On June 16th, 2002, Father's Day, my dad passed away at 4:45 PM. I think about it every year around that date, but these days I think about it more often since my mother passed away on my birthday in 2021; figures, significant dates and holidays that, oddly enough, I'm somewhat glad that I have those dates as memorials I hope to never forget.

Dad - Me, Vietnam Day
Dad and Me at 10

One of the biggest lessons Dad gave me was also one of the last. Early in 2002, when Dad was still able to communicate lucidly most of the time, we talked about my new website, which is the one this blog is attached to. I was telling him how, with all my marketing materials, I wasn't sure whether or not I should put my picture on it. There aren't a lot of black people in management positions in health care to begin with, and the percentages of black health care consultants is even more infinitesimal; it was then and it hasn't changed much over the years.

I also worried because in the field of leadership and management, once again, back then there were few black employees or consultants; that hasn't changed much either. The only field where black people were more prominent than in other areas was on the topic of diversity; that's interesting since it's about more than what diversity was then, and there are a lot more people, along with a lot more diverse things to discuss, and unfortunately has become a more contentious and confusing discourse in many spaces across the country.

At the time, I felt I had legitimate business reasons as to why I shouldn't put my image on anything. I hadn't been a consultant for even a year then, but I noticed that when I showed up at most places I'd get that look of shock; I'm not sure that happens much anymore. I wanted to at least be able to have the conversation, and if it had to change once someone met me in person then at least I'd have had the opportunity to present myself in front of them. This isn't something that the majority would ever have to even think about when it pertained to their business, except to wonder how sharp their image might be.

My dad, the master sergeant, the man who'd won countless awards at Xerox over his 23 years of employment, who had been in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, was shot in both of them, and had traveled to at least 10 different countries in his military career, had this to say; if anyone was going to deny me the opportunity to help them get to where they needed to be just because of the image they saw of me, a professional image where the only difference was the color of my skin, that they didn't deserve the right to work with me, and that it was an indication of just how much they needed me more than I'd need them.

That was a strong statement, and I took heart in hearing it. I'd been thinking the same thing, but I also knew it wasn't going to be easy trying to get consulting projects in all that many places, including my home area.

What did I do? I put my picture on my bio page of course. I've never had an image on my main business page; I might need to think about that after more than 20 years. In any case, I put it there, and I've wondered over the decades if it's kept me from getting a lot of business. Luckily, or unluckily, one never knows, right?

Sometimes in business, we find ways to devalue ourselves in the eyes of others, which is a shame. Sometimes, it takes someone else's words to help us define just how valuable we might be, and how valuable taking a chance at something might be for others.

That was the beauty of my dad, the master sergeant. That's why I miss him, and now my mother, each and every day. Every once in a while, it pays to look back on life lessons, especially when things might not be going all that well at the time; am I right?