Ten Lessons My Daddy Taught Me

by Andy Wood on June 19, 2015

in Five LV Laws, Insight, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Cycle, LV Stories, Principle of Legacy, Turning Points

Grandpaw and Archer

(My dad with Great-Grandchild #9, Archer Wiley)


I’ve been simmering on this for a while, and I figured since I’m away from home this Father’s Day, this would be a good day and a good way to honor my dad.  My daughter Carrie did this for me last year and reposted it again here.   I also wrote this about what I learned from my Mama last year.

Regardless of the many influences and teachers I’ve been blessed by over the years, none of them has taught or influenced me more than my dad. I have mentioned often that I was blessed to have a father who actually wanted to be a dad and influenced me to want to be one.  With 8 grandkids of my own now, I would say that desire has definitely passed through to another generation.

There are many practical things my dad taught me over the years, including how to drive a nail, play dominos, put on a jacket without bunching up your sleeve, ride a bicycle, and bathe the 36 different body parts that need cleaning up every day.

But what interests me most are the ideas that still speak to me today as principles.  These are transferrable to almost any endeavor. I could just as well title this, “Ten Things My Dad Would Teach to Pastors,” or “Ten Things My Dad Could Teach to School Teachers.”

So here, in no certain order, are ten lessons that still speak to me most every day.  I’m sure there are many more than this, but these are for starters.  See if they don’t speak to you on some level, while my daddy says, “Your welcome!”

1. Let the tool do the work.

Like many fathers, mine is very good with tools.  Hand tools.  Power tools.  Crafty tools.  Farm tools. For him tools were the means to an end – to getting something important done.

Being much more of a sling-from-the-hip sort, I learned to swing a hammer or axe in a way that would wear out my arms or blister my hands in no-time.  “You’re working too hard,” Daddy would say. “You’re making your arm do the work.” Then he would show me how to swing efficiently so that the tool was doing what the tool was designed to do.

2. Be friendly and conversational to people.

I don’t think anything would make him want to jump out of his skin to get to me quicker than the perception that I wasn’t being friendly to people.  Starting and carrying on conversations are part of his DNA to this day, and he expected that of me. This is more than Southern common courtesy – it’s people skills.  And avoiding friendly conversation is its cardinal sin.

3. Love and appreciate music.

Daddy grew up as a skilled musician. He learned to sing and play several instruments. To this day he loves music, and taught me to love it. Sure, we have different tastes, but both of us appreciate the power of music to draw out or strengthen someone’s faith in God, to tell a story, to worship, or simply to entertain.

4. Improvise, and don’t be a perfectionist.

I’m left-handed, so when I would pick up a guitar as a child, I did it backwards.  While he always let me be myself, this was one thing he insisted I learn to do right handed, and am I ever grateful.  Sure, we could have had the strings reversed – it worked for Sonny James and Paul McCartney.  But his reasoning was, “I want you to be able to pick up any guitar, anywhere and be able to play it.”

That’s just one example of the many ways my dad taught me to improvise, or think in terms of flexibility. He could roll with the punches, shift to Plan B, or reorient himself however he needed to.  He learned to do more with less, and he practiced re-purposing before re-purposing was a term.  And in the course of that he learned not to be a perfectionist. “A hundred years from now it won’t make a bit of difference,” he would say.  That said, he also taught me…

5. Take pride in your work.

There a difference between avoiding perfectionism and accepting shoddy work.  If you’re doing a job for somebody else, you need to do it well enough to be able to sign your name to it or for it to represent you.  There is no room in my dad’s economy for shoddiness, laziness, or a fearful lack of confidence. There is a difference between excellence and perfectionism.  My dad taught me that.

6. Be there for the different stages of your kids’ lives.

A large part of parenting is simply showing up. It isn’t the books, courses, sermons or counseling you learn from, helpful as all those things are.  It’s simply being there.

I was content to play basketball in the yard by myself.  But my dad would come out and play with me.  I could easily set up and play board games in my own little mental world.  He would play board and table games with me.  Then when I got older he showed up for the band trips, the Boy Scout campouts, the concerts, or whatever else defined our lives.  He was actually interested – and proud – of what my sister and I did… all the while being just as busy and just as tired from work as the next guy.

7. Be part of the village for your “other young ‘uns.”

This may be where my dad’s DNA shines through the most for me.  When we brought our friends to the house, he quickly adopted them temporarily as his own. He treated them like family.  In a way that I didn’t fully appreciate until I had kids of my own, he taught me that being a parent was being part of a community that invests in the lives of future generations, whether they call you “Daddy” or not.  To this day, I have a shepherd’s instinct for future generations, and I am proud that I’ve been able to invest in the lives of the friends of my own now-adult kids.  My daddy taught me that.

8. There’s a difference between correcting and “fussing.”

To be a father is to be a teacher.  And to be a teacher requires giving correction.  Sometimes that correction may hurt a little. (I don’t mean discipline… that’s another category.)  I was a pretty sensitive, tender-hearted kid, so I would tune up if I thought I was in trouble.  So my dad learned to say these words I’ve heard hundreds of times over the years:  “I’m not fussing at you, but…”

That actually helped.  It let me know that this was a teachable moment, but I wasn’t in trouble for doing something bad. There was just a better way of doing it. Oh, if only every manager or boss or parent could learn that distinction!

9. Take care of your stuff.

I’m still awful at this.  But it isn’t my dad’s fault.  Lord, if there was anybody who believes in maintenance, organizing, or taking care of stuff, it’s him.  You know when the doctor says he wants to see you in six months?  Yeah, he actually does that.  And when they tell you that you’re supposed to change the oil in your car/truck every so-many miles?  Done.

Being raised on a farm in rural Alabama during the Depression, he learned that if something breaks, there probably isn’t money to replace it – so you’d better be able to fix it yourself.  Or better still, take care of it so it doesn’t break in the first place.

Oh well… at least I have a vehicle now that YELLS at me when it’s oil change time.

10. There’s always another way to look at something that’s scary.

I grew up in the throes of the Cold War. We lived with this constant undercurrent of fear, much like people today live with the reality of terrorism.  But my dad completely ended the Cold War for me with one sentence, and I never worried about it again.  One day I said to him, “Do you know the Russians have enough nuclear weapons to wipe us off the face of the map?”

He replied, “Well, we have enough nuclear weapons to wipe them off the face of the map.”

I never worried about the Soviets again.

I’m sure my dad had his fears and anxieties, but in his example and his life he has always taught us to live fearlessly and courageously.  He became an expert at re-sizing and re-framing his own fears, and taught me to do the same.

I just keep thinking how the world could be different if the politicians and ambassadors, the executives and the economists, the preachers and the pundits just applied these ten principles of horse sense that my dad impressed on me.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.  We’ll cook out Monday night… if I haven’t let my grill get too rusty.

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