What burying my father with

When I finally decided to go all-in on working for myself, it was because of my father. He was my biggest inspiration. But not the way you think. You see, the reason why I work for myself is that I do not want to be like him.

I’ll explain why in a minute.

Because I first want to tell you I admire him a great deal. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. His was a life of sacrifice and service. To provide for his family, he spent two-thirds of his life away from home.

Dad grew up in a Sri Lankan slum called Slave Island. My mom too, in the same slum – they were neighbors, actually. He signed up to work on a cargo vessel when he was 17. He sailed around the world and used his wages to put himself through high school and then a merchant marine education. Eventually, he made it to Ship Captain.

I remember him being away for months at a time, coming home on shore leave for a few months, then leaving to do it all over again. He was at sea until his 30s, so, a little over 10 years.

Then, he hung up his uniform and got a desk job with the same shipping company. And worked that job another 10+ years. 25 years at the same frickin’ company. But, the thing is, he never made it beyond middle management.

He should have been a C-level executive, or at least a VP, by the time he had retired. His colleagues used to tell me stories about him. This dude was such a G, he’d give vessels in dangerous waters navigation instructions over the phone. He trained several junior people who eventually got promoted above him.

I honestly can’t understand why he never got the props he deserved. No one had a bad word to say about him. My guess is that was his downfall. Dad wasn’t into office politics. Just kept showing up, keeping his head down, and doing his work. The consummate professional.

I used to wonder whether he was salty about getting overlooked for so long. If he was, he never showed it. Eventually, it was time for him to retire – I think he was 68 at the time. They gave him a gold watch for 25 years of service and peace’d out.

Now, he could finally relax. So he packed up all his stuff, got rid of his Dubai apartment, and moved back home to Colombo. Time to live the good life.

Two years later, my brother and I lowered his body into his grave with our own two hands.

Lung cancer.

Dad was a lifelong smoker. By the time doctors figured it out, it was too late. Still, I never actually expected him to go out like that. Thought he’d be around to see at least a couple of his grandkids grow up.

He was as fit as a fiddle right up until he retired. I don’t ever remember him getting sick with a cold or the flu or any of that shit. Went to bed at the same time and woke up at the same time, every single day. Didn’t work out or anything but his body composition was stable the entire time.

If I had to guess what did him in, it was retiring. Work was the only thing keeping him going. Without his job, he had no “reason” to live and his body just gave up. But that’s just speculation on my part.

I say all of that to say this.

Remember I told you I desperately didn’t want to be him? Yes, he was a G. Yes, he provided for his family like a man. Yes, he was a good father to me, my brother, and my sister. Yes, I loved him.

But I don’t want to work a desk 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 10+ years, away from my wife and kids 11 months out of the year, have my kids grow up without me, watch fucking scrubs get promoted over me because they kissed the right arses, and then retire and go back home to die because I’ve literally worked myself to death.

Nah, son. FUCK that! I ain’t going out like a chump. And in the latter part of his life, my Dad lived like a chump.

I don’t blame him. I can’t.

He did what he had to do. Maybe that took more courage than saying “to hell with it” and doing what he wanted. And like I said, he had his fun in his youth. But by the time I was old enough to see it, he had lost most of his masculine energy.

Lemme ask you this, dear reader: What’s the point of blazing like a sparkler only to fizzle out?

So, a few years ago, when I finally realized I could do my own thing, that I could live like a wolf and not like a sheep, I decided I would never allow myself to become like my father.

Even if I had to take a hit to my job security and my quality of life. Even if I had to go months where I was one client away from homeless. I would not live life my Dad’s way.

And for damn sure, I would never show my children this way. I’m going to show them another way. The Dragon Energy way.

Talk soon,

P.S. You’ve just read the preface of Dragon Energy: the Tao of Personal Branding. Started writing it in 2018 and didn’t finish. I need to finish. Over the next few weeks I’ll be live-writing the first draft, with you as my audience, as a forcing function. Please reply to this email with any feedback.

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Bald. Bearded. Magnificent. Oh, And he writes a bit of copy too. Nabeel Azeez is a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant in Dubai, U.A.E. He’s writing this in the third person and telling you about it because he enjoys meta-humor or meta-humour, depending on whether or not you are familiar with diphthongs.

Nabeel is the co-owner of Dropkick Copy, a boutique direct response copywriting studio. He’s also the founder of CopySkills™, a community and training program for copywriters in the Global South, and MuslimMan™, a lifestyle brand for Muslim men. He lives in Dubai, UAE with his family.

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