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10 Father’s Day Lessons

I recently came across a letter I wrote on Fathers Day. The lessons are still very pertinent today and I wanted to share a few of them with you. Take a look and see “10 Lessons” from my Dad…and hopefully one or two or more speak to you on this Father’s Day!!!


10 Father’s Day Lessons!
By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

Happy Father’s Day! To all the father’s, I wish you a very happy day! I actually just “woke up” from falling asleep in my kid’s room where I was telling them some of my favorite stories of my own father (their “Grandfather Sir”) for their bedtime stories. It actually went so long that I ended up falling asleep in their room at about 9 pm. And I just woke up at 2 am. So I am now wide awake in the middle of the night and in a reflective mood.

Days like today always allow you to do reflect DEEPLY. I know for me, I was blessed with a father for 20 years (My father passed away when I was 20 years old in 1992). But I still reflect regularly on the memories that were created. And the many lessons I learned from my Dad.  Here are my TOP 10 lessons I learned from my father that still serve me today.

1. Time is the most precious commodity we have. Use it wisely. Make the most out of it.  Every day, ask yourself, “What is the most valuable use of my time, right now?

2. Write letters.  My dad wrote me a hand-written letter EVERYDAY while I was in college (email didn’t exist yet!) and I remember how GREAT that used to make me feel.  Many of these letters were short & written on the back of McDonald’s menus, napkins, or just his infamous legal yellow notepad. Nowadays, it’s a lot simpler because of email. So whether you choose to email a letter or handwrite a letter, take the time to share your thoughts with your closest loved ones regularly. You can even journal and keep a running tab on all the wonderful accomplishments, events, and experiences you encounter as well.

3. Listen to your gut. I don’t know if there is a more valuable lesson. Tune in to that little voice in your “inside” and honor it.  My Dad had great “gut instinct.”  It’s a skill—learn to listen to it!

4. Be there for your kids. I have 7 brothers & sisters. After my dad’s first heart attack at the age of 48 (that was in 1982), he “changed” his life and began to shift his priorities from just work to more of “life.” He went from all Type-A to a lot of Type-B. I can only imagine how hard that must have been.  I was one of the beneficiaries of his change because I am the youngest child in our family.  My Dad went to ALL of my games/practices from the time I was 10 years old through high-school. Bottom line is you don’t need 8 kids or a heart attack to learn this lesson; do your best to be there as much as you can for your children. It is you being there that they remember!

5. Talk to everyone. I remember my Dad used to talk to everyone. The grocery store check-out girl, the garbage man, the grounds-crew at the schools, all the parents (not just the popular ones), and the waiter/waitress at the diner. And I am not just talking about talking to them. But I am talking about he would try to get to really know them. Where they are from, their family, and how life was treating them. He would encourage them. He would make them laugh, he would ask them about their kids, and he would listen to them. Most of all, he would make everyone feel really special. People always commented on this to me. Many of the people that still remember my Dad, remember this the most about him.

6. Be quiet in the stands. And while there were always loud, yelling parents (good & bad) in the stands, I rarely heard my Dad. He would smile at me, give me a thumbs up, or sometimes even a fist pump. It was AFTER the game in the car ride home that he would tell me (typically) in this order:  how much he loved me, what he liked about the way I practiced or played, what I could have changed or done differently, and then finish with some story of how the game was reflective of life. He always had lessons about life. And then we he would just reinforce his love for me. Man, that was great parenting.

7. Light up a room.  Not sure how he did it, be he had “it.” Charisma. Confidence. Energy. He had the ability to capture people’s attention quickly. His quick wit, his wise words, or body language always could captivate a room. Board of education meetings, town-hall meetings, sports club meetings, banquets, etc. He had a presence about him that was very “large.” I think the lessons here are “even if you’re nervous, don’t show it. Act like you own the room. Smile. Give firm handshakes. Stand tall, chest out, good posture.” After a while, it becomes part of “you.”   

8. Listen.  Listen.  Listen. You could always tell my Dad “got it.” When you spoke to him, he would listen intently and just listen. Than his carefully chosen words were wise and compassionate. I never felt belittled and often felt empowered. I think 7 kids before me probably seasoned him a bit. But a great lesson indeed. And he listened to everyone!

