My Father's Son
They say we all start to sound more like our parents as we get older.
In my case that's a badge of honour. Heck, I've made a whole business out of it.
I speak often about my mother and her influences on my career choices, from my decision to go to law school to my departure from law and road to becoming an entrepreneur, but I don't speak enough about my father.
After all, he's the one who taught me how to tell stories.
For most of my early years my father was a chiropractor, and he spent the last 15 years of his career running his own practice.
I grew up in his offices, as many kids do when their parents are entrepreneurs. At first I was colouring pictures and playing with toys in the waiting room, but eventually I graduated to helping at the reception desk when the main admin was on holidays, and eventually working as office administrator part time during the school year and full time in the summers.
Through all of that, I spent years listening firsthand to my father tell stories.
You're probably wondering why on Earth a chiropractor is telling his patients so many stories?
There are two important reasons, and both of them inform what I do today.
First, after three decades in practice my father was a walking encyclopedia of stories, and he was able to use those stories to connect with patients both old and new. He formed relationships that lasted for decades - in fact the last patient he looked after before retiring just so happened to be one of his first, still seeing him routinely all those years later.
Those relationships were built on stories - learning people's stories, remembering them, and engaging with them. Stories kept him well-informed about the world, and he could always find something to help him relate to someone new, especially once he got a sense of their stories.
Yet aside from forming those relationships, he also routinely used stories to explain his work, and explain to patients information that they needed to understand.
When talking to patients about their health, he often made sure to break things down into similes and metaphors, and offer examples that he knew they could relate to. These were always broad-based because of all his stories, so he would incorporate references to everything from 60s TV shows to beloved pets to the person's own work.
He knew how important it was to make sure that the patient understood, and he knew that they usually did not have the same scientific training that he did. He always made sure to make complicated things simple.
That does not mean that his patients were simple people. Through the years he looked after everyone from CEOs and business leaders to salespeople and developers to loggers and sanitation workers. No matter what their education or experience though, he understood that everyone was able to relate to stories, and everyone appreciated learning important things in ways that they could easily understand.
I used to just hear my father's voice when I was telling stories to friends, repeating an old joke, or expanding on a fun piece of trivia.
Now I hear it in my business all the time, especially when I tell my clients the importance of making complicated things simple so that everyone can understand the importance of what you have to say.
Thanks, Dad. This one's for you.