5 Lessons I Learned from My Father

As I write this, on February 22nd, it would have been my Dad’s 69th birthday. It’s been 6.5 years since he died and I still miss him. I imagine I always will.

Grief is an interesting emotion – unlike anger and fear, which seem to pass relatively quickly and easily (you get mad, you do something about it, done; you’re afraid, you face your fear, and let whatever happens happen), grief seems to come in waves. Sometimes you can see the tides of grief coming, sometimes you can’t. This one hit me by surprise as I’m usually not that affected by his birthday as I am by his favorite holiday – Christmas – and the anniversary of his death – October 29th. But this year, I sat with my tears and let the memories flow in.

My father was not without faults, no one is, but it seems fitting to talk about some of those memories and the lessons I learned from him today. I share them with you in the hopes that you’ll be reminded of what your loved ones mean to you and what you’ve learned from them.

  1. Be selective about who you let into your world, but be willing to move heaven and earth for them – having lost his own father at an early age, my Dad had to become the “man of the house” when he was 12 years old. A few years later, his favorite uncle died. From these experiences, he learned to closely guard his heart – he was afraid of getting hurt again. Of losing who he loved most. But he also learned that time was precious; that there may not be a tomorrow. So if my Dad let you in, really and truly let his walls down for you, consider yourself lucky (I’m very much like him in that regard), but once you were in… he would do whatever it took to make you happy, to share a little slice of his world with you. I think there is wisdom in that. You don’t want to let just anyone into your heart – at least, I don’t. But those in your inner circle are more valuable than gold. So be generous with your time, energy, and your love with them.
  2. Stand firm for what you believe in – as he got older, my father became invested in using his resources wisely. Having worked in construction his entire life, he saw how much we took for granted, how much we wasted. He started planting trees and building eco-friendly office building – reusing as many materials as he could. Yes, this was sometimes more costly, but the Earth and its limited resources were too valuable for him to throw away. He believed that in his heart and did what he could to renew some of the resources that he and the generations before him destroyed.
  3. If you want to achieve something, don’t give up – a self-made man, my father knew success and failure. His company made millions and lost even more. There were years growing up that we were rolling in the dough and years where we were practically bankrupt. But he never gave up on his dream. He believed in his vision; in himself. He took pride in what a little boy from Arkansas was able to achieve on a wing and a prayer and a whole lot of faith.
  4. Keep moving forward – my Dad was a runner – I got that from him, but he stopped running in his 40s and the poor diet and lack of exercise quickly caught up with him. A man who once ran marathons had trouble climbing a flight of stairs. We were talking about this about a year before he died. He looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t stop running.” He meant that literally and figuratively. On the literal side of things, he saw that I was healthy and wanted me to stay that way – he didn’t want me to make the choices he did and suffer for it. But, more importantly, he meant that forward progress, no matter how small, is still forward progress. There may be days when your dream of being a New York Times Best Selling author (or whatever your big dream is) seems fleeting, intangible. Yet, if you do nothing, you will surely fail. Instead, write that chapter, paragraph, sentence, word. Do something – anything – just keep moving forward.
  5. Keep the peace – Richard Carlson once said, “Choose being kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time.” In a field where egos ruled and mere dollars could make or break a deal, my father excelled at keeping everyone at the table feeling satisfied and that their opinions mattered. He didn’t sacrifice his principles, but he was a diplomat. He knew – long before his daughter became a psychologist – that relationships were important. More important than “sealing the deal.”

What lessons have you learned from your loved ones that you’d like to share with us? Comment below.



  • I lost my father and recently my mother. Navigating life without my parents is definitely new terrain. I was blessed to have parents that were truly amazing, loving and the epitome of unconditional love. I learned many things from them both, especially the importance of not only allowing your children to be who they are, to love them and let them know that they are loved always…no matter what.

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder and tribute you shared of your dad. 😉

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