Life Lessons from My Dad

It was February 3, 2003 at 6:35am eastern time, a Monday morning 11 years ago.

I received the inevitable phone call every son dreads.

My older brother was calling to tell me our father had died.

He died of a massive heart attack in the hospital as he was recovering from one earlier in the week.

My first thought was of gratitude for having spoken with my dad just 36 hours earlier, and telling him I loved him.

The past few days I’ve been thinking about the life lessons I got from my dad.

I’m troubled that I’m struggling to find them.

Dad was a man of few words when it came to life lessons.

Looking back it seems his philosophy was that it was best for me to learn things on my own.

But, if someone held a gun to my head I’d have to say it’s the work ethic.

He was someone who did what he had to do to support his family in a very blue collar, union job.

Every day I can remember he got up and went to work.

He never complained and never called out sick unless absolutely necessary.

As the “baby of the family,” some would say I was spoiled, yet despite that I developed a work ethic similar to my dad’s.

I learned by watching him.

There is a picture of my dad in his World War 2 Navy uniform on the wall in our home’s stairwell. Like so many of his generation he was proud of his service for his country. I pass that photo dozens of times each day on the way to my home office.

Today I’ll be spending a few extra seconds each time I pass it, offering extra gratitude for the conscious and unconscious lessons dad left with me.

In honor of my dad, Mel, I’d like to ask you to post a comment below with one or more life lessons from your dad.

Looking forward to reading ‘em…

Make it a great week!

Best Regards,

35 thoughts on “Life Lessons from My Dad

  1. Pamela Stockton says:

    Hi Skip,
    I learned so many things from my dad. My dad had the ability to meet and engage people at their level, whether it was the auto mechanic or the bank executive. He was honest and straight-forward. He had a great sense of humor, and I am often reminded what a valuable trait it is, especially in project management.

    Best regards,
    Pamela Stockton

  2. Cindy Haugland says:

    Thanks for sharing your touching story. I had the opportunity to learn first hand from my father. I am the middle of nine children. He started his business when I was just three years old. I watched his dedication and hard work pay off. As an adult I worked with him for seven years and watched how ran his business. His employees were very loyal to him. My father told me he could never expect his employees to give more than him. He was the first in the door and last out the door. He lead by example and knew every employee. He is a dynamic manager. I can only hope that I could be half the leader he is! He’s retired, but I tap into his knowledge often. I encourage him to consult to pass on his experience with others.

  3. Ron Katz says:

    Thanks for a beautiful testament to your dad.
    From my dad, who had his own accounting practice and passed suddenly two years ago, I learned, “Respect your client, respect the work, respect yourself.”

    I learned as much from my mom who passed three weeks ago. Here’s the post I wrote ten days ago about her influence. “Choose your career carefully.”

    Wishing you peaceful memories,

  4. Bob Ryan says:

    Skip- Thanks for sharing thoughts on your Father. I was blessed to have worked with my Father for almost 8 years before he got sick. My Father taught me so many things, some of the most important being. Do the right thing. Do it the right way the first time. Have integrity in everything you do and the fact that it takes 25 years to build a good reputation and it can all be lost with one bad decision. Thanks for making me think of him thisd morning. BOB

  5. Vicki says:

    My Dad taught me so many things in life but the most precious was his unconditional love for me. I knew that before I learned what Christ had done for me. Having an earthly Dad that loved me like that made it easier to comprehend unconditional love. I was Daddy’s little girl all my life and thank God that I was fortunate enough to have him with me on earth as long as I did. Miss you Dad.

  6. Fred Prisley says:

    My Dad was a Navy man too, and a man of few words. If I had to pick the single biggest pass-down he gave me, it was the importance of a positive attitude. I don’t know if it came natural to him or if he had to work at it as hard as I do; but he never complained, never talked down to anyone, and was always able to offer me encouragement in the face of any problem. In my early career days, I would get angry and frustrated with mirco-managers, office politics, incompetence, and crisis management; and to this day, his somewhat salty words still pull me back from the abyss of anger and frustration, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

  7. Nancy Jacksn says:

    My dad taught me to honor God, regardless of age, race or social staus to treat everyone with respect, sing and laugh out loud. My dad, too, is gone now but those things live in me and I keep him close.

  8. Abiola says:

    My Dad was a great man. He thought me to be as close to perfect as I could possibly be in everything I do. He believed in himself and never gave up on his dreams. He held on to them until his last day. He was a great Engineer and I`m proud I called him Dad.

  9. Nancy Jacksn says:

    My dad taught me to honor God, regardless of age, race or social status to treat everyone with respect, sing and laugh out loud. My dad, too, is gone now but those things live in me and I keep him close.

