Episode 0027 · March 21, 2023

The podcast about what to do next.

Frank and Assad


Paul Ford: Hey Rich, how you doing?

Rich Ziade: I’m doing well.

Paul Ford: Let me ask you a question.

Rich Ziade: Go.

Paul Ford: How would you describe my relationship with my father?

Rich Ziade: Hmm. Um, not terrible, arms length?

Paul Ford: Some distance, yeah.

Rich Ziade: Some distance there, um, I think you talk regularly. It, it’s clearly not a top of mind presence in your, like, not a lot of stories come gushing outta you about your dad.

Paul Ford: Fair.

Rich Ziade: Um, but I feel like it’s something that, you know, I feel like it’s something that stabilized to a pla- like a to a cordial place but not warm. Uh, which always made me a little bit sad, I don’t know if I’m talking out of turn.

Paul Ford: No.

Rich Ziade: I think about your kids and about gra, grandpa, my, my kids have no gra- two grandmas, no grandpas. So it’s, it’s, it’s a sweet thing, grandparents. Um, so I don’t know if I’m, there’s not a lot to go on, I guess is the most [00:01:00] overarching thing to say, it’s been, I don’t know if it’s you being guarded or if there’s just not much there.

Paul Ford: No, you know, it’s, I’m, I was genuinely curious, which is why I asked, and of course we’re doing it on this podcast, full disclosure, you know, this, the listeners don’t, my, my father passed yesterday and-

Rich Ziade: My condolences.

Paul Ford: Thank you.

Rich Ziade: To you and your family.

Paul Ford: I’m grieving, he was 90. I got to see him several times.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: He was in a good, safe place. Like I’m gonna just, I’ll, I’ll skip that part of the narrative cause, I, you know, people, people know what a reasonable death for an older person looks like and he had one.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: So I thought, you know, I was like, we do this podcast. And I was like, I’m, I’m sitting at home and I’m just literally grieving like every half hour, I’m like, “oh my God”, right?

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And I was like, I gotta come over, I gotta see my friend Rich, let’s sit down, let’s, let’s-

Rich Ziade: Dip back into life for a minute.

Paul Ford: It was good to like, get on the train for a minute.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: I’m go- you know, the memorial services this weekend, let’s just talk about it.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: And, um, and I, I thought we could talk a little bit about what we learned from our dads. [00:02:00] So I’m gonna, let me, let me give some context to what you said, I did have a very good and loving relationship with my father overall.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hmm.

Paul Ford: Um, some complicated ups and downs like with anything but my dad, and the thing is, is I have a lot of empathy for this cause I have the same fundamental wiring, was a person who keeps a certain distance.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And he was proud of me, he was supportive of me, he gave me money sometimes when I needed it, but ultimately kept a certain distance and he had a real hard time later in life because he loved his independence. And as he got much, much older, you know, he was getting in into his late eighties. He couldn’t keep his independence. He just wasn’t healthy enough.

Rich Ziade: Got it.

Paul Ford: So, uh, but we were able to put him in assisted living care for him. Um, and he, we got him up from Florida after Covid, which was a miracle, and got him into a good assisted living [00:03:00] facility near Baltimore. My brother saw him all the time. I saw him last weekend, he was in good spirits, took a rapid turn. So, uh, you know, at someplace I know where I’m gonna land with this and I’m gonna land with the typical melancholy feelings you have about a complicated relationship with your father, a sense that I did what I could do, and that he was safe and he lived his life on his terms. And that feels good.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Um, you lost your dad a while ago. When did you lose your dad?

Rich Ziade: In 2005.

Paul Ford: Oh, it’s been a good, good long time.

Rich Ziade: Long time.

Paul Ford: Um, talk about that. O-obviously he passes, it takes a while. When you think about him, what’s it like now?

Rich Ziade: Uh, you know, my dad did something unusual. Uh, my dad never thought he was a good dad.

Paul Ford: Mm-hmm.

Rich Ziade: And so when I was about 13, he like fired himself.

Paul Ford: How the hell you fire yourself as a father.

Rich Ziade: He’s like “I am fired as your [00:04:00] dad, cause I’m not good at this, but I’ve been hired as your friend if you want a friend”.

Paul Ford: Interesting.

