When my father died in 2011, I took on the task of cleaning out his office and storing many of his files. It was a tough thing to do, and so I just put things into boxes and stored them in a closet.
Recently, I took those items out of the boxes and went through them one-by-one. We are making a move into a new home and I needed to decide what to keep, what to give away and what to throw away.
What I found in those boxes not only gave me insight into his life and leadership, but it also gave me a stark look at my own life.
In many ways, I have followed in the footsteps of my father. In one box, there was a collection of his newspaper columns in a photo album. He and I have very similar writing styles. Someday, I will scan these columns and save them.
Another box contained files from newspaper business deals and other correspondence he had written over the years. My father held his reputation in the highest regard. He was quick to defend or protect it when questioned.
Some letters were scathing — taking to task another party's lack of ethics or customer service. Others were very cordial and even apologetic — especially when he was clearing up an unintentional falsehood or miscommunication.
The files painted a picture of a man who saw his vocation as a calling to serve. However, he was also a man who could be frustrated by others.
I found notes he had written himself prior to various meetings. Annotations that read, "second time I've had to say this," or "still not done," were all too frequent in his notes.
I even read some of the notes for his meetings with me. It is a tough thing for a father to address business things with his son. "Be blunt," and "clearly define" were phrases he used in his notes. I am sure he wanted to get his point across, but I was still his son, so he had difficulty with the wording.
Early in my career, I am sure I was a source of great frustration for him. When we are in our twenties, we think we know everything, when we really "don't know what we don't know." As I have aged, experience has taught me so many lessons — lessons that only experience can teach.
I had to make mistakes to grow. I had to move from "self" centered to "others" centered. The consequences of my actions (or inaction) were often my best teachers. However, watching me make those mistakes and deal with those consequences was difficult for my father.
Today (at 43), I am much better than I was in my twenties. I have not reach my full potential, but I am well on my way. It was those "difficult talks" my father had with me that really stand out as some of the defining moments of my growth and maturity. He gave insight and taught lessons that I still rely upon today.
I am finding myself teaching many of those same lessons to my oldest son who has recently started working in the family business. I am making notes to help me with those "conversations." I even hear my father's voice coming out of my mouth from time to time.
Proverbs 13:22 says that a good man leaves and inheritance for his children's children. I have a responsibility to pour into my sons' lives so that they may provide for their children.
Sometimes, that means an "uncomfortable" talk now and then — even if you have to make notes for yourself to do it.
I am glad my father did.
David Specht Jr. is Vice President of Specht Newspapers, Inc. and Publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. View his blog at www.DavidASpecht.com.