When I was 17 years old, my dad, James H. Fisher, Esq., wrote a letter that will be passed on within my family for generations. In the letter, my dad carefully laid out the lessons that he learned from his life and asked that I “keep this letter and read it again from time to time.” The letter was written by hand, but might as well have been written in granite.
Every so often, I glance at my dad’s letter and reflect on how lucky I am to have a dad who took the time to instill life’s lessons in his son. My dad’s letter has been a reminder of values and advice that I’ve taken to heart throughout my adult life.
Now that my kids are 17 years old, I thought I might at least try to give them the benefit of my mistakes, failures and a few successes. Here goes.
How to Find Happiness, September 7, 2016
Dear Tim, Alek & Lily:
I am writing to you for two reasons: the written word is easier to digest and remember than the verbal, and I want to share with you a few of the mistakes and lessons I’ve learned. Take them for what they’re worth.
Treat Your Body Like a Temple
Being fat sucks. Make tough decisions and get 100% compliant with your diet.
Four bad foods: bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Reduce those foods from your diet and eat real food, i.e., fruit and vegetables. Artificial food is bad, natural food is good.
If you had a millionaire dollar race horse, would you let him eat at McDonald’s? No way! Isn’t your health more important than a horse? Treat your body like a temple.
Deny Yourself Once a Day
Deny yourself of a guilty pleasure at least once a day. Mind over body.
Tempted by ice cream? Just say “no”.
Don’t eat anything or drink sugar water for 24 consecutive hours. Mind over body—take control of your body.
Exercise Once a Day
Do one exercise every day, no matter how small, i.e., 25 pushups, 1 minute of planking/boat pose or a 1-2 mile walk/jog.
Drink 4 Waters a Day
Drink 4 16-ounce waters a day. Water purifies the body.
Wash Your Hands before Meals
Wash your hands before meals and you will rarely get sick.
Wash & Moisturize Your Face
Wash and moisturize your face at the end of every day. This is the best way to keep a youthful appearance. When you get old, you’ll be glad you did.
Avoid caffeine, i.e., coffee and soda. Artificially stimulating your heart is never a good thing.
Make $ Your Servant, Not Your Master
Big cars and fancy homes have never made anyone happy—they just make you want more stuff. You’ll never win the race to keep up with the next guy down the block.
Material possessions will never make you happy, but travel will. Traveling broadens horizons and brings new perspectives—it will make you more interesting, worldly and fun.
If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in 30 days, donate it to Goodwill. Get rid of the crap that clutters your space and mind.
Withhold 10% from Every Paycheck
Guaranteed path to financial wealth? Just withhold 10% from every paycheck beginning with your first check. With the magic of automatic withdrawals, you will be become an automatic millionaire.
Deposit $2k in a retirement account once a year for six years beginning at age 24. By age 62, you will be a millionaire. Invest as early in your life as you can.
Live for the Moment
Live in the moment. Don’t focus on tomorrow and what you’ll be doing next week. Constantly focus on enjoying the very moment you’re in, even if it’s nothing more than your drive to work.
Don’t live for some make-believe future that will never be as great as you think. The best moment is RIGHT NOW.
Create a culture of service. Take your kids to the homeless shelter.
Mother Teresa was the happiest person in the world. Why? Mother Teresa dedicated her life to helping others.
Keep a gratitude journal. Once a day, write one thing in your journal that you are grateful for.
When you’re feeling down, glance through your gratitude journal. You’ll realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem.
Begin with a Positive Focus
Begin every family meal by sharing something in your life—personal or professional—that you are grateful for. Nothing bad can happen when you start from a mindset of gratitude.
Control Your Thoughts
The one thing you control is your mind. Watch out for negative thoughts.
When a negative though enters your mind, make sure you’re aware of it and do your best to cast it out.
“It is not what others do or even our own mistakes that hurt us the most; it is our response to those things.” Stephen R. Covey
Write down your top 100 dreams in a journal.
Dream big, without limits. Dreams will never come true unless you believe in them. Share your dreams with you family and friends and ask them to hold you accountable.
“Just see how big you can blow up your life.” Gary Keller, The One Thing
Be in the moment when speaking with someone. Don’t look away or think about anything except for one thing: the person speaking with you. Focus your entire attention on them.
Never forget that you are no better than anyone else.
“Don’t look up to people, but at the same time don’t look down on them.” James H. Fisher, Esq.
Never accept what others tell you. Think for yourself.
Life is too short to be normal. Who cares if people think you’re different? Have fun and be yourself.
