Daughters are awesome. They’ll also make daddies insane. I’m blessed with two of them. I’ve learned a great deal about leadership from them and have grown personally a great deal from having them in my life. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my eldest.
My eldest daughter Danielle just had a birthday. She’s also my first-born. On the day of her birth, I find myself reflecting on many of the things she’s taught me over the years. Today I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned about how to be a better leader and a better person based on my relationship with her over the past couple of decades.
1. Find a passion and hurl yourself at it. Danielle found crew (rowing) in high school. No one in my family had ever rowed but for some reason, it fit for her. She threw herself at it wholeheartedly. The result of her commitment was some fantastic performance and wonderful memories. She taught me that even if you’ve never done something before, if you want it bad enough and truly enjoy it, you can achieve amazing things in a short period of time. I’ve shared some of her perspectives on leadership and rowing in previous blog posts. Give this one a read.
2. Know when your passion has waned. When she entered college at The Ohio State University, she became a member of the NCAA Women’s National Championship Rowing Team. Talk about stepping your game up a notch! For the first two years, she continued throwing herself at the sport. But the combination of rigorous academics (taking classes like molecular genetics and organic chemistry) and a brutal rowing practice schedule forced her to make a choice. One day she said “Dad, my passion for it is gone and I need to focus on the rest of my life. My academics need to come first.” It was the toughest decision she ever made. Her time on the team taught her amazing things. Her decision to leave it and focus on her academics and the next stage of her life taught her even more. The strength and courage that decision took was tremendous. I couldn’t be prouder of her for making it.
3. Screw up, fess up, move on. Anyone who knows me personally knows I screw things up royally every once in a while. During the times I’ve made mistakes, Danielle was pretty free with her thoughts on being disappointed in me and she let me know exactly how she felt. I knew I screwed up. The thing is, once I fessed up, apologized, and acknowledged her feelings, she taught me that we move on from that point. We don’t dwell in the past. We strengthen our relationships and do all we can to take better care of one another. If someone in your life has screwed up and you’re holding onto things, let them go. Learn the lesson from Danielle and move on to a better place in your relationship. If you’re the one who’s screwed up, fess up. Acknowledge the hurt you’ve caused and do all you can to strengthen the relationship daily.
4. You can’t go it alone. Danielle has faced her share of challenges in life. The times she’s tried to be strong and go it alone rarely worked out well for her. Over the years she’s built the ability to build new friendships and relationships versus being too independent. Building relationships and relying on others isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign and source of strength. Her daddy has a tendency to go it alone. It’s something I’m working on. It’s hard for me to ask anyone for help but I’m getting better at it. She sets a good example for me.
5. Don’t be afraid – you can learn it. “A daughter? Really? I’ve never raised a girl before! What do I do?!? This isn’t going to work out too well!” Despite not understanding little girls, adolescent girls, teen girls, and young women, I’ve learned. She’s taught me how to raise her. She’s shown me the way in both good and bad moments. I never thought I’d be a good dad, let alone a great one. I don’t get to make the judgment call on where I rank but I like to think I’ve done a pretty good job. She’s been a (mostly) patient teacher along the way. Even though I had no idea how to do this job, I’ve learned how to do it because it was important. Her little sister has benefited from my education. Hopefully I score pretty high on the Dad-O-Meter.
I couldn’t be prouder of my little girl. Thank you Danielle for all you’ve taught me over the years and for letting me try to teach you so much. I love you Peanut! I hope you have a wonderful birthday!
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