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Parents, Marriage and Lessons ...

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Our younger son gets married on Saturday.

At a time when everyone looks ahead, I decided to also look backward to the marriage of Marv and Ruth Hoffman. The photo above shows my parents on their wedding day flanked by their moms.

Their story is a common one for their generation — their parents arriving as immigrants from Europe via Hungary, Russia and Holland. I bring this up because the work ethic associated with immigrants was definitely imparted to my parents, who in turn made sure I connected the dots between hard work and good things happening. They also got across the point that if you loved what you were doing, the work didn’t seem nearly as onerous.

I absolutely hated yardwork growing up. Mowing lawns. Pulling weeds. Trimming hedges. Raking leaves. Laboring in the field wasn’t for me. But I did enjoy having a few dollars in my pocket. With little in the way of marketable skills, at the age of 10 I embarked on a yardwork business that did OK with a specific target demographic — neighbors who knew my parents. The power of relationships.

It’s weird how some lessons we take away from our parents surface years later. My father started a jewelry store when I was in grade school. He worked around the clock, but the business ultimately went under. Sure, hard work plays a role in any venture, but as I came to later realize, it doesn’t guarantee success. You need a host of other variables to come your way, not the least being luck. On the other hand, my dad loves the jewelry business, and at the age of 85 (or is it 86?) still works a couple days a week at the Cashbox in Tucson.

More than work ethic, there’s one overarching theme that serves as an umbrella for everything else. My parents helped me gain confidence and a belief that absolutely anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Try things. If they don’t work out, no big deal. Is there any trait more valuable in business than self-esteem? Maybe JavaScript programming, though one could make an argument that self-esteem led the developers to coding.

For the longest time, I thought I was going to be the first 5-foot-4 guard who couldn’t jump play in the NBA. Delusions don’t cause you to skid off the track as long as you eventually recognize the delusion and have a Plan B. Given that my Plan B was working on cruise ships, sometimes a Plan C is in order.

A few more lessons from the parents —

 

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  • Treat people as you would like to be treated: My parents were ahead of the curve when it came to flat hierarchy. I remember coming home from school and seeing my mom on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor while the maid was finishing off lunch at the dining room table.
  • Don’t overplay your hand: I must have been around 8 years old when the family was getting ready for our monthly Sunday dinner at Johnny’s (similar to Bob’s Big Boy without the “big boy”). I was being my usual smart-ass self — quick aside, Google [esoteric smart ass]; what can I say? — when my mom uttered the infamous parental line, “Young man, if you say one more word, you’ll be staying home.” At this point I’m thinking, right, you’re going to have an 8-year-old stay at home when a serial killer could be lurking in the neighborhood. Based on what I thought was a sound calculation, I did say one more word and ended up watching my parents, two sisters and brother drive away without me. I also learned the value of scenario-planning from this episode.
  • Fun is a worthwhile endeavor: I grew up in a house of laughter and smiles (and periodic yelling as befits a Jewish mother). Ruth and Marv both have a sense of humor. I would say this even if they didn’t laugh at my quips. Even when the family was going through tough times, they found a way to insert fun into the equation. With that said, I do not have fond memories of eating fried cottage cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Back to the wedding, with Cha Cha Cha’s catering the event, there’s no chance of a disturbing food déjà vu.

After toasting the bride (Brittney) and groom (Elliot), I plan to clink glasses with my wife and parents. The big event takes place at Camino Brewing Company where Elliot is a brewmaster (the taproom is conveniently located about a 10-minute walk from our HQ in downtown San Jose). Elliot invented a juniper saison (farmhouse ale) in our backyard — right, the backyard where I never mow the lawn, rake the leaves, etc. — so that’s one I’ll seek out for the clinks.

 

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I am one lucky dude.


Comments

  • Mike Wendelin

    Lou, “I have been accused of a lot of things but ingratitude isn’t one of them” a quote attributed to General George Patton. That line appears to work here. I am a lucky man to know you. Great reflection. I was also lucky with my parents! Best Wishes! Congrats to Elliot and his bride!

    Reply
    • Lou Hoffman

      Great hearing from you Mike. Appreciate the positive words (and hope to see in the Fall at the “Return of the Reunion.”

      Reply
  • Dude

    Other lessons you have learned that your kids seem to have also ingrained:
    1 When the task/performance/game is over, thank the people who got ya’ there.
    2. Stretch – when others say “No way you can do that,” prove ‘em wrong. (El was / is an outstanding hitter and baseball player)
    3. Be happy – share the laughter and inspiration. Your family always seems to be smiling and have a funny quip that helps others enjoy the moment.
    And
    4. Digital schmigital – it’s just a widget or technology. It’s not life.

    Reply
  • Lydia Lau

    Congratulations Lou and Heather and thanks Ruth and Marv! I am happy to be with The Hoffman Agency for the longest time.

    Reply
    • Lou Hoffman

      Thanks Lydia. It was great having the entire family together for the big event.

      Reply
  • Heather T Hoffman

    Husband! What a wonderful tribute to your parents! How very lucky I am to have become part of this life!
    Tilly and Elizabeth both still keep a place in my heart. Gratitude from me to you! I am blessed… we are so blessed.

    Reply

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