Mackay: Fatherly advice as we celebrate dads |

Mackay: Fatherly advice as we celebrate dads

There was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, hammer a nail in the back fence. The first week, the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. It gradually dwindled down as he discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. His father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper until all the nails were gone.

Then the father led him to the fence and said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”

With Father’s Day coming up on June 16, I’d like to share some of the fatherly advice I received while growing up and especially getting my start in business.

Jack Mackay taught me about time management. I still remember him telling me if you want to go fishing tomorrow, be on the dock at 2 p.m. sharp. There I was at 2:05 p.m., waving bon voyage to my dad, who was driving away in the boat without his fishing buddy. Tough love; lesson learned.

My dad insisted that 25 percent of my time should be spent on volunteering, advice I’ve continued to follow. In addition to the benefit to the organization, you have an unusual opportunity to hone your selling skills, learn how to run meetings, prepare reports, serve on committees, supervise others, handle rejection and many other skills that can help you in your career, all while serving your community.

One of the most powerful things you can do to influence others is to smile at them, my dad said. Not to be outdone, my mother used to tell me that a smile is an inexpensive way to improve my looks: “If you’re happy, tell your face.”

About reputation, my dad quoted the adage “You spend your whole lifetime building a good name and reputation, and one foolish act can destroy it.” Dad was a big believer in aphorisms.

Most important, Jack Mackay taught me about networking. When I was 18, he told me that everyone I meet should go in a Rolodex file along with a little information about that person and then creatively keep in touch. You never know when your paths might cross again.

Greg Hague, an Arizona attorney and businessman, has come up with a website which he calls “Savvy Dad” ( Every day, he features a new story from a son or daughter on some special experience with their dad and how it positively impacted their life. His readership is nearing 40,000. His book, “How Fathers Change Lives,” is now available at

Greg shared a lesson from his father: “People focus on role models, but it’s more effective to find anti-models — people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.”

Lise Johnson told the story of her father’s devotion to her mom, who became terminally ill. When she was moved to hospice, he stayed with her around the clock. He helped feed and bathe her. One nurse told Lise that she was engaged when she started her mom’s care but no longer. “I didn’t know devotion like that existed in this world. I will find a man like your dad.”

Our mutual friend Randy Garn, a Utah businessman, remembered how as a 16-year-old he asked his dad if he could borrow the car on a Friday night. His dad said yes, but be home by 11 p.m., or the upcoming prom was at stake. Well, Randy lost track of the time and got home after 1 a.m. He tiptoed upstairs to his room and thought he was safe until he slid into bed and discovered be wasn’t alone! His dad was lying there waiting for him.

“I’m not mad, but the prom is now gone,” he said without anger. “Randy, I love you so much, but unlike what you did tonight, I do what I say.”

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. He also spends about six weeks a year in Aspen.

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