My Christmas Gift: Two Lessons From My Greatest Teacher
As Christmas approaches, I got to thinking about what I wanted to write about and share with you. And I decided to share something I wrote the day after my Grandfather passed away. He was my greatest teacher, and gave me gifts that I will forever cherish. I think he’d be proud to know that I shared them with you in hopes that they make a difference for you, and as a way to honor him as well.
My grandfather taught me two key things about life that I will try to embody and live up to for the rest of my life. Live and Give.
Live every second of every day. I don’t just mean to survive and exist. I mean to squeeze every drop of juice from that orange. Experience life in all of its glory, don’t just throw one hook in the water, throw as many as you can. He taught me to take chances and push. Success takes risk and overcoming risk takes belief. Never ever let fear dictate a decision. If the logic is there, believe in your ability and don’t bring failure into the equation.
He taught me to laugh. Making people laugh is a talent that should be used often. Whether he was making up words, telling a funny story or just being a little inappropriate to the disdain of his wife, he was always looking to make people laugh. What a difference we can make in a person’s day by making them laugh. The best part was that he was usually laughing so hard himself (tears of laughter welling up in his eyes) that he could sometimes not even finish the story. Laughter is truly a great medicine.
He taught me to dream big. My grandfather showed me the potential of what is out there. He gave me targets to shoot for. It’s no wonder he spawned a generation of entrepreneurs in my family. If someone shows interest in business, nurture that in every way you can. Help them see the possibilities beyond their own horizon. Believe in them and teach them. Build the confident foundation that it will take to hold a strong life.
He taught me to cherish. To love. Hold your family close. His playful flirting with his wife, stressing over wanting to pick the right gift for her and wanting to be with her always were all signs of his adoring feelings. His wry smile, firm handshake, and loving hugs made everyone he touched feel the warmth he exuded. Life is fleeting, cherish the moments you have.
He taught me to believe. The world will try and knock you down. Sadly, that is what our society does. It will take a very strong person with a very high level of confidence to overcome that. You have to start with belief in yourself. Are you willing to work hard enough to make it happen? Will you make the sacrifices it will take? It all starts with a base of belief.
Give. Give early, give often. Whether it’s the man in the office garage picking up trash or making sure his entire family had the opportunity to receive an education, my grandfather made sure he lifted anyone who would take the hand. Everyone who is willing to work, believes in helping others and does it with a smile deserves anything we can give them to help them achieve their dreams.
He taught me about the importance of loyalty. The people you surround yourself with will greatly impact your success and enjoyment of life. Taking care of those people so they stay is imperative. The value you place on other people will determine your ceiling of success.
He taught me to mentor. Give freely of your time and knowledge. Every time I was with him he shared stories, gave lessons or just listened. Anyone who requested an audience got it and more. If you were struggling with a decision, needed to figure out an alternate path, or wanted someone to help you push yourself beyond where you thought you could go, he was there. There are always people that need help, look for them and give it. Help make their life easier.
He taught me the importance of humility. When asked about his ‘secret’ for success, it was always about the people he was ‘lucky’ enough to be associated with. Success is never achieved on your own. It takes a team. A team of people helping you with the work, driving to do more and cheering you on. Make sure the world knows that you appreciate them.
He taught me to set an example. As Ghandi said: Be the change you want to see in the world. He gave to everyone around him. He took care of his family financially, he supported his family’s education, he gave advice to any that asked. He taught me how to be a patriarch of my own family. He wasn’t perfect, but he worked at it every day and set the course that I hope to follow.
Live and Give. Experience and advise. Be conscious and impart. Be aware and share. Life has many things to offer and be appreciative of. It is our unique opportunity to truly enjoy it and should be our willing obligation to help others do the same. My grandfather taught me that over and over as he showed me his version of how to live. He was by no means perfect, but he was perfectly him. The world is out there. Enjoy it, see it, experience it. Make it better, teach it, build it.
May you and your family have a beautiful Holiday season.