There's no question fathers are powerful role models and teachers. I've spent my life watching my father show an authentic interest in other people who appreciate his curiosity and the time and attention he gives them. As a result, my dad is universally liked and admired. It's a lesson I've taken to heart--without inquisitiveness I couldn't do the kind of work I do, which involves getting others to tell their stories. Along that tract, I reached out to a wide swath of successful individuals who shared with me the most important lessons they learned from their dads. Here's what they said.
1. A positive attitude is a powerful thing.
"The whole world can feel like it's against you, or turning on you, but it's what you put out there is all that matters. Facing that world with a genuine smile and energy to move things forward has been critical in my development professionally and personally. He also taught me that... you can only worry about things you have the power to change or control."
--Thas Naseemuddeen, chief strategy officer for Omelet, an LA-based creative agency which has worked with big brands including Pokémon, Walmart, Microsoft, AT&T and Ubisoft.
2. Work ethic is truly your biggest asset.
"My father taught me that there may be someone with more experience and a higher level of education, but ultimately, you are in control of who is the hardest worker in the room. And, the best way to celebrate success is with a cold beer at the end of the day."
--Leigh Barnes, North America director for global adventure travel company Intrepid Travel, which offers more than 1,000 trips in more than 100 countries and on every continent.
3. It's not about how much you make, it's about how much you spend.
"[My father] taught me that we needed to save, save, save because we are responsible for our own destinies. If we weren't smart about saving and investing, no matter how successful we became, we could end up with nothing if we spent foolishly on things that weren't necessary... [H]e wasn't the type that told us we couldn't buy nice things once in a while to reward our hard work and achievements, but it is all about moderation and responsibility."
--Kristina Heinze, partner and cofounder at ParkerGale Capital, a Chicago-based private equity firm that invests in profitable technology companies.
4. Passion begets success.
"My siblings and I learned early on from my father that if you're not passionate about something, you're not going to do well. Passion, hard work, and getting our hands dirty is the norm. As a family, we are passionate about real estate and truly love what we do each day."
--Donald Trump Jr., EVP of development and acquisitions at Trump Hotels.
5. Moderation allows your mind to focus on success rather than always wanting.
"This notion provides me grounding through the prodigious ups and downs encountered with starting and running a business...On the flip side... my father would [also say], 'Son, don't forget what Oscar Wilde wrote: Everything in moderation, even moderation.'"
6. Humility is a must-have for success.
"My dad kept it simple [and said] there will always be someone richer and poorer than us. Someone faster and slower. Someone stronger and weaker. The sooner you keep things in perspective, operate with a healthy dose of humility, and appreciate what you have, the greater mountains you can climb."
--Mark Gainey, co-founder and CEO of Strava, the social network for athletes which connects millions of runners and cyclists every day through its mobile apps and website.
7. Team players are winners.
"When I was a kid, my dad refereed all my basketball games. I was a ball hog and not very good at sports--a winning combo. My dad gave me an early lesson about what it means to be a successful teammate. There's always a time and a place to go after the ball and not let go--stealing the ball from the opponent versus going for a breakaway where I'd probably whiff the layup. And, everyone on the team can make a contribution, even if you're not the one to score the point."
--Michael Pryor, cofounder and CEO of Trello, a web-based project management application with 14 million signups and 1.1 million daily active users.
8. At the end of the day, the most important things are faith and family.
"My father taught me that money will never buy true happiness and he worked to invest in the eternal, not the temporary. He modeled the ideas that contentment can be found in the simplest of things and an ordinary life well-lived can actually be quite extraordinary."
--James Hagen, Secretary of Tourism for the South Dakota Department of Tourism, a state that welcomed a record-setting 13.7 million visitors in 2015 and is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore in 2016.
9. Challenge is an inherent part of success.
"My father came from a small town in the mountains of Montenegro and was one of the first in his family to go to college. He moved to the United States out of necessity in his mid-thirties without speaking a word of English. Today, he is a well-respected mechanical engineer, designing complex machine systems in the world of diagnostics, pharmaceutical research, and biotechnology... He taught me that discomfort, pain, and stress are natural components of hard work and progress, but that there are also powerful tools for meaningful grounding and relief. I've learned through his experience that there is no universal formula for success; breakthroughs come from unexpected places. In the end, we all search for meaning and fundamental connection, and the most successful companies and products empower this basic humanity."
--Vladimir Vukicevic, CEO of Meural, a gesture-controlled digital art canvas which allows users to display premium artwork and photography.
