What my 99 year old (young) father has taught me.

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by Suzanna Watson on June 17, 2011

This post is all about the lessons I learned over the years from my dad.

I thought discussing these topics would be appropriate since Sunday is Father’s Day already (hard to believe but it is).

Like the headline indicates, my dad is 99 years young and still going strong. Though he has taught me many lessons over the years I’ll just focus on a few today.

One thing he always told me was to work smarter, not harder. This means never settling for the way things have always been done. He instilled in me the desire to look for a better way to do things.  My dad is all about making everything easy and simple, as there is no good reason to complicate things.

Another thing he taught me was to always look forward, not backward. If asked he will talk about the past, but he never dwells on it. For instance when I asked if he was poor during the depression he says no.  “We had food on the table” is the stock answer he likes to give out when asked about it.

My dad did not go to college nor did he graduate high school, but he ran a successful business and took very good care of his family. Why was that? Because he learned at an early age how to make money and more importantly, how to manage it. All the money in the world is not enough if you can’t control it.

To give you some perspective on how times have changed, consider the first job he had. He sold newspapers around 1919 or so in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Want to know how much he earned doing that? The grand total of 1 cent for every 2 papers he sold. “Wow” is the only word I can think of.

He also sold water ice in the summer time to put money in his pocket. As he got older he followed his dad around from job to job. His dad was a stone mason, which was really hard work back then because no power tools were available in middle 1920’s. Then learned to become a barber, not in a school, but in a barber shop working 10 hour days.

He became a barber apprentice at age 16. His barbering business was successful because he was such a smart businessman. He kept costs down and only purchased what he needed when he had to. He also made sure to care for his equipment so that it would last a lifetime. Needless to say he also always payed his bills on time, and was generous to others.

Dad had me and my mom clean the shop every night and then thoroughly cleaned it top to bottom on Sundays when the shop was closed. Guess where I learned to clean? I suppose he was prepping me for business even way back then. I’m very lucky to have him and the memories he has given me.

Dad “unofficially” retired at 99 this year. He still cuts hair several days per month for a few of his favorite customers but that’s about it. How many of us want to work that long? He always said “I will retire when I get old”. So I guess he thinks he is close to getting old for him to scale things back a bit.

Even today at 99 he stills loves a party, still dances, and still loves life and the people who come into contact with him. The moral of my story is love your family, love what you do, and always look forward. You also shouldn’t dwell on the past for a second and if you think you don’t have enough education, think again. My dad didn’t.

I’ll wrap this up by wishing you all Happy Father’s Day, and much success to all who are starting businesses. If my dad can do it, so can you.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rose April 15, 2012 at 2:52 am

Your father sounds like a truly wonderful person: grounded and loving. I am sure that you are very proud of him: just being a stone mason alone is a big accomplishment.

2 Tom Watson April 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Very much so. Thanks!

3 j long May 16, 2012 at 6:01 pm

My FIL is 99 years old and is a manipulating , nasty , conniving, jealous ,selfish b–t–d .

4 Tom Watson May 17, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Sorry to hear that! It can be tough to deal with those who are set in their ways.

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