Perfect Dad, Flawed Dad: How Good Do You Have to Be?

“Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.” – Katherine Mansfield

SM told me that he’d always assumed his father was “above it all” because of how successful he had been. He had appeared to him to be a man of unceasing motivation, energy, and optimism. Compared with such a character, it’s no wonder SM felt like some kind of flawed thing, lacking the qualities needed to rise to his father’s level.

Recently, his father died — and SM had a chance to read over some of his personal papers. He was shocked to discover that his father was a different and more complicated man than he had thought. “His papers were full of doubts and worries,” SM told me. “I was awestruck by the fear and even the despair he felt during the formative stages of his business.”

SM is lucky. Not all of us get a chance to see the other side of success — the fearful, sad, and lonely moments that are often a regular part of the lives of successful people. By understanding what his father went through, SM can see that he himself is not so different. He can understand that his father built his own success on the same doubts, fears, and insecurities that SM himself experiences. (“If my father was weak like me and yet succeeded, maybe I can too.”)

I’ve tried to be honest with you about my own problems — and my many bad habits, including my fundamental laziness. Of course, when I admit to people who know me that I’m lazy, they laugh. They can’t believe I’m serious. “You work harder than anyone I know,” they tell me.

“And the reason I do is because I’m so damn lazy,” I reply.

We all have imperfections. I happen to have many — maybe all of them. The difference between me and SM — at least the difference so far — has been that I’ve learned to accept my faults and keep on going anyway. SM hasn’t done that. He saw his dad as being perfect, saw himself as flawed . . . and just basically gave up.

There is never, ever a good reason to give up. If you can find the courage to push on, especially when you believe there is no reason to do so, you will emerge a stronger, smarter, and more valuable person. Nobody can stop you but you.

If you need a little more help overcoming your flaws and getting ahead check out ETR’s Goal Setting Program