The Secret of Success

One day, in my last year of college, I was dressed in my finest and preparing to leave for a job interview when my father pulled me aside. He put his arm around my shoulder, squeezed me in a way that conveyed pride and said, “I want to share with you the secret of success, son.”

My mind raced with excitement.  “Wow!” I thought, “My dad, the VP of a large insurance company, is finally going to share with me those priceless words of insight and wisdom that every young man dreams of. Here, in this place at this moment, my father is going to pass on the family wisdom to the next generation of business executives.”  I listened with heart pounding.

Dad looked at me with his smoldering eyes and and said, “Always wear an undershirt beneath a dress shirt.”

Are you kidding me? That’s the McFall family’s secret?  Wear a flippin’ undershirt?

I was sure Dad would say something like, “The man who puts in that little bit extra each day is the one who gets the promotion.” Or perhaps, “Find the oldest, wisest man in the company and learn all you can from him.” Or maybe even, “Buy AT&T.”

But no…what is the McFall secret to success? “Don your Fruit-of-the-Looms, boy.”

Dad did not stop there, unfortunately. As I stood there devastated, he droned on about the benefits of wearing an undershirt with a dress shirt.  “It keeps you more comfortable in both cooler and warmer weather. It keeps your dress shirt tucked in better and makes it stay crisp longer. It absorbs perspiration so you won’t have embarrassing sweat stains.  Plus, some dress shirts are thin and you can see through them to an extent, so an undershirt makes it look better.”

Years later now, I look back and ponder the collective McFall family wisdom. Dad was right, you know.  T-shirts do offer near-magical benefits to your wardrobe.  So, as a loyal McFall I always wear an undershirt under my dress shirts to this day.

Still, I just hope that one day when I pull my son close, wrap my arm around him with a squeeze and say, “Son, I’m going to share my secret of success with you,” I will be able to summon something a tad bit more profound than, “Don’t neglect your undies.”  As I imagine that day now, a few options come to mind:

  • Brush and floss after every meal.
  • Never use an ink pen that activates with a clicking sound. You’ll end up nervously clicking it in a meeting and irritating others.
  • You don’t have to be on time to every meeting, just never be the last one to arrive.
  • Never complain out loud in front of the Administrative Assistant. They are fiercely protective of the boss and remember everything.

Someday, I may get an opportunity to share the McFall secret of success with my son. I only hope that when that day comes, I will have achieved some measurable level of success to make it worthwhile.