Lifetime Lessons from the Best Teacher - Dad
I know... Father's Day already passed, but this is such a meaningful topic to me that I just couldn't pass it up. I have been truly blessed with one of the most amazing dads. My father, Nabil Razzouk, was born and raised in war-torn Lebanon. His family grew up with next to nothing. My father and his brothers shared a room on the bottom floor of their house along with their donkey! As soon as age 4, my father and his brothers worked to tend their goats and help in the fields. While still young, my Jedu (Grandfather in Arabic) fell from a ladder and nearly died. He was comatose and ill for many days with no signs of recovery. Adventist missionaries who were visiting the village had heard of his almost fatal condition. They rushed to his side and began praying for his recovery. The missionaries knew how dire of a situation my family would be in if their patriarch passed. Soon after their prayers, my Jedu miraculously recovered and this event shaped much of the rest of their lives. Even though his family endured extreme poverty and many hardships, my grandparents worked hard to instill strong values in their children. In honor of my love and respect for my dad, I want to share just a few of the many life lessons I've learned from him over the years.
#1: Let God lead, but use the tools he provides.
After seeing my Jedu's miraculous recovery from near death, my father and his whole family became devout Seventh Day Adventists. My dad embraces the power of prayer and always believes that God has a path for him and all of us. Nabil does accept that God will provide, but that we must do our part. He has always taught my brothers and I that God gives us great minds to accomplish great things. That's the best tool we have and we must sharpen it and use it to follow God's path for us. God providing doesn't mean sitting idle waiting for good things to happen, we must use our minds and gifts he has blessed us with to work hard and pursue a path of betterment. My dad says, "At times, God may shut a door, but he opens a window." Meaning, occasionally our path may get murky and hard to see, but it's all part of His plan and there is always an opportunity as long as we keep faith and seek it out. Sometimes, it can take months or even years to see why we were led a certain way, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. For example, when I began college, I wanted to go into military law and become a JAG officer. As the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was just getting started, that door was shut. I had been working on a political science degree since that was a recommended launching pad to law. I was frustrated and didn't know where to turn. My dad introduced me to Kerry and KWB to see if financial advising would be a good fit for me. It was, and I've been working at KWB since 2007. Had the door to JAG not shut and the window to finance opened, I also would have not met my wife of over ten years during my MBA program at Cal State, San Bernardino. Let God lead.
#2: Work hard in pursuit of bettering the lives of those around you.
My father has always taught me that we're here on this earth in service of each other. Nabil and his siblings are some of the hardest workers on this planet, but it's always in service of others. My dad was called to be a professor. He has always enjoyed counseling but loved helping train minds to think critically. He taught marketing at Cal State San Bernardino and several other Southern California institutions. With his counseling background, he was able to help guide thousands of students over his career to the paths they were meant for — including me and my wife! In the early 2000s, he began a second career (in addition to still teaching full time) as a business manager for a group of orthopedic surgeons. He felt that healthcare could and should be running better. Over the years, their group has expanded exponentially to ensure quick access to quality care. At almost 74, he still is in this role today! My uncle, Akram Razzouk, was called to medicine. He ran a psychiatry practice in Chicago for many years and is now the chief of psychiatry for the county of Riverside. My uncle, Anees Razzouk, a brilliant mathematician, fainted at the sight of blood when he shadowed Akram in medical school. He is now one of the most renowned Cardiothoracic surgeons. All three of these leaders in my life followed God's path for them while seeking to do the most good for as many people as possible. You'll be hard-pressed to meet more humble individuals despite their achievements. Their successes exemplify the American dream. Coming from poverty with only their faith, values, work ethic and aspirations to serve others; they have created fulfilling lives.
#3: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
This is one of my favorite sayings that I hear over and over when engaging with my dad. This principle has been one of the foundations of my career and guides how I try to interact with people on a daily basis. People tend to want to impress others. Whether it's with credentials, gobbledygook or swagger. In the end, what truly matters is showing someone else how much you think they matter. Sincerity should go hand-in-hand with this to truly make an impact in the lives of others. Nabil would say that being a strong conversationalist involves listening to the majority of the time and asking others questions about themselves. Doing this helps make you a person others want to be around and engage with.
#4: Less can be more: Take care of those around you who are less fortunate.
My parents are both very immaterial. They've lived in the same house since my older brother was born and have done occasional, but minor upgrades along the way. For most of his life, my father has driven a salvage vehicle. Nice cars and houses just don't matter to him. He prefers to use money to travel with my mom and to be charitable. I mentioned that he's still working. He donates his entire salary to our church, causes he's passionate about and to helping struggling acquaintances. I recently learned that he has continued to pay the cell phone bill of a family friend that he helped house over 15 years ago! Over Father's day weekend, we also celebrated the graduation of a young gentleman that my aunt's family has helped immigrate to the US from Egypt. I found out that my dad covered his tuition for the last several years. When asked, he derives no greater joy than providing opportunities for others who need some help. Being a good neighbor and engaging in your community will bring more happiness and fulfillment in life.
My dad is an incredible person. I've touched on just a few of the lessons he's helped teach me over the years, but there are so many more I can share. As I reflect upon my life, I've been blessed to have him as a father, a mentor, a teacher (I took his MBA marketing class!) and an example by which I strive to emulate. I love you, dad!
~ Mike Razzouk