>Today is my dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad!). Since he has everything he wants or needs, it’s always hard to find something he wants but doesn’t know it yet, or needs but doesn’t know exists.
So this year, I’m going to give him something that he’s probably not expecting. A public note of thanks from his son, and a summary of Dad’s best lessons that I remember and have tried to use in my life with a new son of my own.
First, a note of thanks. Dad, thanks for everything. What you taught me, and what you have done for me, they were great gifts. Children can’t ever repay their parents, but I hope that I can pay it forward to my kid(s) someday.
Now, Dad’s Lessons:
Give back to the community – My dad has always been giving back to the community in some way or another for as long as I can remember. He’s currently active in city government, guiding the future development of my hometown. He works with the local Boy Scout troop, helping young men earn their Eagle Scout rank by providing advice and encouragement on their leadership projects. He was in the Navy for at least 30 years, and one of his most rewarding posts must have been when he helped the Kurdish refugees during the Gulf War. I feel a strong need to give back to my community, and I think it was dad’s example that taught me that.
Math and Science are really cool. My dad is an engineer, and one thing I remember about growing up was that we were always talking about science or engineering. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he would point out interesting bridges, or bring home a drawing from work, and describe how stuff worked. All of this kindled a love for science, math and engineering that has turned into a great major in college, a great job, and a great career (so far!).
Hard Work/Academics are important. I think my dad had high expectations for doing my well in school, but I remember that he was hard at work learning as well, whether it was getting an MBA earlier in his career, or studying to take the PE exam a little later.
Trust Bank Account – He taught me that building up a reputation for honesty and trustworthiness is like building a bank account. It’s easy to build up slowly, little by little, making small deposits over a long period of time. It’s also easy if you mess up, to make a huge withdrawal and leave your account very low. I’ve made some mistakes, but this lesson has stuck and reminded me of how important it is to build the account slowly and steadily.
Pay Yourself First – He taught me that in order to have a financially secure retirement, you should make a commitment to invest some of your salary each month, and every time you get a raise, to commit to investing even more. He taught me that it’s important to make the investing automatic, so that you don’t have to decide every time that you have the money to invest. If you don’t get used to having the money, you’re less likely to “need” it.
Be Generous – Every one remembers the guy at the table that splits the bill down to the penny. Being an engineer, I would probably have that tendency. But Dad taught me to let go, and chip in a couple extra bucks to smooth things over, even if it’s not always quite fair. Because everyone remembers The Guy Who Calculates Everything To The Penny.
Take care of your stuff – Oil changes, washing the car, basic home repair. It’s better to buy quality stuff and keep it in good repair, than to have to keep buying stuff that’s not worth it in the first place.
Take Advantage of Opportunities – Sometimes you’re given the opportunity to go on an African Safari, and it’s not clear that you’ll ever get the chance again. It’s better to just take that opportunity than save the money. You’ll regret not going because it’s a lot more expensive to go on an African Safari if you’re no longer in Africa.
To have a friend, you have to be a friend – Friendship is a two way street, and it takes effort, at least at first.
Don’t keep score – In a close relationship with your spouse, it’s not important who’s scoring more points as long as you’re both trying.
Small Differences Matter – Make sure she opens the jewelry before the kitchen appliances. This one’s an inside joke.
I wonder if a tribute blog post is like the 21st century version of the misshapen clay ashtray you make your parents even though they don’t smoke.