By Gary Burnison, originally posted to Korn Ferry Institute.
Basketball practice was over. As the other kids waited outside the gym doors for their parents to pick them up, I started walking in the other direction—telling my teammates I had someplace else to be.
The truth, though, was I always asked my dad to meet me a few blocks away. It was the early 1970s, and I didn’t want anyone at school to see my dad’s car—a 1956 Buick with a rusted bumper that belched blue clouds of exhaust.
My dad had gone bankrupt a couple of years before and we had no money. I hated going to the grocery store and always tried to pick the checkout line with the fewest people so no one would see us using food stamps.
The car, though, was just as bad for a teenager trying desperately to fit in and not stand out for the wrong reasons. As I slunk low in the seat of that old Buick, my dad knew what was going on—and I knew that he knew. But we never talked about it. He just let me be.
Today, of course, I’d love to have that old Buick to restore. Even more important, I wish I could have one more chance to open that car door and sit up tall and proud beside my dad. But that was beyond what this 13-year-old could do. I was too embarrassed to know who I truly was.