He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other ~ Francis Bacon
Having successfully weathered a lifetime of experiences, senior citizens have unique insights to share with those willing to listen and pay attention. Lessons learned in life do not come cheaply and wisdom that comes with age is a valuable commodity. From mistakes made and survived, we learn how to avoid falling into similar traps. If only younger folks were a little more receptive, a little more willing to listen, what insight could be realized and what foresight shared. What if they were willing to hear and heed what we say, to take to heart wisdom gleaned from decades lived, what advice would we give them? If we were to create a list of the best advice we could give our children, what would make the top ten?
I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it ~ Harry S. Truman
The Top Ten
Where to start? A complete list of all sound advice is impossible. What may be your number one bit of wisdom may not even make it onto my top ten. And yet, there are threads across good advice, a general common sense that applies as well in Sydney as in Stockton (hometown reference there…). Contemplating what I would like to convey to my son and daughter should they choose to turn an attentive ear my way, I came up with the following. If your favorite was excluded, just add it to the list. The idea is to create a starting point and to get us thinking about those important bits of advice that could most impact the lives of those we love. And then to share those ideas.
- Be true to your word – trust is a basic foundation of human relationships throughout your lifetime. If you commit to doing something, you do it. Your word is your bond. With a world around us that basks in half-truths and “white lies” – from drug company tantalizing promises to politicians “change of heart” upon election – role models can be scarce. So it is up to you to be that role model and to raise the bar.
- Do not focus your life on riches but instead focus on the riches that life has to offer -stories of those who have amassed fortunes are a dime a dozen but few are without tremendous sacrifices required to achieve their status. Sacrifices in time spent with family, attention paid to spouses, and personal downtime to recharge, recollect, and renew. All the money in the world will not foot the bill when you look across the dinner table at the son or daughter that you hardly know. The world is a beautiful place if you take the time to enjoy it.
- Don’t take your friends and family for granted – I learned this from my mom at an early age. When things get tough, your family is always there for you. Maintain those ties with relatives, even those that you are not necessarily excited to spend time with. You may be the person they turn to in their time of need or they may unexpectedly be who you go to when you are hurting.
- Invest 10% of what you make into some savings or investment account – get into the habit early on of saving before you start spending.
- Don’t use credit cards – if you do not have the money saved up to buy what you want, you cannot afford to buy it right now. If you cannot afford to buy it, don’t.
- Respect your elders – as unlikely as it may seem, parents have been through many of the same life experiences that you have. Yes it was a hundred years ago and yes times change but family, work, missed expectations, joyful moments, tearful times, and just living day to day are things we all go through. As you personally experience and deal with life, you will understand. But it doesn’t hurt to give us the benefit of the doubt every now and then.
- Drive carefully, especially in the neighborhood – assume there are children behind every car and bouncing pets on each corner. Slow and cautious helps to assure they go home safely each evening and you can sleep at night.
- Say thank you – a quick card after receiving a present, a brief phone call of thanks, or the thirty seconds it takes to send an email. People will appreciate your appreciation.
- Smile – it makes you feel good and it makes those around feel good.
- Don’t eat yellow snow
I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
Despite our best efforts, we cannot safely pave the way for our children and entirely remove bumps they will encounter during their lives. And realistically, it is through experiencing difficulties and making mistakes that we learn. How we respond to challenges defines our character and helps build us into the person we are and will be.