Father’s day is around the corner and it’s time to sing the praises of dear old dad. Well, to be honest, I don’t have many praises to sing. Dad never started a business, let alone a pest business; he never had to drum up money for payroll in the dead of winter; he couldn’t write a newspaper article if he hired a hundred monkeys with a hundred typewriters working night and day. Dad had no skill at fixing anything—he even struggled to change the oil in our family car. When my scoutmaster assigned us kids to build little wooden race cars with our dads, Team Nolan came in dead last.
So, did my dad teach me any practical skills? Absolutely. From the time we could walk, Dad threw batting practice and hit fly balls to all the kids in the neighborhood. Dad taught baseball.
I loved judging the arc of those fly balls and I would call out to Dad, “Hit the ball higher!” But after I was about twelve he couldn’t hit it high enough. Dad taught us the game mostly by pointing out our mistakes, and his words are burned in my brain: “You’re stepping in the bucket … you threw your head out … your shoulders aren’t square.” After games, he’d go over what I did right and what I did wrong—with an emphasis on what I did wrong. He wasn’t mean about it, that was just his way of coaching.
Now I’m a grown man and I realize that Dad did actually teach me practical skills beyond baseball. He taught me to take criticism and see my own mistakes. What could be more practical than that? From that tiny seed, I grew my own company, Home Defenders.
No, my dad didn’t teach me how to build little wooden race cars, but the lessons he taught me on those green Illinois fields could take a man to the top of the world.