4 Most Important Life Lessons from My Late Dad

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“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person. He believed in me” – Jim Valvano

My late dad started off his career in the Police Force in 1976, before finally retiring thirty years later in 2006.

Being his only daughter, I was labelled as ‘anak manja ayah’ (daddy’s girl). Truth be told, he was much stricter on me than my brothers.

For example, he sent me off to a boarding school across the South China Sea at 12 years old. Meanwhile, my brothers got to stay at home and attend normal schools.

For him, I should be honoured to have an opportunity to further my secondary studies at a good school. Breaks like that didn’t come often, he said.

Five years later, I got another golden ticket to further my tertiary studies overseas. When I hesitated, he said the same thing.

I took the opportunity – despite feeling that it was unfair that the brothers got to stay together. I was sent far away.

At the time, I thought he just wanted me gone. The Malays have this saying ‘lagi senang jaga sekandang lembu dari jaga seorang anak perempuan’ (it’s easier to raise a barn of cattle than to raise a daughter).

There were even times when I thought he loved me less.

But looking back, I was wrong. He taught me how to make my voice heard, being fiercely independent, and more.

Here are some of his lessons, which could be useful to you too:

“Being on time to appointments and meetings is a phase of self-discipline and an evidence of self-respect. Punctuality is a courteous compliment the intelligent person pays to his associates” – Marvin J. Ashton

My father had instilled in me the importance of time, discipline, and being punctual.

I am punctual to the T, often showing up much earlier than the set appointment. I hate to wait on people, or having anyone wait for me. I just can’t stand tardiness, as it’s disrespectful towards the other person.

I once waited for almost an hour for a friend I hadn’t seen in months. Calls and texts remained unanswered (although the WhatsApp blue ticks were seen).

When she finally called almost 3 hours later, she told me she forgot about our meet-up and overslept. No apologies were offered, she just laughed it off thinking it was funny.

I haven’t seen her since.

Another thing I don’t tolerate are people who don’t inform you if they’re late. Or if they don’t offer a valid reason for being late, or simply cancelling the appointment / meet-up without an explanation.

For goodness sake, is it too hard to pick up mobile phone and give a simple text or a quick call?

“Organising ahead of time makes the work more enjoyable. Chefs cut up the onions and have the ingredients lined up ahead of time and have them ready to go. When everything is organised, you can clean as you go and it makes everything so much easier and fun” – Anne Burrell

My father taught me how to be organised and coordinated. It’s easier when everything is laid out in front of you – then planning and executing goes much smoother.

For me, I always draw up a list of things to do. Whether it’s notes on the phone, listing daily what-to-dos on a small board, or simply jotting down stuff to buy on a post-it notes – I have to write them down.

Organising helps me stay coordinated too. Thanks to my dad, I developed multi-tasking skills and got many things done at the same time.

Some may argue that it makes one less focused, but coordinating many things at once helps me stay alert and respond promptly.

There was a time when I was tasked to handle a PR and Communication operations on a mall’s health campaign. I had to do brainstorming, chair a meeting, plan media strategies and budget, set up appointments with the event organiser, and write the boss’ speech – all while having lunch.

Thanks to proper organisation and coordination (plus great teamwork of course), I managed to get everything done before lunch hour ended.

But that discipline took years to learn. And I owe it all to my dad.

“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of” – Bethany Hamilton

The late father of mine always stressed on loyalty and devotion, both professionally and in one’s personal life too.

I had worked in many fields – education, editorial, publishing, tourism, service industry, marketing, and PR and Communications.

I didn’t stay as long as my father did in one profession, changing six jobs within 15 years of working. But like him, I gave my best in all the jobs I was in.

I gained plenty of valuable skills, experience, and knowledge throughout the years. I’ve applied them all in many aspects of my life – personally and professionally.

I remember complaining to my dad about the small pay offered in my first teaching job in a boarding school. But he told me the only way to survive in the job is to love what you do, and the rewards would kick in.

Sure enough, seeing my former students graduate with flying colours and was able to converse in English was truly rewarding.

I didn’t stay long in the teaching profession though – my heart was somewhere out there in the world.

I developed a love for cop shows on TV and movies, thanks to my late dad who showed me all those programmes while I was growing up.

I would watch them while scrutinising and commenting on things the actors would say or do. I would often guess who was guilty before anyone could.

As a result, I was on the consulting team who helped the scriptwriters write a police show (I also had my dad as an advisor of course).

One of the stories he told me was about him being hit by a ‘enchanted’ stick by an immigrant. He suffered a skin disease and got skinny under three months. Apparently it was a curse put on him by the immigrant as revenge. It was even in the papers.

Well, according to him anyway.

“Other people will call me a rebel, but I just feel like I’m living my life and doing what I want to do. Sometimes people call that rebellion, especially when you’re a woman” – Joan Jett

I also have my dad to thank for my fiercely independent and rebellious streak.

I had lived on my own without depending on anyone for almost 20 years. And I only had a ‘roommate’ when I got married.

I survived on my own – even during times when I didn’t have enough money to pay for rent, transportation and food.

When my parents asked, I’d pretend everything was okay. Truth be told I was struggling. Hard.

Times were tough back then when I first started to venture out on my own in KL, with me skipping meals and not paying the bills.

But somehow, I got through them all, because I didn’t want to burden my parents.

Independence is a good trait, but there were times me being fiercely independent backfired on my dad. Sometimes I wouldn’t listen to what he said and just did what I wanted to do anyway.

But for what’s worth, I know he had a soft spot for me. Thanks to my late dad, I’ll hold on to these lessons for life.

For more articles by Nazmie, read Discriminated Due to Pregnancy – Am I Not Being Hired Because I Have a Bun in the Oven? and I Lost My Virginity to a Call Girl – Should I Tell My Wife-To-Be About It?

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Nazmie Nureen
This once-a-sceptic-of-marriage Saggitarian finally got hitched and recently became a mom. She still craves on adventures all around the world, and now she has a few kindred spirits to share them with. She runs. And dreams. A lot.
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