4 Life Lessons for My Kids as They Enter into Adulthood
And anyone else willing to listen (or in this case…read)
I can safely write that I probably don’t have access to a time machine.
“Probably” because I’ve never asked anyone I know if they owned one — so I honestly can’t be sure. Lacking the ability to travel into the past, writing a message to my younger self article doesn’t seem worthwhile. However, I’ve been blessed with three awesome kids, so I’ve decided to address these thoughts to them.
Hopefully, they’ll take some of the advice being doled out by their old man.
Here are four life lessons for my kids (and anyone else interested in doing some light reading).
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
There is a common misnomer about mistakes that we should strive for perfection and avoid making mistakes at every corner. Do the opposite:
“Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody has ever made before. Do not freeze, do not stop, do not worry. Whatever you are scared of doing, do it.”
— Neil Gaiman
Be willing to make mistakes of all sizes. If you are not making mistakes, then you are not taking chances. Complacency will not improve your station — it simply won’t. Fear of failure can be debilitating if you allow it. Please don’t allow it.
Here’s the dirty little secret about mistakes — whether or not you want it to happen, they will come. However, very few (if any) are of the “I can’t come back from that one” type.
The trick is to learn from your mistakes. Grow from them, and learn not to make them a second time.
Furthermore, please don’t dwell on your mistakes when you make them. Learn from them and move on.
Tomorrow is a new day.
FOMM (Fear of Making a Mistake) has kept many people from living their best lives. Don’t fall into that trap.
Own your mistakes. Understand mistakes are a part of growing, of learning. Forgive yourself for making them and move on.
Forget about what other people have
Own your life without worrying about the lives of others. If you are not where you want to be, begin the work to make the change. However, get out of the habit of belittling your station as you make the journey.
Having (what you think is) less than them does not make you less than them.
True satisfaction comes from enjoying the things you have. Remember, it’s just stuff — don’t let having or not having it dictate your happiness.
Buy a crappy car, pay cash for it and drive that sucker until it doesn’t move another inch. It isn’t easy to do because the reality of life is your first impression status is often determined by the type of car you drive. The trick is to get past that and not care what other people think about the way you get from point A to B.
No matter what you pay for your car, whether it’s the 50 thousand dollar brand new off-the-lot jobbie or the 600 dollar 25-year old Ford truck, the reality is at some point, the value is going to match. They will both be $0.
Don’t allow your ego to put you into debt over a car that will force you to make large sum payments for a bunch of years when you can buy a less externally fantastic daily driver and put the savings in a litany of other directions.
It doesn’t have to be a car — it can be anything.
Don’t play the unwinnable game of comparing your life to others. In your mind, you will come up on the short end nearly every time. The issues you have with their prosperity are yours, not theirs.
Not having ‘things’ doesn’t make you any less than those who do. It only shows that your priorities aren’t the same as theirs. Instead, focus on what matters to you and what you can control — practice gratitude.
The sad fact is the only one who benefits from your need to ‘keep up’ with others is the company happily taking your money.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
— Nelson Mandela
This statement doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go to college. Learn a skill, become great at it, and get paid for doing it.
Don’t worry about what other people think. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter.
Your choices are yours to make. Not everyone will agree with your decisions, but they aren’t living your life. This goes double for the people in your social circle. Odds are, the people you consider friends at this point of your life will eventually go off and do their own thing. People grow apart as they grow older. It is just a fact of life.
Be a person who loves to learn. Take classes, read books, have in-depth conversations about subjects you know little about.
Be happy, but also get an education.
Knowledge is power.
One Sunday morning a few years ago, while we were visiting your great-grandfather at the farm, he and I got the chance to talk briefly. I mentioned how “big” each of you had become and that it seemed like only yesterday you’d come home from the hospital.
He turned, smiled, and said something I’ll never forget, “It’s interesting. It felt like it took forever to make it to my eighteenth birthday. However, I went from eighteen to eighty in the blink of an eye. Enjoy it because before you know it, you’re an old man.”
Make sure you experience everything life has to offer. One day it will be over.
When your time comes (far into the future and well after I’m gone), my wish for each of you is you’ll go into the next life without regrets. Some responsibilities come with adulthood, but don’t let them get in the way of living your life.
If you want to travel when you’re young, you should travel.
If you want to fall in love with the girl of your dreams, have three incredible kids, and move to a townhouse in MN, you should do that.
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
— Mae West
Experience all of it. Go all in.
To my kids (and anyone else reading):
I know what you’re thinking. Dad, you’re a dork — stop doing these life lesson things with us. Well, you’re right, I am somewhat dorky (but in a secretly incredible and kick butt way), but I’m going to keep having these little talks now and then in the hope that one or two stick.
Here’s the deal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized each day is a gift, even though it doesn’t always feel like it. To fully appreciate it, though, you need to live your unique version of the best life. Be you, not what they expect you to be.
Experience all of it. Go all in.