post written by: Marc Chernoff

18 Things My Dad Was Right About

My Dad Was Right

Fifteen years ago, when I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher gave my class a homework assignment entitled, “Advice for a Younger Generation.”  The concept of the assignment was simple:  Each student had to interview a person who was over the age of 25, gather enough information to write a basic biography of their life and find out what their top tips are for a younger generation.  I chose to interview my dad.  He was 53 at the time and he gave me 18 pieces of advice.

I had completely forgotten about all this until last week when I was visiting my parents.  My mom had me clean out a few old boxes she had stored in the attic.  In one of these boxes I found the original “Advice for a Younger Generation” assignment dated April 22nd, 1996.  I read through it and was totally blown away.

Even though my dad’s advice is relevant to a person of any age, my 29-year-old self can relate to it in a way my 14-year-old self didn’t quite grasp at the time.  In fact, the first thought that went through my head was, “My dad was right.”

Here are his 18 pieces of advice for a younger generation, transcribed with his permission.

  1. Your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s won’t feel like your 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. – Adults are just older children.  When you get older you won’t feel as old as you imagine you will.  For the most part, you still feel exactly the way you feel right now, just a little wiser and more confident.  You’ve had time to establish your place in the world and figure out what’s important to you.  Don’t fear growing up.  Look forward to it.  It’s awesome.
  2. Bad things will happen to you and your friends. – Part of living and growing up is experiencing unexpected troubles in life.  People lose jobs, get in car accidents and sometimes die.  When you are younger, and things are going pretty well, this harsh reality can be hard to visualize.  The smartest, and oftentimes hardest, thing we can do in these kinds of situations is to be tempered in our reactions.  To want to scream obscenities, but to wiser and more disciplined than that.  To remember that emotional rage only makes matters worse.  And to remember that tragedies are rarely as bad as they seem, and even when they are, they give us an opportunity to grow stronger.
  3. Everyone can make a huge difference. – Making one person smile can change the world.  Maybe not the whole world, but their world.  So start small and start now.
  4. First impressions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  – Everyone and everything seems normal from a distance, or at a glance.  The 10th, 20th, or even the 50th impression is when you start to truly understand someone else for who they truly are.
  5. Big results come when you narrow your focus. – Concentrate your efforts on smaller and smaller areas.  When your efforts are diffused over a wide area they won’t have much of an impact.  So focus on smaller areas and your efforts will be felt more fully.  It could take time for change to happen, but keep that focus narrow.
  6. Love yourself.  Become your own priority. – Strive to be the ‘you’ you want to be.  Nourish your mind and body.  Educate yourself every day until you die.
  7. Sometimes you just have to go for it. – Put your uncertainty and fears aside for a second and ask yourself this:  “If I try and I don’t get it right the first time, what will I have lost and what will I have gained?”  The answer is:  You will have lost nothing but a little bit of your time while gaining an important lesson that will help you get it right the second or third time.  People rarely get it right the first time.  In fact, usually the only people who ever get it right are those who continue going for it even when they’ve come up short numerous times before.
  8. In order to get, you have to give. – Supporting, guiding and making contributions to other people is one of life’s greatest rewards.  Everything you do comes back around.
  9. Not much is worth fighting about. – If you can avoid it, don’t fight.  Step back from arguments with your spouse, family members or neighbors.  When you feel anger surging up and you want to yell that vulgar remark on tip of your tongue, just close your mouth and walk away.  Let yourself calm down.  You don’t have to be right or win an argument.  It just doesn’t matter.
  10. Don’t try to impress everyone. – Purposely impressing people is an act that brings nothing but a momentary ego boost.  Be real with people instead.  Connect with fewer people on a level that is deeper and more profound.
  11. Keep having fun. – Fun is way underrated.  With all of life’s responsibilities, fun will sometimes seem like an indulgence.  It shouldn’t be.  It should be a requirement.  Make time for fun.
  12. Keep it simple. – There is a world of magnificence hidden in simplicity.  Pick the five most important things in your life now and focus on those things.  Let the other stuff go.  Stop the busyness and really enjoy what’s important to you.
  13. Little things stick with you. – So pay attention to them.  Like watching your child sleep.  Preparing a meal with your family.  Sharing a great laugh with an old friend.  This is the real stuff life is made of.
  14. Less advice is often the best advice. – People don’t need lots of advice, they need to live.  I’ve seen young, rocky relationships develop into wonderful marriages and fleeting inspirations ignite a lifetime of passion and happiness.  Our life stories, like the answers we give to long essay questions, are uniquely ours.  What people want to know is already somewhere inside of them.  We all just need time to think, be and breathe, and continue to explore the undirected journeys that will eventually help us find our direction.
  15. Manage your time. – Your situation and environment is ever changing, so be careful not to confuse things that are urgent with things that are important.
  16. Manage your money. – Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.  Don’t spend more than you make.  Don’t let your money manage you.
  17. What you learn in school does matter. – While you may not use the specifics of every classroom lesson, every lesson does expand the core thought process of your mind.  Over time you will develop problem solving skills that are universally applicable.  No single classroom lesson can teach this, and no single classroom lesson is more important.
  18. Dreams will remain dreams forever if you don’t take action. – Don’t dream about it anymore.  Start doing it.  In 40 years from now what is it that you will regret not having accomplished, appreciated or attempted?  Do it, appreciate it and attempt it NOW!

