My father has taught me many things in my nearly 40 years. Some of them were things he directly said, and some lessons came from how he lives. Some he meant me to teach me and some he may have had no idea I was learning from him. What follows is a list of some of the things I have learned from him over the years in no particular order. Lessons that were intentional, unintentional, directly spoken, or observed. All well worth learning.
It’s occasionally okay fudge the truth to your children about unimportant things, especially if it broadens their imagination. Which is how I spent quite a bit of time believing Dad’s smallpox vaccine scar came from a tiger in his dream as he slept.
People often want to do the right thing, but sometimes you have to give them a gentle nudge. Or a not so gentle push.
Dads make anything less scary.
Dads can be superman.
Dads are also just men.
It’s okay to let your kids fall.
But you watch them closely so they don’t fall too far.
It’s good to let your kids stand up for themselves, but you can hide out of sight to make sure they stand with honor.
You cannot be honored by dishonorable people.
There is no honor in going along with wrong, even if everyone else is.
It’s not bragging if you can back it up.
Sometimes you need to do what is right without considering the consequences.
You don’t brag about doing the right thing.
Strength is sometimes found when you are not looking for it.
Secretaries and Custodians are the most important people in an organization and deserve as much (if not more) respect than Presidents and CEOs.
If you can’t respect a supervisor, respect his or her position. If you can’t respect his or her position, one of you needs to leave.
There is always an option those who stand against you have not considered.
Do anything to help your kids, including not helping them when they need to stand on their own.
Showing concern is more important than talking about it.
Many people deserve second chances, even if you have to give them a second chance more than once.
Sometimes you drop everything to help someone.
Sometimes you drop everything just to have fun.
It is possible to know what size a wrench is by touch alone.
You don’t need all the credit, help others to shine. Which is how Dad ended up as a “secondary” author on many academic papers.
Don’t curry favor, just be fair.
Treat those who purposefully and dishonorably antagonize you with professionalism.
Professionally and respectfully yank the rug right out from under them occasionally.
In professional conflict, the truth eventually wins out. If it doesn’t, you might have been the only one interested in truth.
Have a long memory of those who help you.
Spend little time considering those who wish you harm.
Timing really is everything. Which Dad taught by retiring at exactly the right moment.
Fairness inspires loyalty even from those who disagree with you.
Respect is wasted on those who are disrespectful, but still worth showing even if only to demonstrate proper behavior.
Prepare to assist others before the need arises.
You are never too old to learn.
You are never to young to teach.
Be strong for your family.
It’s okay to be weak in front of them too.
Real respect is a valuable commodity. Earn it.
If you really want to find an easier way to do something, assign the task to a lazy person.
Sometimes you need to keep your mouth shut.
Sometimes it’s more important that you open it.
Learn to fix things on your own.
Know when to ask for help.
Be secure in your knowledge and ability. Just because someone knows something you don’t or is better at a skill does not detract from you.
Sometimes you just have to say something. True story: years after my dad was out of the Army (he was drafted during the Korean War, but never had to go overseas), a Colonel entered his office at a university. My dad looked at this officer he had never met before and said, “You can go straight to hell!” He then quickly explained the surprised man, “Sorry, I always wanted to say that to a Colonel. Now, what can I do for you?”
Hard work and determination can make up for lack of opportunity.
Of course, sometimes you just get lucky.
There will always be someone smarter, stronger, faster than you. Be honorable and you will always stand out.
What you do for a living is far less important than who you are.
There you have it. Fifty simple (and yet not so simple) lessons I learned from my father. The funny thing is, I’ll wager some of these will surprise him if he reads them. Huh, there’s a quick bonus lesson. People observe you constantly, be careful what you’re teaching them.
Special Note: See that link on the right? This got expanded a bit and turned in to a book. If you liked this post, consider buying Things My Dad Taught Me.