By Derek Neighbors, Published on January 19, 2012
Last night I was completely irresponsible and kept my son up until one in the morning on a school night, hacking on 3D printed models and laser cutting a toy box for them. Today on a road trip across town it reminded me of the countless hours my father spent with me building computers and helping me setup BBS systems, not to mention all the other physical tinkering projects that were not technology related. It made me realize, nearly every advantage I have in life I can directly tie back to the awesomeness of my parents. They weren’t perfect (and still aren’t), but they prepared me for the future in ways they probably don’t even realize.
I regularly feel I am failing to prepare my children for the future. To help me do a better job I have decided to put down the invaluable teachings of my own parents.
Dad thanks for teaching me:
- Nobody ever said life was fair. I must have heard this ten thousand times growing up. I probably hated hearing it 9,999 of those times. This taught me that there are somethings in life you can control. There are somethings in life you can’t control. Spend your time focusing on the things that you can influence, not the ones you can’t. Dwelling, sulking, pissing or moaning about the one’s you can’t is just wasted time you could be spending to stack the deck in your favor on the ones you can. It’s something I now tell my own children regularly.
- Shit in one hand and want in the other, see which one gets fuller faster. This taught me a few things. Most importantly it taught me sitting around and “wanting” something is about as useful as shitting in your own hand. If you want things in life, you are gonna have to get off your ass and work to make them happen. Secondly as I age it has made me realize that material “stuff” isn’t all that rewarding. So constantly thinking about all the stuff you “want” is probably keeping you from the things that ultimately matter the most.
- If it’s worth doing. It’s worth doing right. I hate when you are right. Which is most of the time. This taught me so vividly to have pride in the work that you put your time into. Don’t half ass life. If you can’t care enough to do it well, you probably shouldn’t be doing it all.
- To be insanely curious. You let me know that quitting was bad, but not trying was infinitely worse. It was okay to tear things a part. It was encouraged to take risk in the pursuit of finding something new. Ask questions about everything.
- To swim in the sea of knowledge. You did this by example. You are the most voracious reader I have ever seen. You taught me that if I am idle and there is something to read, read it. Learn from it. Everything is worth learning from. Recently my kids thought I was crazy for checking out 10 items from the library. When I told them we used to leave with fifty plus items on our trips they didn’t believe me that you could even check out that many, but because they are curious, they asked the librarian who confirmed it’s still possible.
- Place matters. Explore your surroundings. I love Arizona. I never understood why you wanted to be a cowboy. Why you had an affinity for the wild west or what motivated you to move here and never leave, but your steadfastness in taking me to off-road, hike, camp and explore everything from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top of the ski resorts in this beautiful place has made a lasting impression. I now worship the sun and crave to be in beauty of Arizona as much as possible. Spending time exploring the United States every summer in an RV taught me to appreciate home even more. I was never left wanting to know what the other side was like. You showed it to me regularly, while teaching me to love Arizona for its own uniqueness.
- To tell stories. I still always wish you would write a book. I am secretly hopeful you have been writing them and hiding them all your life and will leave them as a surprise to us someday when you are gone. This is because you are the most masterful story teller I know. You taught me my own imagination is more powerful than any computer or Hollywood masterpiece. That our ability to construct characters, worlds and stories with passion and emotion is quite possibly the thing that makes us most human.
- If two people are the same, one of them is obsolete. When describing teams in work, play or sports you brought home that trying to be someone else is just stupid and useless. That we each have our strengthens, talents and backgrounds. That they are unique and leveraging them is what provides value when working with others. A basketball team doesn’t need 5 Michael Jordans.
Mom thanks for teaching me:
- To have a sense of humor. You tell the funniest, raunchiest and most playful stories and jokes. You taught me that a life without laughter is a life not worth living. That if you can’t laugh at yourself or with others, that you will be miserable. Discipline and seriousness are important, but without playfulness you have nothing.
- To be proud of who I am. You let me know that if someone doesn’t like you for who you are that it’s their loss. If you have to change who you are to be accepted, you aren’t really accepted. Even when you are nervous and feel inadequate, being yourself builds real relationships. I forget this all the time. I am so grateful I married a woman that is frighteningly authentic and keeps me from not being me when I should know better. Constantly reminding me that being vulnerable and transparent builds deep relationships.
- To be empathetic. You showed me everyone deserves a chance. That we can’t know where someone has been or what they have been through. Give them the benefit of the doubt and extend them the grace you wish people would give you. I can’t count the number of times you went out of your way to make my friends and others feel accepted and taken care of when the people closest to them refused to forgive them.
- We all make mistakes. You let me know that while there may be consequences for your actions, that at the end of the day you would always be there and be accepting. Sharing your own mistakes in life openly and letting us always know that making mistakes is part of living a full life.
- Family matters. Damn we can all hate each other sometimes. You let us all know (and still do) that regardless of how pissed we may be at each other that we are all family. That having deep connections with each other is far more important than the petty shit we end up being mad at each other for. You are the ultimate mediator, always trying to force the family to reconcile its differences.
- To Embrace chaos. Maybe it was the raising of twins, but you always thrived on events that were chaotic. Birthdays, events and gatherings in our house were always one step away from chaos, but it never felt that way because it was normal. Our family was loud and vibrant. Animated and passionate. Full of laughter and mischief. It has taught me to adapt to about anything life throws my way.
- Not to judge people too quickly. You had a knack for finding the best traits in strangers and new acquaintances. Other parents would be focused that the kid smoked, had tattoos, wore pink hair or had a foul mouth. You looked beyond that and got to know them first. You understood they were insanely good at music or wickedly smart. You always saw potential and not faults first.
I am sure I missed a whole lot of other things you both have taught me, but don’t think it is because I didn’t find them valuable. I just haven’t had enough sleep to be mentally astute. Mom and Dad, I hope that I can teach my kids half as much as you have taught me.
So what life advantages have your parents taught you? What are you looking to instill in your families?