9. Do whatever it takes to make ends meet. My Dad fought for his family. He would go to all ends for his family. Early in his career, he used to drive a total of 2.5-3 hours DAILY from the Jersey Shore (Brick) to Long Island. He did this for 12 years. Imagine that. Imagine leaving at 5 am and getting home at 9 pm. Back in the 70’s, most women didn’t work. He was the sole provider for the family. 8 kids. That takes a big effort. And while that was “tough” early-on for the family, the commitment that must have been way back then is incredible to me. That is commitment to do what you have to do so your kids can eat and have a very modest home.

10. You have to wear dark socks when you go to church. You laugh but I remember him getting on me at a young age if I wore “white” socks to church. He would say “you should wear your best slacks and dress shoes to Mass and look depart. And you must wear dark socks with that!” I laugh now because times have changed. But it is still in my head that, “You look good, you play good.  You look good, you pray good.”  It’s funny that he’s still in my head like this but it’s true. Coach Wolf said you should look debonnaire. Bottom line is that two of my mentors were sticklers on that. And it’s still with me today.


11. Love unconditionally. My Dad was the biggest gentle giant there was. 6’3, 260 lbs. Big man. Huge heart. Strong presence. But I just reflect on the “unconditional love” he offered his family. Think about it. 8 kids. Not always easy. Some tough times. He never stopped being a father. Good old-fashioned, blue-collar work ethic, yet loved his family dearly. And I still remember that!

As I sit here late at night (or early in the AM) and ponder the influence my father had on me, I realize it was HUGE. I often say that “I had more of a father in 20 years than many people have in a lifetime.” Fortunate. Blessed. Lucky. These are words that come to mind when I reflect on this 2011 Father’s Day.

I now have 3 kids of my own. Precious little souls. Luke (8) had an All-Star baseball game today (Saturday) where he was 3-3 with a triple, double, and single. But I told him after the game that’s not what me proud.  It’s “how you played the game today” that made me most proud. A big smile came across his face in the back seat. It was just like mine when I was a young boy being told by my Dad “It’s not whether you won the game or how many TD’s you threw, it’s how you played the game” that matters most. And then I told him I loved him.

Then I jetted off to basketball practice for my 6-year-old, Brady.  It was their first practice of the “season” and I am one of the coaches. Let’s just say “Buster” plays man defense even when we are learning a soft-zone. He likes physical contact. The other coach came up to me and said, “Your son is a spitting image of you. He is a mini-you.” Is there a better compliment to a parent than hearing that? Seriously. I told Brady after practice that the way you practice is the way you play the game. And I loved the way he practiced today. With passion & purpose! And then I told him I loved him.

Then there is McKenna. My sweet little 3-year old. We took the kids out to an early dinner tonight and we have been playing the “Jersey Boys” CD non-stop in my car. And we all sing it. But Track #10 (imagine that!) is always my dedicated song to little “Macki.” The song is “My Eyes Adored You.” And let me tell you what, the way she looks at me and smiles when I sing this song to her just melts my heart and brings tears to my eyes. Literally. Soon enough, I know I will probably be singing this song at her wedding and giving her away to some man that better have a strong-handshake, good posture, look debonaire, and treat all people with respect.

Time is precious. This is just my story. Maybe you can write down what lessons you learned from your Dad today. Or write down 2-3 points from above that you can focus on. Let’s face it. There is NO harder or more challenging job than parenting. It’s not easy to be great at it. And while we all have our days where we are not as great as we should be, remember that you get remembered for the cumulative days that add up.

For me, it kills me if I am on the road traveling and can’t go to my kid’s games. “Dad would have never done that” I often think. But I also know that I am listening to my gut and staying true to my purpose:  Creating IMPACT in thousands of people’s lives and still being a great parent. And that is a lesson to the kids itself. I try to live by the motto, “When you are there, be THERE for your family. Be present. Be alive. Listen. Smile. Play. Be involved.” And always, always do your BEST!!!

That’s it my friends. It’s time for me to go “back” to bed. Thanks for allowing me to share this early Father’s Day. It’s going to be a GREAT day. I appreciate you all and hope you have a wonderfully blessed day.

Much “fatherly” love!


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