Lessons I learned from my Father

Business and life lessons are so often the product of watching and imitating the people closest to us. For me, some of the most important lessons were learned by spending time with my dad, Joe Cocking. Today would have been his 57th birthday (his life was tragically ended on September 11, 2017). In honor of his amazing life I would like to share a few of the things he taught me:

It’s who you know.

My dad was the master of networking. He wanted to know everybody and wasn’t shy about it. Because of his inclusivity, he often advanced his career and obtained his desires by means of nurturing and supporting his network. Our family regularly joked that his name was Mafia Joe because he could always find a way to get something done or find someone willing to help him, regardless of what the end goal was.

It’s what you know.

Reinforcing the importance of education, he would tell me to “make sure you get paid for what you know, not how many hours you log in a day.” To this day, I continue to self-educate while paying it forward and educating others. Reading books, attending workshops and seminars, and paying attention to our surroundings is a great way to stay ahead of the curve.

Be real and genuine.

My dad was very intuitive and had an innate ability to tell when someone was being dishonest or manipulative in their words or actions. When I was younger, he could always tell which one of my friends was the ‘Eddie Haskell‘ in the group. Eventually, I learned that fake does not get you very far.  People appreciate real.  This taught me to not only be authentic but also to identify those who are not.

Family is important.

My dad was the youngest of nine kids. At some point in their relationship, his siblings went through a huge falling out. The result was that he pushed hard to ensure that if my brother, sister, and I were ever in disagreement with each other that we would resolve it in a civil manner. It is because of my dad’s influence that the three of us have a strong relationship. Now, more than ever, I make it a priority to spend time with my family. It is not always easy, as we all have our own families and careers to pursue, but we make it a point support each other and help each other to stay strong.

Communication is key.

As a former student of the Dale Carnegie school, he was an advocate for better communication. Even when we would disagree, and we had our fair share of loud screaming matches when I was a teenager, we would always take time to clear the air in an effort to resolve the situation. When applying this to business, I’ve learned to focus on keeping the message as simple as possible and to confirm that the recipient is in full understanding. Confirmation of the message ensures clarity, improves the relationship, and strengthens the end goal. The clearer the message the more likely it is that it will be properly received.

Always say Thank You (and send a handwritten note).

My dad always expressed the importance of saying ‘thank you’. After every visit to a friend’s house, he would ask if I had thanked their parents. If I hadn’t, then he would make sure I called when we got home. At the age of seven, when I was old enough to write letters, my father made sure that I learned how to write a thank you note. This exercise taught me to respect and appreciate the actions that others took, regardless of the outcome. Gratitude is always appreciated.

Help where you can.

My father was the Good Samaritan on many occasions. If someone was hurt, he would pull over to help. If they needed support and guidance, he offered it. He would give the shirt off his back if you were without. In a world where people would rather take out their phones and post about whatever the problem was, my dad was always helping the person behind the scenes without any expectation of recognition. This has taught me to be a resource and give as much as I can.

I miss my dad a ton and appreciate all of the lessons he taught me in life, as well as those that he continues to teach me. Appreciate life. Cherish what is given. And, most importantly, give all that you can to support those around you.