When I was a boy my Dad was amazing.
At the end of a long day somewhere, as I would drift in-and-out of consciousness in the back seat, he would pilot the car home. I was unaware at the time as to what he was really doing. He was simply an amazing Dad who could drive. When we got home, he was use his super-Dad powers to scoop my 20 kilograms of dead weight into his arms and take me to bed, somehow magically getting me into my pyjamas without waking me up.
Between October and December, he would crack nuts, using only a nutcracker and his super-Dad strength. I couldn’t do this.
At the weekend or some evenings, he would magically remember all the things he needed to do to make spaghetti bolognese, which everyone would agree was brilliant.
And he had a great collection of music. Loads of different stuff. He introduced me to James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson, ELO and god only knows what else. He was even the first person I knew to dig Nirvana.
Today, I am a Dad.
I drive a car, carry my kids to bed and introduce them to music. I still don’t crack nuts. But I can. Because I am amazing and I have super-Dad powers.
It would be easy therefore to think that my Dad was actually just normal. Just bigger and further on in life. But that’s not the point.
The point is that the little things we take for granted as adults continue to amaze and inspire our kids, and to affect their future.
I still make spaghetti bolognese like my Dad told me to and I can see the awe in the eyes of my girls when I do these normal things and they see super-powers.
And the same is true for the not so cool things. I don’t really remember what they were with my Dad, but it stands to reason that if all these other things were blown up into super proportion, then the not-so-good things were too. So what do my girls think when I am tired and miserable, impatient and angry?
And the inspiring never ends.
When I see my Dad today, I see someone who has understood what is important and what is not. Who has stopped running around and no longer does the things he doesn’t want to. I see a man who got his shit together to retire at 50. Who can build a pond or a vegetable patch or fix a motorbike. He still has super-powers and I still want to be like him.
So, I guess that whatever I am doing on Father’s Day, the point is the same: For better or worse, I am inspiring my kids.
All Dads are.
Make it count.
Tomorrow the Belgian media and learning world will say goodbye to Bob De Groof, deceased earlier this week. Much has been shared and said about Bob this week via Twitter and at the end of this post, I will direct you to those “in memoriams”. If you knew Bob, I invite you to think of him tomorrow morning and if you want to know how I knew him, read on…
Read the 2005 article “Wie is Bob De Groof?” from De Standaard and you will see that by the time I was watching Star Wars for the first time, Bob had already done so much as a media-man in Belgium. I can’t add anything to his career notes, as I simply don’t know enough. I just wanted to share 4 of my own Bob stories, to share what Bob means to me. These stories remind me of an inspiration, an industry standard and one of the world’s last true gentlemen.
Bob is an early morning chat about what’s important in life, about following your dreams.
I first met Bob in 2006 at Logica, when I hired his “Presentation Skills” training services with Kluwer. As “Training and Development Manager” of that company, I was looking for the highest standard of trainer to help the top managers in the company to improve their ability to pitch, tell a story and sell a solution. Enter Bob. At 7.30am.
Aside from me and Bob, no-one was generally around at that time in the office, so we got to chatting. (Don’t tell my ex-boss!). In fact, every time Bob would come to Logica, we would spend about an hour before the working day waxing lyrical about everything from the day’s news to my kids or his, travel or everyday stuff. One day, I told him I wanted to be a “Presentation Skills” trainer myself and he encouraged me to follow my professional dreams. If I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing, I should change it. Simple as that. Extremely polite and “correct” in his speech, I found in Bob a certain “direct authority” combined with the kind of objective but caring friendliness you might expect from a favourite uncle.
Bob is one of 3 or 4 people that really inspired me to make the decision to go it alone and do my thing. I’m very grateful.
Bob will always be THE standard. The point of reference for excellence in his domain.
At the end of the very first training Bob delivered at Logica, 2 of the manager/participants came to see me. I was worried. Had I made a mistake? Did Barbara Verscheuren sell me a dud? Far from it! They came to tell me that it was amazing to have such a trainer. “How could one man have SO MUCH experience to share?” Despite their years of pitching business, Bob was able to bring real value and improve their presentations. He was a master in “Presentation Skills”.
Jump forward to 2010: Kluwer asked me to pick up some of Bob’s training. What a compliment! I remember telling my wife that I (yes, little me!) had been asked to take over for Bob. (Yes, for Bob!!). I never pretended to be able to fill his shoes, but I was damn-well going to do my best to fly his flag high! I still am.
Bob makes you feel good about being whatever you are.
That’s a rare talent, I think. I do know one other person who comes close, but its still rare. When I was with Bob, I felt like I was the most important person in the world. Not because I was, but because he made me feel like I was. I don’t know if he consciously made an effort to find and tap-into the things that made people tick, if he knew he did it and did it on purpose, or if that’s just Bob. But it was the same everytime.
In particular, I remember one evening where all the Kluwer trainers got together on a barge in Leuven for a cooking party. As I left the boat, I bumped into Bob and Helena Van Caekenberge from Kluwer. Seeing me, Bob announced: “Ah, the rising star of Kluwer”. Again, I went home and told my wife. What a compliment!
Bob makes you raise your own standards. Or wear different shoes 🙂
As I already said, Bob De Groof was an excellent trainer. You follow his course, you improve. Simple. But it doesn’t stop there..
Last year, I was invited by Kluwer to speak at their evening Trainer’s Lounge on the usage of “Social Media for Training”. I saw Bob just before, dressed (as ever) in his suit and tie. Having myself had the day off, I was dressed in what I call my “Zuckerberg plus-1” conference look of jeans, trainers and a shirt (the shirt being the “plus-1”). Having always been troubled by how one should dress for a presentation, I shared my thoughts on the topic and asked Bob what he thought. His reply was simple: “Always dress a little bit better than the audience. And at least wear a nice pair of shoes.”
I can’t say do the first part, but I definitively swapped the trainers for a good pair of shoes the very next day.
So that’s “my” Bob: An inspiration, THE standard, a motivator and all round smart gentleman.
If you want to share your own ideas, please comment below.
Thanks for reading.
If you want to read more, here’s a selection of this week’s “in memoriams’:
- Lukas De Vos, DeWereldMorgen.be: “De gladde generatie: in memoriam Bob De Groof (1945-2013)”
- Wim Chielens, Brieven uit de Westhoek: “Bob De Groof, I.M”
- Kluwer’s IM
- DeRedactie.be and VRT.be