In my work as a coach, I have noticed the important influence of role models in shaping people’s lives, including their work ethic. Parents are usually the key role models, or it could be a favorite teacher, uncle or a grandmother.
Role models influence our attitude towards work, what values we hold dear, how we make decisions, or resolve conflict. I also observed, that people are unconsciously and powerfully influenced by their role models, often more than expert advice from other sources.
When I began journaling memories of my father to cope with his death, I was amazed to find that I was modelling so many of his attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. I also realized how easy it had been for me to imbibe these traits, which I admired, probably because I had emulated them from a person I knew up close and personally
Here are a few stories I learned from my father. I hope they will help you introspect on the influence of role models in your own life.
1. Moral Leadership
My father modeled great Leadership.
He was not just my father, but was also a father figure to many others. He was the patriarch of a large extended family. My father was never officially crowned the head of the family; he simply assumed the responsibility of looking after his extended family after his own father’s demise.
I learned from my father that leadership is not a designation or a role, but a moral responsibility. A good leader is not born or made; a good leader co-emerges with a responsibility for the welfare of others.
2. Spirit of Custodianship
Indeed, my father seemed to see life only as an opportunity to give and serve.
He did not think twice before dipping into his retirement funds to help a family member meet the expenses of higher education. On his deathbed, he was concerned that his poor health was distressing his family.
In his last days, he wrote down the motto he had lived by. “I am only a custodian. I have tried my best to preserve and grow what I was entrusted to take care of.”
I learned from my father how to work in the spirit of Custodianship, and to discharge responsibilities with selflessness.
3. Work Philosophy – Karma Yoga
My father measured success by his own yardstick of Dharma (moral standard).
He had faced many ups and downs in his life, but he met all his challenges with a philosopher’s equanimity and a warrior’s tenacity. He never indulged in self-pity or blame.
Respecting the eternal moral Law of Karma, he faced tough circumstances with a steady perspective which comes from knowing the ways of the universe. He persevered ethically in the face of many setbacks with an unshakeable faith that in the end, justice will be done.
I learned Karma Yoga from my father, a philosophy of work and life as enunciated in the sacred Indian text of Bhagavad Gita. Karma Yoga means to enjoy striving righteously without worrying about just rewards.
4. Wealth of Compassion
My father’s true wealth was his boundless compassion. His compassionshowed in his interactions with all those who came his way - whether it was a homeless person he met on the road or a customer who could not pay upfront.
After my father passed away, many people came up and told me how my father had helped them in their hour of need. His compassion was not a function of material plenty; my father would happily part with half his meal if a guest arrived unexpectedly at mealtime.
I learned from my father that Compassion is not the privilege of a saintly few; the wealth of Compassion is available to each one of us to distribute freely in our daily interactions with others.
5. A Life Goal to strive for
I remember very few details of the many wise things that my father told me in our many discussions. But, I do remember clearly how well he lived his life - with grit and grace.
My father enlivened the Buddhist spiritual idea of a Bodhisattva: a compassionate being who vows to give up seeking Nirvana until the suffering of last sentient being has ended.
My father’s life offered me a worthy ideal to strive for, a working-man’s Nirvana: the life of a Bodhisattva and the path of Karma Yoga.
My father’s life has been one of my best inspirations. Who has inspired yours?
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