  10. Pamela Batt says:

    Twenty-five years ago on February 3 my Dad died. We share this very important date in our lives, Skip. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of him. Even though my mom and I had about 5 days to prepare because he had multiple heart stoppages after a lung biopsy–his poor heart was ravaged by a smoking habit of 3 packs a day. He quit cold turkey 10 years earlier (a feat I still find amazing), it wasn’t enough to repair the damage. Being an only child, I was trying to deal with my own grief and help my mom, who was in denial. My Dad taught me that: life moves incredibly fast, he often said “like the blink of an eye” but as a kid of course I believed the opposite. Other bytes of “wisdom” that were repeated often were: “Be an Individual”; “You can do anything you put your mind to” which caused some me embarrassment sometimes because I was in a full-speed ahead mode and couldn’t get my head around sexism. Both my Dad’s parents died when he was 12, orphaning him and forcing him to leave formal schooling in the 6th grade. He was never unemployed, even during the depression and married in 1936. Dad was the hardest worker I have known in my life, rising to the level of Marketing Manager of a large nationally known bread company. His tenacity and drive is what I inherited. Thanks for inviting us to share and thanks for sharing your story Skip.

  11. Barbara Trautlein says:

    Hi, Skip:
    Thanks so much for sharing the wonderful memories about your dad. What stands out for me most about the many lessons my father is still teaching me, are two: his high moral integrity – always doing the right thing – and his generosity – giving to others less fortunate and celebrating people for their accomplishments.

  12. John Schaefer says:

    Hi Skip, thanks for sharing this. My contribution comes from the opposite side of this delecate conversation. My Dad was not a very loving man; he was the guy that was always right, so everyone else was always wrong and it allowed him few meaningful relationships in his life, particularly with the wives of his three sons and his grandchildren (very dissappointing). When he died, I had not seen him in ten years, he hadn’t even met my youngest child and he live less than 20 minutes from my home in Phoenix.
    I did not visit the hospital or attend any funeral (still not sure if my step mother even had a service). While this is a bit hard to believe for some and quite a sad family memory, what my Dad did for me is huge … I vow to never be like him with my kids or pending grandkids and to look at life through the eyes of others with love and compassion.

  13. Lin says:

    “Remember to thank people.” When we get busy, we tend to forget. I have to remind myself of this simple life lesson quite often. Thanks, Dad! <3

  14. Allison says:

    When I was a teenager my taught me that you sometimes have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. At the time he was talking about boyfriends but I have learned that this philosophy holds true for many scenarios in life, especially business ventures. Thanks Dad.

  15. Mike says:

    When your dad tells you quit college and “get real, you are never going to be anything but a worker,” rather than give in to his advice use it to fuel the fire to prove him wrong.

  16. Brian says:

    I find it amazing that I can connect with someone I’ve never met on a topic so personal. My dad passed away January 11, 2003 after a difficult battle with cancer. There are three things I will be forever grateful to him for. 1. An awareness of the cancer threat meant an early diagnosis and successful treatment for both my bother and I. 2. My dad taught me that a man is blessed who enjoys his work. He had a master’s degree and worked with the same fervor at the cotton gin, as he did serving as a police officer, and later in the family business. 3. My dad had the most perfect handwriting that it looked almost computer generated. He taught me that a well-written note can bring joy and happiness many times over.

    Thank you, Skip, for allowing me to honor his memory.

  17. Beth says:

    Skip – great to read this. I know what you mean about the dreaded phone call. I’ve been there a few times. If, however, a gun has to be held to your head for you to come up with a tribute to your Dad, then kudos to you for wanting to honor him anyway. That says a lot about what values you have inherited. The first thing that comes to mind about my Dad is his very high sense of integrity. Secondly, it’s his work ethic. If there is a challenge, then you work hard, you study, and research to find the solution. Complaining doesn’t solve any problems. Thirdly, he picked his words carefully and stuck by them.
    I do place high importance on all this values now.

  18. Randa says:

    My father taught me that “all work and no play” is no way to live – he worked two jobs for many years, and said that he’d travel and relax after he retired. Then he got cancer and died before he reached retirement age. I’ve got nothing against hard work, but learned from him not to let it replace living and taking time for fun. We never forget our fathers, good or bad, and they’ll always have a place in our hearts!

  19. Tamara says:

    My Dad is man of many talents and colorful words. May I achieve as much as he does and live up to his standards! The best I can summarize is:

    1. Work hard AND smart.
    2. Hard work never killed anybody. (Maybe maimed.)
    3. If you want something done right, do it yourself…or hire the right person.
    4. Character and integrity matter.
    5. Follow the “Golden Rule”. Treat people well. If you do not treat people well, it will come back to bite you.
    6. Trust, but verify. (With a nod to Reagan.)
    7. Get it writing!
    8. Never give up, but be willing to change your plans. Tenacity coupled with flexibility are great assets. (With a nod to Churchill.)

  20. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you for sharing lessons from your dad. I’m honored to have your contribute your thoughts here. He provided a valuable communication trait and trust it rubbed off on you.

