressing nicer than expected can win you some major brownie points with employers!
-Brad Streicher, Tech Insider video intern
Happiness is a choice
- Lauren Browning/Business Insider
My dad was a doctor, but he would always say, “No matter what you do in life everyone is a salesman (or woman).” You have to know yourself well and you have to sell yourself to convince people you’re the best possible choice for the job.
He would also always say, “Happiness is a choice,” and he chose to live every day happily. I think about his words every day because life is too short to waste any days.
Side note: I’m sure he meant this barring extenuating circumstances like mental health issues.
-Lauren Browning, Business Insider associate editor of special projects
Put 100% of your effort into what you want with no safety net
I had wanted to be a journalist since I was very young. But when it was time to name a college major, I feared there wouldn’t be any jobs in journalism and wondered if I should double major in something safe like computer science. When I told my dad about my worries, he said I shouldn’t double major. If I wanted to be a journalist, then I should put 100% of my effort into that career with no safety net. Since then, I remember that advice whenever I’m faced with a decision that may complicate my life but gets me closer to something I really want.
-Jethro Nededog, Business Insider entertainment reporter
No one owes you anything
- Eames Yates/Business Insider
My father taught me one lesson above all else, and it has served me extremely well both in life and my career.
That lesson: no one owes you s—.
It’s true. And the sooner one realizes that, the sooner their lives will be a lot easier.
-Eames Yates, Business Insider producer
Make your bed
- Arielle Berger/Business Insider
My dad went to military school, so he taught me how to spit-shine my shoes and make my bed with hospital corners. I never make use of either one of these skills. I disappoint my father every day when I shove my excess sheets under my mattress (definitely no way to bounce a quarter off of that) and then throw my quilt over the bed. And when my boots start looking a little too dull, I take them home and my father (because he’s a nice person) will shine them. But he’s moving to Texas (sad!), so it looks like I’ll start having to shine my own shoes – because there’s no way I’m paying someone to do that.
-Arielle Berger, Business Insider assistant producer
It’s so easy to be nice
Growing up, my dad’s most repeated advice was, “It’s so easy to just be nice.” And it’s true. It’s not that hard to just be nice to people, to treat others well, and to make kindness your default – even when dealing with strangers. But it sometimes feels hard, and it’s unfortunately not that common.
This advice was made all the more meaningful by the fact that my dad is the living example of this, and he remains one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life, not just to me and his family, but to everyone he encounters. I can’t think of any greater thing to aspire to, and ‘It’s so easy to just be nice’ rings in my head still at least once a day.
Hard work trumps talent and intelligence
- Anisa Purbasari/Business Insider
The most important piece of advice that stuck out to me that talent or intelligence is overrated, and hard work trumps them both.
My dad was not a great student in high school, always getting into trouble, and his teacher would always tell him that he was stupid.
When he couldn’t get into a good college in Indonesia, his father shipped him off to the US, where (in his words) he begged the dean of a community college in Bakersfield to let him in, with his broken English. He told me that going to college was the first time he actually understood the concept of studying and hard work, but he put his head down, didn’t watch TV or socialize for two years, and worked up a GPA high enough to transfer to Boston University.
He’s built several businesses since then, including one where he had to start from scratch in a foreign country, when our family moved from Indonesia to New Zealand.
Because of this, he always told me not to be intimidated by people with titles or talent – and never discount the possibility of achieving something big. Now, when I’m doing something out of my depth, I think about my dad with his broken English at 18.
-Anisa Purbasari, Business Insider strategy intern
Remember people’s names
- Laura Leslie Photography
My dad has taught me so many important life lessons – but here’s one that sticks out:
He is known for being so incredibly outgoing, friendly, and social. It seems sometimes like he knows, and is friends with, everyone. (I’m not exaggerating – we’ve been out of the country and he’s run into people he knows!) He also strikes up conversations with most everyone he encounters … the waiter at the restaurant; the family behind us at a baseball game; the woman sitting next to him on the airplane on his way to Savannah for my wedding. (Now that I think about it, this is another important life lesson he’s taught me: Be kind to everyone.)