10. Relationships are built when you show up.
"My father has lived in the same area, Des Moines, Iowa, for most of his life. He seems to know everyone in town. He taught me about relationships and how they are built over a long period of time through consistency, which equals dependability. Be where you're supposed to be, and on time. Never pass up a chance to help a person out. [People] seldom forget when someone was there for them and the people you want to know in life will instinctively want to return the favor."
--Ryan Milligan, partner and cofounder at ParkerGale Capital, a Chicago-based private equity firm that invests in profitable technology companies.
11. Have a good time doing hard work.
"Working on a big project or political campaign can be stressful. The best work products will come when people are having a good time and feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. Setting that culture is key to a successful work environment."
--Josh Ginsberg, CEO of cross-media analytics platform Zignal Labs.
12. Determination, attitude and work ethic require no additional talent, so show up on time with passion.
"I've never been one to do something halfway...and I owe this, in large part, to my father. The integrity with which he lived his life and approached his work is something that I witnessed from an early age, and that has stayed with me every day since. Not surprisingly, I tend to surround myself with people that possess qualities much the same--the passion to learn, to grow, and to contribute. It never fails."
--Christopher Gavigan, who cofounded with Jessica Alba The Honest Company, which offers safe and effective products for babies, personal care, and the home.
13. Shortcuts to success do not exist.
"My father worked two jobs when I was a kid. So it wasn't what he told me it's what he showed me... If you want twice what everyone has, you have to do twice as much."
--Harry Bernstein, founder and chief creative officer of social media agency The 88 Company, which serves clients including Adidas, GE, HTC and W Hotels.
14. Make more noise to stand out from the crowd.
"Sameness for [my late father, Stanley,] was not an option...He gave me the freedom to think creatively, to take risks, to be different and to make some noise and always, always have a glass of wine at lunch. It has always relaxed me and stimulated my creativity. My motto: 'drink up and think up.'"
--Richard Kirshenbaum, founder of the ad agency NSG/SWAT, which serves clients including Greg Norman's Great White Shark Enterprises, Wheels Up Aviation, New York Rangers and Anne Klein.
15. Respect your elders.
"'The only way to get respect is to give it,' he would say. This advice has always served me well in my 37 years in the hospitality business, but it was really valuable when I first started out and I was managing employees that were often older than I was."
--Jay Stein, CEO of Dream Hotel Group.
16. Do what you love and it won't feel like work.
"My Dad was a dentist and he has volunteered all over the world--especially in Africa--over the last 10 years. He has built schools and clinics in Tanzania and it has changed his life....not to mention the thousands of lives he has impacted in Africa. This is a passion of his so it has not felt like work to him. He always told me: 'Life is short. Make sure you do what you love and you'll never feel like you're working another day.'"
--Chris Linder, president of footwear company Keds, which will pass its 100-year milestone in July.
17. Never take shortcuts and always do what is right.
"[My dad] told me not to bend according to others' expectations or beliefs, not even his. He always encouraged me to find my own talents and reach my potential through trying out and learning about many different things, which led me to discovering my passion for sculpture and arts. I decided that I wanted to study sculpture when I was nine and my dad was my biggest supporter, and that always gave me the courage to go on and overcome any difficulties."
--Urska Srsen, cofounder and chief product officer of Bellabeat, which makes the Leaf, a piece of jewelry which tracks activity, sleep, and reproductive health.
18. Don't confuse work with progress.
"When you are in a startup, there's always plenty of work to do. You can make it through an entire day doing 'stuff.' But when your head hits the pillow at the end of the day, what did you actually accomplish? That is what we call progress--getting something accomplished. I can't tell you the number of first-time CEOs that can't distinguish between the two. My father taught me to focus on progress, which is setting and achieving goals, and forget about the work."
--Paul Martino, general partner at the early-stage, post-seed venture capital firm Bullpen Capital.
19. Never compete with others, but only with yourself.
"My father was an Indian Immigrant who came from a poor village. To make it to the U.S., he had to be better than the number one student in his village, as few were motivated to leave or had the initiative to change their life for the better. He had to drive himself by competing with his own standards. He used that drive to get into UC Berkeley and then went on to eventually sell a manufacturing company. He taught me to compete with yourself, not with other people. You can only be successful if you are relentless in your pursuit of improving."
--Rajeev Behera, CEO of the performance-management startup Reflektive, which has raised more than $17 million in funding and has a client roster of over 150 companies including Ubisoft, Pinterest, Lyft, Glassdoor and Juno Therapeutics.
20. Live each day as if it were your last--one day it will be.
"My father never wanted me to wake up one day wondering what might have been. He believed if you made your bed, you must lie in it and if the choice was wrong it was important to do something about it. He also taught me that there is nothing you cannot change or correct if you have the will to fight for what you want. Most importantly, he always said, 'Never settle for less than what you know you are worth.'"
