This Father’s day, I humbly share with you a letter I wrote for my oldest daughter as she graduated High School and embarked towards University, two years ago. I have said this before, and I mean it: Being a dad is the greatest reward I could ask for. Being a father, to daughters, is heavenly. I hope you enjoy these words. I feel they are applicable to both dads and daughters/sons. I love being a father.
“It’s an understatement to say that you have been the single greatest influence on my life.
18 years ago, I was preparing for the transition from unsettled and unfocused young man, to provider, father and responsible family man. Although your mom and I did all the work to bring you into this World, you have never failed to impress us with what you will do with the opportunity; and along the way you have taught me some very valuable lessons.
However, bear with me now, as I want to now share some thoughts and advice with you.
On things, purpose and hard-cover books
Who you are in this World will have less to do with what you gather through it, than what you leave behind. Don’t ever be ashamed of pursuing those things that make you happy, but trust me when I tell you that it’s very rewarding to do nice things, more than having nice things. (My secret tip: The more nice things you do, somehow the more nice things you gather. Especially friends, but also opportunities.)
This does not mean that you shouldn’t always treat yourself to rewards that are meaningful to you, and I would never skimp on travel, entertainment with great friends, fine pens, hard-cover books, rare cars or life adventures.
On presence, confidence and making an ass of yourself
Be a leader. The World is screaming out for leaders, and you have the two key ingredients necessary to be a great leader; intelligence and compassion rooted in fairness.
Look for opportunities to formulate your own opinions and enjoy the opportunity which comes in University, to challenge those opinions and debate them with others. But remember: There is nothing in an opinion that can’t be trumped by an idea. And there is no value in an idea that hasn’t be freed by an action.
The ratio of opinions to ideas then action is a lop-sided one indeed. Be the person who uses the first two, and instigates the third. Surprisingly, if you are true to the values of fairness and intelligence, people will admire and thank you for leading them.
Sometimes this will result in failure, embarrassment, financial ruin, and/or heckling from the uninformed. Don’t give a shit about that.
On love, life and family
Falling in love and being in love are completely different things. The first one can happen with a simple random glance. The second one is only confirmed after years of hard work, sacrifice and mutual respect for your partner. This is a tricky, bloody business and frankly I have no advice for you on this matter except this: if you think you’re in love, then you have to go through all the hard work to try and prove it, there is no other way to know.
I have never shared this with you directly, but you represent the break in a chain of my personal family experience. Every important decision I have made in my life, including on career, love and family, has been made with the stubborn understanding that in parenting you and your sister, I could break a chain of unhealthy parent/child relationships and role modeling in my family.
As you become the first in my childhood family and now our immediate family to enter University, I am proud of some modest success in breaking that chain. But it’s not that you are heading to university that confirms it for me, as much as the fact that we share a friendship and mutual respect with each other; and somehow surprisingly we are family as well.
As they say, you can pick your friends, but not your family; however when you are sincere friends with your family, life can be immeasurably easier. So thank you for making the second half of my life significantly easier, and happier than the first.
So finally, congratulations on stepping from one phase of your life, to the next. Embrace university with wonder and curiosity, and please never stop taking the time to share with me what it’s like. You are living a part of my dream for me, and as much as I would have liked to be you when I was your age, I am more than happy and proud that it is you who is the first.
Now’s your chance to create your own legacy, break any chains that you would like to break, and be your own woman.
With infinite love,