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My Lifes Greatest Lesson Essays

“No matter how far we come, our parents are always in us.” ― Brad Meltzer

This weekend, my mother celebrates her 60th birthday. In two months, my father will celebrate his 60th as well. Unfortunately, the miles separate us. And I regret not being able to be there to celebrate with them.

My mother and father have been wonderful parents to me. They have worked hard to provide a stable foundation for my life and future. They have taught me invaluable lessons about work, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. And to celebrate their 60th birthday, I thought I would use this public forum to give them the praise they deserve.

60 Life Lessons I Learned from my Parents

• Admit mistakes. It would be foolish for me to claim my parents have been perfect. They aren’t. But when they make a mistake, they humbly admit it. And work to fix it.

• Appreciate teachers. My mom worked a number of jobs while I was growing up ― including being a teacher. From her, I learned to appreciate the time, energy, commitment, and care that teachers show every day.

• Assist your neighbor whenever possible. Everywhere I’ve lived, my parents knew our neighbors. More importantly, they recognized their needs and assisted when possible.

• Attend church. Worship has always been important to my family. Then and now.

• Be a good friend to find a good friend. Healthy friends cultivate healthy friendships. And my parents taught and modeled what it means to be a good friend to others.

• Be content with little. There were numerous times growing up when money was tight. Nevertheless, my parents were content in it.

• Be content with much. There were also times when the bank accounts were healthy. Even more impressive, my parents were content then as well.

• Be open to criticism. We never stop learning, growing, and changing. My mother and father were always open to being challenged in new ways.

• Be quick to help. If a need in the community was articulated, my parents were among the first to be there. They set a healthy example from the very beginning that life is not all about getting… it’s about giving.

• Care about the right things. Our lives and resources are finite. And you just can’t care about everything. Seek to care about the right things.

• Care for the fatherless. My parents provide, protect, and care for the orphan and the fatherless. And if there is a greater compliment to be given, I’m not sure what it is.

• Celebrate holidays with family. Even when we lived far away from extended family, I always remember making it home for the holidays as a kid. And as an adult, I still do.

• Choose the narrow path. Many will choose the broad, well-trodden path. My parents never did. Their values always dictated their decisions even when they were unpopular.

• Come home for lunch. I distinctly remember my dad coming home from work each day for lunch―usually for a hot dog on bread with chips. Let me repeat that, I always remember my dad coming home from work for lunch.

• Commit to your spouse. My parents have remained faithful to each other in every possible way for 40 years. I can’t thank them enough.

• Compete but remain fair. Competition runs deep in our family. But so does fairness. And I’d hate to have the first without the second.

• Concern your life with more than money. My mother and father always concerned themselves with greater pursuits than money.

• Disagree humbly. Nobody gets it right every time. I’m glad I learned from them the importance of being able to disagree with genuine humility… sometimes I wish I learned this even more.

• Discipline is a virtue. Self-discipline ought not be feared, but nurtured.

• Don’t fear change. My family moved a number of times while I was growing up  (5-6 times before graduating high school). Through the experience and their example, my parents taught me never to fear it.

• Don’t look for wealth in money. True wealth is never measured on a bank statement. And they never evaluated theirs by the number of zeros printed on it.

• Eat cereal for dinner. Not sure why we had cereal every Sunday night for dinner… but surely, that’s where I learned it.

• Education is worth pursuing. My mom and dad had twin sons while still in college. They both graduated. Well done.

• Express gratitude. Gratitude is a discipline best experienced in both the good times and the bad. My parents displayed it regardless of external factors.

• Forgive quickly. Wrongs happen and mistakes are made. Sometimes, those decisions hurt. But not granting forgiveness only harms yourself.

• Get on the floor with your kids. My dad worked hard. But when he would come home, he would get on the floor and play with his kids. If I haven’t said it yet, “Thank you.”

• Have an opinion. You can always count on my mom to have an opinion. And thankfully so. She taught me the value of forming one.

• Invite others. My family always sought to include others into our plans and lives. From them, I’ve learned the value of this simple question, “Would you like to come with us?” Our world needs more people like that.

• Laugh often. 

• And then laugh some more. Needless to say, I love the culture of joy my parents established in our home.

• Learn from others. My parents never considered themselves so above someone else that they couldn’t learn something new from them. And I’ve always appreciated that trait.

• Live in Aberdeen, SD. We moved a number of times growing up. But somehow, my parents always returned to Aberdeen, SD… and that’s where they continue to live today. Know that I look forward to visiting home again soon.

• Live within your income. My parents always made adjustments in their spending based on their income. They taught me the value of frugality when necessary. But more importantly, they taught me the joy of living within my means.

• Love conversation. Both my mom and dad excel in the gift of conversation. They use both their ears and their mouth during communication. And evenings spent in the living room talking about life pass too quickly.

• Love is best spoken and shown. Words are important. But so are actions. My parents express love using both.

• Love your work. Both my mom and my dad love their work. It’s no coincidence that I do too.

