Lessons from Dad

It’s Father’s Day this week so the focus will be on advice from Dear Old Dad. Today starts off the theme with one-liners from my Dad. And if you know him, you are certainly smiling. Dad certainly knows how to turn a phrase.

Here are some of mine. Some explanations necessary.

Dad on Timing

Get to the ball first.

From my earliest days in pee wee soccer dad would be yelling this on the sidelines. As I grew up he would take this phrase as an abstraction from his years of playing the game in college and apply it to the real world. If something was up fro grabs, sieze the opportunity. Get there first. Don’t procrastinate.

Wake up and piss, the world’s on fire.

This one comes from Dad’s days in Nam. Sure those with genteel ears might prefer something less profane but it kind of loses the urgency and some of it’s bite once cleaned up. Aside from his days in surgery I don’t know that the old man has ever woken up after I did. And I get up early these days.

Don’t go out on a school night.

Part one of Dad’s advice when he was leaving me on the steps of my freshman dorm. He wanted to impart that there was a time for work and a time for play and both were better spent if kept separate. The older I get, the more I appreciate the value of this advice.

Nothing good ever happens after midnight.

Once a justification for my highschool curfew it took on greater meaning in college where shenanigans just ran rampant. At the time it sounded like something you’d expect from a father leaving his son at school several hundred miles away. However, the older I get, the more and more true I find this rule.

Dad on Achieving

Potential is the worst word in the English language.

The whole story behind this one really deserves it’s own post. It’s priceless. The lesson is that we are all judged by what we do and what we become. Coulda, woulda – these words had no meaning in Dad’s lexicon. They should have no meaning in yours.

You’ve got the world by the balls.

Dad grew up in a different era. His wonder years were a story of deprivation. He worked every day to provide opportunity for his family. He never wanted thanks nor praise for this but he did want to impart the lesson that opportunity was what he could provide – we had to be the ones to seize it. He could never do that for us.

You can be anything you want to be. Just decide.

From the earliest age Dad would support our everydream. No matter our aim he would tell us that yes, we could become that. Be a president? No problem. Run a company? Certainly. But rather than blithly indluge our fantasies, Dad would gently follow up with the actions we would need to take to achieve our aims.

I see so many people these days providing false support to people saying ‘yes you can ‘ in the first sentence and then following up with a ‘but first you will have to X, Y and Z’ designed to knock down the dreams. For example if I said ‘I want to play in the NFL’ Dad would say ‘well then let’s go practice’ where others might say ‘but first you need to grow 6 inches and 50 lbs.’

Get the job done.

As a civil engineer in New York City Dad is well versed in the works of one Robert Moses and that’s where this quote comes from. No matter the project I was doing, no matter the obstacle, this is what I would here. It’s still what I hear when I start procrastinating. Except now I’m the one saying it.

Dad on Money

It’s only money.

For a man who worked all the time he certainly had a blase attitude towards money. This is not to say that he didn’t understand the value of things. He certainly did (and does). But when the eye-popping costs of Boy Scout Summer Camps or family vacations came up, he never flinched. Dad never understood why people would value money over the experiences that money could buy.

Make sure your career makes you happy.

Like many young men I ended up following my father’s path in college to engineering. He kept on repeating that phrase to me. It wasn’t until I entered the workforce that I understood exactly what he meant.

Want more money, just go make more.

Dad is certainly no stranger to hard work. And we’ve covered his view of money as a tool, not a master. While he has never been rich, he did rise out of poverty and through the efforts of his own hand neither he nor his family have ever wanted. However there was an opportunity cost that had to be met. Dad worked long and hard and efficiently. He picked up jobs that he did in his home office, working them long after we would be asleep. That was the tab that he paid for use of that tool. His was never a question of ‘what will I do’ it was more the statement ‘this is what I will do.’ Some men see only obstacles, others find only solutions. Dad finds solutions.

A bunch of readers in this community are fathers. Regardless of the kind of relationship we had, each of us had one. What are some of the best advice one-liners your dad gave you? Share below!

Comments

  1. Interesting to learn that you actually listened. Here is another one – are you a Mary?

  2. avatar Jonathan says:

    Words to live by. Great advice from an experienced dad.

  3. I really enjoyed this article. Your dad has shared a lot of great lessons, some of which you weren’t able to fully understand, appreciate, or apply until you were good and ready (i.e. you were living it for yourself). But good to know that you remembered the advice and realized that yes, Dad was right….again.

  4. avatar Jonathan says:

    Advice? You are never too old to learn!

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