It’s been almost a year since my father passed and while the anguish has subsided, I still miss him every day. Everyone always says the first holidays/events without a loved one are the hardest and a lot of emotions are beginning to rise to the surface. Don’t forget to tell your friends and family how much you love them because you might not get the chance again.

Without the love and support of my father, I wouldn’t be where I am today. While he was tough on me, I always knew he loved me and was looking out for what he thought was in my best interest. This weekend, I want to share with you a few of the lessons he taught me growing up that have stuck with me.

1. “Remember who you are”

My Dad used to tell me this all the time, especially as I grew older and started venturing out on my own. It took me years to really grasp what he meant. Part of the reason was that I didn’t really know who I was. Society tries to tell us who we should be and our families instill certain value systems into our behavior. However, as we grow older, it is up to us to pick the pieces that we believe in. We must craft our own mission and values and fight to defend them. Are you the type of person that cuts corners or do you do things the right way? Doing the little things right when nobody is looking is what makes you who you are. If you tell yourself you will do something and don’t, you are lying to yourself (which can be even worse than lying to others). This is one of the quickest ways to lose confidence and fall back on bad habits. Are you afraid to voice your opinion for fear of being judged? I used to be scared to show my true self to people fearing I would be rejected.  I struggle with this fear from time to time, but with a lot of inner work, I gained confidence in myself and realized that I can’t worry what other people think about me.  While it can be difficult not to be swayed by the crowd, we must stick to our principles and values. This will be your guiding light as you make difficult life decisions. If we can “remember who we are” when faced with difficult decisions, we can be satisfied with the outcome. However, if you just go along with the crowd or cut yourself short, you will never be fulfilled.

2. “It’s a tough game little man, get up.”

This comes from a story my dad used to tell me about his days playing football at the University of Alabama. It was spring practice his freshman or sophomore year and he made a tackle, pinching a nerve in his neck. As he was on the ground and unable to move his arm, Coach Bryant walked over and said to him, “It’s a tough game little man, get up.”  He got up, continued to practice, and ended up starting all his years at Bama as a 5’8 lineman. Life is no different. It will hit us with a lot of tough times. The current climate is a direct example and we can either lay there and wallow in our self-pity or get up and keep going. Our effort and toughness are a choice and we can’t quit when bad things happen. If you keep working and moving forward, the rewards will be great and you will be proud of what you accomplished.

3. Say I love you and cherish your close relationships

My dad told my family that he loved us every day. We knew he was always there for us. I made a lot of dumb decisions in my late teens and early twenties, but no matter what, he was there to help and move me forward. He was always there for my sisters and taught us to stick together as a family. Not only did he show us how important family is, but he stressed the importance of close friends. He kept in touch with his close friends all the way until the end and talked to them daily. I had the honor of having his best friend be my best man at my wedding. While he had to stand in virtually, it is something I’ll never forget. These relationships are the meaning of life. I am happy to have a close family, a loving wife, her family, and close friends that I know I can count on and they can count on me. Being with others in good times and bad is what makes life so much fun.

These are a few of the many lessons he taught me over the years and maybe one day I’ll be able to pass them on to my own kids. Dads don’t get all of the credit they deserve for all of the hard work they put in for their families.

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