Sagesse de Papa: some gems of wisdom from my dad
Published (gregorian) (ornellember)
My dad and I talk on the phone pretty often. One of our last conversations went something like this:
Papa: “I read your blog, abc or xyz or whatever it’s called right now”
Me: “Oh, cool! Did you like i–”
Papa: “Yeah, there’s a typo.”
Me: “Oh. Right. I’m sure there is one, or many. I don’t go through an editor or anything.”
Papa: “Yeah, there are several typos.”
Me: “… Okay. Where?”
Papa: “I can’t remember. But there are several.”
Papa: “Multiple typos.”
TLDR: my dad lightly trolled me recently, and I want to lightly troll him as well by putting this up on my site.
But also, while I’m here: my dad is great and wise and has taught me so many gems that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. I’ll explain 3 of the ones that have helped me a lot in my career.
Au pays des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois
Literally translated: “in the land of the blind, one-eyed people are kings.” This basically means that you don’t have to be really good, or know everything, to contribute meaningfully to the group. If other people happen to know even less than you, you can even be the resident expert. Just share what you know.
Money is a means to an end, not an end unto itself
Pretty self-explanatory. My dad is an anti-capitalist who works a corporate finance job in order to achieve some major life goals, such as providing for our nuclear and extended family for the last 32 years.
When we discussed my life goals when I was a teenager, he told me to keep in mind that money is a tool. A really effective one, but just a tool.
When we say we want money, what we usually mean is that we want access to certain things: travel, help from others, helping others, better health, pleasure, more time with loved ones, security. Money is a proxy for those things, and it’s actually pretty straightforward to quantify how much of it you need.
But if you don’t remember it’s a proxy, you can lose yourself in the neverending quest for it, and even end up neglecting the real goals you were trying to reach through money.
Sometimes, people you like don’t like you back… and they’re not wrong
This one is a little harder to explain, so I’ll illustrate with the story my dad told me.
My dad had a coworker on an adjacent team that he liked well enough; they weren’t close, but he considered him a friendly acquaintance. Let’s call him John. One day, my dad was going to be added to a project on John’s team, so he was CC’d in an email chain partway through. John sent an email to the chain that he clearly didn’t mean for my dad to receive, where he was criticizing him pretty harshly and saying he didn’t want him on the project, that basically, he thought his personality was insufferable.
My dad was surprised and hurt, but he wanted to know what he did wrong, so he reached out to John privately. John was mortified, and apologized profusely. He said that my dad didn’t do anything wrong. He’d just been venting.
My dad basically said okay and moved on. He told me that he still respects Juan, and considers him a nice guy, because “sometimes, people you admire just don’t like you back, and that doesn’t mean they’re bad or wrong. They’re allowed to have their own opinion.”
Now, I will say I think it’s super unprofessional and mean to say this kind of thing about a coworker, especially via email. But that idea really stuck with me, especially the latter part.
There’s this cultural thing where people try to make you feel better about rejection by saying “forget whoever rejected you, they don’t deserve you, they’re stupid if they can’t see how great you are”, etc. But when I sat and tried to think about why John might not like my dad, I could think of a few valid reasons. I think my dad is the bee’s knees; he’s the most genuine person I know, he’s loving, kind, and funny; but it’s true that he’s very direct and not always tactful, and maybe his conversation style rubbed the guy the wrong way. That’s valid, and also, I don’t think my dad needs to change. Both things are true.
So we shouldn’t base our opinion of people (or of ourselves) on whether or not they like us.
– Alright dad, let’s see how many typos you find in this one. I love you.