(By The Accelerators)
“When I was a child, he pursued a doctorate in education, spending nights and weekends studying. I watched him and as a result, I didn’t need to be reminded about the importance of studying, setting goals and working hard to achieve them. He was a living, breathing example for me. I could see how rigorously he tackled obstacles and worked hard to overcome them. It helped inspire me to follow my passions. Learning from his example also inspired my leadership style. The best companies are managed by individuals who lead by example and follow their words with actions.“
A life of entrepreneurship is full of risk-taking and following one’s passions. My father’s life journey, from a steel mill outside Pittsburgh to attaining a doctorate in education, has embodied these traits and he has always served as an inspiration for me. The values he instilled in my brother and me are universal and they have been a frequent guide throughout my life.
1. Lead by example
2. Lifelong love of learning
3. Treat others with kindness and fairness
4. Respect for an honest day’s work
5. Set a high-quality bar for the work you do
My father grew up in Natrona, a small steel town outside Pittsburgh, Penn. He was the first generation in his family to attend college, and he pursued a career in education because it meant he would be able to empower others. He made the bold decision to move to California and create a new life for himself, leaving his comfort zone so he could pursue his dreams and passions. Silicon Valley is full of people who have made the same decision, and it’s not a coincidence that this environment has so much entrepreneurial energy.
In San Francisco, he chose to teach special education for the San Francisco Unified School District. As a result, he worked with more difficult students, but this also meant that he could have more influence in their lives. This impact on others is something I think about often as CEO of ZenPayroll and it applies to everyone at a startup. Our actions are incredibly leveraged and the products we build can have a profound impact on the lives of our users and customers. It makes high-tech entrepreneurship exhilarating but it also means we have a responsibility to do the right thing for the customer and not take advantage of our position.
When I was a child, he pursued a doctorate in education, spending nights and weekends studying. I watched him and as a result, I didn’t need to be reminded about the importance of studying, setting goals and working hard to achieve them. He was a living, breathing example for me. I could see how rigorously he tackled obstacles and worked hard to overcome them. It helped inspire me to follow my passions. Learning from his example also inspired my leadership style. The best companies are managed by individuals who lead by example and follow their words with actions.
Now as an adult, I can only imagine the stress he was under — working a full-time job to support the family and pursuing a degree at night, all while living three thousand miles away from his entire extended family. Throughout these years, my father stressed the importance of treating others with respect and kindness. No matter how difficult the circumstances or stress, he would say “treat others the way you wish to be treated”. In a startup, there are often times of duress, and it can be easy to lose one’s temper. Keeping focused on the goal and thinking from the perspective of the other person has been an invaluable tool in my life.
As I’ve built companies and teams, I’ve been reminded of the lessons that my father learned from his father, working in the steel mill outside Pittsburgh. Foremost among these was respect for an honest day’s work. When others depend on your work, there is an honor and privilege in doing a job and putting your name to it. This has sometimes been lost in today’s fast-paced society, and there is a lot of power to this concept. Set the bar high and do work at the quality you expect of yourself. If your teammates do the same, then you’ll be surprised at what can be accomplished.
My father’s journey has been shared by many millions of Americans. It’s the American Dream — work hard, pursue your goals and treat others with respect along the way. His path has mirrored the journey of America from an industrial center to a service centric economy. As we progress further into the 21st Century, I am confident that these values will remain true in any context and I’m thankful to have them as an example and guide in my life.
I love you Dad. Happy Father’s Day.
(Joshua Reeves, co-founder of ZenPayroll)
(Source: Wall Street Journal)
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