Also, my dad is 68 now and I’m sure he’s learned a few new tricks in the last 15 years.  Earlier today, as I was transcribing this, I asked him if he would share a few of these new tricks with us.  He said he will in the near future, so stand by for an update.  But in the mean time, he told me to tell you to read his two favorite personal development books:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Millionaire Next Door.

Photo by: Alex Proimos

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  • Number 11 is really important here in 2011. It feels like society wants us to always work hard and be stressed out about the economy. I will meet up my friends in their 20s and they want to stress about the price of gas. As important as it is to be serious, I think that we all need to have some fun.

    Fun also doesn’t have to be irresponsible. There are many ways to have fun while remained completely responsible and in control.

  • one word: perfect!

  • I am truly inspired by the motivational thoughts you shared with us. I just loved the last point you mentioned about taking action. It is so true.

  • This list would be a great gift for all high school seniors — and many adults. Beautiful and wise! Your teacher gave a brilliant assignment. How nice to have these pieces of wisdom from your dad.

  • I’d say your dad is/was a pretty smart guy.

    Great advice!

  • I’m the father of 3 kids and I agree with every point your father makes!

    Thank you.

  • 7. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

    If you don’t, you’ll never know what could have happen…
    This one is very important in my opinion.

  • I would add…

    Remember to treat others the way way you want to be treated.

  • this is now one of my favorite all time posts. the more i can understand from those who came before me, the better my life has the potential to be. your father is a wise man! thank you so much for sharing.

  • Wow, that just touched me to my core, as if I was having a familiar conversation with an old friend. Beautiful advice, but so true, we seem to loose focus on what is truly important. Thank you and your Father for the reminder. Also, thank you for making me take notice of a book I’ve had on my shelf for a long time……I look forward more advice.

    Love and light

  • Thanks for this personal post!

  • Your Father is one very wise Dude.


  • I like #10, stop trying to impress everyone. Be real, be yourself.
    Create habits instead of resolutions

  • What a great dad! Can’t wait for the next installment.

  • This post was very enlightening to me as a person in my mid twenties. 14-18 hit home in my personal development and growth.

    Very timely.

  • Right-on for living in the world, man!

    (He wouldn’t have any pearls of wisdom for the road leading to the Kingdom, would he?)

  • Thanks for a great post! I think we call all relate to what your father says!!

    It’s funny how when we are younger we try so hard not to let our parents be right, only to realise they were all along!

  • My Dad always said to read the manual.

    In the internet age we live in, there are instructions for just about everything. “Reading the manual” has been a rewarding experience to learn new things and save money on projects I would have otherwise needed a professional for.

