AKRON — If you're like me, you probably agreed with every bit of advice your dad gave you growing up, saw the justice in every life-lesson-instilling punishment doled out during your formative years and retroactively think back on those instances, saying to yourself, “I wouldn't have done it any differently.”
If you're like me, you're probably well-versed in recognizing jests, too.
Like many people, I didn't always see eye-to-eye with my dad on things as a kid. I spent my fair share of time grounded, listening to lectures and rolling my eyes at the latest rehashing of life advice I had heard multiple times before. And my dad always had a lot of advice to give, whether I wanted it or not.
Dad also made frequent use of some common sayings — we'll call them “Dad phrases” — not the least of which was, “When you're a grownup with kids of your own, you'll understand.”
Now I'm 30. I have two sons of my own, an infant and a toddler. I still don't believe Dad was always right. I still don't fully understand his logic on every decision. The methodology he used to determine how many days of lost phone/TV privileges a particular infraction was worth, for instance, still confuses me. Grounded for two days because I once forgot to drink a glass of milk my mom poured me for dinner, but I get let off with a warning for a broken garage window? It makes no sense!
But it's occurred to me that maybe that's not the point of the phrase. I think the difference between being a child and being an adult is the difference between recognizing your parents' imperfections and being capable of empathizing with them. Only as an adult can you comprehend the continuous cycle of mild panic that accompanies being responsible for the life of another person.
I may not have always understood Dad's methods, but what I have quickly come to understand is that children don't come pre-packaged with assembly instructions for building the ideal human. It's a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation. You don't always get an opportunity to prepare. Sometimes situations arise that require you to react, and sometimes, after the fact, you're not sure yourself if you've handled it the right way. You simply do the best you know how using the information available.
The same can be said of life in general, and often the closest thing you have to a guidebook are the ideals instilled in you by your parents. Most people keep these bits of life advice in the back of their minds and break them out when needed. I, however, have a literal guidebook to consult.
When I turned 21, my dad wrote me a letter filled with pieces of advice, some common sense (i.e. be compassionate, learn empathy) and some a little more specific (“Try caviar once.” Check. Thanks to Tire Business for making this one a reality.) A lot of these pieces of advice had to do with work ethic. One of the things I've always admired most about my father is his work ethic. He has worked a lot of long days to support his family.
Below are 15 points from his letter to me nearly a decade ago that I feel have been most influential in my life and career thus far — and ones I intend to pass down to my own kids:
1. Strive for excellence in the things that you do. Don't try to be a perfectionist, because you'll never be satisfied with the end result. Try instead to do the very best that you can.
2. Make your word your bond. If you tell someone you will do something for them, carry through to the best of your ability.
3. When being critical of others, remember they are also being critical of you.
4. Never ask someone to do a job you would not willingly do yourself.
5. Education doesn't end when you graduate — it is just beginning. Learn something new every day. A mind that isn't learning grows stale.
6. Good thoughts produce good results. Maintain the most positive attitude you can.
7. Never be afraid to soil your hands doing honest work. Even the most menial of jobs is important to someone. Never degrade a person because of their chosen career. Remember, all honest work is honorable work.
8. Always try to leave a positive impact. You never know when you may inspire someone to accomplish great things just because you offered a bit of encouragement.
9. It is OK to make a mistake. We all do. The key is to try to learn from each mistake because there truly is a lesson. Equally important, try not to make the same mistake twice.
10. If an employer asks you to compromise your principles by bending the truth, then he/she is not a person or a company you should be working for. If a friend asks you to, that person is not a friend you want.
11. If an employer holds you responsible for certain goals, be certain that he/she gives you the authority to meet those responsibilities.
12. Never take credit for someone else's work. If a boss compliments you on a job you didn't do, be quick to tell him/her who really accomplished the task. Chances are you'll make a friend by giving credit where credit is due while gaining a lot of respect from your employer.
13. Learn to be humble. It is OK to take pride in your accomplishments, but let other people praise you on your successes. No one likes a braggart.
14. Almost all of the things you possess in life can be replenished with some work. If your stereo breaks, you can save up and get another. If you burn the roast, there are other roasts you can cook. Damaged shoes can be replaced. The one thing you never get to replenish, however, is time. Each minute that passes is another minute you can't get back. It doesn't matter how much talent or money or things you have.
15. Always, always have faith in yourself. You have the ability to accomplish anything that you choose. No man has ever succeeded by lacking faith in himself…. Never stop trying.
Happy Father's Day to a guy who never quit trying.