--Greg Mount, president and CEO of Red Lion Hotels Corporation (RLHC), a hospitality company primarily engaged in the franchising, management and ownership of upscale, midscale and economy hotels under the Hotel RL, Red Lion Hotel, Red Lion Inn & Suites, GuestHouse International and Settle Inn brands.
21. Success depends upon the people you surround yourself with.
"When I started a media/technology company for parents as a 24-year-old single guy, my dad--and co-investor in Mommy Nearest--could not have been more supportive, despite the fact that I didn't have any children of my own. As a multiple-time principal/president and someone who has managed companies with hundreds of employees, he knew that the success of what I was trying to build didn't squarely hinge on my individual performance and that, without a strong team, scaling the business would have been impossible."
--Josh Milstein, CEO, Mommy Nearest, an app for finding kid-friendly and parent-approved places around the United States.
22. Surround yourself with good people.
"My father was an entrepreneur while I was growing up, always working on his latest ventures, exposing me to the world of entrepreneurship, encouraging me to take risks and follow my own dreams. He frequently helps me make decisions today and every day we put to practice his tried and true wisdom: 'Surround yourself with good people and do everything you can to keep them happy, because without them you have nothing.'"
--David Jones, president and cofounder of consumer 3D printer manufacturer M3D.
23. The bosses with the most loyal workers treat employees like family.
"My father moved to the U.S. from Colombia when he was 21. He didn't speak English and had little money to his name. What he did have was a strong work ethic and an unflappable spirit that led him to launch and run several successful businesses throughout his lifetime. Having the privilege to work alongside him from a very young age taught me numerous invaluable management lessons. He treated his employees like family. In fact, one of my fondest childhood memories was going with my dad to deliver turkeys to all of his employees during the holidays. He gave them space to do their job, had difficult conversations when necessary, and always gave credit where credit was due."
--Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, which offers tools for sales performance management, sales effectiveness, sales compensation and employee engagement.
24. You have to walk before you can run.
"My father is an engineer, so by nature a very pragmatic man, and when you're facing a problem, he is always the one to find the solution. The most important thing he taught me, as cliché as it sounds, was that you must first learn to walk before you can run. It's a lesson in patience, to wait until the conditions are right, and then act to seize opportunity. This lesson stuck with me whenever he took me fly fishing as a child, throughout my everyday life, and through the creation--and now production--of Leka."
--Ladislas de Toldi, cofounder and CEO, Leka, a robotic smart toy for children with developmental disorders that was recently fully funded on Indiegogo.
25. In the grand scheme of things, very few problems are life-altering.
"My father once told me to 'Go bleed in the front yard.' As a retired Marine, he valued a clean garage floor. Aside from the obvious lesson about cleanliness, it taught me to focus on the long term goal, and not just what's happening in the moment. As an entrepreneur, it's easy to get distracted when you're running a business that's growing quickly, in a market that changes monthly, weekly, and even daily. It's important to find a north star and keep focused on it."
--Rod Favaron, president and CEO of social media marketing company Spredfast, which has more than 1,400 brand, media and agency customers and powers 80 percent of the social content on television.
26. Authenticity wins people's hearts.
"My father was a self-made man. With three partners and a handshake deal that lasted 20 years, he built a thriving, multi-state hotel chain with 35,000 employees. Despite that size, every relationship was personal for him. He made genuine connections with people at all levels, from all walks of life. My father knew that leadership is an honor and a responsibility. Because of that, his employees loved and respected him."
--Scott McFarlane, CEO of transactional tax automation company Avalara which is used by more than 20,000 companies around the world.
27. Climb up that tree, one branch at a time.
"When it comes to starting an entrepreneurial journey, or even any other journey for that matter, goals often seem unimaginably far away. [Almost] like they're on an invisible treetop, while you always find yourself on the ground. My father taught me that you need to take a leap of faith to break down your long-term vision of climbing the tree, and take things one branch at a time to get to the top. You need courage to let go of the branch you are currently holding onto in order to get to the next one."
--Arvind Parthiban, CEO of website optimization software company Zarget.
28. Use your voice.
"Like many fathers and daughters, the relationship with my father was complicated and full of struggle. From that complication was also born some of the greatest lessons, like learning how to fight for myself, becoming an advocate, and using my voice. My father taught me about community, human rights, equality, and ingenuity. He taught me the value of hard work and valued my education and career. When he passed and I took over his business, I learned that I can access the best parts of him and can continue our relationship--he just doesn't argue back now and I finally get the last word. Our journey was a rough one, but we had our sunset too."
--Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods, which has grown gross sales to over $130 million.