Most kids with loving and well-intentioned parents consider their parents their secret weapons (or maybe even not so secret). We're not any different but we each only have one Mom and one Dad (at least in the traditional sense) so we would like to brag about ours, specifically our Dad for reasons that will become more apparent later.
Our Dad has many incredibly qualities: his love, his drive, his athleticism, his sense of humor, his intellect and the list goes on. However, he has one secret weapon quality that you can't teach: common sense. I know that this might not be exciting but it's arguably one of the most under-appreciated traits for a leader and human being. In fact, when Jack Welch the legendary leader of GE was once asked which quality he values above all else and he replied: 'common sense.' As unremarkable as it seems, the converse (aka not having it or being able to apply it at key times) is almost unthinkable. We've all met people whom we think lack it and it's hard to even have a conversation or reason with them.
When people talk about our Dad, they talk about an uncanny ability to problem solve and "drill deeper." Asking the right questions is usually tougher than opening your mouth and stating what you think, but he always led with questions before answers, even when he knew them.
Our Dad is one of the smartest people we know but you'd never know it when you meet him. He's got humility and doesn't try to impress anyone with his vocabulary even though we used to play a game on car rides as kids where we would flip to any random page in the dictionary and ask him for the definition. He nailed it more than 50 percent of the time. Seriously. If you haven't tried that, see how you fare and you'll appreciate the feat even more.
There is a one life decision that encapsulated the secret weapon status of our Dad's wisdom and logic: Courtney's decision with what to do after college, also known as the rest of his life. Courtney is the oldest in our family and thus the trailblazer for a lot of things, not least of which is the real world assimilation. My brother graduated in a turbulent post-9/11 world where people had also just been hit by the dot-com tech bubble bursting. He longed to do something entrepreneurial but was torn between the allure of being his own boss versus very much being bossed around as the low man on the totem pole at Goldman Sachs. Our Dad, ever stoic and unbiased until he felt like he absolutely had no choice, gave it to Courtney unedited:
"You know Mom and I love you and will always support you no matter what you do. Having said that, just to take a quick inventory of where you're at right now (as a recent Columbia graduate): you have no money, no true skillset and no real contacts to speak of. People have done it with less but that's what you're up against."
It was that simple and straightforward, yet our Dad wasn't heavy-handed in his recommendation. He let Courtney make the decision but he interjected with the common sense that clearly had been missing. It was that simple but probably changed the trajectory of Courtney's life: he decided to work at Goldman Sachs where he acquired some great hard skills as well as innumerable contacts and eventually we left together to be entrepreneurs at VEEV Spirits and now M13.
Despite intentionally talking about our Dad in the present tense, he passed away very unexpectedly on February 4th, 2017. We've missed his voice and physical touch every day since but we believe that he's only dead if he's forgotten, which is far from the case. He always has been and always will be our secret weapon. We love you Dad.