The 30 Most Useful Lessons We Learned From Our Dads
Always finish your beer, son.
There are a few fundamental differences between your dad and the Star Wars Jedi master Yoda. For one thing, your dad is taller. His skin is probably not green. It’s unlikely he has long pointy ears and lives on a swamp planet. But most importantly, he’s much smarter than Yoda. Yes, smarter.
Yoda only had a handful of things to teach us. “Do or do not, there is no try.” That was… a little passive-aggressive, but okay. Your dad—all of our dads, really—are like geysers of knowledge and life lessons. And it wasn’t just the things they said to us. Sometimes their wisdom was imparted by example. You can learn an awful lot about life by just watching how your dad behaves. Here are 30 of the most useful (but by no means only) lessons we learned from our fathers, which we spend every day trying to live up to. And speaking of great dads: If you want to give your dad an amazing Father’s Day gift, check out the 20 Best Ways to Give Your Dad the Gift of Time.
Never wear a clip-on tie.
Clip-on ties are for adolescents. With a little practice, you should be able to put on a real necktie in under a minute, without even looking in the mirror. If you don’t know how to do this yet, please just ask Dad.
Ask more questions.
And not just at teachers, bosses, and tech support. In general, in any adult conversation, you should be asking more than you answer. Everybody in the world seems to think they’re an expert; few are. And for more life lessons, check out the 50 Things No Man Over 40 Should Ever Say.
Laugh at yourself.
Only a true buffoon has never laughed at his own reflection. When Dad was the first one to crack up at his own mistakes, it gave the rest of us permission to let down our guard a little and stop being so terrified of being less than perfect. If need more help here, see the 30 Hilarious Jokes No One Is Too Old to Laugh At.
Get your oil changed or suffer the consequences.
If Dad told you to get it changed every 3,000 miles, he was probably using old information. According to many reliable sources, with modern cars you can usually wait between 7,500 and 10,000 miles. But Dad was right about the importance of an oil change. Get familiar with your car’s dipstick and use it often.
Bruises and scabs are proof that you’re doing life right.
A little blood never killed anybody (emphasis on “little”). If you fall and scrape your knee, it can hurt like nobody’s business. But that black and blue mark or nasty looking scab should be celebrated as a badge of honor. It means you’re not afraid to jump into the action, and not just sit on the sidelines where it’s safe. Dad is proud of you.
Date out of your league.
Whatever your sexual orientation, always ask out someone you think is prettier or more handsome than you. The worst they’re going to say is no.
How do you think Dad ended up with Mom? He took a chance with the prettiest girl in the room. And for more relationship advice, here are 17 Things Men Wish Women Knew.
Changing a flat tire isn’t rocket science.
It can be terrifying the first time you get a flat tire, especially if you’re alone and it’s nighttime and you’re in the middle of nowhere. Just take a deep breath and remember what Dad told you. When you get that tire changed, all by yourself, just like he taught you, you’ll realize it wasn’t such a big deal after all.
Start saving with your first paycheck.
That includes your first paper route or after-school job. Sure, retirement seems like another lifetime away. But just having a small savings account set aside, in case (heaven forbid) anything should go wrong, will put you at an advantage over everybody else on the planet. For help saving, see the 20 Easy Ways to Stop Wasting Money.
Respect your mom.
Seriously. Even if you sometimes get angry at her—or she drives you crazy with some of her comments—she always deserves your utmost respect and unconditional love. Period.
Never judge a book by its cover.
Dad had a funny way of letting other people reveal who they were to him rather than make knee-jerk assumptions about their character after the first handshake. Everybody deserves the chance to explain themselves.
Have high quality tools so you only have to buy them once.
Some things should always be bought on discount, like batteries and light bulbs. But Dad never cheaped out on his tools. If you’re going to sink your money into anything, it should probably be a circular saw or table saw that’s going to last for decades, or a durable, high-quality multi-tool that will always work like a boss no matter how often you put it to the test.
Life doesn’t owe you a thing.
If you want a dependable paycheck, there’s one way to get it. You go out and you find a good job and you show up for work every day and you’re thankful for every paycheck. Life owes you nothing, and that includes free room and board at your dad’s house for the rest of your life.
Politics and family don’t mix.
