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Five Lessons From My Father

Updated: May 12

A few years ago I noticed a post on LinkedIn called "lessons I have learned from my Dad" which sparked some thoughts for me at the time, so I wrote about some lessons I got from my Dad. That was nine years ago but the lessons remain relevant so I have updated my blog and share it with you today.

This is my Dad, he passed away thirteen years ago from oesophageal cancer. I miss him hugely and I guess I always will. Dad wasn't perfect, but he didn't pretend to be either. He had a great sense of humour and shared it liberally. He had a lot of love to give and worked hard to give us the life we had. I know I am lucky to have had the time I did with my Dad. Even though he is not here he is never far from my mind. Here are some of the lessons I have taken from him:

If it is broke, fix it... or at least have a go!

Dad came from a generation of can-do kind of people. He turned his hand to all sorts of home handyman tasks and because of that we were self sufficient in a lot of ways. He had an amazing veggie garden, redecorated our homes, ensured our houses were well maintained and he even made his own cheese at one stage.

When something broke down, Dad would have a go at fixing it or ask a neighbour/friend if they were more skilled. I remember our toaster disappeared to one of our clever neighbours for a good wee while at one stage. Dad kept a small supply of broken reading glasses, he had a terrible habit of sitting on them and breaking them! This meant that he was able to do running repairs as yet another pair got damaged!

He didn't throw away things, or people, if they were broken... he valued the relationships he had with others and worked to keep them alive.

I really respect the do-it-yourself attitude, and where I can I do my best, like when my husband and I did up our kitchen from recycled materials mostly. Unfortunately I don't have the skills that Dad had as yet. This year we have set up our vege garden and I have a new garden to build as well. I wish I knew the recipe for Dad's special fertiliser that he mixed up every year for the best tasting tomatoes ever. Note to anyone out there who still has a special person with special skills, work with them and learn from them while you can!

Everyone has a story to tell, if you listen

I remember going for drives and Dad would stop to get petrol and start talking to the attendant there. As the car was filling with the fumes of the petrol station Dad would be happily chatting away to this complete stranger like they were an old friend, all the while I was wishing he would hurry up! Dad could strike up a conversation with just about anyone and people seemed comfortable around him and would chat away happily.

This is something that I use a lot of the time and despite my misery as a child at the petrol station it is a gift that I truly appreciate now. I have heard fascinating stories of people's lives, and made interesting connections. The world is full of interesting people, who become more interesting because someone listened to them. I have even made good friends from a random conversation so I thoroughly recommend having a go at striking up a conversation with someone new this week.

Learn to love the people you care about the way they need to be loved

Dad did have a gift and I didn't really appreciate it until he passed away. He worked out how we needed to be loved and gave us what he could. I was lucky in the fact that no matter how bad things got I knew I could always go to Dad and he would do what he could to help me get through the stuff that was blocking me... sometimes just knowing that helped me get through! He would sometimes give me a hug, sometimes he would get me laughing at myself or the situation, other times he would listen while I ranted and raved until I had talked myself out, and on occasion he would tell me to pull my head in.

There is a wonderful lady called Allison Mooney (if you ever get a chance to hear her speak, grab it!) who talks about personality preferences and suggests that we treat people the way they want to be treated as opposed to the way we want to be treated. It is an interesting suggestion but can make the difference, I know it made a difference for me.

If you are able to help someone then help them

Dad was often helping others. When his friends were ill he would do things around their homes that they were no longer able to do. He would give away veggies. With one young family who had moved into our town, Dad got chatting to them and ended up helping them set up with household items like kitchen appliances etc. If he had something spare and someone else had a need then he had no issues with giving it away even if we didn't always agree.

We all have skills and there are numerous opportunities for us to use them to help someone else. Think about what it is that you can do and ask yourself if that might be helpful for someone else. When I volunteered as our Playcentre president my management and leadership skills were really helpful and I had the opportunity to share my basic te reo Māori and music as well. I also learned heaps from others there (parents and children) about decision making, parenting, problem solving and child development.

Enjoy the life you have while you can

Do as much of what you love as you can (as long as it doesn't harm others I guess) while you can. Live as big a life as you can, don't wait too long for things to come to you and take some risks along the way.

Things weren't always easy in Dad's life but he maintained a sense of fun and humour. Sometimes I share the funny things he did or said with other people and so I guess he is still helping people see the lighter side of life?

I know I still get hung up on what is coming next or what I still have to do and every so often have regrets or hurts from the past that I allow to ruin the joy of a moment. There is so much joy to be had right here and right now... why would anyone in their right mind deny themselves it? Another gift my Dad left me is a greater sense of perspective. When things go wrong, as they sometimes do, I just have to ask myself "is this as bad as losing your dad?" and the answer to date is always a resounding "no!", it helps me cut through the drama and keep moving forward.

Is there anyone in your life that shared lessons with you? What were the lessons? How have they impacted on your life since?

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