words to live by

I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough formal imparting of wisdom to our kids. You know, like the things people say when asked what life lessons they learned from their father. Oh, I give them plenty of information, there’s no lack of interesting (to me) anecdotal facts thrown around, but what about lasting nuggets, words to live by?

So, for a while now I’ve wanted to create a “creed” our family. The motivation for the idea came from a sad place, after hearing about the family creed of a co-worker who died when it was shared at his memorial service. But I think it was precisely that somber context – a final posthumous delivery of life-guidance from the grave – that made it seem so powerful to me. Not that one has to pass to impart that kind of power, but that those words and concepts had such an important part in the definition of the family.

I would never have considered the idea had I not heard the story above, but ever since then I’ve been very sporadically working on ideas for what I might include in a credit creed of our own.

Brevity is key. This isn’t a paragraph and there should be a relatively low word-to-message ratio, I want powerful statements expressed in few words, and I want only a handful of them. Specificity of guidance shouldn’t be too narrow, but also not to broad. Otherwise there’s really no improvement which can be made over the Golden Rule, and we may as well just adopt that (a fine idea, truly, for those not wanting to write their own).

On this trip I’ve gone back to the idea a few times, touching-up the draft list I’ve been kicking around for all these years. Right now I have too many words and ideas, and I’ll admit some statements are more like personalized self-improvement mantras than guidance to the family, but it’s a start.

  • Be & do good
  • Act instead of worry
  • Make time for family
  • Surround yourself with who you want to be
  • Be resilient in failure & disappointment
  • Value nature & its resources
  • Learn to defer gratification
  • Never stop learning & teaching
  • Seek experience over material
  • Take worthwhile risks

I’ll keep working on it.

I have this dream that I can get Sharaun on board and maybe one day have it drawn-up nicely enough that we could display it somewhere at the house (afraid to float this to her until she’s had an editorial crack at it herself, though, as she’s so particular about what goes on the walls).


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