Anyway, what’s so admirable is that my dad not only talks to everyone he meets, but he has this incredible ability to remember their names (and trust me when I tell you, there are a lot of names!).
He does this by repeating their name as he speaks to them; telling my mom the person’s name after he meets them (in case he does forget, at least he’s told another person!); and sometimes writing it down in his phone (“Joe – guy who just moved in down the block”). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important this life skill is.
In life, and at work, remembering people’s names can help you build stronger relationships and avoid awkward situations. People also appreciate when you remember their name – as it’s a sign of respect and thoughtfulness. (I recently moved and met about a dozen new neighbors. I immediately wrote each of their names down in my phone. Thanks, Dad!)
So, among the countless life, money, and career lessons he’s shared, this simple one has been more helpful than I would have ever realized.
-Jacquelyn Smith, Business Insider careers editor
Work with smart people who you like
My dad’s best advice to me: Work is about other people. Work with smart people who you like. If you don’t like or respect the people you work with, you’re going to be miserable no matter how interesting the job itself is.
-Matt Rosoff, Business Insider executive editor and West Coast bureau chief
Do hard things
- Rachel Butt/Business Insider
Since I was young, my dad has urged me to do things that I dislike and that make me uncomfortable in order to be successful. That really stuck with me and encouraged me to try new things and test my boundaries.
-Rachel Butt, Business Insider finance intern
There’s a difference between need and want
- Kathleen Elkins/Business Insider
My dad taught me the difference between a “need” and a “want,” which has made all the difference with how I now manage money – and all it took was lunch at the local diner.
I was a kindergartner who really wanted chocolate milk when he first gave me the “Is that a want or a need?” talk. The speech went over my head for the most part, but the conclusion of the message stuck: Never ask for chocolate milk at a restaurant. Order water, because it’s free. I learned that afternoon that chocolate milk qualifies as a want and water as a need.
The chocolate-milk lesson has become more valuable than ever upon entering the real world and moving to New York City, where I have to distinguish between needs and wants to stay afloat. It’s made me a more diligent and conscious spender, a habit that I believe takes time to form – a habit that a personal finance book or class can define but never truly teach.
-Kathleen Elkins, Business Insider Your Money reporter
Don’t eat anything bigger than your head
My dad is full of important safety advice disguised as life wisdom, including:
1. Never turn your back on the waves. (You could make this metaphorical, but he means literally, while swimming in the ocean.)
2. Always cut away from your hand.
3. Don’t eat anything bigger than your head.
-Libby Kane, Business Insider strategy and Your Money editor
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
- Megan Willett/Business Insider
My dad loves to say “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” It’s something I take to heart daily. Preparing for the worst-case scenario doesn’t necessarily mean you have a negative outlook, just that you want all your bases covered. Living by this motto has also saved me from a few pickles.
-Megan Willett, Tech Insider senior culture editor
Work hard, play hard
- Kelsey Mulvey/Business Insider
The one thing that has really stuck with me is my dad’s ability to work hard and, for lack of a better term, play hard. I’ve always admired my dad for being successful and respected in his industry, but remaining level-headed and moral above all. But when he’s at home, my dad prioritizes spending time with my family and is always ready for a good laugh. He balances his professional and personal lives nicely, and has always been a loyal, honest person in every facet of his life.
-Kelsey Mulvey, Business Insider commerce reporter
Start saving early
When I got my first job in high school, my dad told me that for every $10 I made I should put $1 into a savings account. Knowing how stubborn I was, he wasn’t pushy about it at all and instead just kind of lightly suggested it. I started doing it my junior year. I currently have a steady savings account thanks to the tiny sum I was able to put together that year.
-Erin Brodwin, Business Insider science editor