This is the first in what I hope to be a series of post to and for my son. The purpose is to distill some of the hard lessons that your mother and I have learned over the past 50 some years, alright in my case it is so close that we can call it 60+ years, you came late into our lives, and in my case much later.
At this time in your life you live in a house that is paid for (this will not always be the case when you start out), you attend a school that is rated to be in the upper 10 percent of school (Your Mother and I have the means and ability to do this, we both took less when we were young in order to have something when we were older). Your mother and I live well, but more importantly we live well but well within our means. I drive a car that is over 10 years old (that is another lesson for another post). Your mother’s car is 6 years old. We eat health meals, nothing too expensive, and in moderation. We both have saved much of our salaries, we have what many would consider to be a high net worth, and yet our incomes are not excessive. Your Mother and I have put a great emphasis on being educated, on exercising self-restraint, on self-reliance, we expect this from you.
Order of Precedence’s of things in my life, first is your mate, then your children, then your parents, yourself, and your aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. It is an unfortunate fact of life that you will have to do a great many things that you really do not want to do, hopefully there are more sweet days than there will be sour days, but there will be sour days. The test is how you handle the sour days. Your attitude will determine just how bad these task can be, do not make them any worse than they already are by having a poor attitude, push through them, move on, and do not dwell on them, you will be happier in the end.
You may think that it sucks, but you do not need to say it. You are not required or expected to point out the obvious. Use the 10 second rule, before you respond to a question, it is better to be thought be slow rather than to actually be slow.
Where we are as a family, where you are as an individual did not happen by accident. This has been our (your mother and my) plan from the beginning. Granted many things are and were not in our sphere of control, and therefore the plan had to adapt to the changing situation.
When you were young you were told many times about the story of the Grasshopper and the Ants, and unlike the Walt Disney version that you watched many times as child, my version of the story was a darker version. The ants eat the hapless grasshopper as their first meal of the winter, thus saving their reserves for the up coming winter. The ants do not know how long or hard the winter will be and they have planned for the worse. It is better to have excess at the end of the winter then to be wanting.
You have heard this story so many times that you roll your eyes when it is mentioned, followed by those words that many a parent has heard in that exasperated tone that only a teenager can muster “Dad, I Know!” but what it teaches is important to your success in the future.
I always told you that you had a choice in life, you can be a Grasshopper, or you could be an Ant. Your sister made her choice to be a Grasshopper, although lately it seems that even she is starting to become an Ant, time and children will do that to some individuals.
Your mother and I made our choice to be mostly Ants. We all must live with our choice. Only you know what your choice will be. Both have their good points and both have their bad points. Ants live for the future, Grasshoppers live in the moment. You need balance. From my limited observations, it appears easier for an Ant to sometime live in the moment, rather than a grasshopper to live for the future. It takes a long time to save and build a nest, it takes almost no time to spend it and destroy it.
Along with the story of the grasshopper and the ant was the story of the little bird that decided not migrates with the rest of the birds, until it was too late. Your response is pretty much the same as with the Grasshopper and the Ant story. The salient points of this story being, that not everyone who craps on you is your enemy, not everyone who digs you out of the crap is your friend, and when you are covered in crap it is really nothing to sing about.
I tried to teach you what I called “First Thing First”, and what I meant by that was that you needed to provide for the basics first; Food, Clothing, and Shelter, and the nice to haves second, and wants to have third and last. The trick is determining what is a nice to have and what is a want to have. Along the same lines was the requirement to complete your assigned task as soon as possible, so as not to be tripped up by the unexpected or to interfere with a special day (Crusade Project your Birthday, enough said).
We have tried to teach you caution, to keep your mouth closed, to listen to what is actually being said, and who is actually saying it, and why are they are saying it. Not to infer or assume facts that are not in evidence. To ask your self silently what is in it for them, what is in it for me, and can you afford it. Is too good to be true? Does it defy reason and or logic? To know how much something is going to cost you, and whether you can afford it is important and in many case very difficult to know, but know it you must, cause you are one who will have to pay the piper. That to a much more certain extent you can exercise somewhat more control over what you own, you cannot control something that you do not own.
You heard me tell the individuals of the various groups that I commanded and managed that their first responsibilities was to be true to themselves, to be true to other members of the group, to be true to their leaders, to be true to company/organization, but if and only if the they were true to you. That their first job was to be looking for their next job, because no job is forever, employment with the company was at best semi-permanent, and at worst temporary.
Another lesson that was taught to you while you were in our house was PAO, to persevere, to adapt, to overcome. Live and things are hard, and just because they are hard is not a reason to quite. With practice comes mastery with mastery comes success. On other occasions you have been instructed to “RTFM” and to look in the index first.
As you were growing up you were also told the story of the Horse and the Rider. That in life you do have the choice of being either the Horse or the Rider.
The Horse is big and powerful, but is driven only by emotion, is purely reactive to the situation. The Horse first instinct is to panic and run, or to strike out. The Horse is contented to just wander around with no purpose. The Horse in not capable of planning for the future, the Horse only lives in the moment.
The rider on the other hand is driven by thought, knowledge and purpose. The rider is capable of controlling the Horse. The rider is capable of using the Horse to accomplish the rider’s purpose, but he must understand and control the horse. The rider knows the difference between the windy cold rainy field and a warm dry barn, and acts accordingly. It is hoped that in your life you should choose to be the rider rather than the horse.
In less than 4 year you are going to be leaving for College, it will be a wonderful adventure and a challenge, and I am sure that it appears to be scary. If you’re mother and I and your teachers have done our jobs correctly you will succeed.
It is acceptable to be apprehensive about this journey that is normal it is your inner self-saying, “be alert and remain alert”. It is not acceptable to be afraid (Horses are afraid), all this will do is cause your to freeze up and become an easy target. From the words of one of your favorite books “Do Not Panic”. Untold numbers of others have made this journey and many more have succeeded than failed.
I can see by many of your daily actions that most if not all of these lessons that were taught to you early have stayed with you. They have grown to the point where they are muscle memory. But the lessons still need to be reviewed from time to time to keep the memory sharp.
One incident that still stands out in my memory is when the minister asked you who was your favorite person or story from the bible when you were in the Fourth grade. She was floored by your answer (JOB), in the many years that she had been a minister she could not remember any other child naming this individual, much less the reason (He never quite believing in God) you told her why this individual made such an impression.
As I said this is the first of several posts.
Have a health, happy, and productive life. Find a profession that you truly enjoy, and that will provide you and yours with the material needs that you require to live rather than exists. It is the journey, and how you conduct your self that is important.