It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about your personal political beliefs, nobody needs to hear them (or more accurately, be lectured about them) over an otherwise friendly family dinner. Whether your dad talked too much about politics or kept his opinions to himself, we learned from the best that the smart move is always to shut your trapper.
With everything. Other people. A DIY project that isn’t going like you planned. Your kids. Your career. Whatever it is that you wish would just hurry up already and do what you want. Breathe, grasshopper.
It’s always more satisfying if you build it yourself.
Dad didn’t build the treehouse in your backyard because it was easy. He could have picked up a pre-made one at any box hardware store. But when you build something yourself, with your own sweat and making your own mistakes, it’s always so much more gratifying in the end.
Write everything down.
Memory is fleeting, and the little moments you don’t think matter today are going to be so significant when you get older. Write down the happy times, keep a journal or just jot down a funny, sweet exchange with a friend or loved one that you don’t want to forget. A wise father has boxes full of letters and journals, notes and lists that he wants to be reminded of tomorrow. And for more ways to maximize your time with pops, here are 30 Things Every Guy Should Do with Their Father.
Luck favors the prepared.
You can’t force good luck, but you can be ready when it comes. When opportunity knocks, are you going to have your suitcase packed and best suit on? Dad never expected life to always go his way, but he sure as heck was ready when it did.
Mowing the lawn isn’t a chore, it’s a form of meditation.
There are chores in this world, and then there’s mowing your lawn. If you pay neighborhood kids to do it for you, you’re a sucker missing out on one of life’s perfect moments of inner peace. You mow a lawn like a Buddhist meditates.
Hold doors open for everyone. Yes, even for that guy.
It’s not just about the chivalry of holding a door for a lady. It’s about having the manners to be that polite to anyone — a man, woman, or child. Dad didn’t check to see if the person behind him was wearing a skirt before he held the door for them. Neither should you.
Stay out of the sun.
Not all the time. A little Vitamin D from the sun will do your body good. But sitting out until you roast is just a terrible idea that’s going to come back and haunt you down the line. Unless you want to hear the story about your dad’s skin cancer scare again, heed his words of warning.
Never assume you’re the smartest person in the room.
First of all, you’re probably not. The smartest person in any room is never the one who thinks they are. But more importantly, you can learn something from anybody. If you really are the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.
Always look a person in the eye.
It’s not just being respectful. You can learn something about a person by making eye contact with them. Just don’t turn it into a staring contest. You’re not trying to intimidate them, just make a real connection and let them know that you’re actually listening.
Nice guys don’t finish last.
Sorry, that old urban myth about nice guys isn’t true. It’s not nice guys who finish last, it’s boring guys.
Buy a plunger before you need a plunger.
You remember how dad taught you to be prepared for good fortune? It’s also important to be prepared for the bad stuff. Like an overflowing toilet that just won’t stop. That’s no time to be making an emergency run to the hardware store.
Fake it till you make it.
You don’t have to be the most experienced person to seize an opportunity. Confidence will take you a long way, and the only way to get experience is by, well, getting experience. If you’re worried about falling flat on your face and making a fool of yourself, please consult lesson #3 again.
The first one to get angry loses.
No one has ever won an argument by screaming the loudest. They may think they have, but they’re just fooling themselves. Think about the times with your dad when he changed your mind or made you reconsider your choices. Odds are, he was talking in a calm, thoughtful voice. Nobody’s mind has ever been changed by a loudmouth.
There’s always somebody having a worse day than you.
You don’t even have to look that far to find them. Just pay attention to the world around you and you’ll see a sea of people who are suffering in ways you can’t imagine. Dad was probably the first one to point out a homeless person to you, and remind you to count your blessings.
Never leave a pint unfinished.
You’re never in such a hurry that you can’t take that one last sip. Leaving a pint with even a centimeter of beer is like returning a gallon of milk to the refrigerator with just a splash left. You’re a monster.
Always go out in public dressed like you might accidentally run into your soulmate.
He or she might be out there, and today might be the day you meet them. Worst case, you just took a little extra time to care about your appearance and presented your best face to the outside world. There are no losers in that scenario.
Family is everything.
When you’re with family, turn off your phone, put down the cable remote, and wait till tomorrow to return that text to your BFF. You don’t always have to enjoy your family, but these people, for better or worse, are your blood, your history, the bedrock of everything you’ve become and could be. Follow your dad’s lead and be present and tolerant with your family.
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