Rich Ziade: Which was a very strange thing to hear at 13, 14.

Paul Ford: I gotta say, my dynamic, my dad left when, uh, he left the family when I was 13 and when he came back, he was a different person in a lot of ways. And we-

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: When we spent time, it was more as kind of a peer, less as a father sometimes. Yeah, so I get this, I get this dynamic. Um, okay, so, so now your dad is your friend, but this, it’s explicit. Your father put this down.

Rich Ziade: It’s it, yeah. He, he kind of put it down and-

Paul Ford: But that’s an unusual thing to do.

Rich Ziade: Well he was like, what, you know what it was? Uh, uh, just to go back in history cause it’s actually a little fascinating. My dad, like, pretty much lived on his own when he was 11.

Paul Ford: Okay, okay.

Rich Ziade: Like he-

Paul Ford: I mean, that’s the age my kids are now and that’s absolute madness.

Rich Ziade: It’s madness. But the time he was 15, so he, he dropped outta school when he was 12 years old.

Paul Ford: Okay, okay.

Rich Ziade: He had no money to [00:05:00] take the bus to school.

Paul Ford: This is a whip smart guy.

Rich Ziade: Like one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

Paul Ford: Could, could have gone and gotten it-

Rich Ziade: And I’m not being sentimental or biased.

Paul Ford: No, as you’ve described him and the things that he did in his life, he was obviously very smart. It wasn’t always pointed in the right direction, but boy.

Rich Ziade: That’s right. By the time he was 15, he was helping other family members and he had his own apartment at 15. Like that’s what you had [chuckles].

Paul Ford: I mean, the, the helping other family members is extremely Lebanese. The apartment is unusual.

Rich Ziade: [laughter].

Paul Ford: Right.

Rich Ziade: So I guess, and now I’m thinking back on it when he’s talking to me at 13, he is like, I can’t tell you you’re grounded. My dad’s notion of like you’re grounded at 13 was alien to him because as far as he was concerned, at 13 I had like, I should be voting and driving, and I was a full blown adult.

Paul Ford: Right, right, right.

Rich Ziade: So it was surreal a little bit. Also, he didn’t like, he was incredibly self-aware and didn’t like who the, the job he was doing as a dad. He stayed a dad with my other siblings cause of the dynamics there, but I think he saw himself in me in a lot of ways. [00:06:00] And so I’m gonna say a common thread out loud here, for a lot of dads, they don’t want the job.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: They didn’t want the job, they kind of power through it till you’re like seven or nine or 11 and they don’t want the job.

Paul Ford: Boy that’s real.

Rich Ziade: And they’re like, “shoot, I can’t quit this job, it’s like I’m trapped in LinkedIn, like I can’t update. It just says from 1981 dash present and it won’t end”.

Paul Ford: Dash [laughter].

Rich Ziade: And so sometimes some of what happens is it gets toxic, which is bad.

Paul Ford: Sure.

Rich Ziade: Sometimes they get divorced, which is formal, and I’ll see you on the weekend. I can, I can power through the job on the weekend.

Paul Ford: Yeah, it’s great.

Rich Ziade: Or every other weekend [chuckles].

Paul Ford: As long as Wednesday night is mine, right? Like it’s- yeah.

Rich Ziade: And then sometimes they just cut and run.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: And the ones that cut and run it is, it can really scramble a kid, it can really scramble kids. So my dad effectively quit the job, but he is like, but I’m gonna stay here.

Paul Ford: Not a bad [00:07:00] compromise in a lot of ways.

Rich Ziade: Not a bad compromise in a lot of ways.

Paul Ford: I mean, here’s the thing, what, what the, what the world would say is your dad should have gotten it together for his son and for his family, but he couldn’t.

Rich Ziade: He couldn’t.

Paul Ford: And I think as you get older, I think this is something where if maybe in your twenties, I know when I was in my twenties, I was a lot more like, why couldn’t you be this?

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: But as you get older, you realize, actually on the terms that were in front of you, you did pretty good. And that’s how we’re gonna get judged too. I’m like, I’m, I’m cool with that.

Rich Ziade: And, you know, I have to give him credit. My, you know, my dad had a dad that bailed on him.

Paul Ford: Right.