  21. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you for being inspired to share your dad lessons. He sounds like he was a great leader and a role model for you.

  22. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for sharing. What a simple philosophy and approach.
    A great lesson and focus for us all.

  23. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the recent passing of your mom. Great article and tribute to her. Sounds like some of the advice my dad gave me. He always harped on getting that job with the “pension.” That was back in the 70s when they were still prevalent. I chose another path with virtually no long-term security and in the end it didn’t matter and everyone is now facing the same future.

    That may not necessarily be a bad thing. We just need to be more conscious and diligent saving on our own.

    I’m only on my second career and it will be my last. I’ve been fortunate to have 2 great careers I’ve loved and never “worked a day in my life.”

    Thanks for sharing.

  24. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for stopping by and being inspire to contribute here. You’ve obviously picked up the ball from your dad and continue to move it down the field very successfully. I’m sure he was very proud of you and is still.


  25. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you for sharing your dad lessons. Unconditional love is powerful and not enough people know how to offer it. Your dad sounds like a special kind of guy. I’m pleased you were able to share that part of him with me in this public forum.


  26. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your dad.
    My dad kept ALOT to himself. Never shared what was really going on inside his head, his stresses and frustrations. He did mutter to himself alot and would mumble under his breath but never pass it on. I think I modeled that early in my life but have since learned to open up to others close to me.

    Your dad offered you great advice, BTW. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you for contributing here and taking time to honor your dad’s memory publicly. I love the singing and laugh out loud, great advice for us all.

  28. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you for honoring your dad by sharing his approach to life. I’m sure he’s as proud of you as you are of him.

  29. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you, so much, for your detailed contribution and honoring your dad’s memory in this public space.

    My dad had an eighth grade education and had to go to work to support his family as a teenager as so many back in the 1930s had to.

    My dad quit smoking in the early 70s, he too, quit a pack a day habit cold turkey one time when he caught bronchitis. Got sick, stopped smoking over the week he recovered and never went back and I know it bought him more years.

    Although I don’t recall my dad telling me “I could be anything I wanted to be” I do recall that he supported me in whatever my passion was, encouraged me to do it and gave me the resources to pursue it. I couldn’t ask for anything more from my mom or dad in the pursuit of my career.

    Thanks to them I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of a career in professional sports.

    Thanks for inspiring me to add a little more to my dad’s story.

  30. Sandy says:

    My Dad was my life long teacher. He gave me an appreciation of music, nature, ice cream and human potential. He taught me the language of gratitude, the importance of generosity, the power of love and the delight of curiosity. He worked hard, he played full out and died with grace. His essential message was, “Be curious, take good care of everything and everyone around you, live fully, love openly and have fun. You can be and do anything you set your mind to.” The best of who he was is recorded here:

  31. Steve Emhart says:

    Skip, I can draw many parallels. My Dad passed away on January 30, 2002, after a mercifully short battle with advanced colon cancer. He too was a World War II veteran, serving in the Navy on a destroyer in the North Atlantic.

    Dad was a humble man who was a model of servant leadership. He was a church deacon who could be found as a greeter on the front steps of the church every Sunday, even on the coldest and the hottest days of the year. He had a big smile for everyone. If I made a bad grade in school or got into trouble, he didn’t get visibly upset. He would ask me one question: “Did you do your best?” Looking into his eyes, there was no way I could respond other than with the truth. He taught me that success isn’t measured in dollars or titles, but in the mark you make on those around you. On that scale, he was a stellar success.

  32. Laurel Miller says:


    My Dad’s advice was included in this poem:
    Use it up, Wear it out,
    Make it do, or do without!

    His ingenuity at getting additional service out of someone else’s discarded tools or supplies has been a guiding light throughout my life.

    Dad was a plumber and worked hard for his money. He taught me to respect money because of the effort it represented. I pointed out once that money came easy to one particular, well-off gentleman. My dad replied that just because this same man didn’t work all that hard for his money, someone else did! It mattered little who spent it – it was all earned the hard way.

    Even though I work in IT, the simple parts of these foundational lessons still serve me remarkably well.

    All the best as you remember your own Dad~

  33. Alfonso Diaz says:

    My dad is 87 and still kicking. He is and has always been my hero. One of the many lessons he taught us was that “titles only tell people what you do, not who you are.” Although he has never seen the inside of a classroom his dream for his children to all get an education was in one way or another fulfilled. My dad is only 5 ft nothing and 100 lbs nothing but he is the tallest and strongest person I know. My father taught us that the word NO was never a luxury the poor could afford. The answer had to be always YES and then we figure out how to do it. Thank you for reminding me that I am blessed to still have him alive and still with time for a few more lessons. Best, Al

  34. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thank you, so much, for your powerful story about your father. I’m pleased that he’s still kicking and offering sage advice. He sounds like tremendous inspiration for you and others with whom he interacts.

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