Twenty Things I Want My Kids to Know

Now that it’s official, it’s time I finish this up and pass it along.  The official part being Will’s acceptance to MSSM. For each of you this has meant a unique opportunity to step out into the world. A beginning. For me it means the time I have had to influence and shape each of your lives is closing faster than expected.  As children your biggest responsibility is to explore and find your place as productive and happy citizens of the world. As a father, my biggest responsibility is to prepare you for that.

Life is full of surprises.  Not many follow a plan. And for those that do, plans have a way of changing. As a family we have gone down unexpected roads which have at times varied from exciting, to challenging, to worrisome, and enlightening. The point here being that we were short changed on the time and focus this task deserves on the front end as well.  But it doesn’t show much. You are all outstanding young men who have rolled with the punches, accepted responsibility for yourselves, and made me very proud.  Perhaps adversity is the best teacher.  A mother as wonderful as yours doesn’t hurt either.

Attached is something I’ve been working on for some time. I’m not planning on going anywhere soon. But time does have a way of slipping by and often it’s hard to find the right time and place to share what you have to say. I’m not going to let that happen.

I may not be the most successful person around. Or the most charming or best looking. I’m not even funny. But what I am is principled. And disciplined and hard working. And have the courage of my convictions.  That may be your only inheritance. I wish I had a special knowledge or a career or a company to help you on your way. I wish I had more resources to help you explore and learn with or to get a jump on the competition.  I wish I had a wealth of friends and family that could open up doors for you.

I’ve got a little of each which I will gladly share with you. But what I have an abundance of is wisdom. Mostly learned from trial and error. Mostly error.  Some conventional. Some unique and mine alone. I’ve written it down and attached it here.  Keep it for future reference. It’s written in the hope that it helps you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made, confirms your instincts and intuition, or guides you in times of uncertainty. Or all three. And helps you understand who I am and what I value most.  I hope it helps.


1)      Put First Things First.

It’s not always clear what the top priority is. But it’s usually not the quick fix, shortcut, or path of least resistance. Lasting achievement is built on a foundation built for the future. 

2)      Attitude is the ONLY Thing You Can Control.

There are many things in life we work on and try to influence. And an equal number of things that work on and influence us. Control is often an illusion. However, the person you show the world every day is your choice alone.

3)      You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression.

People make judgments. It’s a part of being human and keeps us alive. They are often wrong and not easily changed. Yours included. Remember that.

4)      Treat Others as You Wish to Be Treated.

People won’t always remember what you said. But they will remember how you made them feel. And actions speak louder than words.  Hypocrisy is an epidemic.

5)      Check all Assumptions.

When you’ve thought everything through and examined all angles, don’t forget the possibility that your wrong.

6)      Always Do your Best.   

That’s all anyone can ask or you can offer. You’re not as good or as bad as you think you are. And nobody is perfect. In fact, you may find that your best effort gets you a lot further than you thought.

7)      Don’t take yourself too seriously. 

No one else does. Life is meant to be enjoyed.

8)      Everybody is a Critic. Offer Solutions.

Observation and constructive criticism are good. Creative problem solving is better. 

9)      Finish What you Start.

Getting started is often hard. Keeping at it harder. But don’t leave things undone.

10)  Trust Few. Believe in Yourself.

Confidence is key. To everything.

11)  Value is a Function of Scarcity.

Courage is one of the rarest. Intellectual honesty another. And good advice.

12)  It’s not what you make. It’s what you save.

Without a surplus you’ve got nothing. Be it time, money, or goodwill.

13)  Talk is Cheap.

When all is said and done, more is said than is done. And if you want to be heard, whisper.

14)  Sex is Over-Rated.

Sure it’s fun. And natural. But it will lead you to do foolish things. Ignore the hype.

15)  Intimacy Takes Time and Lasts Longer.  

Think of it as quality over quantity. That’s how women see it. Don’t let them down.

16)  Women Like a Project.

Behind every successful man is a good woman. But don’t give up your own will. Ever.

17)  Voluntary Cooperation and Teamwork are the Highest Calling.    

Dependence. Independence. Interdependence. In that order. 

18)  America is the Best Idea Ever Developed.

More than a place. It’s the vanguard of individual rights and community. Defend it. 

19)  Balance is the Meaning of Life.

Remember the universal dynamic interplay of polar opposites.  Seek balance in all things.

20)  Random Nature is Intelligent Design. 

Science or art? Rational or emotional? Personal or impersonal?  Yes.

21)  A Few More.

Music is what separates us from the animals. And books are good. Read them. 

Unconditional Love Forever.




About Stuart Whitman

Business Analyst by day. Reader and writer by night. Skeptical of conventional wisdom.
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