I spent Father’s Day this year with my Father, in his native country of Israel! Rather than spend my time starting at a computer screen writing this post, I enjoyed our first full day in Israel with him. But now that I’m back on Midwest soil, I wanted to take a post, in similar fashion to my Mother’s Day post, to properly salute Arnon Chait, aka Dad. And while I’m at it, wish him a happy belated birthday (he turned 63 on July 2!)
One could argue that personality-wise, I’m close to 50% my Dad and 50% my Mom, but in actuality the ratio is probably more like 60/40 or 70/30. While I inherited a lot of my Mom’s qualities when it comes to building and maintaining relationships, most of my other personality traits resemble my Dad much more than my Mom. For one, we’re both extroverts while my Mom and brother are clear introverts. We’re kind of loud, are natural leaders, determined, and impatient. Some of this is nature, but some is also nurture. I attribute a lot of who I am to what I’ve learned from my Dad throughout my childhood and into my adulthood!
Lessons from Arnon Chait
1. Don’t Be a Follower
Growing up, my Dad taught my brother and I one major lesson: always look for the shortest line. This came up a lot recently during our time in his native Israel, where everything is chaotic and no one follows the rules. While my Dad didn’t exactly teach my brother and I to break the rules, he did teach us not to “act like an American” and instead “act like an Israeli”. Meaning don’t join the line with the most number of people – look instead for a line to the far side with fewer people. Find a faster way of doing something (hence the impatience), or a more clever way. There is no shame in outsmarting the system to your own benefit. Basically, if everyone is doing one thing, then that’s a sign that you should be doing something else. It’s a lesson I embrace in my own life, both the basic and grander interpretation.
2. You Only Get What You Ask For
I’ve been thinking about writing an entire post on this one statement: You Only Get What You Ask For (YOGWYAF). Although grammatically incorrect (“you only get for what it is that you ask” doesn’t have the same ease of tongue…), it’s what I consider my personal motto. And I attribute this to my father, who fully embraces it’s spirit.
My history with YOGWYAF dates back to my days as a school girl. I have distinct memories of asking many a teacher for a grade adjustment on a test when I had shown my work but made a simple mistake. The teachers usually responded, “if I give you the points for this, then I have to give everyone who made the same mistake the points”, to which I would reply, “but everyone else isn’t asking for the points!” More often than not, the teachers would cave and give me the grade adjustment. Fast-forward to my graduate program two years ago, in which I frequently found myself asking for a deadline extension on behalf of the class. This motto isn’t limited to school; my most recent promotion was rewarded on my asking for the position – not the other way around. I often apply it in retail situations as well. For example, I bought a pair of pants and wore them before realizing there were too big, so I went back to the store, explained myself, and asked if I could exchange them for the smaller size. Not only did the associate let me exchange them, but she let me wear the new pants out of the store (I had planned on coming back to the store when I wasn’t wearing the pants). I’ve done the same when pants shrink (tumble dry low my ass) – try it!
My Dad beams with pride every time he hears one of my YOGWYAF stories, because he knows it’s a reflection of him! You’re your own best advocate.
3. Be Present
If my Mom was writing this list, this would be her #1. She and I often marvel at my Dad’s ability to be present and live in the moment. As the CEO of at least four biotech companies (early detection of ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and fetal abnormalities, to name a few) in addition to many “side” projects, my Dad is the smartest and busiest man that I (and most everyone who meets him) know. How does he manage to keep all these companies running and still find time to attend dinner parties with friends, watch TV with my Mom, spectate all my triathlons, and respond to tech-support requests from various inept family members within record time? By being fully present!
My Dad’s ability to focus on exactly what he’s doing at every moment is incredible. When replying to an email, he’s replying to an email. When reviewing an 80-page legal contract (his favorite…not), he’s reviewing an 80-page legal contract. When hanging a picture my Mom asked him to hang, he’s hanging a picture. In short – he doesn’t waste any energy ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. He lives in the present. It keeps his stress levels remarkably low and allows him to juggle more in one day than most people can in a week (or a month). And most importantly, it keeps him happy. It’s a quality I admire greatly, and one that I work on every single day.
4. Compassion is Undervalued
I grew up in a very liberal household. While many people become more conservative as they age, my parents become more and more progressive with every breath! My Mom was a social worker, and she and my Dad instilled a strong moral foundation in my brother and I that we are “thy brother’s keeper”. Both my parents have a strong sense of compassion for the struggles of others – a trait that I believe is undervalued. People rarely reward it or even recognize it, but my Dad will tell you that having compassion is what makes a good leader great. He’s extremely non-judgmental, gives people the benefit of the doubt, and fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. I’m proud to say that I “drank the koolaid” and inherited he and my Mom’s progressiveness; I can only hope I’ve inherited some of their compassion as well.
5. Don’t Apologize for Who You Are
This one is deeply personal for me. I spent a large part of the past three decades figuring out who I am. It took some time, but I’ve realized over the years that I’m not like most girls. I’m not exactly sweet, or reserved, or ladylike. I’m outspoken, a bit loud, and as one MBA professor described me, “playful and irreverent.” I love to swear. Basically – I’m different. And thanks to my Dad, I’m owning it!
If my Dad were on the TV show “Survivor”, he’d either win the show or be kicked off in the first episode. As discussed earlier, he’s loud, impatient, and always in charge. Some might consider him obnoxious at times. But does he ever waste a minute feeling bad about it, or apologizing for who he is? No! He owns it. And you know what? Not only do most people like him – they love him. And they look to him for guidance, for leadership, for inspiration.
I’d be lying if I said I’m always confident, or never at odds with myself. But those times are becoming fewer and farther between, and it’s largely thanks to my Dad. He encourages me to be exactly who I am, never apologize for it, and instead, celebrate it!
Thank you, Daddy. I love you!