I started this list more than a year ago, when I was coming up on my 40th birthday we knew we were having a baby.
I’m sure I’ll have many more lessons for you, but these were the ones that came readily to mind as I reflected on the last 40 years.
I hope you’ll find something of use in here son. I have plenty of stories to go with each one, whenever you want to hear them.
Better to be taken advantage of, than to take advantage of someone else.
I learned this lesson mostly from my mom — a woman with the biggest heart I’ve ever known. You see, it’s easy to hold a grudge, but quite hard to forgive one. Ultimately, given the unfortunate choice of having to take advantage of someone versus being taken advantage of — the latter is the only choice. This is your chance to be the bigger, better person.
There’s Always Another 10%
If you’re not giving it your all, why are you doing it at all? Seems that something worth doing should be done all the way. What’s most interesting, however, is I’ve always found that no matter how hard you think you’re working — there’s always a little bit more. Let’s call it 10%. Keep pushing.
Invest in your health
Don’t be lethargic. It pays all kinds of dividends to stay active and keep yourself in shape. It’s easy to sit back and relax, and that is a good thing to do too, but try and make it part of your routine so it never gets “hard” to do.
Bellies are Bad
I have always had this fear, ever since being a little kid. My dad had one of those big, hardened bellies, and he never could get rid of it. He was a strong man, for sure, but I always associated it with his ultimate health problems. So don’t let it happen. Not to mention, it’s a huge pain in the ass to remedy if it gets ahead of you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Love
An open heart is a working heart. Seems too often people fear letting themselves love. Usually there’s one of two things at heart here. Most people are scared of getting hurt, but that’s just table stakes if you want to have a happy, loving life. Loads of other people, however, are just as scared of commitment — they don’t want to lose out on something bigger or better. Both are poor optimizations if you ask me. You need the salty to appreciate the sweet.
Certainly related to the previous! We all need to feel love and affection in one way or another. You should never find yourself in a situation where you’ve got folks you do love and they don’t know it. Don’t be shy or scared to tell people how you feel, nor to expect it in return from those you keep closest to you. Just remember, not everyone expresses it the same way!
Take Every Opportunity to Teach
One of the most important things I’ve learned, by far. Teaching isn’t about being “smart” — trust me lots of not-so-smart people teach. Teaching is this powerful tool, though, that forces you to compact the things you’ve learned. It’s only through teaching that you are finally forced to learn from what you have gone through.
Be a Great Storyteller
Related to being a great teacher — be a great storyteller. Learning how to tell stories is an art unto itself. Stories make facts and ideas memorable and everyone welcomes the chance to hear a great story. Once again, stories are just another for of packaging for all the things in life — you need to be good at it all.
Never Stop Learning
As much as you know, there’s always an opportunity to learn more. Sometimes, the smallest of insights can come from the most unexpected of places. The beautiful thing with knowledge is that it has so many facets and you’re never ever able to see all of them on your own. Sometimes it might seem like there’s nothing to learn, but give it a chance to be sure.
Help Others Be Their Best
I fundamentally believe that everyone has a lot more to offer than they know how. It’s each and every one of our responsibilities to not just do our best, but to make sure that everyone else has that chance. It’s hard to be selfless, but the rewards for everyone can’t be argued with.
Question Everything, At First
Be wary of things at first glance. A small amount of skepticism goes a long way. It keeps you sharp, lets you ask good questions, and makes sure you fully understand what’s at stake. Of course, questioning for the sake of questioning is just a pain in the ass. Everyone’s ok with a little Devil’s Advocate until they stab him in the face.
Listen to Everything
Trust me, no one ever accused me of being quiet. But what’s really most important is learning how to listen. There is just too much hidden in the things people communicate to not take advantage of it. So much of how we communicate is embedded in the way we tell it. The words we use, our intonation, our gestures, even where we look — all of it is part of the story. You’ve got to “listen” not just with your ears, but with all your senses.
Science is Awesome
If there’s anything that always amazed me, it’s science. You don’t need to be a scientist to appreciate science. We’re still barely scratching the surface in terms of what we know. I can only imagine what they’ll known the you’re all grown up, but considering where we are and where we’re going, I bet it will be amazing.
Science only gets you so far. It’s not always apparent or obvious how important spirituality is, but you’ll grow to appreciate it in time. Some of the most important people in the world were important because they understood how important faith is. I’m not sure you’ll choose a religion, we won’t choose one for you, but that’s separate from the connection you owe yourself and the people in your life.
Don’t Meditate if You Don’t Want To
This may be a pet peeve, but I never accepted the notion that to find your center, you had to remove yourself from everything else. That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong the “meditation” and that can take many, many different forms. I guess, the most important part, though, is to not just take at face value whatever is prescribed. If you believe in something, the way to it will always be both obvious and natural.
Most of us aren’t blessed with the natural gifts that require us to never study. Even those who innately know things can still benefit greatly. The study of anything really means making the commitment to see it until you truly understand it. That’s different than being an expert, but hopefully you’ll find your path to many different kinds of expertise.
