Fatherly Advice

It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve benefited (or should have benefited) from advice given to me by not only my own father, but the fathers of my boyhood friends.  For some reason, all my buddies had excellent relationships with their dads, and just hanging around with them at their houses — at dinnertime, in their workshops and so on — often led to me getting some seriously worthwhile tips on how to work your way through life’s many difficulties.  Here are some:

Never hang out with losers;  their behavior is contagious.  It’s always easier to go down than up, and this applies to just about every activity.  But the corollary is equally important:  pick your friends carefully.

At work, do exactly what your boss tells you to do.  Sometimes this is really hard, because what you’re being asked to do may seem stupid or pointless.  But often, you don’t have all the information that your boss does, and what seems stupid to you may be what the organization needs as part of a bigger plan.  And the time to suggest a better way of doing something is after you’ve finished.

There’s no decision so critical that it can’t be postponed till tomorrow.  Of course, there are exceptions to this, but it’s true at least 90% of the time, which is close enough.  Certainly, though, a large percentage of decisions made in the heat of the moment will be regrettable.

There’s never enough time to do a job properly, but there always seems to be enough time to do it OVER.   If any of these maxims has stayed with me all my life, it’s this one.  However, there is a corollary:

A job that is 90% quality delivered on time, is often worth more than one that’s 100% but delivered too late to be of use.  Self-evident, yes?  The critical part, I’ve discovered, is learning when this approach is appropriate.

Nobody likes a needy person.  Strive at all times to be as self-sufficient as possible.  And a corollary:

Borrow money only when you don’t need it.  This applies especially in dealing with banks.

Avoid crazy people.  This applies to both men and women.  No matter its allure, “crazy”  will lead to problems, more often than not.

All the above came to me after only a few hours’ thought, and undoubtedly I’ve omitted a few.  I’ll add to this list when another one comes to me.

Feel free to add your own.


  1. Never pass a bathroom – got that one from an old fighter pilot

    Never walk when you can ride and never stand when you can sit – from an infantry grunt who walked most of the length of Italy

    Never sleep with anybody who is crazier than you

    Always show up 15 minutes early – got that from my navy days. The midnight watch is always relieved at 11:45

    Be brave. Even when you’re not, pretend to be. Nobody can tell the difference.

    1. The longer version of your first one comes from diplomacy, from the British Raj I think.
      “Never tell a lie.
      Never tell the whole truth.
      Never pass up a chance to go to the bathroom.”

      One wonders how many bad deals have been made over the centuries because someone had to pee.

  2. The old man, being Sicilian, taught us early to never trust anyone.

    Gen Mattis (whom I lost all respect for) has the famous line “ Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

  3. You might out-rank the guy with 20 years experience, but pay attention to what he’s telling you.
    …. and similarly, ” Red maybe a farmhand and a drunk, but he knows what he’s doing and he’s smart, so pay attention and don’t disrespect him. ( A point driven home as I watched Red straighten a 2 inch thick steel Hitch Pin with his bare Bear sized hands. )


    Tattoos are for the swabbies, not officers.

  4. There’s no decision so critical that it can’t be postponed till tomorrow.

    My Dad’s version, especially when car shopping, was that if they’re really offering you a good deal today, it’ll still be a good deal tomorrow. And if the deal ain’t valid tomorrow, you don’t want to buy there anyway.

    He also said that drum brakes fade fast and are worthless if you’re going more than 100 mph. Which I had already found out from experience myself, but good advice anyway when driving 60’s American muscle cars with 400 hp motors and crap brakes on bald tires.

    Always carry a tool box with you on every road trip. The one time I forgot that little advice is the one time I needed it.

    1. The young men’s group that fed into the Masons, the DeMolay had a saying, Think Twice, before speaking once, and many rituals existed to reinforce that idea.

  5. Doing it the easy way is always the hard way.

    Shortcuts take longer.

    There are millions of ways to do the job badly and maybe 2 or 3 ways to do it right.

