My dad isn’t what you’d immediately think of as a real-life leader. When asked about his professional experiences, he frequently writes them off with a self-deprecating, “I’m not like you kids… I didn’t get a great education. I just made do with what I had.” You’d be wrong if you took my dad’s comment at face value.
Michael Thomas (or “Mikey T”) was a high school graduate from a blue-collar family who got his diploma by the skin of his teeth. Soon after graduation, he joined the local police force and quickly ascended. At age 21, he was the youngest detective in the state. In the mid-1980’s after 18 years as a county detective with the final rank of Lieutenant, he and my mom decided to quit their full-time jobs (she was a paralegal for a local law firm) to begin their own private investigative business.
My parents didn’t have more than high school diplomas between them, and both came from families with no resources to support them if they fell flat on their faces with the new business venture. What’s more? They had three kids under five who depended on their success for survival. This was a burn-the-boats situation – they had each other and a genuine belief that talent is the only safety net.
A tolerance for risk and the confidence to bet on yourself are the hallmarks of entrepreneurs everywhere, and Mikey T’s story is no different. As a young (and now mid-age) daughter watching my dad’s journey, here are a few of my favorite lessons:
“Stick with the dance partner you came with.” I assume this reference is slightly before my time, but the lesson isn’t lost. When embracing risk, you’ll have many people helping you along the way. When you reach that mountain top, don’t forget about them. It doesn’t mean they stick with you forever, but there’s something to be said for loyalty.
Don’t burn the bridge. The world is becoming more interdependent. As a result, we increasingly rely on each other to survive and thrive. So, think twice before burning a bridge with a colleague or friend. And, perhaps, take it a step further in working to build more.
Take the risk. Opportunities are everywhere; risk-takers are not. My dad is one of the greatest risk-takers I know, and it’s paid off repeatedly. He doesn’t wait for someone to give him permission. If he sees an opportunity, he takes it. If you’re feeling constrained by your current situation, odds are it’s not a reflection of your options but likely your self-imposed limits.
You’ll never go wrong betting on yourself. If you can’t count on “you,” who can you count on? Take it from the daughter of Mikey T. – life is worth the risk.