Always Look for Patterns
Patterns are everywhere. Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t sit still long enough to actually see them. I’ve spent most of my life looking for patterns. It’s probably what made me so interested in design and programming, but it applies to all walks of life. You’ll be amazed how fast you can understand something when you get used to thinking in patterns.
Sorry Stops Working
If you ever find yourself saying sorry over and over again, cut it out. It means that you’re actually not sorry anymore and actually not making an effort to change what’s causing you to say sorry. While the people who love you most will likely always forgive you, that’s just not true for everyone. Sorry stops working and it hurts everyone when you don’t fix it.
Love Your Mother
This should be obvious, but let me say it just so you know for sure. As much I know I love you more than your mother, if there ever was anyone who could claim she loves you more, it’s your mom. She carried you from the beginning and loves you more than you likely will ever truly understand. Make sure you show her your love, always and often!
Respect Your Parents
This may be a little self-serving, but what the heck. Showing respect for your parents is not about them, it’s about you. It means that you owe your life not just to your own actions, but from the love, care, and attention we showered you with from before you were even born.
Cruelty is Common
I really wish this wasn’t the case, but cruelty runs rampant in this world. It doesn’t take much to try and show empathy for others, but it takes even less to be cruel, sadly. You’re not allowed to be one of those people. The suffering you bring to others will only come back to you many times over. Whatever fleeting moment you have now, you’ll have to relive and recount for the rest of your life once you come to your senses. So just don’t do it.
Time is of the Essence
It’s important that you know that the future isn’t promised anyone and you need to live in the now and make the most of life as it unfolds before you. Too often, we settle into a mindset that we’ll do that later or some time in the future, but the time is now. That doesn’t mean you should be a fool and rush into every random moment — just don’t always assume that there’s time later.
Change is a Constant
You’ll hear this phrase at some point in your life, but you can know you heard it here first 😃 The miracle of life is that it is never the same. It’s not the same for any two people at any single moment in time. If you can embrace the change, you’ll quickly be able to tackle ANYTHING that comes your way. Don’t fight it.
Be the Strength That is Needed
It would be great to never have to have a moment of stress in your life, but that’s not going to happen. In these moments, you need to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Keep your head calm, listen carefully, and find the solution that needs to exist.
Form Your Own Faith
As I mentioned before, we’re not likely going to give you a religion. But religion and faith are related concepts. You need to develop you own system of faith over time. That faith may borrow heavily from a religion, or if it’s like your mom and I, comes from our parents and what we innately understand as right and wrong. When in doubt, I’ll hope you turn back here for advice.
Be Firm, Not Rigid
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had more than enough rigidity in my life. When you’re young, you can feel so certain about things. With time, you learn that, well, obviously you’re mostly wrong, and more so, that listening has lots of merit. It’s easy to be rigid — but nobody likes an asshole. Of course, you can and should be firm when you have a point of view you need to convey. I’d love to say you should never sway on your most fundamental beliefs, but…
Closure Comes from Within
One of the harder lessons I learned in life is that closure is a thing that comes from within. When your grandpa, my dad, passed away, there was so much that he and I hadn’t really finished chatting about. It took me years to come to grips with this, but the reality is that he would never be able to help me reconcile those things. Closure, to me, ultimately means reconciling things with yourself to the point that you don’t have to continue to revisit or regret it.
Forget all that macho stuff, cry if you want it. To be a complete, healthy human you have to be able to experience and express every form of emotion. Sometimes, tears are the best solution to how you feel and there’s nothing wrong with them.
Laugh Out Loud
I hope you find as many opportunities in life to laugh out loud. Sometimes you’re laughing with others, sometimes you’re laughing at yourself. Just keep laughing. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world — don’t rob yourself of every opportunity!
Happiness is Only Real When It’s Shared
It was nearly a decade ago that I happened on this book, “Into the Wild”, in the back of a plane seat. I read it from start to finish on that flight. It’s a sad story, but the most important lesson I took away from it was a single quote by Chris in the book. After venturing out into the world on his own, in search of the truth — a key takeaway he had, just before his passing, was that “Happiness is only real when it’s shared”.
I can’t stress enough to you how important the people in your life are to you, don’t take them for granted. It is through your relationships that you will truly experience happiness, sadness, accomplishment, redemption, courage, excitement and everything else in between. It’s not that these things don’t exist without others, it’s that there’s nothing better than sharing them with people you love.
I Never Had Anything To Lose Before I Had You*
I started writing this note when I was 39. It was when I knew we would have you, but didn’t quite know what it would mean to be your dad. Now, a year later, and 7 months into your life, I know better and wanted to add this one last thing.
Being your dad has already been the most amazing journey I’ve ever been on. By a lifetime. But, as with every force in nature, there is an equally powerful counter balance. I’ve had the luxury of living a wonderful life, had everything I ever thought I wanted. I’ve never worried about losing anything, ever, as almost everything seemed replaceable or inevitable. Until you were born.
Now, my heart skips a beat on the regular — but I wouldn’t have it any other way.