In the spirit of Fathers Day, my son Ben (17) and I set out to collect as much fatherly advice as we could in a week. We asked everyone we knew or ran into friends, work, school, church, airports, restaurants, and random encounters “what’s the best advice you ever got from your dad?”
The question also became a conversation piece in a wide variety of contexts and our whole family got involved. We had people talking about this in team-builders, men’s breakfasts, church meetings, fire stations, summer camps, executive dinners, knitting groups and through our social networks. One friend got so engaged in the process he collected responses from 4 generations of family.
Sebastian (6) also got into the game, taking his own notes “be a taim plare (be a team player)” and “folo yor hirt (follow your heart).”
Ben and Mom’s Top Picks
- Don’t listen to your father (Karin’s Dad, from his Dad, MD)
- Have faith– but there is no RIGHT faith (Ben’s friend, Matthew who collected 4 generations of advice, MA)
- Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (Sean, our waiter, CA)
We received hundreds of responses from 5 countries.
The folks we talked to fell into 3 clusters:
About two third of the folks we asked were excited to engage, and had compelling and interesting stories that came along with their advice. A few got choked up, as did we more than once in the process
- those who preferred not to talk
MANY others had almost the opposite reaction. In these cases our questions were answered with silence or a quick attempt to change the subject. This was the most troubling and surprising part of this process
- and “gee, my dad didn’t SAY a lot but showed a lot in his DOING
Our favorite was from Magesh in India “he once helped a poor child in the area by paying for him to have a heart operation. I sure learned a lot from him.”
“Sorry Ben. This is one that I can’t contribute to. Not many words were passed from my Dad to me that would fall into your category.
The only thing that I can share is, don’t let it happen to you- always talk to your kids and encourage them without shouting or threatening.
Love you guy”.
So when Dads DO talk what do they say?
Top Topics (and some good -or fun- examples)
Tried and True (19%)
“Do unto others”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff”
“Measure twice, cut once”
School & Knowledge (14%)
“If you don’t ask, you won’t know”
“Girls are just as good in math as boys”
“Never listen to the damn doctor”
How to Be and Improve (11%)
” Du kannst dich drehen und wenden wie du willst, der Arsch bleibt immer hinten” ( you can turn around as much as you want, the ass always stays in back)
“Figure out what people need and give it to them”
“Names are important. Really important. Never bluff. Ask again”
“As you know, my parents escaped from Vietnam to come to America. The one advice that my father gave me that stays with me is Ask yourself what you would do if you were not afraid My parents taught me to not let fear stop you, but rather move you.”
Dreams, Inspiration and Spirituality (11%)
“Believe in yourself and continue to inspire others the way you inspire me”
“Put your effort and time into the things you love doing”
“Talent is handy, it’s not essential”
Integrity and Respect (10%)
“Strive to always tell the truth, regardless of the consequences”
“Don’t worry about what others say if you are doing it for the right reasons”
“Be honest, open and upfront about anything and everything. You may not be liked today, however you will be respected tomorrow.
Relationships and Dating (9%)
“Girls like to be kissed”
“If you want your wife to be pretty, you’d better clean your plate. When you leave bits of food all over your plate, that’s what your wife’s face will look like.”
“Marry this one”
“What did your mother say?”
(If I spoke rudely) “Mom is your mother, but she is my wife don’t forget that”
“Find something specific about your daughter to like every day. Let her know you found it”
“Don’t throw like a girl”
“Whenever possible, throw strikes”
“When in doubt, grab a glove and go out back”
The Basics: Finances, Food and Drink (6%)
“Cheese and crackers and a beer make a nice snack”
“Don’t complain about your weight while eating a snickers bar”
“Never walk over a penny”
Cars and Driving (5%)
“Don’t date a man with bald tires on his car”
“Always remember where you parked your car”
“Turn your head when you change lanes”
Thanks, Dads. Happy Fathers Day.
Karin and Ben
Please let us know your Dad’s best advice