    And, supposedly from the Navy Seals: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

  6. Two from Daddy Gizzip:
    “No matter how pretty she is there’s some guy somewhere who’s had enough of her crap.”
    “Don’t trust anything that can bleed for 5 days and not die.”

  7. “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.” Based on item number one in your list. Always look for people who are smarter or wiser or more skilled or more worldly or more courtly so that you may emulate their behavior. Cherish your friends and keep them for ever.

  8. In answer to my childish question about aliens in flying saucers, my Father said “Anything is possible, but some things are highly improbable.” I remain a mixture of gullibility and skepticism to this day.

  9. Sound proverbs all.

    From my own dad.

    Do what you want, just remember there’s always a day of reckoning.

    Its ok to follow orders and instructions, but never ever surrender your own judgment.

  10. “At work, do exactly what your boss tells you to do. ”

    Yeah, no.

    This may work in white collar world, but elsewhere it can be a quick way to get maimed or killed by a boss’s lack of attention or competence.

    1. You said it!
      The college boy with no real experience, asks-tells-demands, you to break federal or state laws, violate company or union rules, and/or put yourself and others at physical risk, is not going to suffer the consequences, if you do.
      “No sir, it’s not insubordination. Please provide me signed and dated written instructions, first.” That usually pisses them off but it shuts them up.

    2. I concur. In my decades-long career, I have been blessed with many excellent managers, but I have had a few who were fools, and one who had serious mental health issues. (I eventually learned that she had come to us from another part of the same company on the opposite coast, having been transferred three thousand miles by bosses who just wanted to get rid of her. They should have fired her instead of inflicting her on us.)

  11. I wish I had heard the “don’t stick it in crazy” advice earlier in life. Somehow managed to recover from that one luckily.

  12. From my dad:
    When pulled over by the police, your answers should always be “Yes officer” or “No Officer” in a respectful tone. If he is wrong, we’ll take him down in court. You will never win at the side of the road.

  13. Own your actions

    Learn the difference between friends and acquaintances

    Don’t try to con the police or the taxman – they get it all day and they can see you are going to try as you walk in the door

    Avoid debt like your life depends on it

    Drive on the top half of the tank

  14. “A job that is 90% quality delivered on time, is often worth more than one that’s 100% but delivered too late to be of use.”

    The codicil to that one is: “Perfect is the mortal enemy of Good.”

    “At work, do exactly what your boss tells you to do. ” – Malicious compliance?

    1. I read once that Wehrmacht officers in WWII were liable to be court martialed for following obviously stupid orders.

  15. Before marriage: “Never stick your d*ck in crazy.”
    In marriage: “Never miss a good opportunity to shut the hell up.”
    After marriage: “Of your previously given advice you didn’t pay attention to, which one are you going to ignore the second time?”
    Never be afraid to make a mistake…your parents weren’t.

  16. “Borrow money only when you don’t need it. This applies especially in dealing with banks.”

    I would go even farther than that. Don’t borrow money at all if you can possibly avoid it. Since getting out of debt five years ago, I have followed that path and have never regretted it. I will never borrow money again, with the possible exception of a home mortgage if I choose to buy a house in the future. (And even in that case, I will make a large down payment, make the term of the mortgage as short as I can, and pay it off as soon as I can.)

    I don’t deal with banks at all. I use a credit union.

  17. The most useful principle I have learned is to identify which aspects of your life are under your control and which ones are not. Then stop dwelling on the ones you don’t control. It’s a waste of time and energy. Focus on the parts of your life that you can actually improve.

    I find that the Stoic philosophers are right when they say that the only thing you truly control is yourself. So instead of focusing on what other people do and say, or on the random misfortunes that happen to you from time to time, focus on how you respond to those things. That’s the key.

  18. A Hillbilly woodworker once told me, “If a man finds himself enduring dull tools or dull women, it’s his own damn fault.”

  19. From my time in the Navy:
    “Think. Key. Speak.”
    Think about what you’re going to say (on the radio)
    Key the radio (i.e. don’t start talking until you’ve keyed the transmitter)
    Speak. Do this only after you’ve thought about what you’re going to say and then keyed the mic.
    Applies to many facets of life.

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