The 9 best pieces of advice my father gave me

Here’s the thing about fatherly advice. For the most part, kids don’t want to hear it and don’t listen at the time it’s being given. The great thing is that, just because we don’t listen, dads don’t stop giving it. And slowly, slowly, some of it starts to sink in.

My dad was no different and it’s only now that I’m an adult with a kid of my own that truly appreciate how dad’s advice set me up to deal with the ups and downs of life. 

Here are 9 of the best pieces of advice he ever gave me.  I’m already starting to pass it on to my own kid. He doesn’t listen, but hopefully one day he will!

1) Treat everyone with respect
Dad taught me to treat everyone, from the headmaster to the garbage man, with the same level of respect. Aside from the fact that it’s just nice to be nice, treating everyone well is good for business. In my days as a rep, I quickly learned that receptionists were the gateway to the decision makers, and remembering their name, or asking about their weekend went a long way.

2) Put your brain in first gear before you speak
I remember Dad saying this to me a lot, so I obviously had a habit of sharing stream of consciousness thoughts! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much better at implementing a 5-second delay and asking if expressing that thought is really valuable or helpful. Seven times out of ten it’s not!

3) Determination trumps God-given talent, every time.
I followed in the footsteps of a very gifted older brother, which left me feeling somewhat less than. My dad taught me the power of persistence and it’s a trait that has served me better than any innate talent.  I’m a testament to the fact that anyone can succeed if they have someone who believes in them and encourages them to keep trying, no matter what.

4) How to visually record information
Like many creative people, I understand and process information visually. My dad is an engineer and an artist, and I think he was probably the same.  When it came to studying for exams he taught me how to record the information visually on a huge sheet of paper, so when it came to recalling the information, I could pull up that visual in my mind and access the information I needed that way. It really worked.I have since learned the mind-mapping technique, which is the same principle, which I use to define goals, set priorities and create action steps for each goal.  If you think the mind-mapping technique would help you, check out this post and learn how it’s done.

5) How to overcome fear-induced paralysis
I used to get terribly nervous before exams. Dad taught me that when you’re in a state of fear, you can’t think or perform.  Here’s how he helped me manage that:

  • Be prepared.  I’m always amazed when people don’t prepare adequately before tests, presentations or talks. Practice, practice and practice some more. When you know you’ve got the content down you can relax.
  • Stop working on it at least a few hours before you go in. Looking at your notes right before you make the presentation or take the test only gets you worked up.  That time would be better spent getting your head in the right place and visualizing a great outcome.
  • Rest the night before, drink lots of water, lay off the caffeine and sugar and don’t go in on a completely full stomach (you want your blood pumping to your brain, not your belly). Brains work MUCH better when our body is happy.

6) It’s only a failure if you didn’t give it your best shot
As you’ve probably gathered, I wasn’t the best performer in exams. I came through when it counted, but I had plenty of close calls before that.  My dad always told me that if he knew I’d tried my best, he wouldn’t be upset at the result. If I didn’t give it my best shot…..well that was a different story!

7) Do what you love
I was not one of those people who knew from an early age what I wanted to do and, frankly, it stressed me out. My dad encouraged me to look at my natural gifts, such as empathy and being able to relate to just about anyone, and think of careers that worked with those talents.  Ideas such as teacher, social worker and PR and marketing were all floated.  I will be forever grateful that they didn’t try to push me and let things unfold in their own sweet time.

8) The power of community
My parents are church going people (though my dad always describes himself as “religious with a little ‘r’) and my dad was active in the church and community. If an old lady needed a stair lift installing, dad was there. When his friend, who died of cancer in his early 30’s, needed his car adapting to his new needs, dad was there. They’re now in their 70’s and have the best group of friends anyone could ask for and, frankly, they put my social life to shame!

9) A little faith goes a long way
By his own example, Dad showed me that having faith makes life a whole lot easier.  Religion doesn’t have to be your thing, but believing that something larger than us is at work, and that everything is always going to work out, sure does take the pressure off.

What great advice did your dad give you?  Please share your favorite or funniest ones below, I’d love to hear them!


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