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40 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dad

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40 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dad

Appreciating Life's Synchronicities
Mike  Robbins
Mike Robbins More by this author
Jun 18, 2016 at 08:15 AM

This year I’m celebrating my 42nd birthday, I’ve been in a deep process of self-reflection and have been looking back on my own life and all that has unfolded in the past four decades. I was inspired after reading Wayne Dyer’s book I Can See Clearly Now, in which he recounts many of the pivotal moments of his life, the lessons he learned, and how he “can see clearly now” the meaning, purpose, and synchronicity of it all. I loved the book and got so much out of it.

Reflecting back on our lives and seeing how everything has happened for a reason is an important and powerful thing for us to do. It’s also essential, although often more challenging, to trust that things are unfolding now and will continue to do so in the future, as they’re meant to. As Steve Jobs talked about in his famous commencement speech at Stanford in 2005:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.”

inspirational quote

I had a profound “connecting the dots” moment on my birthday twp years ago. I was out to dinner with my wife Michelle, my sisters Rachel and Lori, and a few friends. Lori pulled out a piece of paper and said, “As a way of honoring you on your 40th birthday, it felt important and appropriate for me to bring this and read it.” She then began to read from a list of 40 life lessons called “Life According to Ed Robbins,” our father, who died back in 2001.

As she began to read from this list, I was both touched and a little confused. After she got through the first few items, I stopped her and asked, “Lori, where did you get that?” She stopped and looked at me, equally confused. She said, “What do you mean, where did I get this? I got it from you – you wrote it when dad died, don’t you remember?”

Amazingly, I had no memory of writing it. But, apparently after my dad died, I made a list of some of his key philosophies and lessons, as a way to remember, honor, and memorialize him. Even more amazing to me than the fact that I didn’t remember writing it (I actually have a pretty good memory in general and especially for stuff like this), was the nature of what I wrote. So much of the advice on the list, which came from my father and what he taught me and all of us, is similar to the core themes of my work – particularly my latest book, Nothing Changes Until You Do.

My father and I had a complicated relationship. He and my mom split up when I was three, and by the age of seven he was in and out of our lives as he struggled with severe bi-polar disorder. This was very painful for me and our entire family, as you can imagine.

Although he was able to get well by the time I was a teenager, our relationship remained challenging for many years and we never had a “traditional” father/son relationship. Although I did learn many things from my dad, I have found myself at times over the past twelve years or so since he died, especially in the past eight since becoming a father myself, hanging onto this “story” that my dad didn’t teach me a lot of things that I wish I’d learned about life, manhood, marriage, fatherhood, and more.

I also find myself wishing he would have gotten a chance to meet his granddaughters, to see me as a husband and father, and also to see the work that I do. He got very sick the final year of his life, which also happened to be the first year of my business, so he never got to see me speak and never got to read anything that I wrote (at least not in the context of the work I do now.)

However, reading this list of life advice and reflecting back on the lessons he did teach me, I’m not only struck by a deep sense of gratitude for what he taught me, but I’m also blown away by the way in which he influenced my life and my work, even more than I’d realized.

Below is the list, which contains a few inside jokes and references to funny things my dad did and said, but also contains a great deal of universal wisdom which I think you’ll appreciate. I feel honored, grateful, and humbled to share with you:

40 Life Lessons I Learned From My Dad

  1. Speak from your heart
  2. Wear your heart on your sleeve
  3. Be passionate and outspoken – do not let anyone stifle your expression
  4. Have love be your top priority
  5. Give kind, positive feedback as often as you possibly can
  6. Remember that you are not your accomplishments – you are you, and people love you for who you are, not what you do
  7. Remember that it’s okay to cry, in fact it’s good to cry often
  8. Hugs and kisses are beautiful and greatly appreciated
  9. Be grateful for your family and always stay connected with them
  10. Make sure you “kiss and make up” after a fight
  11. Cheer loudly at baseball games and always stand up when someone hits one you think might go out of the park
  12. Stand up for the people that you love and be willing to fight for them, if necessary
  13. Root for all your local sports teams – even if you have more than one team from the same sport near where you live
  14. Drive slowly and carefully
  15. Wait for all lights to change before crossing the street
  16. Talk to strangers
  17. Appreciate the beauty of where you are
  18. Never get off the phone with someone you love without saying “I love you.”
  19. Before saying something rude or contradictory, first say “with all due respect…”
  20. Laugh loudly and often
  21. Do not be afraid to get fired up, passionate, and raise your voice when necessary (and even sometimes when not so necessary)
  22. Take lots of photos of people you care about and keep them organized
  23. Save things that are important to you
  24. Be romantic and remember important dates, experiences, and events
  25. Sing the words to songs that you love
  26. Read the newspaper and know what is going on in the world, in sports, in entertainment, and more
  27. Have an opinion on everything!
  28. Be willing to admit when you made a mistake
  29. Forgive yourself and others
  30. Be kind and loving to yourself first
  31. Tell the truth
  32. Stay true to yourself
  33. Appreciate people
  34. Remember that it is okay to swear sometimes
  35. Remember that it is what’s on the inside that counts
  36. Remember that it’s okay to feel down and to feel scared
  37. Remember that people are the most important things in life
  38. Remember that there is no need to rush when you are eating, driving, or doing almost anything
  39. Remember that money is not that important
  40. Remember that you can bounce back from anything


I love this list and his advice. Both because of the simple and important wisdom of it, but also for what it represents – the synchronicity of life. My 40th birthday has been an opportunity for me to heal, learn, grow, celebrate, reflect, dream, forgive, accept, and much more.

How about you? As you reflect back upon your life and all the twists and turns it has taken up to this point, can you see how everything that has happened is interconnected? As you do this, can you also look around at your life right now (and even out into your future) and trust that all of the dots are connected in some beautiful and magical way, even if it may not be abundantly clear in the moment?

Trusting in the synchronicity of life isn’t easy or even all that encouraged – most of us have more experience with worry and control. Unfortunately, not only do worry and control not work, they end up sabotaging our experience of life and damaging us in the process. For example, in the video below, I talk about the process of writing my new book, Nothing Changes Until You Do, and how I overcome judging myself by constantly reminding myself of my value.


It takes a great deal of courage and faith to trust in the synchronicity of life. And, when we’re able to do so, we give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy life, celebrate the full experience of it, and learn, grow, and evolve along the way. This trust is not a guarantee that everything will work out perfectly, there’s nothing in life that we can do which will guarantee that. However, when we trust that life is unfolding as it is meant to, we’re able to get out of our own way, liberate ourselves from unnecessary suffering, and experience the beauty and depth that life has to offer.

About Author
Mike  Robbins
Mike Robbins is the author of four books,  Continue reading