  • I’m 54 and really enjoyed this post. I know exactly how your dad felt, especially with #1 because I don’t feel like I could possibly be this “old”! As the parent of 4 and grandparent of 4, many of these are the values that we tried to instill in our children too. Besides, I do think that a number of them are really closely related to how happy one can be in life (and can help those on the road for the Kingdom @ Mr M Savage). They are #3, 4, 8, 10, 12, 15 and 16. In our society where we’re always trying to compare ourselves to and impress others, realizing that (#3)ANYONE can make a huge difference (including the janitors, disabled, etc) helps to break down the walls of judgments…while 1st impressions (#4) are just that - and tainted with our own biases. It takes getting to know someone to really understand them. And, with #10, if you do things to try to impress others, you might accomplish that for a while - but WHO are they impressed with? Being true to yourself (and consequently others) is a lot less complicated and ultimately much more fulfilling. By keeping it simple (#12), you’ll be able to manage your time and money wisely (#15 & 16) - and you won’t get caught up in the consumerism and keeping up with others that really, never will be accomplished (which leads back to #10). With all that being said, I firmly believe that the most important one of all is #8! A life of service - making a difference - is what we were created for, and therefore is the only way to be truly fulfilled!
    God bless your dad for his wise words, and God bless all of you on your personal journies!

  • Wow this can be true no matter who it actually came from. At one time or another I am sure everyone was told at least 3 of these things, but they are so true.

  • Was your Dad a philosopher or did he just think like one?

  • So, how much did u score in the assignment?? Class topper?? :) Nice post

  • Thanks for all the comments, everyone.

    My dad read through them. I think he’s a little giddy over the fact that so many of you enjoyed his advice. :-)

  • These are all so wonderful and true.

  • Great post! I really enjoy Point #4. People have good days and bad days, and meaningful relationships are ones where people don’t just walk away if they’ve had one minor bad experience. This gives us the freedom to be ourselves without having to constantly watch ourselves. And it helps us find out who are friends are - and who we are, too.

  • Wow this is great. That’s a wise dad you have there. Also I can +1 for the books he recommends.

  • Now that’s some advice. Between just going for it, fights not being worthwhile, and keeping it simple, your father’s advice just keeps ringing true.


  • What a wise man your dad is! This article summed up so many lessons that I wish we knew coming into this world rather than going out.

  • LOVE this! Sent it to my 19-year-old. I suppose he won’t take it to heart, either. But sometimes it’s better when it comes from someone else instead of our own parents… so I had to at least try. :-)

  • That was freaking awesome!!!!!!!

  • Great article, great tips and great ideas! What fascinated me the most is that what your dad wrote to you over 15 years ago were actually the core principles you are living YOUR life (got the impression from different articles you wrote), so it seems you did instill them, even if not being aware to it.

  • Great article! I really enjoyed reading it.

  • Bad things will happen to you and your friends
    that’s right, i am facing a tough period now, never imagined it would happen, ups and downs, that’s life

  • Amazing ! This is all so right

  • Beautiful. Amazing. Poignant.

    I will share this with many.

  • Fantastic! every word means!
    I’m 23 already, but after seeing this, I thoght I still have so much more to learn.

  • it is amazing the influence i see from your father in your blog. it seems like whether or not you realized it at the time, you really took what he said to heart. there are so many past posts that elaborate on many of these 18 points. it is always so inspiring to see the positive influences parents can have on our life-course, and one of the best ways to realize this is to look back on past letters from parents and reflect on how much of them is in us. it is also a good reminder of how, whether they appear to be listening or not, our children will internalize all the lessons we teach them–good and bad.

    thank you for all the thoughtful work you put into this website. i find your work truly moving.

  • BOOM! Love the mind blower at the end.

  • Yes your Dad was right. I was going to give to my kids and then number 11 stopped me hard. That’s why I’ve been stressed lately. I had forgotten myself lately. Thanks, I feel better already.

  • Universally true. Very wise.

  • love number 11

  • This is all so true, some of the best advice I’ve heard. I especially like the quote that says keep it simple, and stick to 5 things that are the most important to you. I’ve just been trying to cram so much into one day lately that i haven’t really been enjoying myself as much as I used to.

