I can’t say for sure if I’m normal or a little weird, but I’m guessing that advising a child about to leave the nest is an issue most of us struggle with. I have a senior in high school, and he instills in me an odd mixture of feelings – one part pride, two parts fear, and three parts prayer. I’m guessing that most of us who are parents of high school kids are both very proud of the young man or woman our child is turning into and, at the same time, hope we have prepared them well enough to go out and succeed.
I wouldn’t say it has made me contemplate my own mortality, at least any more than usual, but it has me thinking about that one magical moment where I could distill and deliver all that I’ve learned in life to my oldest, so that he could begin with a 25-year head start on me.
Admittedly, I haven’t attempted to think through that speech or write the letter yet, as the task seems pretty daunting. I think I have settled on the written word, perhaps a series of letters. I would love to boil it down into one concise phrase like – Believe in God with all your heart; love your wife and family unceasingly; be thankful; be inspired; and be true to yourself. Sadly, I haven’t sat down and thought about boiling all the lessons in life that I have learned into one sentence.
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I would love to tell my son that I have lived life well, that I have seen the future, and that I’m going to tell him how it all works, but none of that would be true. While the future has always promised an easier, more enjoyable life, the reality is that life doesn’t get easier or harder, it just changes dramatically. Life by its nature should be hard.
By its definition, a simple life is a life without challenges, and a life without passion, purpose or accomplishment. I actually want my kids to take the hard path, but I want them to enjoy every step. Life should be enjoyable; life should create and spread joy, but I hope they understand the universal truth that joy and happiness are not the results of circumstances but rather attitudes toward those circumstances and how we respond.
In some areas, I know my son is way ahead of where I was at his age. He has always known his passions and purpose. That doesn’t mean he has decided what exactly he is going to do or the path to get there yet, but in general he knows.
He’s made mistakes and has enjoyed great successes. His bigger successes haven’t come easily; he worked for them, and overcome obstacles. Watching him succeed, I’ve no doubt about his work ethic or perseverance. Conversely, he’s learned the bitter lesson that mistakes resulting from poor decisions, lack of effort, or procrastination are difficult to overcome. And perhaps most importantly, that mistakes, failures and setbacks are a part of life and inevitable steps in achieving great things.
In that regard, he is farther along than I was, I’ve figured out the mistakes I’m prone to make and should be avoided, but I still find it hard to embrace the type of mistakes that lead to greater successes. I actually admire my son for his selflessness; he is the type of person I want as a friend.
I’m hopeful that he seeks out and finds the right people in his life. I’ve been blessed for the most part in that regard, but I’m not sure if it was a conscious effort or just blind luck. I wish I would have been a better example and a better dad but I do take comfort in the fact that, since they were little, I’ve been praying that my kids will find the right mentors, the right spouse, the right friends, the right bosses and business associates. Every single day, I pray they find their passion and the purpose that God had intended them to fulfill.
I’m guessing that most dads feel a little like I do – wishing that they had done more, had done a better job, had been a better example. Perhaps someday, I will have the wisdom to write it all out for him. But then again, maybe part of the joy of life is that everyone’s journey is different. I know there are universal laws of the universe, but we all learn them in our own way. Perhaps I can say it all in one letter.
I am proud of you, I love you, and I will always have your back. Do great things, dream big, aspire for the stars. I have made lots of mistakes but these are some of the key things I have learned.
You can do all things through Christ. Be right with God.
Time is precious. “When you are prepared to make the most of every moment, you are ready to make the most of every day!”
Love your wife. “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”
Live with love, passion, purpose, clarity, focus, and concentration.
Live in the present. Learn from your mistakes, prepare for the future, but live in the moment.
Do what you love and do it for the right reasons. “You can get everything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.”
Take responsibility for yourself, your relationships, and your family. Grow as a person and in your walk with the Lord – honor and obey. Be a leader, learn from your mistakes and walk with integrity.
Laugh, smile, and invest in those you touch as much as you possibly can.
Always ask yourself – “If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do today?” Then do it.
It’s always about the man in the mirror. If you can look him in the eye and say you’ve done your best, that’s all that matters.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.
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