• Overcome difficulties. This world isn’t easy. And our lives are defined by how we respond in adversity. The greatest among us overcome trials and seek to learn from them.

• Pack an afternoon snack. My dad also taught me the value of a fun-size Snickers bar in the afternoon.

• Parenting matters. Stephanie Martson once said, “Everything our children hear, see, and feel is recorded onto a cassette. Guess who is the big star in their movie? You are.” The lives we live and the decisions we make absolutely matter in the worldview of our children.

• Play athletics. I learned to love sports from my dad.

• Play board games. But I learned to love board games from my mom.

• Practice generosity. Give your life and resources to others as much and as often as you can. They need your help. Your kids need the example. And you need the practice even more than them.

• Remain honest. It’s no great accomplishment to be honest when it is easy. But our true appreciation of honesty is displayed when it is difficult. And a truly honest man or woman is hard to find these days. I’m so glad to have two in my life.

• Respect character. Your character is of far more value than anything you can sell it for. Don’t trade it for something foolish like money, fame, power, sex, or the entire world.

• Rise early. I have vivid memories of playing basketball with my father at 6am before school would start. Great memories. But an even greater example.

• Schedule rest. As long as I can remember, my mother and father have taken naps on Sunday afternoons. They were probably just tired. But for me, it became a healthy model of appreciating both hard work and scheduled rest.

• Seek God. Some people choose to reject God. Others choose to ignore Him. My parents taught me to seek Him. And as the old saying goes, “If you seek, you will find.”

• Serve others. As I learned from them in both word and deed, life is bigger than yourself. And truest life, fulfillment, meaning, and joy is found in the service of others.

• Study words. My mother loves games that value words: Scrabble, Boggle, even Words with Friends. And even to this day, unless I cheat, I am unable to beat her.

• Take care of the elderly. The sunset is no less beautiful than the sunrise. I’m grateful for parents who see the beauty in young children, but I am also grateful for parents who have stood by those at the end of their life as well.

• Track spending. My dad is a banker with a mind for numbers. As a result, I can’t possibly remember the complicated system that he used to track our family’s budget… nobody else could either. But what I did learn is the importance of tracking dollars and developing budgets. And I’ll take that any day.

• Trust others. I learned optimism from my parents. They live their lives seeing the good in others and trusting them because of it. They taught me it is better to trust and get burnt once in awhile than to live your entire life suspicious of everyone around you.

• Use your talents. As I mentioned, my dad is a financial guy and my mom is a gifted teacher and trainer. Apart from their careers, they often use their talents in various community-based organizations to better the lives of others. They recognize their gifts and utilize them whenever possible.

• Vacations don’t have to be expensive. We went on summer vacations almost every summer growing up. And while a few of them required a significant financial investment, most of them didn’t. But we enjoyed all of them regardless of the destination (except for maybe the drive through the Colorado mountains without an air conditioner…).

• Value children. Both my mother and father love children and continue to invest their lives into kids. As a matter of act, even at age 60, you can still find my dad on the floor playing with his grand-kids.

• Value education. The ability to learn is a gift and a responsibility. My parents taught us early not to take it for granted.

• Value family. I’m so thankful to have grown up in a family that was filled with love, care, and joy. If you did not, seek to develop those attributes in your own life/family today. I can attest that your kids will forever thank you for it.

• Volunteer. Give freely to your community. Your gift is needed. And it makes the world a better place for everyone.

• Work hard. My parents have not wasted their lives. Their example has taught me the value of working hard and pursuing lasting significance over worldly success.

Mom and Dad, I can’t possibly express how thankful I am for each of you. Happy 60th birthday. Here’s to 60 more.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned in life is to "face your fears." Fears can hold us back from experiencing everything that life has to offer. When we give into fear we limit ourselves. We think we can do only this—go only that far—but no more.

My fear was a fear of failure. I was so afraid that I would fail that I failed to take action. This was a self-fulfilling cycle that kept me from achieving goals that I had in my business and personal life. I was so paralyzed by fear that I did nothing. I would get excited to do something, and get ready to do it—and then the fear would take over and I would quit.

How did I overcome this fear? Phil Keogan, host of the popular TV show, "The Amazing Race," states in his book, No Opportunity Wasted, that "to attack this fear you must first ask yourself a simple question: how do I define success and failure?"

When we define or goals in absolute terms, all-or-nothing, winner-takes-all, it can be overwhelming. I had a fear of failure in launching an online business. My goal was to make $10,000 a month—that is an unrealistic goal for someone just starting out.

I redefined success as being able to generate $300 a month. This was an attainable goal. Once I hit this goal, I aimed higher. The great thing was I was no longer afraid to try. My defining success in realitic terms I was able to take that first step. The saying is true - the first step is the hardest!

By facing my fear of failure through redefining success I was able to grow in my persoanlly life. This growth has enabled me to overcome my fear of spiders and I am working on my fear of heights. Will I go sky-diving this summer? No I am defining success over fear of heights as climbing my ladder and cleaning my gutters. I can do it! Then perhaps I will work up to sky diving!

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