Rich Ziade: And he had every right to kind of harbor like real resentment and just, he’s like, well, it’s your turn, your little shit, it’s just your turn now. Instead, he was self-aware enough to say, “okay, I’m not cut for this, but I’m gonna be your sounding board if you want it”.

Paul Ford: [00:08:00] That’s- at some level, you, it sounds like you had a healthier relationship after he made it-

Rich Ziade: I, I think I did. I, I, I wouldn’t call it a father-son relationship. I think, you know, my dad-

Paul Ford: What’s the difference between a father-son relationship and a relationship with your dad.

Rich Ziade: You seek guidance in a father gun, son relationship. You really seek, you seek approval, you seek just a nod that you’re going in the right direction.

Paul Ford: You can get approval.

Rich Ziade: You can get approval.

Paul Ford: This is real, I love my father, he loved me, we had a good relationship, that wasn’t on the table.

Rich Ziade: Okay, that’s, that’s too bad that, and that’s really, I’m sorry for that, like that’s too bad that you didn’t at least have that.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: My dad was judgmental, don’t get me wrong, and sometimes he would say “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”, but what was weird was when I was 19, sometimes I would turn to him and say, “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”.

Paul Ford: Yeah, we didn’t have that, we didn’t have that.

Rich Ziade: And, and I think he gave me that because I think [00:09:00] he, it’s not because it didn’t come out of affection or love, it came out of just seeing that I was very much him in a lot of ways and shifting the dynamic. He was, I, I have to give him credit for that self-awareness.

Paul Ford: No, That’s phen- I, I now see, it’s complicated, right? Because I actually did have lots of affection and love, it’s just that connection.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Wasn’t, wasn’t on the table with this person, and it’s strange to talk about him two days later, but this is life.

Rich Ziade: This is life, and, and certain people are only, you know, you, you wanna judge it as failure.

Paul Ford: It wasn’t.

Rich Ziade: You wanna judge it as like, you weren’t there for me, right? And, and, and the truth is, some people just don’t have the tools, they don’t have the tools he had, I asked my dad about my granddad, I was like, I never met him, he died before I was born. And he goes, “what do you wanna know? He was a cheap piece of shit”.

Paul Ford: [laughter].

Rich Ziade: That’s literally what he said to me [laughter]. I was like, do you have pictures? Do you have a story like going to the park? He’s like, “no, I got nothing. He was a jerk”.

Paul Ford: Yeah, no.

Rich Ziade: So, my dad was honest about it and didn’t try to romanticize it, and I [00:10:00] think credit to him, he didn’t romanticize himself either, right.

Paul Ford: Fair.

Rich Ziade: He was just like, I am busted up and so, he demystified everything for me. He put, he was like, there’s the liquor cabinet, I don’t wanna hear about you drinking beer in a parking lot. You wanna drink beer, you wanna drink? First off beer is shit, drink, drink something proper, right? [laughter].

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: And he was like, it’s right there, and drink it in the house and don’t, don’t go sitting in, outside of 7-Eleven. And so my friends be like, “we’re going out to drink beer, we’re gonna go do this and that” and I was like, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Paul Ford: What are you children?

Rich Ziade: Smoking? He was like, he smoked.

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: Pretty much his whole life, he’s like, it is just, it’s just shit, it’s terrible, it’s really bad, like you smell it all day. You wanna smoke, here’s smoke, I don’t care, I never wanted to smoke. So, he demystified so much for me, not because, and so it speaks to control and how you try to assert that control to shape the person. Look that could have gone differently. I think he read me as a personality and said, “okay, this guy’s not really gonna [00:11:00] be under wraps, like, I’m not gonna control this” [laughter].

Paul Ford: Yeah.

Rich Ziade: And so here are your choices and I’ll tell you what’s bad and what’s good, and you make your own call man. I, I, I thank him for that, there, look, I’m painting a very rosy picture here, my dad had many, many, it was a very hard upbringing, very unstable life growing up.

Paul Ford: No, but this is what, this is what you learned from him.

Rich Ziade: This is what you learned from him. Exactly, exactly, and so, and when, tell me, I have a question for you.

Paul Ford: Okay.

Rich Ziade: You’re a teenager, you’re in your early twenties, you moved to New York City, when New York City wasn’t all buttoned up like it was still kind of a messy place.

Paul Ford: Correct.

