What Would Your Father Do? Lessons From The Previous Generation - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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What Would Your Father Do? Lessons From The Previous Generation

Jun 17, 2014


When times get tough, or you find yourself in a situation where you don't know what to do, do you sometimes think, 'what would my father have done?'

Our society is changing rapidly... work is stressful, relationships are complex, and technology seems to be taking over. We now live in nuclear families, change our jobs more frequently, and have to deal with the values of modernization replacing those of our traditions.

Modernization certainly brings in advantages, but we also need to hold on to our traditional values to create a society that is ideal for us.

Our fathers represent a store of wisdom for these values. Which is why when we find ourselves in a place where decisions and direction are difficult, we seek answers in the experiences of our fathers.

When I was little, I never thought 'my daddy is the strongest'. Growing up I barely ever saw him. I mostly remember him as the doorbell that rang every night which made us flee to our beds and hide under the bed sheets hoping he wouldn't check in to find us awake past bedtime.

It was only after I grew up and matured enough to see him as an adult that I began to see in him the values that made me think, 'I want to be like him'.

Here are some of the values from his life that I hope to carry over into mine.

Work out of a sense of duty, not entitlement.

Dad worked insane hours when we were young. We didn't really think twice about it. The housefull of mummies, aunties and grannies kept us busy.

I now know he worked so much because he was bound by a sense of duty. Circumstances had required him to quit college, abandon his dreams of becoming an engineer, and take over a shop. 'Now run this shop,' circumstance had told him. 'And feed, clothe and educate your family, and the families of everyone who works with you.'

So he threw himself into this work - about which he knew nothing. He worked and learned till things started to make sense. Then he came up with ways to change the things that didn't make sense, or that could be done in a better way. Finally, he took that one store, and made it into a successful brand.

My lesson here is that if you put your heart into anything, you will be successful. It's all about attitude. No job is too boring. No work is too challenging. The more interest you take in something, the more interesting it becomes.

So if you're stuck in a dead-end job and wondering why other people have jobs they love, it is often because they choose to love these jobs and take pride in their work. You can choose this too.

Nowadays, we tend to change jobs more often. We're always looking for opportunities that pay more, are more challenging, more enjoyable. But everyone cannot have the coolest, most interesting job. We can't all be Zakir Hussains and Sachin Tendulkars, doing things we are extremely passionate about for a living.

But we can evoke passion for the thing we do, make it interesting for ourselves, and look for challenges within, until we make ourselves successful. Nobody is born to be a stationery salesman, but if you are in stationery sales, do it dil se, and become the best stationery salesman you can.

In '3 Idiots' Aamir Khan's character tells us kaabil bano, toh kamyabi tumhare peeche bhaagegi. Don't work to be successful, work to do the best work you can. Learn to love what you do, and success will follow.

Don't take shortcuts to success.

When my brothers joined dad's business, they started in the stock room, they worked their way to the warehouse, then sales floor, and finally up to management level. Learning takes time. Just as university takes a few years to give you a valuable education, so must you take that amount of time and effort to learn any business or profession.

A reward earned without putting in the due time and effort is rarely valued as it should be, and often squandered. If you accidentally end up as a CEO of a company, without first stepping foot on the lower rungs, you will not be able to lead with the wisdom and understanding required to achieve meaningful success.

A sound formal education is important, but so is a solid life education. You can learn from anything, and you must learn from everything. From experiences, both good and bad.

From people, both good and bad. But you must take the time to learn, and earn, your place in the world.

Change is not always easy, but it is necessary for growth.

When my father took over the shop in the '70s he realized that there was no culture of accepting returns and giving refunds for sales in the retail sector at the time. He saw this as unfair and asked his employees to change this trend and adopt a full refund policy.

No one at the company liked this. After all, it was hard enough to make sales in the first place, they lost their commission, and no other shop was doing this. His entire staff was against him, especially the older employees, who said 'who is he to teach us.' 'Yeh kal ka bacha hamein sikhaayega'.

It is easy to do the right thing when everyone agrees with you, when it will make you popular. But sometimes, doing the right thing will hurt people, make them angry, and make you unpopular.

No man is an island, the saying goes. And Indians hold relationships - family, community, social, cultural ties - particularly close to our hearts. Truth is, our relationships are the dominating factor in our lives, our highest priorities. They can make or break our lives. What people think of us, what our communities think of us, can give us the greatest prestige, or the deepest depression.

But it's important to do the right thing, not the popular thing. At the risk of being judged, even shunned, by those around us, we must stand up for what we believe is the right way. Often it leads to disheartening loneliness. Making change is not always easy.

So my father stood his ground and grudgingly the refund policy took root.

And it was worth it, because in the end everyone was amazed to see that the small commission lost was made up many times over by increased customer loyalty and trust in the brand.

It takes time, and patience, and guts to make change, but people always come around and see value in doing things differently, in a better way.

To grow you must change. To change, be courageous in the face of opposition because your integrity becomes a measure of who you are.

