THE STRAIGHT S K I N N Y
The Lessons My Dad Taught Me EXPANDING YOUR THINKING
Recently, one of my adopted brothers told me he had never experienced a family that handled conflict like ours. In his experience, when people argued, divorce followed. So you can imagine his surprise when he saw that a family could debate, argue, and still be friends. It made me realize we were lucky to grow up in a noisy, crazy family with parents who always encouraged us to expand our thinking. To this day, we are a boisterous and high-energy clan! My parents were 18 and 20 when I came along. By the time my dad was 25 and my momwas 23, they were raising four kids and budgeting down to the dime. (They would later adopt and add more boys to this rambunctious group.) Growing up with a father in the military, our constant moving meant we had to be a tightknit unit. We were our own best friends, and while there were a lot of challenges through the years, we’ve remained a close group. In fact, Dad had such a positive attitude about the military that seven of us kids went into the service! When I was 15, my father became a runner when the Air Force instituted their fitness readiness program. I went from being a high school swimmer to a collegiate runner, and I loved coming home to run with my dad. The year I turned 40, he was 60, and we had this brilliant idea: to run the Marine Corps Marathon together. I was a really good 10K runner, but a marathon was a bigger project. Dubbed the “people’s marathon”because of the Marines’dedication to keeping the race open to anyone, my father and I sloshed our way through a cold and rainy race that day. It was also the year that Oprah ran. We all looked the same at the end—drenched, cold, and pooped. But we finished! When it comes to my father’s influence, some of my more profound memories are of our many discussions and debates on philosophy and theology; I was taking my general education classes as a freshman at Wright State. Debating various authors’ writings, as well as philosophy in general, late into the evening after Dad returned from his second job was a meaningful experience and an early window into the idea of mindset. World-renowned psychologist Karen S. Dweck, Ph.D., wrote on this topic in her popular book,“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, writes that those who believe abilities are fixed are less likely to
flourish than those with a growth mindset. When you think of your abilities as something you are constantly developing, you will seek out those opportunities that allow you to grow. Those who seek to grow tend to be the happiest and most resilient.
It was a wonderful experience to grow up with this kind of proactive thinking and attitude. My dad was always encouraging us to stay focused on our goals and find ways to expand our
knowledge. He often told us,“It doesn’t matter what you do. Just be the best at what you do.”This mindset should never stop; you will never reach an age where you say,“Oh, I’m done learning now.”It’s important to share with your children about the lessons you learned, the mistakes you made, and the things you would do differently. Your failures are not embarrassments. They’re growth opportunities. They are tools to help the next generation, though they will also make their own mistakes. Sometimes the best accomplishments result from those mistakes. It’s all worth sharing because mentoring the next generation matters. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the idea of retirement. Statistics showmost of us will live into our 90s. Of course we want our money to last that long, too. And studies show that those who stay engaged are happier and healthier in the long run. Perhaps more important than leaving money is the impact you have on your adult children and grandchildren as a mentor. They may pass us by in certain knowledge, but we have them beat on experience. (What was that saying about age and treachery?) The best thing you leave behind may be the impact you have on the lives of those you love. Take it frommy dad— the man who took up running when he was 35; who, together with my mom, welcomed more than a dozen boys into their home and always encouraged us to think outside the box.
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