What three lessons do you want your children to learn from you?
1. Work hard and be nice to people
These are not mutually exclusive principles. Being nice and being a pushover are also not the same thing, so you can be nice and still stand firm in your principles and work ethic. I am not the best at either of these things, but if my kids learn only these two things, they should go far.
2. Be grateful for where you are in life
After I graduated high school, my mom made me get a summer job before college. She literally sat down with me and went through the classifieds, a.k.a. job listings printed out on physical paper that existed in the real physical world. I found a job at a company that takes inventory for stores – from smaller clothing stores in the mall to the Targetses, K-Martses and Searses. It paid $6.25 an hour and I hated it. I had to wake up at 4am so I could get to work at 5am so we could drive to the store by 6am to start doing inventory before a store opened. It was a crappy first job, but I think all first jobs should be crappy. One day I came home complaining about my crappy summer job and she said to me (and I’m paraphrasing), “You’re lucky that you’re going to college and getting an education so you can have a career and better your life. Some of the people you’re working with, they have no choice. They are stuck there and they HAVE to take that job.” I started college in the fall and never looked back.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
Whatever you learn from your successes, you learn 100 times more from failures. So if you fail more, you learn more (at least you should be). Of course, you should eventually have a win, and that’s where all that learning will have come in handy. I want them to try all kinds of things. The quicker you find out that you’re not good at something, the quicker you can either move on or work on getting better at that thing. I don’t want my kids to be looking back on life with a bunch of “what ifs”.
Honorable Mention: Take care of your parents when they get old
This theoretically should be the first lesson from a purely selfish point of view, but one reason you have kids is to hope that they’ll grow up and still love you enough to help out when you become too old to do the things you were able to do on your own. There is no guarantee they won’t grow up and throw you in a retirement home the first chance they get, but all of life is a gamble.