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Monday, January 30, 2012

Things I Wish My Father Had Told Me (so I am telling my daughters)

As I have noted before in this space, my father was not all that involved in my life when I was growing up, save for throwing me some money every once in a while. One of the outcomes of that particular circumstance was that I have always tried to be for my own children all that my father wasn't for me. In the most important sense I have already accomplished the greater part of this by virtue of just being around.  Secondarily, my daughters have heard, to the point of nausea, me offer countless points of life advice over the years. For whatever reason I feel compelled to spell the most important nuggets of this "wisdom" over the next few minutes.  That noted, here no particular order, for no particular reason.

Take Care of Yourself
Never forget that you are precious and unique, so much so that you have an obligation to always take care of yourself. Don't ever let someone else tell you that taking care of yourself is somehow a selfish act, because it is not!  What I am talking about is exactly what they tell you when you hear the safety notices after boarding an airplane: before you put the oxygen mask on someone else, first put one on yourself. Why? Well in fact the only way (in an airplane emergency OR in life in general) you will ever truly be able to help others is by first helping yourself. You are not a secondary are just as important as any other human on the planet today.  Be kind and be helpful to others, but never forget that you need to be kind and helpful to yourself.

Choose Life
Make the positive, affirmative choice to live your life. Don't sit by and passively wait for tomorrow to come, or for something good "to happen" to you.  As John Lennon once noted, "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans".  The good and the bad are both a part of life, and it doesn't make sense ruminate over either happening or not happening.

No "Thing" Will Ever Make You Happy
Real happiness doesn't come from the outside, it comes from the inside.  It isn't something that you can get in the mail, from a car dealership, from the mall or from someone else for that matter.  It also can't come from a pill or any other drug...if it did...if there were a "happy" pill....don't you think that everyone would be taking it?  No, real happiness in my opinion (based in part on a book I read that was written by Gordon Lingston, MD), comes from a very few but simple things:
  • Having something meaningful to do in your life (*)
  • Having someone to love (**)
  • Having something to look forward to (***)
(*) Don't have something meaningful to do?  Then find something!  The universe is full of wonders waiting to be discovered.

(**) Don't have someone to love?  Well first learn to love yourself.  More on that in a moment.  The rest will happen naturally.

(***) Don't take the "thing" in "something to look forward to" too literally, as I think it can be anything from a weekend off from work, reading a new book or even the Spring coming.  It's not complicated, and over the years I have discovered that some of the most remarkable things are also the simplest.

You Can't Really Love Someone Else...until you learn to love yourself first
It's an interesting concept actually:  I think we all want someone in our life to love and who will love us in return, but in reality we can't give away what we don't actually own in the first place. To be in a healthy, loving relationship we first need to be healthy.  That doesn't mean being perfect...physically or mentally...but it means that you are self-aware enough to understand that with love comes responsibility, first and foremost, to ourselves.

[Get the impression that these things are inter-related?]

Attitude Counts...the most!
One of my favorite quotes is from W.C. Fields and speaks exactly to what I have learned about attitude:

"Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill."


He was right.  How you it about yourself, the world, your job, what kind of day you are going to have...dictates everything else about your existence.  A related thought comes from the person I report to at work, a man who has a doctorate and has done extensive work in the area of individual performance.  He states that how you FEEL dictates how you THINK which dictates what you DO.  Feel=>Think=>Do.  Pretty powerful stuff when you consider that your attitude is one of the few things in life that you absolutely, positively, entirely control.  No one has the ability to climb in your head.  No one has the ability to change your attitude, not at least without your permission.

Make the choice to be positive.

Make the choice to see the universe as being full of opportunities.

As I noted above, Chose Life.

Keep the Past in the Rear-View Mirror
It's important to remember things in the past, but there is a difference between "remembering" and "ruminating".  To the extent that thinking about the past can help us solve the issues of today, well then I think it is certainly useful to keep it in mind.  To the extent that it serves no purpose other then self-flagellation, well then perhaps the mind is better spent on more productive endeavors.  The key here is that we can't change what has happened to us, but we definitely have a say in what will happen to us.  Keep the focus on the here and now, with an eye towards the future.

And finally...

Never, Ever Stop Learning
Maybe it's because of what I do for a living, but the older I get the more passionate I become about wanting to continue to learn.  I want the same for you.  There is a tinge of the ironic here:  when we are younger our minds are more capable of learning, they are more elastic.  The problem though is that we get conditioned to almost not like learning.  We get frustrated with school, we get bored by the methods used to teach us, etc.  Regardless, as we grow older, we certainly know more, but our minds aren't nearly as naturally elastic as they were when we were children.  This doesn't mean we stop simply means that we need to work harder at learning.  Here are some things I want to learn over the next few years:

  • I want to finally learn how to play a few chords on the guitar.  
  • I would really love to learn some Italian phrases.
  • I want to learn more about traditional Human Resources work (as opposed to the unconventional stuff I do for a living).
  • I am interested in learning more about organizational design theory.
  • I am learning more about Episcopal faith.
Just to name a few, and these things come on top of what I dabble in all the time, such as computers/technology (I will get the Linux netbook working...), cars, electrical work, reading and (to state the obvious) writing.

Never stop moving...forward that is.


Doug Doan said...

Good stuff! I wrote some things like this to share with my son when he was about 16. I'm not sure he was as thrilled to listen as I was to share it, lol.

I am considering creating a blog and maybe writing a book on this theme. I'd like to call it, "What I wish my father had told me about life," but that seems too disrespectful to my dad, at least while he's alive.

Stephen Albert said...


Thank you for stopping by, reading & the compliment! I do hope that you create the blog and write the book. I've found that the ability to express how I feel in this format is a real blessing.

If you do create the blog let me know...I'd be glad to link to it here.

- Steve