Of all the holidays out there, Father’s Day may be the most overlooked. In fact, according to a report from the National Retail Federation, we collectively spend more than $8 billion more on Mother’s Day than we do on Father’s Day. What’s up with that? After all, fathers are the best—they’re our rocks, our teachers, our guiding hands. Our dads teach us how to cook a steak and how to write a check. (And some of the more adventurous ones teach us how to seduce a woman.) They deserve gratitude and celebration. So, to really kick off this Dia de los Padres, we enlisted seven successful men—from Kurt Russell to Mark Cuban—to share the lessons their dads shared with them. And for when it comes time for you to be an excellent father in your own right, check out the 5 ways cool dads make family dinner a total blast.
“Of the many lasting pieces of advice my father gave me is something that he said to me around the time I got my first real acting job. I was just out of my teens, and I guess I thought I was something of a big shot. So he sat me down and said, ‘Okay, they’re paying you a man’s salary. Now do a man’s job.’ That advice continues to resonate. What did he mean? He obviously wasn’t talking about acting but rather something that can be applied to any field. He meant, Do what you do for the purpose of your work. Don’t do something just for the adulation or the affirmation of others. None of that matters, and it doesn’t last. He taught me that you’ll really value what you do if you do it for yourself. That isn’t being selfish. It’s being committed, and it’s something I’ve tried to pass along to my kids.”
“When I was 11, I joined a football team. About halfway through the season, I decided that I wanted to quit. When I told my dad, he said, ‘That’s fine. You can quit…but not in the middle of the season. If you want to quit, you have to wait until the end.’ He explained that I had made a commitment—not only to the coaches but also to the other kids. That was a pivotal lesson for me. There are things in life that get you down, and life itself often gets tough. But if you can ride it out, it will always get better. Also, when I took a step back and listened to what my dad was saying, I realized that I really did like football. I was just distracted by something else. That’s another thing—life is full of distractions. You’ve got to be able to focus on what you want the most.”
“When I was in grade school, I was one of only two Jewish kids. Name-calling wasn’t all that unusual, so I got into a lot of fights. Every time I did, my dad would tell me, ‘People who hate have already lost the battle.’ Treating others fairly and with respect was the most important thing to him. ‘Everyone is the same on the inside,’ he’d say. I didn’t understand what he meant about losing when you showed hatred until one day in the fifth grade: I thought I’d be cool if I punched this heavy kid who everyone was making fun of. So I punched him in the stomach. He started crying—I never felt so terrible. I knew exactly what my dad was trying to teach me. Hurting someone, through words or actions, leaves the biggest scar on the person throwing the punch. I think about that lesson a lot.”
“During summers when I was a boy, I’d accompany my dad as he took long walks around our family farm in Tennessee. Not infrequently, he would stop and say, ‘See that?’ At first I couldn’t. But then I learned to quickly see what he noticed—the beginnings of soil erosion, the first appearance of a gully. A gully doesn’t become a gully unless you let it, he said. If you pay attention to the land, you can stop gullies from ever forming. My dad’s awareness of soil conservation came from an earlier generation, when the leading edge of the environmental movement was farmer based. He taught me a very deep lesson about the importance of being a steward of the land—to pay attention to the land and take care of it. I trace my lifelong passion for the environment back to that lesson.”
“One time, I asked my dad for a 10-speed bike. He told me, ‘You don’t need all those speeds.’ So he went to the dump, got some 10-speed handlebars, and put ’em on my bike. That was my 10-speed. A lot of the rules I live by are because of my dad. He was my Little League coach, and he was the disciplinarian for the whole neighborhood. And if he disciplined someone, the parents would thank him. He was strict and firm but always fair. My dad cut me in Little League three times. When I was 10, I tried to quit, so he told me, ‘No son of mine is gonna quit nothing.’ And that’s how I feel to this day. He didn’t play no quittin’, and he didn’t play no whinin’. If I said my arm or knee hurt, he’d tell me, ‘Go get the Ex-Lax.’ So to this day, I don’t like whinin’, and I don’t like chocolate.”
“My father, in the ’60s and ’70s, would go into New York City from New Jersey at 8 in the morning and do sessions for either commercials or a record. Just go from studio to studio, and then tape The Tonight Show at 4. He’d come home for dinner, then go play in a club from 9 to 1. And he still does it today at 80. He taught us that every gig matters. This February, the night after the blizzard in New York, we played at Feinstein’s. In true Bucky Pizzarelli fashion, he was in Denver in the morning, flew to Houston, then to Baltimore, where he got a train to Penn Station. There were no cabs, so he walked with his bag and guitar to the Algonquin, where a guy got him a cab to the Regency. He walked in, didn’t even look tired, walked right on the stage, and played his ass off.”
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“When I was in college and trying to figure out what to do in terms of choosing a career, my father equated the idea of finding a job with the search for the right pair of shoes. He told me that whatever I did, I should make absolutely sure that it was the right fit and that it felt totally comfortable. A good fit would enhance my entire life; a bad fit would only end up bringing pain to a lot more than just my feet. I wound up trying on many different kinds of shoes—careers—before I settled on the one I have today. My father was right. Having the right fit is everything in life.”
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