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Sunday, June 19, 2005

A Father's advice to his sons

UPDATE:  I've written a followup to this piece after receiving some important feedback.  After reading the following, please follow the link to part two.

Fa I wrote this for my oldest son two years ago as he went off to college.  I'm dusting it off now that son number 2 has graduated from high school and is less than two months from leaving for college as well. 

It chokes me up to think about it. 

Nevertheless... one more time for my boys...

    35 Things I’ve learned over the years (not in any particular order)…

    1) You’re likely to meet your future wife in the coming 4 years.  Choose wisely.  If she’s anything like your Mom, don’t let her go.  They simply don’t come any better than that.

    2) Call your Mom regularly.  It’s something that will make her very happy.  Make her happy by calling her, even if it’s just to say hello.

    3) Email us both – it’s a way of honoring your parents.

    4) I don’t know it all… and when I think I do I find out how little I really do know.

    5) When things seem to be really bad, they usually aren’t… just wait a little while, it’ll get better.  Trust me.  Better yet, trust God.

    6) Christians will let you down.  It’s a fact of life.  Christ won’t.  It may seem so at times, but it’ll get better.

    7) You’re likely not going to have the desire to find a decent church.  Remember that you are the church, it’s not necessarily a building.  God is with you at all times.  Talk to Him.  Develop that as a habit.  Prayer doesn’t have to be with eyes closed and hands clasped.  Thinking thoughts directed at Him are prayer.  Pray often.

    8) Organized religion is a mess.  This does not however diminish your need for God.

    9) You will be tempted like you’ve never been tempted before.  It takes character, lots of it, to not succumb.  You have a very large reservoir of character.  Don’t forget it.  Tap into it at every turn.

    10) Following the leader without asking questions is usually followed by trouble.  Be a leader.  It’s harder yes, but it’s more rewarding and much less likely to get you into trouble that you have no control over.

    11) You will occasionally (sometimes more than occasionally) have to do things you don’t want to do.  Just don’t let it become a career.

    12) You’ll face many decisions in the coming months, even years.  Think through them.  Acting without thinking usually ends badly.

    13) I’ve found that doing things just for the money has short-term benefits.  You’ll have more money.  That’s it.  I’ve also found that the contentment is short-lived.  If you’re going to do something for a long period of time, your heart has to be in it.  Or you’re going to be miserable.

    14) Working hard sometimes seems futile.  Be persistent in your hard work.  It does pay off in the long haul.

    15) Don’t cut corners or take short cuts in your work or in your studies.  Don’t just do that which is easy.  Try hard.  Do that which is hard. It does eventually get noticed and does produce results.

    16) Sitting near the front in class is likely to help you pay attention.  Sitting in the back has the opposite effect.  Sit wisely.

    17) Read, read, read.  New stuff.  Old stuff. All kinds of stuff.  The more you read, the better prepared you’ll be, the better you’ll be able to communicate, the better you’ll do in school (and in life).

    18) True independence is achieved when you’re no longer dependent on anyone else.  Seems logical right?  But remember that we’ll always depend on God.

    19) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  I was paralyzed for too long because I didn’t want to screw up.  I’ve learned since that I learn best from my mistakes.  This can be painful but usually only in the short term.  No pain, no gain.

    20) Alcohol can kill you.  Either quickly (binge drinking) or slowly (alcoholism).  Kirsch’s (your band teacher’s) advice is good.  Moderation is key. And drinking alone is usually an indication of trouble.

    21) You come from a conservative family.  Your values are largely conservative.  Those values will be under attack at school, by your professors, by fellow students.  Think with an open mind but not so open that your brain falls out.  Liberalism can be trouble.   It’s good to hear the opposing perspective.  It’s better to read those who can defend the conservative perspective.  They’re out there but you have to look for them. Have liberal friends however.  They keep you sharp.

    22) Beware of pop culture.  It’s faddish and shallow.

    23) When things aren’t going well in a relationship, ask yourself if you’re really listening to the other person.  I’m a lousy listener…  not just hearing someone but listening…  hearing has to do with noise, listening has to do with understanding.    You can hear without listening.

    24) Words are killers.  I’ve ‘killed’ with my words.  Choose them wisely.  Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, you can’t get it back in.  Think before speaking.  I tend to speak before thinking.  And it’s hurt people, it’s hurt me. That’s trouble.

    25) Older people aren’t anywhere near as stupid as younger people make them out to be.  Unfortunately, you’re usually an older person before you figure that out.  Figure it out now.  And seek wisdom from older people.  Experience is the best teacher.  Yes, that’s a cliché, but it’s a good one.

    26) Life’s too short to stay mad at family and friends.  You never know when your words to someone may be the last one’s you have with them.  That terrifies me sometimes.  And it should.

    27) Breaking them down into easily handled pieces best solves big problems.  How do you eat an elephant?  Piece by piece.   Don’t be intimidated by the magnitude.  Think through the problem, break it down, plan an action and implement the plan.  And remember number 19.

    28) Keep a journal.  Commit to this task.  It’s amazing to go back and read something you’ve written some time ago.  You’ll learn more about yourself.

    29) Eat right.  Lots of fruit and vegetables.  Avoid what happens to many college kids who gain weight big-time their first and second years away from home.

    30)  Exercise regularly.  It’s easier now to make it a habit than it will be when you’re older.  Trust me on this.

    31) Sometimes, the best thing to do or say in a situation, is absolutely nothing.  I continue to have problems with this yet I do believe it’s true.

    32) Experience is enhanced when that experience is shared with someone you care about.  Whether it’s a sunset, a hike, or a good movie.

    33) Sending Mom a card or an e-mail on her birthday would warm her heart.  Figure out a way to remind yourself of other people’s birthdays.

    34)  Money in hand is money easily spent.  Put yourself on a budget.  Purposely make it inconvenient to get more cash.  You’d be surprised how easily money disappears from your wallet.

    35) Budget your time.  Prioritize where it’s spent.  Time can be spent faster than money can.  And it can be wasted just as much as money can.  And in my view, time is more precious than money.  We have precious few days on this earth.

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