55 Things My Dad Taught Me

Today is my dad’s 55th birthday. Over the years, Dad has taught me many lessons — some directly, and some just through example. In honor of his birthday, I’m passing 55 of those life lessons on to you.

life lessons

  1. Treat your spouse with respect.
  2. Work hard. Always.
  3. Try to see the good in people. Even if their lives are messy, there’s bound to be something good within them.
  4. Set high expectations for your kids.
  5. Don’t be afraid of a challenge.
  6. Never stop learning.
  7. Keep your temper in check. Losing it only makes things worse.
  8. Marriage is a commitment. Don’t bail out during the tough times; work through them.
  9. Always pack a jacket.
  10. Keep tire chains in your car — even if that car is a Dodge Neon (this one literally saved my brother’s and my lives one time).
  11. Do little things for your spouse, just to let him/her know you’re thinking of him/her.
  12. Don’t give up on dreams you’ve had for a long time.

    My parents went to Alaska last fall, fulfilling one of my dad's lifelong dreams. This picture is not from that trip. I can't find any of those.
    My parents went to Alaska last fall, fulfilling one of my dad’s lifelong dreams. This picture is not from that trip. I can’t find any of those.
  13. Go to the mountains as much as possible.
  14. You don’t always have to say what you’re thinking.
  15. A long walk can solve a lot of life’s problems.
  16. Always think about how what you’re doing now will affect the future.
  17. Sometimes, a hug is all somebody needs to feel better.
  18. Stick to your values, even if sticking to them is difficult.
  19. Read every chance you get — even if it’s just a few pages here and there.
  20. Buy good shoes. If you buy cheap ones, you’ll get what you pay for.
  21. Expect men to respect you. Get rid of the ones who don’t.
  22. You have to take risks to make gains.
  23. Listen.
  24. Nothing tastes better than a granola bar on a mountaintop.
  25. You can effectively express your thoughts without swearing.
  26. Learn to write legibly. If you don’t, it will frustrate you forever.
  27. Trust in God’s plans.
  28. Check the oil and keep the windows clean.
  29. Appreciate your body and take care of it.
  30. Take the time to enjoy and appreciate nature.
  31. There’s nothing wrong with having a dish of ice cream a couple of times a week.
  32. Don’t separate frozen hamburgers with a paring knife. (Okay, so maybe I taught myself that one, but Dad’s the one who took me to get the ensuing wound stitched up).
  33. Be confident.
  34. Face your fears and overcome them.
  35. Real men can cry.

    We were both crying at this point.
    We were both crying at this point.
  36. Always shake out your irrigating boots before you put them on.
  37. Keep a notepad in your pocket. It serves to record ideas or things you don’t want to forget, and its pages work as a Kleenex in a pinch.
  38. Persistence always pays off.
  39. Always pee when you have the opportunity.
  40. Make stupid jokes and laugh at them.
  41. Wear sunscreen. And a hat. (Although I’m still really bad about the hat thing).
  42. Don’t let people take advantage of you.
  43. Don’t have a discussion when you’re fuming. Cool down first.
  44. Spend as much time as possible with your family.
  45. Spankings can be beneficial.
  46. But for some kids (i.e. Cassie), the phrase “I’m so disappointed in you” stings for far longer than any spanking.
  47. Also tell your kids when you’re proud of them, even for little things. That phrase sticks with them, too.

    This is an awkward picture from my undergrad graduation. My brother, Jordan, and I all graduated the same day... at different times. It had been a long and exhausting day. But Dad still made sure I knew how proud he was.
    This is an awkward picture from my undergrad graduation. My brother, Jordan, and I all graduated the same day… at different times. It had been a long and exhausting day. But Dad still made sure I knew how proud he was.
  48. “Noodle” your finger into the dirt before digging potatoes so you don’t cut any with your shovel.
  49. Be patient.
  50. Help people move when they need help.
  51. A three-minute phone call can make someone feel like the most special person on Earth.
  52. Respect the outdoors: Leave no trace.
  53. You don’t have to drink to have a good time.
  54. Be yourself. If people make fun of you for your values, your habits, or your personality, ignore them.
  55. Use your head. (That’s my dad’s signature phrase, said to us when we definitely weren’t using our heads or when we were leaving the house to go somewhere we’d be tempted not to use our heads. Though it became a family joke, I find myself now telling my students to use their heads.)

Dad has taught me many more lessons, big and small, and I’m sure he’ll continue to teach me many more. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful father!

What are some lessons your dad taught you?

What are some lessons you hope to teach your kids?


14 thoughts on “55 Things My Dad Taught Me”

  1. How sweet. That wedding picture is beautiful and moving. And I totally agree with #15, but if you substitute “run” for “walk,” I would absolutely agree! My dad taught me a lot of soccer and basketball tips that I never followed after age 13. And he absolutely is the reason (for better or worse) I stayed in school so long!

  2. This was so beautiful and touching. I really have learnt alot through my own dad, this really made me think of all the lovely things my dad has taught me. Made me have a little cry too.

  3. Beautiful post!!! Looking back, my father was such an important person in my life and continues to be. My sister and I had a tough childhood and we are extremely grateful for the lesson my father taught us. Even though he thinks he didn’t teach us anything, lol!! I love your dad’s lesson of “you don’t have to drink to have a good time.” Some of my family members are big on drinking and I can’t stand it. They always pick on me but I have so much fun without alcohol. Plus, I don’t get those nasty hangovers 🙂

  4. What a great tribute to your dad. 🙂 It’s nice to see people having close relationships with their parents. My dad demonstrated a strong work ethic his entire life. That is something I will always take away from him- how hard of a worker he is.

  5. This is so beautiful. I love that you were able to come up with 55 things your dad has taught you. My dad will be 68 in November. I may have to copy you. 😉

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