  • I read your blog post that translated into Japanese at a portal website. it is poignant and I feel it is a bit strange that people all seem to relate to what your dad mentioned to some greater or lesser degree in their lives despite for their nationality, where they live and how they are.. Your dad’s advice becomes one I want to look back to read when I need push myself to do my best. Thank you for your post.

  • Thanks for the inspiration!

  • I’m 23 right now, and wholeheartedly agree with everything in this article. In fact, I think I would have agreed with everything even when I was much younger. However, as you continue to grow and develop as a person, continued contemplation on things you once thought you understood continues to reveal new meaning, new depth. As such, most of these points take on far more significance now than they would have done when I was 16, even if then I would have agreed as emphatically as I currently do. It makes me wonder; in five years’ time, ten, fifteen, what new layers of truth will make themselves known in these pearls of wisdom? Thanks for sharing.

  • Love this! It’s so funny how the same words can mean different things with various connotations as you age.

  • Love this! The first one hit me hard because I’m beginning to get to that point now. I don’t feel old, but it’s there… looking over my shoulder. lol. Thanks for the awesome post :)

  • I really enjoyed the article and will only pick 5 important things to focus on at a time. Maybe this will help in my journey with my family and myself. Thank you for the guidance.

  • Remarkable point’s to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing…

  • GREAT job! My dad died a few weeks ago… and left me with a few more profound words of wisdom..
    “If you throw enough shit up again the wall, something’s gonna stick” (never give up)
    “Crap or get off the pot” (make a decision)
    “Don’t get caught” (it’s okay to step outside the proverbial box)
    The guy grew up in the Bronx, fun, sharp-wit, gave of himself whole heartedly. Cancer shortened his life, but never his spirit. In those 18 months, he never complained. He made everyone laugh; he was gracious and appreciative every moment. Over 400 people attended his funeral, the man had no fortune; he wasn’t a politician. He was man who built his life on integrity, humor and love, and touched the lives of hundreds, never asking for recognition or reward. He set a stellar example as a dad, and friend.

    Thank you for sharing :) esta

  • Esta,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad, I want to learn to be more like him. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Peace and many ,many Blessings to you and your family.

  • Very much correct! Thanks for sharing these, great little pieces of wisdom to add to the day.

  • Great post! I really enjoy Point #4. People have good days and bad days, and meaningful relationships are ones where people don’t just walk away if they’ve had one minor bad experience. This gives us the freedom to be ourselves without having to constantly watch ourselves. And it helps us find out who are friends are - and who we are, too.

  • Great post, I agree with every point. I especially like

    ‘Dreams will remain dreams forever if you don’t take action.’

    Which is something I live by and strive towards acheiving my goals!

    I will certainly be trying to share these with my children.

  • Thank you for sharing. Your dad is a very wise man. I wish I could meet him in person. Please let him know that his list will help me be a better person and many others I am sure!! I wish everyone could have the opportunity to reflect on his wisdom. You have made my day! :)

  • Awesome.
    Nothing better than wisdom that comes from true life experience. Thanks for inspiring and teaching!

  • I just discovered your site and I’ve stayed up all night reading your posts. How inspiring and uplifting! What a blessing to have such a wise man for your father… peace and love to all of you!

  • Agreed. It is still applicable in our present times although written decades ago.

  • Your father figured out the meaning of life!

    If everyone followed the list, we would have a lot more happy, content people in the world. I am going to have to print this out to remind myself every morning what actually is important.. and stop focusing on the things I can’t control and put my energy to those that I can!

  • What a smart smart man. This is advice that anyone could take. Perfect. I absolutely feel like my 30s, 40s are not feeling like 30s and 40s and for sure bad things happen to friends. Life can be sad and beautiful too. Great post.

  • This was interesting and insightful.

  • Some wonderful advice for everyone. Like they say … “Life is like a Box of Chocolates. You Never Know What You Are Going to Get Next.”

  • So wise. I particularly love the comment about your 30s 40s and 50s not feeling like that. It’s so true I still feel like a big kid, or a least a twenty year old.

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