My wife & I are having our first child, our little girl is due soon. We’re both pretty excited. I feel pretty fortunate to be a parent after a few years in adulthood. I’ve been around long enough to learn a few things that make life easier or more enjoyable. For the past few weeks I’ve been journaling what I’d like to teach her, and I look forward to passing these nuggets along. By the way, these are as much reminders for myself as they are things to pass on. Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Choose Your Path – You don’t have to settle for where life takes you, you can pick where you want to go and make that happen. That certainly applies to large things like career path and where you live and social circles, but its also true in the day to day. You can choose things that make your life easier, like living within a budget, or that make your life more difficult, like dating a psycho. And the great thing is that if you don’t like the path you’re on, you can change it.
  • You Can Do It – We all struggle with things that are new to us. Its not always fun to be challenged, but the only way to get better is to do it. There’s no shortcut here, confidence and skill only come through practice. The good part is that majority of the time you can do it. Even if you think you can’t. Even if you’re scared.
  • Life is Not Fair – This one is tough, but I think its universally true and as soon as you accept it life becomes easier. The good guy doesn’t always win. We don’t always get our way. Sometimes we get less than the other guy, or even less than we deserve. I don’t want to be harsh, at all, but I also don’t want to pass on rose colored glasses.
  • Freedom Comes Through Discipline – Its always so tempting to believe that raw talent is all we need. When we see success we’re quick to say that skill or talent is the reason. The truth is that skill or talent need to be cultivated through practice and dedication. If you want the freedom to run a marathon, you need the discipline of regular exercise. If you want financial freedom you need the discipline of managing your money. And if you want the freedom of a successful career you need the discipline of marketable skills.
  • Character will Take You Farther than Skill – This is another universal truth. There are so many examples of people with don’t have the integrity or probity to keep up with their skill. Sports, academia, business, politics, I could come up with a list for each. The bottom line is that skill without character leads to downfall.
  • Debt is Slavery – This last one is a bit different than the others, its the only negative on my list. Equally important though. Debt is not analogous to slavery, I don’t see this as a metaphor or allegory or hyperbole. If you’re in debt to another then you are not free. I don’t mean to say that debt is bad, there are appropriate uses for debt. This one took me a long time to learn (but I DID learn it!). I hope to spare my children from the hazards of irresponsible debt.

I wrote all of the above about a month ago. Since then I’ve been thinking about how to convey these axioms. The thing I keep coming back to is that in order to succeed I’ll need to be truly living these things out. When I started this process my goal was to think through the type of parent that I’d like to be, somehow I’ve ended up writing a credo or mission statement for my own life. I do believe that these are truths and that my daughter’s life will be better if she understands them,

Parents, what are you trying to teach your children? And have you had any success?