You don’t fully appreciate your parents until you reflect back on the decisions they made and how those decisions have manifested in your life. My upbringing accounts for the mentality, behavior and choices that I make today and into the future. I’ve met so many different people who have come from broken homes, where they didn’t receive the same attention, support and care that I did, which I’m eternally grateful for. Over the years, I’ve reflected on the characteristics, habits and viewpoints that I share with my parents. For instance, my mom literally brainwashed me to hate cats when I was a child and today I don’t want to go anywhere near them. My mom, and grandmother, recited “don’t smoke cigarettes” so regularly that anytime I see a cigarette, their face and voice appears in my head saying “don’t smoke cigarettes”. I get some of my goofy jokes and mannerisms from my father, and my anxiety from my mother. I like to tell people that I’m a split between both of them, but with a twist because my career and taste is different in many ways. The most valuable thing that you get from your parents is a set of core values. For me it was to be nice to everyone, work really hard, stand up for yourself and don’t rush into things.
After much deep thought, I have finally narrowed down the top four decisions that my parents made for me that have had by far the biggest long term impact on my career and life. Before making each decision, they were very stressed out and put a lot of thought into the potential outcomes and consequences. While they’ve made a lot of good, and a few poor, decisions throughout my life, these are the ones that most stood out to me.
- They held me back in kindergarten. It took me later to mature than other children my age so my parents made the decision to hold me back a year so I had more time to develop. I went through kindergarten twice and the result was that I was always one of the oldest in my classes for the rest of my life. I was one of the first people to have a bar mitzvah and one of the first to turn 21 in college. I went from being seen as the most immature, to the oldest and wisest. Sometimes I like to ask people to guess my age because they always guess younger but then say “but you act more mature”. I think this relates to being held back because I had more time to find myself. Back then, if you were one year older than your classmates, it felt like you were much older, compared to now at 34 years old, it doesn’t matter if someone is five or ten years younger.
- They forced me to work a service job as a teenager. After my 13th birthday, my father introduced me to a caterer at my local temple. He told me that I needed to start working and making money so I wouldn’t rely on them for the rest of my life. My dads parents immigrated from Russia and they are all incredibly hard workers, who started at a young age and never believed in retirement. They were not only all entrepreneurs (my grandmother had a sewing business, while my father had a food distributing company) but they viewed work as more than just a paycheck – it was a learning experience and a way to meet people. As part of the catering company, I would help set up and clean up shabbat dinners, bar mitzvah’s, and weddings. I learned how to deal with difficult people, problem solve, and work with people who were quadruple my age. I not only appreciated the experience that I received but it made it much easier to work with older generations throughout my whole career.
- They steered me away from quitting my job too early. When I was employed at a major Fortune 200 company, I was also working on my blog, magazine and book during nights and weekends. As time went on, it became harder to be a fully productive employee because I was ten times more passionate about my side hustles so I had anxiety about when I should quit. I remember that I would have weekly calls with my father, where I told him I wanted to just quit and start a company. My patience grew thin but my father would always tell me “don’t rush into quitting, make sure it’s the right time”. Over three years later, after my first book was successful, there was enough demand for my services and a high enough projected revenue that I quit my job. If I quit too early, it would have been risky because it was less predictable how I would make money. My father’s advice to be patient resulted in me leaving with confidence and having a higher likelihood of succeeding.
- They pushed me to try a variety of activities. When I was 13 years old, my parents enlisted me in a piano class. Every week for several months I had to take piano lessons and then practice at home. After the final recital, I quit because I wasn’t passionate at piano but wanted to see my lessons through for my parents. My parents also pushed me to ice skate and again, it wasn’t something that I was going to pursue for a career, but the exposure was important. The idea is that you don’t know what you’re going to love until you try and it’s better to be exposed to several different activities when you’re younger so you have a path as you grow older. I never would have known if any of these activities would be a long-term pursuit if I didn’t at least try them and that was thanks to my parents.