Choosing Again

There is a great story about my Dad in today’s Toronto Star. The reporter, Katie Daubs, did a terrific job capturing the essence of the man who taught me the greatest lesson of my life and the guiding principle behind the work I do for other people- that life is about making choices and we always have one to make.

As Daubs explains in her article, after 80-odd years of collecting and carrying around ‘stuff’, my Dad has chosen to part ways with his mountain of things that might be worth something to somebody. What she doesn’t know is how big a deal it is for the rest of us.

The lessons I learned with Dad buying up treasures at Saturday garage sales and selling them at Sunday flea markets have shaped my life. I watched him barter with people. I learned how to sell and learned – as he would say to me – that ‘somebody’s going to like this.’ More poignantly, I began to see how achieving a sale and meeting or exceeding someone’s expectations wasn’t always about commerce. Al@his marketstall

I began to learn that sometimes, a good story was enough on its own. My Dad was in this for the engagement not money and could wax on forever about where a particular item came from. If someone came to our table and picked up a ring or necklace and asked “How Much?” he would say “Do you know where that’s from?” If they engaged he would get his win right there. If they insisted on asking the price he would either say, “How much do you want to pay for it?”, or give them a ridiculous price. This would drive me nuts because, in regards to making a sale, it almost always got a negative response, which was another obstacle that had to be overcome. For Dad however it was simply another way to justify a story, in this case why it was worth it, and continue the engagement he so desired.

It’s understandable then why he felt he needed to have so much junk around all of his life.

Al GladstoneUnfortunately I resented it. The piles of stuff that filled Dad’s apartments, houses and garages over the years were unending. All spaces were there to be filled and it seemed there was no man without the junk. As I got older the burden loomed over me. I feared the worst – that his legacy would pass on to me. When he finally settled down with Marilyn I was hopeful she would put an end to it. To her credit the rate of acquisition slowed and attrition began but the sheer volume of stuff seemed insurmountable.

It took Dad and I most of our lives to realize that the stuff he was carrying around was just a means to an end. When you have charisma like he does you can create context for engagement anytime, anywhere. No junk required.

This is Dad’s last weekend at the flea market. He has chosen to spend his summer enjoying other things and leave the stuff behind.

Thanks Katie Daubs for helping us celebrate my Dad’s true legacy.
Photo’s by Craig Boyko, Perry Gladstone