John Patrick Weiss remembers the joy his father’s barber exuded when he was at work. If only we could all find that same happiness.
Important life lessons can come from unexpected quarters. Beyond one’s formal education and parental guidance, there are many sources of wisdom out there. The trick is to recalibrate your radar to pick up on these special moments of enlightenment.
My father was an administrative law judge, former Marine, voracious reader, weekend oil painter and all around intellectual. He clearly had many dimensions. You’d think he’d point to his old university and law school professors as people he looked up to. But when I asked him who he admired one day, his answer surprised me. “My barber, Pat,” he said.
Dad wore his hair military short, being a former Marine. His barber, Pat, owned a small shop in town. It was (and still is) a very well-to-do town, with a lot of successful people living in multimillion dollar homes. None of which mattered to Pat the barber.
Dad told me he admired Pat because he was the happiest and most authentic guy he knew. “Johnny, I work with a lot of well educated, intelligent people. But a lot of them are unhappy. They’re successful, but several have suffered heart attacks and worry too much about keeping up with the Joneses,” Dad explained.
My father was a type A personality. Driven, purposeful, sometimes impatient. Those qualities may have contributed to his career success, but at a cost. He suffered a heart attack right in front of me when I was thirteen. He survived, but the experience made him rethink his life and priorities.
As my father aged and grew more reflective, he often mentioned his barber, Pat. He told me that Pat loved people, conversation and the sense of community that flourished in his little barber shop. Pat was disinterested in people’s “status.” He’d rather talk about ideas, sports, politics, family and things that mattered.
Pat radiated a positive energy and zest for life. His barber shop, customers and conversations enriched his life. And because he found his calling and loved his work, others were drawn to him. Even highly educated, “successful” men like my father.
I have a brother in law who found himself at a career crossroads recently. He was given a job offer for a sales position that paid well. But he was holding out for another job that reflected more of who he is. Even though the job paid less, he knew it was the right job for him.
On a leap of faith my brother in law turned down the sales position. Fortunately, he landed the better job opportunity.
I shared the story of my Dad’s barber with my brother in law in the past. When he got the position he wanted, he told me that he remembered the barber story. It was part of what inspired him to hold out for the right job. Pat the barber would have been proud of him.
I love that a little old barber in a modest barber shop (probably long gone by now) is still influencing people today. It just goes to show the power of remaining true to oneself.
Here’s the point. Create a life you can be proud of. Listen to your heart. Make reasonable changes for the better. Forgive yourself past mistakes. Worry less about who has more than you and more about what your heart really needs.
For Pat the barber, it was simply about cutting hair, conversation and radiating joy. And the legacy of that life is still impacting people today.
It’s never too late to become the person you always wanted to be.
Originally appeared on John Patrick Weiss’s blog.