Wisdom of the Duke, sort of

Today’s Wisdom of the Duke might not contain any actual quotes from John Wayne; however I feel that the message contained within lines up precisely with the message that I try to communicate with this blog.

Today’s Wisdom of the Duke should probably be titled “Things I learned from my dad”; and as my father introduced me to John Wayne movies, it’s only fitting that this entry be placed under a Wisdom of the Duke. My father was easily my greatest role model when I was growing up, his influence on my life cannot be understated. After he met my then fiance, his words when I asked him about the future Mrs. Ahab were simply “you did well”. That was enough.

Things I learned from my dad

  1. It’s okay to be scared. There’s nothing inherently wrong with fear, I was scared when I left for the Academy, I was scared when I was getting married, I’ve been scared a lot in my life. It’s what you do with that fear that defines you – if you allow your fear to dominate you and keep you from reaching for things that you want, that’s when you have really lost.
  2. If you fail, don’t fail to learn. I discovered that sometimes despite my best efforts, I would not succeed at something. In those situations, failing to learn from your lack of success only compounds your failure. Not only did you not accomplish your goal, but you didn’t end up any smarter.
  3. Your word is all you have. A lot of things can be taken from you; but your ability to inspire trust in others, to literally have your word be your bond is something that no one can take from you. However, it is very easy for you take that from yourself. Even in the worst of situations, your word, your integrity can not be taken from you by force.
  4. Character is what you do when no one is looking. It doesn’t matter if you do the right thing when everyone is watching, what matters is when you do the right thing and you know that no one will ever see you.
  5. Certain things are worth fighting and dying for. It’s up to you as an individual to decide what they are for you.
  6. Finally, your family comes first. My dad never told me this explicitly, it was never verbalized to me. But I saw it every day. I’ve mentioned before that my father was an LA County Sheriff’s deputy, which means that you get to do all the dirty work and watch LAPD get all the glory. Not once in 17 years that I lived at home did I ever get the impression that his job was more important than his family. I have three brothers. My father would take a sick day on each of our birthdays every year, and just spend the day with us. We could go shooting, go the movies, play mini-golf; it didn’t matter because it was our day with him.

I learned a lot more than six lessons from my father. I learned how to love my wife by watching how he treated my mother, I learned how to throw a good jab, I learned that a .38 Special with snake shot cleans up rattlers. When you combined everything he consciously taught me with everything I learned from watching him, it added up to one thing: I learned how to be a man that my dad would be proud of. That was easily the most valuable lesson of all.

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