Happy Thanksgiving. I would like to give thanks this year to my mom and dad for everything they taught me during my formative years. They are such amazing parents, and they gave me so much by teaching me to be a good man. I’d like to share 10 of the most important life lessons that have stuck with me and served as the basis for a lot of my personal traits and philosophy on life.
1. Saturday Is a Work Day
I rarely got to sleep in on Saturdays. My mom would come down and wake us all up by singing some song I can’t even remember, but I just remember it was annoying enough to get me out of bed every time. My dad was always ready with a list of jobs for us to do in and around the house. We could trim the hedge on our long driveway, blow and rake leaves, work on cars, mow the lawn, sweep the floors, vacuum, clean the kitchen, and on and on. I learned the importance of using my “day off” to get a lot done that I couldn’t always do during the week. I still try to follow this principle as an adult, spending my Saturdays preparing for the coming week and not wasting them on nothing but diversions.
2. Enjoy Whatever You Are Doing
I was cleaning a toilet in my house once, and I complained about it to my dad afterward. He told me that when he was young he took great pride in cleaning toilets because he wanted to feel proud of any job he did. That comment changed something in me. From then on, I tried hard to enjoy any job I was given. When I got a job on a farm, I loved it, even though I was always exhausted at the end of the day. When I got a job at a drugstore, I was grateful for everything it taught me because I had a lot to learn. Whatever situation or job I find myself in, I try to look on the bright side and put forth my best effort because happiness isn’t found over the horizon, but right where I’m standing.
3. Have a Sense of Humor
My mom acts all sweet and innocent, but under the surface she is hiding a very sharp sense of humor. Sometimes I would do a double take, uncertain if I had heard her correctly because she was so sly and witty that I almost missed one of her jokes. I inherited her sense of humor, even though some of my jokes make her groan. Humor offers me a healthy outlet for my creativity and gives my overactive brain a chance to express itself in fun ways.
4. Look for the Good in a Bad Situation
When I was very young, I was quite a troubled kid. I felt miserable most of the time and I had trouble fitting in with other kids. My parents suggested I keep a journal of sorts where I would rate each day on a scale from 1 to 10 and write a sentence or two explaining why I rated it that way. One day I got really frustrated over something and I was determined to write a 1 for the day. Before I wrote in the journal, though, a wonderful lady who had been present for the scene that had frustrated me came to my house and gave me a bag of cookies to try to cheer me up. Ignoring her sweet gesture, I still gave the day a 1. When my parents saw that, they were up in arms. They demanded to know how I could give it that rating when someone had tried so hard to lift my spirits. I never forgot that mistake. I try never to overlook all of the good things that happen to me every day. That helps me break out of any bad mood in a hurry.
5. Love Books
My parents’ house was always filled with books. My mom loved reading Robin Cook and Mary Higgins Clark novels. My dad could often be found reading a book about World War II or enjoying a Tom Clancy or John Grisham novel. I fell in love with books as a result. For one birthday, my parents took me to a Barnes & Noble and told me to pick out as many books as I wanted within a certain budget. It was the best birthday ever. I am always reading books today because of my parents’ wonderful examples.
6. It’s Okay to Be Alone
My parents rarely, if ever, criticized me for wanting to go on long runs or bike rides. They also didn’t mind me sitting in my bedroom for hours reading, writing, or watching films. I appreciated the isolation and quiet that came from the time I spent working out or directing my energy into constructive activities. They never hovered, and this taught me that it was okay to be alone and work out my problems by myself. It was lonely at times, but it helped me because I tend to react better to my mistakes when there’s no one to tell me how foolish they were.
7. Buy Used Cars Until You Can Afford to Buy New
I bought my first car for $200. I’ve never spent more than $8,000 for a vehicle, and most of the ones I’ve owned have been reliable. My dad taught me to avoid new cars because, as a young man, I simply couldn’t afford them. I would let someone richer or more interested in going into debt buy a new car and then sell it to me a few years later at a steep discount on what they paid for it. I plan to hold onto my current used car for as long as I can then buy another one until I reach the point that I’m financially stable enough to purchase a new car in cash. That day isn’t too far off.
8. Avoid Debt
It wasn’t so much that my parents specifically told me to avoid debt, but life just kind of happened in a way that powerfully taught that lesson to me. When I was about 10 years old my dad lost his job and he went without steady work for somewhere close to a year. That was a rough time. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for my parents. We had a few family councils about it, but I never knew their exact financial situation, nor would I have been able to fully appreciate it at the time. All I knew was that my mom and dad were worried. I wanted to avoid moments of extreme stress like that, which is why I’ve always tried to avoid debt and save up a lot of money as a buffer between me and financial destruction. It’s given me peace of mind and saved me from a lot of unnecessary stress.
9. You Control Yourself and No One Else
This should be common sense, but it was a profound lesson to my young mind when I realized that I could only control myself and no one else. I was the subject of much ridicule from a few bullies at my elementary school. It was miserable. But over the years my parents kept trying to hammer into my brain the fact that no one woke up in the morning excited at the prospect of ruining my day. Other people had their own concerns and hopes. I just needed to go about my day without worrying about what others chose to do. If they wanted to make fun of me, they were free to do so, and I was free to ignore them. Eventually, they realized I wasn’t any fun to try to hurt, so they stopped. It was a painful lesson, but I’m grateful my parents helped me to learn it.
10. Learn from Your Siblings
I am the seventh of nine kids. I’ve got four kids of my own right now, and I’m absolutely amazed that my parents managed to raise more than double that. Anyway, as one of the younger kids in my family, I got to see a lot of the choices my older siblings made as they entered adulthood. Some choices have brought them great joy while others led to heartache. Saddened by some of the things they saw, my parents encouraged me to learn from my siblings’ examples and always aim for happiness. All of my siblings have turned out quite well, and I don’t intend to compare myself to them. I’ve simply tried to be really wise in the woman I married and in my education and career. I’ve lucked out in all of them. I am grateful to my siblings for everything I have learned from them as we have all tried to find our paths in life.
I love my mom and dad. I will always be grateful to them for all that they have given me. And I’m thankful that they have lived long enough to see how successful they were as parents. Their children have all gone on to have productive, happy lives thanks in large part to their guidance. I can only hope that my wife and I will be as good a mother and father to our children as my mother and father were to me.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.