Rich Ziade: Did you ever feel like, did you ever pick up the phone and say, I wonder what my dad thinks about this situation?

Paul Ford: Not like that. We were, we were always in touch, always emailing, you know, always, and there’s, there’s a lot of warmth there, there’s a lot of love. See what’s interesting here though, right? Is like okay the, the relationship that I have with my kids or that I see my [00:12:00] brother have with his kids, my dad’s generation often just didn’t have that relationship. But there was a gift here and the gift was, so after college, I lived with him for like a month cause I needed a place to go. He was in Philadelphia.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: And boy, he, he was kind of done with me in his space. To be fair, it was a giant one-room apartment in an an artist cooperative. So like, not the greatest thing to have me in a corner.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: But he was, he was done. I was like, all right, look, I’m gonna go to, I’m gonna go to New York City with my buddy Steve, and I’ll build webpages, I’ll figure it out, early days.

Rich Ziade: Okay.

Paul Ford: Off I went, I decided I wanted to write, I decided I wanted to be creative. My life was filled with all kinds of things, technology and drama and all, all kinds of excitement.

Rich Ziade: Yup, yup.

Paul Ford: Nothing but support and acceptance on any choice I made along those lines.

Rich Ziade: Support, acceptance, advice, or, he didn’t have a lot to give you actually, I mean, New York City and trying to figure it out, so it’s not, it’s not his world.

Paul Ford: He lived here in his twenties, he grew up in New Yo-

Rich Ziade: Oh okay, okay.

Paul Ford: He worked in [00:13:00] advertising, we would talk about it, but no, I, I think there was a sense, and it was a really discreet sense, which is you’re on your path. Um, he, the things he would say, we were like, you are the, there’s like a quote, it’s a poetry quote, I can’t remember right now in the moment, it’s like “you are the commander of your fate and the master of your soul”.

Rich Ziade: Mm-hmm.

Paul Ford: Like, um, and, and you know, he was like, go figure out money first.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And there are other beautiful things like, like, and that were actually very practical and you can see them in me now, which is, you know, he was a playwright and a poet and, and so on and so forth. But he was like, always make sure you have a vocation and an avocation. Get some skills, learn some stuff. Figure out how to take care of yourself, um, don’t shake the money tree. You know, don’t like a lot of like, figure out money, it’s okay.

Rich Ziade: You’ve done extremely well. Did he know about your success?

Paul Ford: He was very, very proud.

Rich Ziade: You know, I had many rough days, you had many rough days growing up, kind of like blown in the wind trying to [00:14:00] figure things out. But now I value that in hindsight, and you know, you want, that is, that is a gift because it really lets you build your own character in that adversity, right?

Paul Ford: And they’re proud of that, that’s that generation. They were proud-

Rich Ziade: It’s a generational thing, there’s no doubt about that.

Paul Ford: Let’s be clear, that was the love comes in different additions and versions, there’s like Love 0.5 Alpha, which was our grandparents’ generation.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: Then there’s like love 0.8 A, which is your dad and mine.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: And now, now we are at like Love 2.0 where it’s like you pet your son’s back and it’s okay if he cries and you know, but like that wasn’t their world.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, no, it wasn’t their world and-

Paul Ford: But it was, but it was still love. Let’s be real.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: Your dad loved you.

Rich Ziade: Oh, 100%. He just understood his flaws, and understood where his limitations were, and that was, that was it.

Paul Ford: Look, there’s another reality and there’s a pride here for me too, which is that, uh, my brother, [00:15:00] myself, my brother’s wife, my wife, we rallied, we took care of his finances. We made sure he was safe. Um, we chipped in when we needed to.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: All that stuff. I think you had it even more so than I did.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, I mean, I yeah, there’s no, my dad was young, relative to me. He was like in his early twenties when I was born, so he wasn’t like 70 and, you know, unable to take care of himself. He was just not able to keep it together, even in his fifties, right?

Paul Ford: Right.

Rich Ziade: And so financially, mainly, right? And so I started to do okay, and then yet the tables turn and then, uh, you know, you’re, you’re effectively taking care of this person. It was not as weird for me, mainly because, like I said before, the dynamic melted away when I was 15 anyway.

Paul Ford: Right.

