Who Sets Your Bar?

Me, Dad & my nephew
Me, Dad & my nephew staying up late being silly during a break from college.

What we aspire to is what we have been allowed to believe. 

Some people have an incredible spirit and aspire to great heights because they believe they can achieve them.  Some never hope beyond as far as their own reach because they cannot see any reality other than what is right in front of them.


So what is that missing element?  How do they determine where to set the bar?  Is it all internal?  Can it be that one day you just wake up and think, “Yesterday I couldn’t see any good in the world but today I am going to move mountains?”  I think self-motivation is an absolute factor, but is there more?


A dear friend of mine told me the other day that she thought I was the strongest person she knows and cited my personal and professional growth over the past few years.


I would love to take credit for that but honestly I am just going after the bar that was set for me a long, long time ago.


My dad made my bar.


He, along with my mom and grandparents set it – I just didn’t know it.


Today is my dad’s birthday.  I think about my dad every day and I know he is still with me; but days that mark events are a little bit harder.


Here is the thing about my dad – he would give me that look if he thought I was sitting around being sad and teary thinking about him and how much I miss him.  You don’t look back, you keep looking forward.  That was my dad.


So to keep the sad away I want to honor him.  He is one of the main reasons that I am who I am today – some of you can thank him others will curse him.


I was the youngest of three and the little awkward tomboy.  I was never a daddy’s girl or princess.  I preferred to take his tools and build stuff under the deck, play basketball at the courts behind our house and hang out with my dad watching baseball or fishing.  Yes, we actually watched fishing shows together.


He told me when I was very young that there was nothing a boy could do that I could not do, other than pee on a tree.  That was my dad.


I was a tiny, trusting girl and I know this scarred the hell out of my dad – being little was I strong enough to defend myself, being trusting would I be able to protect myself; so he taught me to be strong.  Not by self defense or scare tactics; but by teaching me in his own way about being my own person.


My mom taught me how to be a mother, my grandmother taught me how to be a lady and my dad taught me how to be me.  Here are some of the lessons I was taught by my father:


  • Tell the truth – no matter what anyone else thinks – but be tactful.
  • Know what is important to you and do not be afraid to stand up for it and look them in the eye while you do.
  • Believe in yourself and what you want to do – you are the only one that sets limits on yourself.
  • You are beautiful every moment of every day no matter you physically look like.
  • Don’t offer your opinion at every opportunity; when asked be honest.
  • Do not apologize for who you are only if you have hurt another.
  • Not everyone is going to like you – screw them, like yourself.
  • You can be defined by a stereotype or expectation only if you allow yourself to be.
  • Simple things matter.
  • Be kind to animals.
  • Trust and respect is earned – period.
  • If you are going to play, play to win; play fair, play hard and don’t play to your competition.
  • Words can be wasted but actions will always be truthful.
  • It is okay not to like your family sometimes; they know you still love them.
  • Sometimes you have to do your own thing even if it hurts others; if they love you they will support you.
  • You are the only you that you have – chose who that is wisely; you can spend your life in the shadow of others or create your own path and light; the choice is squarely on your shoulders.
  • Work hard – no matter if you like what you do or if it is difficult – work hard, do your best and don’t complain about it (no one really cares to hear you complain).
  • Don’t judge – you don’t know their story.
  • Forgive but don’t forget.
  • Be with someone because you want to not because you need to.
  • Apologize when you have done wrong and be sincere.
  • Laugh – a lot.
  • No matter what people do or how much money they have or don’t have each one is still just a person like you and me; treat them all with respect and kindness unless you are given a reason not to.
  • Those that love you will challenge you, they will see through your crap and call you on it, they will encourage you and support you not in words but in deeds – cherish that.
  • Don’t settle.
  • It is not enough to say it, do it and keep doing it.
  • Don’t prove yourself to anyone else; respect yourself enough to prove it to yourself.
  • Life isn’t easy; sometimes it is unfair, unkind and just down right kicks you in the teeth; know it and learn how to fight back.
  • It will all come out in the end.
  • Excuses are not reasons – they are cop outs.
  • You never know who you are an inspiration for.
  • If someone hurts you in an unforgivable way you can either walk away or I will take care of it – your choice.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others.
  • You have greatness in you – do not disappoint.
  • You are not like other girls; this is going to scare a lot into walking behind you, confuse several and they will try to walk in front of you and frustrate many to walk away and but the right one will appreciate it and walk next to you.


My dad taught me these things not by telling me but by living them himself – except that last one.

I always think of him when people tell me that I’m a lot of power in a little package because it is because of him.   I know he is smiling every time he hears that.


I believe in my crazy dreams because my dad taught me that it was okay to do so; he gave me the freedom and acceptance to dream.


He treated my mother with the utmost respect, was greatly admired at work for his talent and being fair and firm and reared his children with a firm hand, an occasional belt to the butt and undeniable love.  For all of this I am thankful.


I know my dad is proud of me for where I am and how far I have come; but I also can hear him saying, “And? You are not done.”  It isn’t that he would not appreciate where I am and what I have overcome; it is that he instilled in me to keep raising that bar.


There are times that I feel stuck, frustrated or as though I have reached a plateau; that is when I think of my dad.  He wasn’t one to tell me what to do or to coddle me in saying that it will all be ok.  He was the dad that looked at me and said, “So what are you going to do about it?”


Raise your bar.  You are not done.  Sometimes I raise that bar all on my own; other times I do it for my son, my dad or my family.  Find your motivation and raise your damn bar.  You may be an inspiration to your children, your co-workers or someone you don’t even know.  Do not let them down.  You have greatness in you – do not disappoint.


It took me many years to put it all together and when I finally did I know he was there giving me that look, the one with the head down and raised eyebrow saying, “took you long enough – you always were the stubborn one.”


That’s right – because I am just like my dad!



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.




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