Hospitality Financial Leadership - Light Bulb Moments
I have had a few of these.
By David Lund, The Hotel Financial Coach
The ones that stand out the most for me are the ones that I experienced from my father. Growing up I was not what you would call a high achiever. My grades in school were not great by any measure. I had friends and my social network was solid. I had a girlfriend in junior high school and that was probably what saved me from being somewhat of a delinquent. I was always curious about the things you were not supposed to do.
I always thought my dad was somehow disappointed in me and my behavior and choices. Two light bulbs I experienced through my dad. The first one came when I graduated from high school. It was early June and I think it was the very day I graduated. My parents came to the school for the ceremony and the proverbial pictures. It was a happy time and I was finally free from this thing called school where it was fun to play but the learning I had little interest in. That afternoon at home we had a BBQ, nothing special, just some hamburgers, and my father told me what he had done. Re-wind the clock three years and I didn't pass grade 9 and was held back a year. At the time, it was a big embarrassment for me. All my friends went on to grade 10—high school—which was in the same building just up one floor. My girlfriend and I were now in the same grade and there were not many of us, maybe 22, in grade 9. Well, being held back worked a little and my grades the following year were a fair bit better.
The following year I was in high school and, lo and behold, two of my counterparts had failed to get the minimum of three credits and they were where I was in grade 10. In the high school I attended you needed 15 credits to graduate from grade 12. Six classes per year and you needed to pass an average of five to make it. After two years in high school I had 12 credits and in the final year I took only five classes and dropped one in the final semester and graduated with 16 credits alongside my cohort buddies.
What my dad told me that afternoon was shocking to say the least. He could never have told me and I would not have known what he did. But, when he told me, I was not at all sure how to react. His good friend and fellow member of the Lions Club was the principle of our school. My dad asked his friend to hold me back in grade 9. His friend did exactly what my dad asked. So how does an 18-year-old kid react to the fact that his father took a year out of his life? My thoughts at the time were that I did not care, I was done and that was four years ago. I honestly did not mind and in the back of my mind I had a light bulb turn on: My dad cared enough about me to orchestrate this and that meant he loved me.
The second light bulb happened a little earlier in grade 11. I was working at the drug store after school and on Saturdays and the job was great. Stocking the shelves, running the till and a bit of housekeeping. It was Saturday afternoon and the phone rang and it was my mother. She never called. She said, "Your father has had an accident and I need you to drive me to St. John."
My mother didn't get her driving license until she was 63. I left work and went home. We drove to St. John which was 60 miles away and I learned that my dad had had a heart attack in the woods about 20 miles from home. He was hunting deer with a friend and he had spent a couple of hours on the ground partially conscious before his friend got some other men to carry my dad out of the woods. They then took him to a nearby hospital which could not deal with his case. They then transported him from St. John to the regional hospital and the cardiac care unit. I got to see my dad that night and he was in critical condition. He was in the hospital for the next four weeks recovering. At home, my two older brothers were both away studying and my sister, who is 12 years younger than me, was at home. My dad did not go back to work for six months. His recovery was slow and overnight I became the man of the house. My mother relied on me for day-to-day things that dad would have done. This new role gave me a purpose and responsibility that I unconsciously gravitated toward. Let's just say it helped make a man out of me.
The next light bulb I cannot remember when it happened but it was sometime in my late teens and again it was at the hand of my father. I do not remember the circumstance but I do remember the message. He said to me, "Son, as your father I must tell you that I do not know anyone in this world that will help you be successful in life. No one I know will give you a job, I don't know people like that. If you're going to make it in this world you're going to have to do it on your own."
This was a major light bulb and I appreciated it even in the moment. I appreciated it because at that point in my life I was more than a little confused about how one gets ahead and is successful in life. All around me it seemed that my friends were getting ahead because their parents had connections or their family had influence. That was kind of the way it was in my hometown, or at least that is the way it seemed at the time.
I look back on that moment and have done so many times since, and his words have given me the strength to go after things in life that have brought me so much: A career, love and a family. With my three daughters who are all in their twenties now, all finished university and on their own, I translated what my dad told me into my message to them. I have repeated this a few times. I say, "There isn't anything you can't accomplish in this life if you willing to work for it."
I love the fact that my dad had the courage to tell me what he told me. I did not look at it like he was copping out on me, and I easily could have. I took it to mean that he thought I could make it on my own.
We always have a choice in life to believe the story. Good or bad—we make up the story.
Also, delivering my first workshop was a light bulb but it was more along the lines of "How can I bring this new-found process and educational element into my company and my world?"
The next big light bulb was when my last boss dissed my idea of wanting to take the workshop I was teaching outside of our region.
"Why would you want to do that?" he asked. I knew in that moment it was all about him—not about me or my idea. I knew in that moment that I needed to move on. I had outgrown my role, and the company, or at least his view of it, no longer supported my vision of what could be, of what was possible with this financial leadership training. I was also confused in that moment. Was I being selfish about what I wanted vs. his version?
Six short months later I left my day job and the security of 30-plus years of working for the same hotel company. On my own to explore the world of being an entrepreneur and creating a business.
Like my dad said, "Son, if you are going to make anything of yourself, you are going to need to do it on your own."
What was your light bulb?
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The Hotel Financial Coach