I was still in high school when my father was fired from the San Francisco Examiner. Dad loved the newspaper business and he especially enjoyed his job, working with the newsboys who (then) sold papers on street corners. I knew he’d be devastated by the loss.
To add to the problem, he had been employed by the Examiner for 30 years – but not consecutively. (He left school at 12 and worked to send his younger brothers through Stanford University.) When the newspaper eliminated its entire circulation department, my dad was not only out of work, he was out of any chance to receive a pension.
I will never forget that afternoon. I came home from school to find my father already there. Not only was he home, he was in the kitchen. In fact, Dad was at the sink, bent over, holding his head in his hands.
My heart went out to him but as I was about to say something consoling, I noticed that the reason he was bent over the sink was that my sister was dying his grey hair brown so he’d look younger when he went looking for a new job. Dad straightened up, grinned, and said: “Now we’re going to have some fun!”
And fun we had indeed, for my father did many fascinating things, including owning the “front yard” of a traveling circus, managing a gold mine, and taking photographs for postcards. In his late 60s, he began his last business – a carnival supply company that he operated successfully until his death (in the middle of a work day) at the age of 80.
My mother worked along side my father in most of his endeavours. After his death, she did what any grieving widow in her 70s would do: she took up country and western dancing. And a couple of years later, Mom married her dance partner. (At their wedding, they wore their dancing costumes. But that’s another story.)
Having the profound luck of being raised by these two incredibly resilient people is something for which my sister and I will always be grateful. They made dealing with the vagaries of life seem like a great adventure.
I don’t recall my parents sharing any slogans or advice on managing change, but I do remember exactly what they did and the attitudes they held.
This is also how the people who live and work with you learn – not by anything you say, but by everything you do and how you feel about doing it.
In this season of celebration and presents, I’d like to remind you that one of the greatest gifts you have to offer is to embody the change (whatever that is!) you want to see in the world.
Troy Media columnist Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, is an executive coach, consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She is also the author of The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.