the lessons we learn

February 22, 2010

in life

there’s a post that’s been on my mind for a few weeks. (now that’s staying power. how many blog posts can you truthfully say that about?) it’s jason seiden’s lessons from dad. in this post, he outlines over 30 lessons his dad taught him about work, relationships, and leading a worthwhile life.

unbeknownst to jason, his timing was perfect. he published this post the day before the twelfth anniversary of my dad’s death, and, of course, my dad was already on my mind. while reading, i mentally grabbed one of my dad’s imparted lessons: greet life with laughter and a willingness to be silly. create occasions to laugh, whether through pranks—my dad was gifted in this department, i tell you—witty commentary, or playacting.

then i stopped. nothing else was top-of-mind. i sat back and thought about it for awhile. then i reached out to my sister to help me out. when i emailed her, she emailed back, “i’ll have to think about it.”

it’s not surprising that we struggled. our dad was a tremendous force in our lives, but, generally speaking, the lessons he passed on were largely learned from watching him fight his demons and trying to find our own place amidst them. cautionary tales that can’t be wrapped up in a pretty little bow to share with others or readily turned into maxims.

this is exactly why jason’s post sticks in my mind. the mentors, family members or not, who give us positive life experiences are invaluable. just as valuable, though often unrecognized and uncelebrated, are those who tutor us in far less constructive ways. the parent who wasn’t full of ann lander-like guidance. the boss who left us floundering in a new job without proper support and development. the colleague who stole a key client or project. and so on.

sure, i was a bit downcast after reading jason’s post, but i just took a lesson from mom: have yourself a big ol’ pity party while you’re getting on with it.

what others do is their business. what we take from it and do next is ours.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Hebert February 22, 2010 at 8:13 am

Every negative is a positive in disguise. We can focus on what was wrong, or we can multiply by -1 and come out with a positive.

Not to get all mushy but my father never hugged his three boys (he did the three girls) and never said the “L-word” to us “men.”

Different generation I guess.

But what I took from that was – “always hug your kids and tell them you love them no matter what – and do it often.”

I have two kids – they may complain some day that Dad hugged them too much – but that’s a risk I’m willing to take (odds are they won’t!)

Not all positives have bows and hearts around them. Sometimes you need to do a little mental calculus to see the real lesson.


fran February 22, 2010 at 9:18 am

exactly! the lessons are not always directly transferred, spoken, or even positive, but they are there if we wish to find them. another lesson from mom when discussing parenting: we aim to do better than the generation before us.



Jason Seiden February 22, 2010 at 10:45 am

Fran, true positives rarely come in bows, do they? There is a reason we have the word “bittersweet,” and why it’s so commonly used in reference to a person’s memory.

It’s all in the interpretation. It’s all in the perspective. It’s all in what you make of it.

One of the things I love about Jewish history is that all of the heroes are fallible—some of them insanely so. (I use that word purposefully.) The lessons we learn from them are (1) never expect someone to be perfect, and, more importantly, (2) look to yourself, not to others, to solve your problems. You may not do better than they did, but you certainly won’t do worse, either.

Heroes who leave us picking and choosing for ourselves what to take from their examples is the best we’re going to get in this imperfect world. And that’s to say nothing about when those heroes are family.

All my best, Fran, and my heartfelt appreciation for a thought provoking and emotional post.


fran February 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm

we can’t choose the way lessons come to us, can we? jason, i think we need to run hebrew school (sans the hebrew language acquisition) together.

thanks for inspiring reflection,


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