The Bedtime ritual at our house usually finishes with “Dad tell me a story”. I try to tell stories that illustrate to our children who we are, where we came from, and to instill lessons that my family passed on to me. As I tell the stories, it is very clear to me how they have impacted my life, my career, and my leadership style.
First, a little background on my family’s story. Like many immigrants, my parents and grandparents came to America from Macedonia with little more than the clothes on their back . . . and a belief that they could accomplish anything with determination and hard work. My Grandfather left his homeland to live that dream and to earn enough money to bring the rest of his family to America. Unfortunately, World War II got in the way and it took 12 long years before my grandfather saw his daughter for the first time.
Meanwhile, my father dreamt of coming to the US to see the great country that was described to him in stories told by his grandfather (whom I am named after). Fatherless since the age of 7, my father’s journey to America took him on a dash across the border and through 3 years in a refugee camp before landing in NYC.
The American Dream
In his 1931 book Epic of America, James Truslow Adams wrote that,
“[t]he American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement…It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
The American Dream inspired my family to leave everything behind in hope of a better life in the new world. For my family, the dream came true: My grandfather started shining shoes on a street corner, became a short order cook, opened a small hot dog stand, and eventually opened his own restaurant that could have been the model for Arnold’s on Happy Days. My mother came to the US at the age of 12 without knowing a word of English, but she ultimately became one of the few woman executives in the male dominated insurance industry. My father started sweeping floors at a bread factory, became an electrician, and started his own electrical contracting business.
Living the American Dream was not easy for my family and it was not an overnight rags to riches story. These stories are a chance to share lessons that have influenced and inspired me. Like my father always used to say, “America is a great country, you can’t do this s*#t in the Soviet Union”. He was right.
About Leadership Stories
Leadership stories are drawn from the bedtime ritual at our house which usually finished with “Dad tell me a story”. These stories are about our family: Who we are, where we came from, and the sharing of life lessons that were passed on to me. As I told the stories, it became very clear to me the significant impact that they have had on my life, my career, and my leadership style.
- Leadership Stories: The American Dream
- Leadership Stories: The Value of Hard Work
- Leadership Stories: Things are not always what they seem
- Leadership Stories: Defining Moments
- Leadership Stories: Refuse to be Discouraged
- Leadership Stories: The Importance of Storytelling