Business and career advice are all around us, but the challenge is often in where to find something potentially valuable to you and your situation. Company owners, managers, employees, job candidates…people are always seeking advice to follow, lessons to apply, around growth, success, leadership, teamwork, accountability, dedication and any other number of qualities and factors. Sometimes you have to go digging for it, other times it’s been in front of you throughout your life.
In honor of Veterans Day, Eric Feil, Eclaro SVP of Marketing, joins us here at Five on Friday to reflect on lessons and philosophies that his father, an Army veteran, learned while a member of the military and was always happy to share over the years as a teacher, a business owner, a manager and a mentor. They were never part of any book in the “Business/Career Advice” section on Amazon, but they have had an impact nonetheless.
“My father would often talk about how his time in the Army offered lessons that seemed to apply to whatever I was dealing with at almost any phase of my life and career,” Eric says. “From my first soccer game to my first job interview, coaching youth sports or exploring new professional ventures, he found a way to help me see how his Army experiences could help me reflect on the situation, as well as how to apply them in order to engage, evolve, excel, explore and more…”
In the Army, “you always had to be ready, had to be prepared, had to know what was expected of you,” my father would say. “And then you had to do it. So we would practice, whatever it was, over and over again, until we learned the right way to do it. And then you kept doing it.” This was long before the notion of “repeatable processes” equating to repeatable successes became a common mantra in the workplace.
He would recall polishing his shoes so the inspecting officer could see his own reflection. He recounted how he had to make up his cot with the sheets tucked so tight that a quarter could bounce of them—and then, even if the coin did bounce, how the sheets would get torn off to see if he could do it again. “The point wasn’t how to make your bed,” he would tell me years ago. “It was to remind you that doing things the right way, and everybody being on that same page, would help us all succeed in anything we would do in the future, in situations that might have much higher stakes.”
My father, the son of an immigrant butcher, often spoke of how he embraced the opportunities his time in the military offered. Sure, he was very accomplished at making a bed (his eldest son never could learn how to get the sheets quite tight enough to replicate that bouncing-coin result), but he also learned to fly helicopters…and went on to teach at the Academy of Aeronautics in New York. He learned how to apply mathematics to any number of scenarios…and served as his own business analyst and bookkeeper for a number of business ventures.
He learned that he could push through with any task no matter how seemingly difficult (and five-mile runs with a full pack is not just seemingly difficult). He learned the true importance of being there for your colleagues (no, they did not call each other “colleagues” when he was in the Army) while “doing what I had to do on my own. Once we all learned that, we weren’t afraid to go out and try anything.”
“Be All You Can Be” was not the Army slogan when my father was there, but he always had that sentiment top of mind. He’d had an entrepreneurial spirit before he was in the Army, but he used the sense of self-reliance and team dedication he learned while in uniform to build a number of businesses throughout his life. It was very much his training ground for a philosophy of “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything. But if you’re going to do it, work hard enough to excel at it.”
“You always told yourself that there might not be somebody there to help you, so you had to pull your own weight,” he would say, “but you also knew that if somebody needed help, you were going to be there to help him. We were individuals, we knew our duties and responsibilities, but we had to work to be able to function and succeed as a unit above anything else.”
My father grew up in Queens, New York, but it wasn’t until he was stationed in Panama that he truly developed a love of beachcombing. Years after he was back in New York he would still talk about using some of the free time he had in the Army to explore Panama’s beaches and the surrounding areas, teaching himself the art of nature photography and collecting beautiful shells that he still kept in a shoebox in his home office, to be taken out along with fading black-and-white photos from time to time.
“Why not try something new when you get the chance?” he would offer as advice—whether the topic was travel, dining, a new opportunity at work, you name it. “You’ll never know what you might really enjoy, what you might really be good at, unless you try it.”
My father rarely used the term “the Army.” It was always “the Service.’ As in “When I was in the Service….” That has always stuck with me. He viewed so much of what he did as being of service—service to his country, service to his employers and his employees and his clients, service to his family and friends but also to strangers in need, service to the communities in which he lived and worked.
Thank you from all of us here at Eclaro to all our veterans, today and always, for your sacrifice, your inspiration and your service.