Rich Ziade: So it wasn’t like, I was like, I’m helping a buddy out, rather than like, oh my God, this is embarrassing, I’m taking care of my father and he’s young still, and he can’t get a job or whatever it is. Um, it was, it was not that [00:16:00] crazy in a lot of ways. Um, and, you know, more than anything else, you had to kind of protect their dignity in that setting, right? I mean, this is proud, this, speaking of that generation, they’re immensely proud and independent.

Paul Ford: This is, this is always the struggle and I, I feel that this is where, as a, as a son, you budge. Like my dad wanted his independence and privacy, it was hard to put him in assisted living because, but we needed to keep him safe because you lose more privacy and independence if you’re in a hospital. So, like to keep him out of the hospital, we needed some supervision and support.

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And he, he’s not the kind of guy who like wants to come live in one of our houses.

Rich Ziade: Right, right.

Paul Ford: And so like the balance was nice ladies would check in on him once every two hours.

Rich Ziade: That’s the compromise, right? I mean, you know, in my culture, in the Lebanese culture, it’s very normal to find an elder in the house.

Paul Ford: Yes, it is, sure.

Rich Ziade: It’s not unusual at all actually. You know, if they have the means that they’ll be nearby in another apartment, like in the building.

Paul Ford: But not far. [00:17:00]

Rich Ziade: Not far at all, right? And so that’s, that’s considered, that’s not even, that’s not even going above and beyond, that’s normal.

Paul Ford: The Lebanese have a very different understanding of personal space.

Rich Ziade: I think Italians is-

Paul Ford: Yeah, oh, they do with the mom for forever, right? Like, no, no. The Lebanese and the Irish have a very different understanding of personal space, like the Lebanese idea of personal-

Rich Ziade: 100%

Paul Ford: Personal space for Lebanese, like a lot of personal space, space means downstairs.

Rich Ziade: [laughter].

Paul Ford: And for the, for the Irish, it’s about two to 3000 miles is like a good, reasonable amount.

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: You know what’s funny is, and I can, I can see it when you’re talking about your dad, you really do come to understand it. And some of the things that you might have been angry about when you were younger, younger or frustrated about, you’re like, no, I, I, I have that too.

Rich Ziade: We have those qualities, right?

Paul Ford: And I live in a different time and I have a different kind of marriage and I have a different kind of relationship with the world, so I have more choices about how I’m gonna interact with the world.

Rich Ziade: You know, it’s funny and I think this is a nice way to close it, I think no matter how close or far you are from your dad, when you start to see those [00:18:00] characteristics mirrored, it’s a wild thing and it takes time to process even if you’re estranged in the most extreme case, because it’s you, right? It’s part of you, like part of my, I think a lot of my, the ways I see the world and the way I see risk and the way I deal with things and the way I deal with people is very much a reflection of, of just raw DNA that’s coming down.

Paul Ford: I’ve been your friend for a decade now. Assad is a presence. Assad is in your life.

Rich Ziade: That’s really funny [laughter].

Paul Ford: And that’s a gift, right?

Rich Ziade: Yeah, yeah.

Paul Ford: Ultimately it came down as a gift.

Rich Ziade: You gotta reign it in, but it is a gift If in in a contained state [laughter].

Paul Ford: Frank is a gift, would I be a writer? Would I have thought I could do all these creative and weird things that I did?

Rich Ziade: Yeah.

Paul Ford: And he, you know, he sat me on his knee when I was six and showed me basic programs on a Commodore pet.

Rich Ziade: That’s a gift, speaking of gifts [laughter].

Paul Ford: Technology, art, all of it. So like you gotta take the whole thing and it, and it honestly, it came as time’s gonna go on, I can feel it, I’m gonna remember the love.

Rich Ziade: That’s [00:19:00] great. That’s great that, I mean, that’s still better than a lot, right? There’s a lot of people that struggle with it.

Paul Ford: Thought I could keep it together during, for this podcast, there it went.

Rich Ziade: There it goes, see Ziade and Ford Advisors.

Paul Ford: Check us out on, on email and hello@ziadeford.com, twitter at ziadeford. Uh, so long, Assad and Frank.

Rich Ziade: Have a lovely week everyone. Love you, Paul.

Paul Ford: Bye. Love you too. [00:20:00]

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