You’re never as good as they say you are and you’re never as bad as they say you are.

Keep your cool, get the job done — that’s what I got from my mother.

You know, after all these years, it’s still hard to explain my father. But the best way I can tell you about him is this: There are people in life who you wish you could be at a certain moment in time. Something happens, and the moment calls for you to say just the right thing — and most of us don’t say it. The right words come to you later, in the car when you’re driving back home. “That sonuvabitch, you know what I should have told him?…” My dad was the guy who always had the perfect comeback at the moment it needed to be said. You’d watch and go, “Wow!” He was an idealist, too, and it’s easier to be the friend of an idealist than the child of an idealist — because the idealist will make his child an example.

Once your eyes are opened, what do you do?

For more wisdom from George Clooney, read his full What I’ve Learned at Esquire.com.