Was your dad as brainless as mine?
Back in the nineties, I decided to marry the sexiest loser in the city. My dad was so naive, he ran a background check on the guy to make sure unemployment was the worst thing he had going for him. I mean, who does that?
Then my dad turned 50. My siblings and I threw him a great big party, and he was clueless enough to prepare a speech of all the things he learned in the first half of his life. Luckily, we averted that snore-fest by jumping into the pool and ditching him for a gay bar. And none of us are even gay.
A few weeks ago, my dad turned 70. You wouldn't believe how sharp he's gotten! He's actually right about a whole lot of things now. Maybe it was his competitive chess games. Or all the late-night poker. Or maybe my 46-year-old lenses are just seeing things more clearly these days. But when I asked him to spill his secrets, here's what he told me.
1) Be afraid. Be very afraid. "If you've still got to ask if you're ready, you are not ready." My dad knows a thing or two about waking up every day, waiting for the next shoe to drop. He taught me that haste never wins over discernment. Whether I was considering a career move, a relocation, or a relationship commitment, Dad showed me that feeling scared is a good thing. It gives you pause to wait for what you want rather than try and force it from what you don't want.
2) Take care of you. "See that person staring back at you in the mirror? They have to live with ALL of your decisions. You must take care of you." Dad spends an hour on his stationary bike every single day. He eats exactly 1/2 cup of oatmeal for breakfast. And he pours himself into shiny black cowboy boots whether he's going to Walmart or a Christmas party. He's taught me how important it is to exercise, eat smart, and groom like I meant it.
3) You've only got one shot in the talent show. "Understand the innate abilities that your Creator gave you. Know that they are few and limited. In other words, a donkey will never win the Kentucky Derby." No matter how obscure your capabilities, latch on to them. They're the one thing you'll always be good at. My dad never discouraged a good argument. He taught me that even though my relentless confrontations could get annoying, arguing was something I was good at. I always remember that developing a better argument is more important than developing a louder tone.
4) Ditch the time-wasters. "Some people just waste your time. Don't let them." It's one thing to stop doing stuff that wastes our time. It's another thing to lose the people who squander our time entirely. My dad can chat up a roomful of stuffy colleagues over cocktails like a pro. But he always knew what was in it for him. He taught me to give myself permission to reach for my goals and surround myself only with the people who support me along the way.
5) Pay attention when people care about you. "No one's an island. But no one owes you anything. If you want friends, be a good friend." At the end of the day, we get what we put out there. And none of us wants to go it alone. Who doesn't want at least one other person on the planet who gets us? Dad showed me that sometimes you've got to reach out. Listen as much as you speak. And call sometimes instead of texting.
It's shocking what a genius my dad grew into over the years. He taught me how to succeed with calculated discernment, show up with authenticity, and practice the art of paying it forward. I only hope it doesn't take me 70 years to get as smart as he got.
Anne Bechard is the author of the popular book Stop Working for Free: How Beginner Bloggers Finally Turn a Profit.