8 Lessons I learned from My Father

Today, August 14th, 2016 would have been my father, Vincent Anthony Posa's 60th birthday. As I have previously written, he died a few months ago in a motorcycle accident. So today, I spent a lot of time crying - wishing I could tell him how much I love him and thank him for how much he has taught me. 

So I thought that the next best thing would be to share some of those lessons which have shaped who I am today, as a way to recognize him for being such a great father to me for 30 years of my life. Here are a few of the phrases he always used to say:

1. "You’ll never know unless you try." Whether we were in a restaurant ordering food, or attempting to make a major life decision, Dad always encouraged my sisters and I to try new things… he was always coming up with new adventures, getting involved with new businesses, and taking on new hobbies. We had Lionel trains set up in the attic that we’d run every winter. He took us boating in the summers, and we went on all types of vacations. Dad got scuba certified, and was taking up pilot lessons on the side. He’d say “Try it! What’s the worst that can happen?” So now, whenever I encounter a new experience… that’s what I hear in my head. And usually, I don’t have a good answer… usually there isn’t a good enough reason NOT to try something. As a result, my life has been full of amazing experiences and I’ve learned to always say YES to the opportunities that come my way.

2. "You’ll figure it out." Growing up, I used to love doing everything with my dad. Everything. But one of my most favorite things to do, was to help him fix things. Dad could fix just about anything. And I’d spend hours with him in the garage, in the engine room of our boat, or under the hood of the car. Most of the time, I’d be passing him tools. But more importantly, he’d always take the time to teach me about whatever he was fixing. And he’d teach me how to figure things out. We never followed the manuals. We didn’t learn the specific steps of how to put something together or take it apart… instead he taught me how to think. He taught me how to examine problems… to understand them and that by understanding how something worked, I could figure out the solution. And whenever I’d come to him with a question or ask him for help… he’d almost ALWAYS say, “why don’t you try to figure it out first?” He taught me to be resourceful, and for that I am forever grateful.

3. "You gotta enjoy what you do." My dad was an entrepreneur. And a pretty good one. He was a natural hustler. He worked hard all of his life. He started as a paperboy before he was even a teenager and then got into real estate. He bought his first house at 19. But he always wanted to be a pilot. He used to tell me how much he regretted not continuing his education. Many times he’d share the challenges of being a landlord, and the amount of work he had to do to maintain his property. And so he’d always tell us that it was important for us to love what we did. He never told us what line of work to get into. He didn’t encourage us to go after certain jobs just for the money. He’d say, “If you’re doing what you love, the money will come.” As a result, my sisters and I have always been free to explore the areas of work that we felt naturally drawn to.

4. "You have no idea what it takes to maintain everything.” Dad used to say this ALL the time. He reminded us on a daily basis not to take things for granted. Anything that we were fortunate enough to have or do, we had to help maintain. Dad had us gardening and weeding with him in the warm months, and shoveling in the winter. When we went boating, my sisters and I learned how to dock it, navigate it using the radar and charts (no gps then), and scrub it down after we docked. I can remember doing paperwork with him in his office after school when I was barely 10 years old. He’d teach me about his business, how to handle phone calls, and enter numbers into the computer. He took me to work with him, and taught me how to manage real estate property. He’d show me the bills that needed to be paid and explain to me how much it cost to maintain everything we had. It kept us humble and made us grateful.

5. "There’s so much to see in the world." Dad was an explorer at heart. He jumped at every opportunity to get on a plane. When my sister Jaime was in the Peace Corps in El Salvador, he visited her in her community and slept on an air mattress in her 2 room cement house. And when my other sister Christina was in Thailand, he bought a back-packers backpack and motobiked with her through 3 countries. He was constantly amazed by the amount of places there were to go and see. When he died, he was headed back to Vegas on his motorcycle from the Hoover Dam. He was living out an adventure until his very last day.

6. "You can do it." Since Dad was always telling us to try new things, that was usually followed by him saying “Don’t worry, you can do it.” He had this confidence and trust in his daughters that brings me to tears when I think about it. When I first got my license my dad had me drive his 1976 Cadillac convertible that was more like a boat than a car… I was scared considering I sank so deep into the seats that I could barely see over the steering wheel. He thought it would be a good way for me to learn and said that if I could drive that thing, I could drive anything. He did the same thing when teaching me how to drive the boat. I was nervous, but my nerves would settle when I realized that he believed in me so much.

7. "You only live once." Looking back, there was something a bit eery about the amount of times my dad mentioned death. He'd say “I could drop dead tomorrow” more often than I liked to hear. It was almost as if he knew that his time on the planet would be short. And as hard as it was to hear, it was the truth. He always reminded us that life was too short to be wasted on the things that didn’t matter, or that weren’t important to us. For the most part in our society, we avoid talking about death… but being objective about death is perhaps the most powerful way to make sure we aren’t taking life for granted. 

8. "Nothing is more important than family." I think my dad was the most family-oriented person I have ever known. He couldn’t stand it when we fought… with him or with each other. He said, “At the end of the day, all you really have is each other.” He always encouraged us to work out our disagreements and to try to understand one another. He loved family dinners, and reminded us that it was important for us to come together and communicate. He often told stories of what it was like growing up in his big Italian family and how much he loved when the whole family got together to make fresh tomato sauce and spaghetti. And there was nothing that made him happier than spending time with us. We had epic games of hide and seek, he’d rake piles of leaves and throw us in the middle, we’d pile on his back to sleigh ride down the hill, and this one time he put a trailer on the back of his lawn mower and drove us all the way to the park. There was never a dull moment and he wanted to spend as much time as he could with us. So perhaps the most important thing he has taught me is to always make my family a priority no matter what.

So, thank you dad for my life and for all that you have taught me. I know that you live inside me, that I am me because of you… and that I will continue to live out these lessons and the countless others you taught me for the rest of my life. I love you.