A friend and father recently asked me, “What’s the best piece of advice your dad gave you?” And I really had to take a minute to think on it. Not because there was a shortage of advice, but because I made a lot of mistakes, which meant I got a lot of repeated advice. That repetition means I remember it and I use it. It is part of who I am, and it is hard to pick the best part of me from my father because there is so much he did and does that is good.
All the little sayings that I mindlessly repeat to myself, and are routine habits in my way of life. These habits are small acts of kindness, generosity, or thoughtfulness that regularly earn me compliments at work, church, and out with my family. Compliments that I self-consciously acknowledge, while feeling a little embarrassed because I don’t feel like I did anything special. It’s usually when I do something I always saw my Dad doing: opening doors, helping a stranger, or making children smile.
With all of these little values, there is one piece of advice that really changed my life. He always told me “If you don’t give something the opportunity to happen, then it won’t happen.”
The first time I can remember him saying this is when I was in the 3rd grade. I left my GameBoy in my desk at school the last day before winter break, and someone stole it during the break. While he acknowledged the disappointment, he took the opportunity to tell his 9-year-old son that “if you don’t give something the opportunity to happen, then it won’t happen.” I shouldn’t have left something so important to me unsecured in an open desk at a public elementary school.
This came up again when someone stole my car stereo because I chose somewhere unsafe over paying to park in a more secure location, and I pulled up blaring music to show off my subwoofers. I also heard it, when I wiped out my teenage savings paying a traffic ticket for running a stop sign, when I all I had to do what stop the car instead of slowly rolling through the intersection.
The thefts weren’t my fault, but I could have avoided the loss with relatively simple tweaks to my behavior, like putting the GameBoy in my backpack since I shouldn’t playing with it during class, or turning off my stereo before I exited the highway and parking in a safer spot. Traffic tickets are easy to avoid by following the posted speed limits and signs.
It wasn’t only negative though. The awesome part about this piece of advice is that I can credit it for so many wonderful blessings in my life. I wouldn’t have received a college scholarship, if I hadn’t applied. I wouldn’t have met my wife, if I hadn’t said hello in the aisle of an electronics store. And my family wouldn’t have moved to the other side of the world with our two month old ,if I hadn’t applied for a job.
My dream is to devote my life to my wife, my family, and to helping other people be the best versions of themselves. I don’t know how it will happen, but I do know that it never will, if I don’t provide an opportunity for my dream to become reality. Currently, I am pursuing this by working hard at a full-time corporate job to support my family, while my wife and I devote every spare minute we have to our passion project, Positive Mornings.
We started Positive Mornings to keep each other accountable for our morning routines, and it evolved to helping others commit to improving themselves and their lives. If there is a change or a goal you want to achieve in your life, then I encourage you to join us for our next challenge because “if you don’t give something the opportunity to happen, then it won’t happen.”