When I ask myself, 'What would dad do?' I'm not always looking just for answers to my dilemmas, sometimes I'm just looking for strength. He gives me both.

Father's Day just passed. Did it give you a chance to think about your father? Please share with us the lessons that you learned from your father, and those that you would like your children to learn from you.


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7 Responses to "What Would Your Father Do? Lessons From The Previous Generation"

K.C. Kamakoty

18 Dec, 2014

Hello Anisa I am recent reader of your blog/column. Request you to elaborate on the Wealth Builder part and its connect with Common Sense living. Regards KCK


23 Jun, 2014

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I was just telling one of the readers that the main reason I write is because I like hearing everybody's stories! Naveen: I think the qualities of our parents we decide to imbibe slowly make their way to us. I'm sure your dad's capacity to keep your large family connected will someday bloom in you as well! Anurag: We all have to find our own balance of work and family and respond to our own challenges in our own way - but it's nice to have fathers as a guiding light. Farhan - A money-back guarantee on relationships...what a great idea! Should we get insurance on our relationship? Kapil - I hope so! The refund policy is sacred to me now :)

P. K. Chatterjee

21 Jun, 2014

Hi Anisa, Thanks for the thought provoking article. However, I wish to add: when it comes to the question of making a change and standing for that, we need to first analyse and find out the logical reasons (and not guess them) that will support the sustainability of the proposed change. In '70s or '80s, our environment was changing at a much slower rate (pace), but today that is changing very fast. I am not entering the debate -- whether it is good or bad. I want to point out -- like the slope of a tangent on a circle changes with every neighbouring point on the circle, and ultimately their is an 180 degree difference -- our world is also changing that way. So, the old paradigms need to be refined under the new light. Then only that will fetch success, otherwise, it will be like travelling by a bullock cart in the Mumbai city to cut down carbon footprint.


19 Jun, 2014

Hi Anisa. Wonderful and touching article indeed. As I recall my childhood,and the image of my father, it gives me glimpse of so many things, like selfless, quiet man working without any expression of challenges being faced by him. The intense desire of him for growth in our life. In-spite of limitations he used to make sure , that we get an exposure of various things and we become independent and learned. Something which he did not get in his childhood. Being a soldier in Army he groomed me in a manner that I built a self esteem and capability to become an Army officer. I learnt discipline and self less service from him which I feel proud of. I find it lacking in me, his capacity to take steps to keep us connected with our extended family. He could take us all in every vacation to our native place in Bihar and meet and learn from our roots. It involved lot of effort in terms of money and energy but still he never missed it. I also learnt from him to be grateful for people who help and guide us. It was his constant impressing on our mind " Padhna aur sikhna hi tumko jivan me madad dega " and " Character is biggest wealth" that gave everything worthy in my life so far. I hope to inculcate same in my next generation. I am proud of him.

Anurag Gulati

18 Jun, 2014

Hi Anisa,Thanks for inviting comments about learning from my father.He was having below qualities- A.He was in a Govt job and was having limited income source.Still he made sure to secure our future by investing in properties and stocks in a time bound matter and created a fortune for us. B.He was extremely loving and always gave top priority to spending time with us,playing and teaching us.Though he used to be at home by 3pm everyday,after finishing his school working hours,he was having enough time to earn extra income by teaching tuitions or doing something else,he chose to invest that time on us and socializing instead(which sometimes I regret I don't do with my children).He taught us to love human beings and prioritize relationships. C.He was very social and took special joy in meeting with his relatives and friends with family,was having very good relations with his boss(Principal of the school) and other powerful people in the township.Because of this he was quiet popular and respected.These relationships also ensured that he got his administrative jobs done through various Govt departments without any hassle. Unfortunately we could'nt pick up this habit. D.He was having exemplary leadership quality and was staff secretary of the school on 2 occassions.Once when tide was against him,he exhibited excellent people management skills and turned the majority into his favour. E.He took special interest in extra curricular activities in school,himself organized these activities and always encouraged us to participate actively in these events.Because of this probably ,I've very good presentation skills. F.He proved that even if you are in a mediocre position because of your skill/education in any organization,you can excel to great heights if you've willingness and resolve to do so. While if I think of what I want my children to learn from me,it'll be - 1.High Integrity and try to honour your word. 2.Hard work to make your own fortune. 3.Spend wisely. 4.Be honest in life. 5.Plan ahead of current situation

Like (1)


17 Jun, 2014

Absolutely love this! I wish more people had this perspective and implemented it in their own lives. The corporate environment would be a much better place and our lives more enriched. Imagine if it was possible to have a similar money back guarantee like that with relationships, personal and career. Wouldn't we all think twice when it comes to our words and actions with others? I think this is what helps create personal wealth that is much more meaningful when it's earned with integrity. Wonderfully written, Anisa!

Kapil Marwaha

17 Jun, 2014

An exceptional article ! Very well written too.. You always touch my emotional string Anisa, and I love your articles. Keep up the good work and I am sure like your refund policy your posts are going to get even more customers ! All the best ! :-)


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