Lessons From Loss: Reflecting on a Year of Profound Change

As 2023 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the profound lessons life has presented to me, especially in the wake of losing my father late this summer. My father, Jay, was a man with an influence as expansive as his personality. His larger-than-life presence, much like an energy field that enveloped all of those around him, left an indelible mark on my understanding of life and business.

I did not speak at his funeral. It would have been too hard for me at that very difficult time. But with the passage of time, I’ve been able to identify a few insights that have a great deal of meaning to me and that I hope will resonate with others and perhaps even bring a touch of humor to the journey we all navigate.

1. Respect outweighs popularity.

One lesson that stands out is the importance of respect over popularity. My father, a man unafraid to be disliked when necessary, emphasized the significance of earning respect. It’s a reminder that depth of character and integrity far outweighed his need to be popular.

2. Finding meaning in struggle.

Life’s struggles, my father believed, are not obstacles but opportunities. There is profound meaning in the struggle, a chance to discover the fire in your belly, the strength and resilience from within that we might not have realized otherwise. He’d say, “It’s your reaction that defines you, not the situation.”

3. Embrace the fight.

“Don’t walk away from a fight. Deal with it.” These words echo in my mind. Yes, he was a Sicilian. Yes, being “aggressive” was in his blood. Sicilians take pride in their distinct identity, and standing firm is a means of preserving the richness of their heritage. It’s a reminder that, sometimes, asserting who you are is an act of strength. My father’s advice was simple: Be a fighter, confront difficulties head-on, go through them and emerge stronger on the other side.

4. Earn it.

Success, respect and trust are not given; they are earned. The importance of hard work and dedication cannot be overstated. My father’s life was a testament to the principle that you reap what you sow.

5. From So what? to So, what now?

“So what?” he would say. Dwelling on problems is unproductive. Instead, focus on solutions. “So, what now?” redirects the energy from lamenting to problem-solving, a valuable mindset to navigate life’s inevitable challenges.

6. Punctuality speaks volumes.

The simple act of being on time is a sign of respect. It signifies that your time is not more valuable than that of others. It’s a small gesture, but one that reflects selflessness and consideration. I’m smiling as I write this one. Near the end of his life, being “on time” would practically translate to being 30 minutes early.

7. There is value in hard work.

In a world that often seeks shortcuts, my father’s legacy emphasized the importance of hard work. Value the sweat equity you invest; it’s a currency that never loses its worth.

8. Be bold and take risks.

A bold life is often a more fulfilling one. Embrace new challenges, take risks and avoid the mundane. There was no room for fear. After all, as my father believed, it is better to be bold and brave, and fall flat on your ass than to lead a dull life and never venture. It was in the 1970s when my parents moved to a new home in Crystal Lake, Ill., and my dad started the business that he still had when he passed. A business he started with less than $500 in his pockets.

9. Prove yourself each and every day.

“Tomorrow is a new day. Yesterday is over.” This mantra underscores the importance of letting go of the past and approaching each day with a fresh perspective. Life is a constant journey of proving oneself. You can’t rest today because of what you achieved yesterday. In my early years of participating in sports, my dad was one of my coaches. He told me that I could never talk or dwell upon a great play or a good game. He’d say, “That is in the past. What are you going to do tomorrow?”

10. The power of perspective is everything.

I’d complain. I would tell him a “poor me” story and he would just say “So what?” My father’s casual dismissal of life’s trivial or smaller inconveniences was a reminder that perspective is everything. Don’t cry over problems. Instead, channel that energy into finding solutions. Move. Move forward with some humor and find your way. Everything he did was with a needed dash of humor. He always found a way to add a joke. By joke, I mean a story that had its twists and turns and ended up with a laugh and some shock and awe. A sense of humor is a sense of perspective.

As I bid farewell to a year marked by loss and change, I carry these lessons forward via a rich legacy from a man whose presence is still felt. Remembering his words gives me guidance, keeps me smiling and offers a roadmap of sorts on how to navigate with resilience, courage and a healthy dose of humor. 

Jasper “Jay” James Laudicina peacefully passed away on Aug. 17, 2023, at the age of 85.