Spend Time in the Classroom of Silence
Spend 10 minutes every day in the classroom of silence. Instead of saying a formal prayer, think silently about 4 things:
(1) Gratitude: Something you are grateful for;
(2) Best Version of Yourself: Something you did that helped you become a better version of yourself;
(3) Pray for Others: Pray for someone in need;
(4) Forgiveness: Ask for forgiveness for the bad things you may have done.
Formal prayer is good, but it doesn’t open your mind to thought and reflection. Spend time every day talking to God. Don’t forget to ask, “God, what do you think I should do?” You will find answers to your questions in the classroom of silence.
Become a Lifelong Learner
Read books and go to self-improvement seminars. Become a better version of yourself every day.
“Work constantly to improve without becoming satisfied.” John Wooden
Turn Off the TV
Live TV-free for 30 days and watch your life change.
Read a book and spend time with your kids.
“The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.” Stephen R. Covey
Stop Reading the Newspaper
Newspapers are full of negative crap that you can’t change. Reading newspapers is a waste of time.
No Email in the Morning
Do not read email before noon. Email is a distraction and distracts you from your priorities.
Read 10 Pages of a Book
Every day read at least 10 pages of a book. Books change our lives.
During your drive to work, listen to podcasts. Mike Dillard’s podcast, “The Self Made Man” is a good place to start.
“A man who doesn’t read has no advantage over a man who can’t read.” Mark Twain
Become a Better Version of Yourself
Every day you make thousands of decisions. With each decision that faces you, ask: Will this help me become a better version of myself? If not, don’t do it.
Nurture Relationships with Carefree Timelessness
The best way to nurture your relationships is carefree timelessness.
Block out the afternoon and spend time with your kids, mother, high school buddy or spouse. Go to a ball game with your kids. Carefree timelessness with your loved ones is priceless.
Kiss & Hug
Kiss and hug your spouse and kids every day and tell them you love them. Never forget.
Write a Love Letter
Write a love letter to your spouse, mother or kids—tell them why you love them. They will treasure your letter and keep it forever.
Stop Thinking About Yourself
Always think of the other person’s interests. Do not talk about yourself—find out as much as you can about the interests of the person you’re speaking with.
Try to remember names and refer to strangers by their first name. At public events, go outside your comfort zone by meeting and getting to know a stranger.
Take a Dale Carnegie course on self-improvement.
The Secret to a Strong Marriage
Do everything in your power to make your spouse happy. Don’t keep score—just give as much as you can. If you care more about your spouse’s happiness than your own, you will have an amazing marriage.
Always ask your spouse, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“If you place the other person’s interests first, your interests will always be taken care of. Always.” Bob Burg
Success is in the Effort
Youth is wasted on the young, who think they have an eternity to live. If you had 12 months to live, how would you live them? What’s stopping you?
“Live each moment with absolutely certainty that you don’t have a moment to spare.” John Wooden
Find Your Passion
Works sucks if you’re not happy doing it. Find your passion and spend your life realizing it. If you are passionate about your work, it becomes fun.
Embrace Your Fear
Put yourself through fire in the most uncomfortable situations. Think of the things you’ve been holding off on and do at least one a day. Make that call, shoot the video or write that letter. It won’t kill you and you’ll come out stronger every time.
Lead by Example—Not Words
Your kids will learn from your example, not from your words. Live a life of virtue and your kids will follow your lead.
How do you live a life of virtue? By striving always to become the best version of yourself. That is the secret to life.
Effort Counts, Not Results
Strive always to give your best effort. If you give your best effort, the results are irrelevant. Only you know deep inside when you’ve given your best effort.
“Success is giving 100% of your effort, body, mind and soul, to the struggle.” John Wooden
No Substitute for Hard Work
There are no quick fixes. Success comes through hard work, lots of mistakes and a willingness to die for your cause.
“It [success] means hard, unrelenting work, but it will pay great dividends.” James H. Fisher, Esq.
Success is determined by one thing: raw, naked ambition. How bad do you want it? When you have a burning desire to accomplish something, the world will get out of your way to make it happen.
Create a Legacy
Do something that will help others after you’re gone. Write a book, create a not-for-profit foundation or leave your mark through a charitable act of kindness. Leave your mark on the world.
“It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” Gary Keller, The One Thing
Create a Personal Mission Statement
Look far into the future. Think of where you want to be in 20-30 years and write a vision plan for your life. If you can’t dream it, it won’t happen.
Write your Vision Plan in a book and review it daily.
“If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.“ Stephen R. Covey
Stick with the Winners
Find the highest achievers and stick with them. “You will become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn.
“A key thing to remember throughout your life is to stick with the winners.” James H. Fisher, Esq.
Be a practitioner, not a student. Take action, make mistakes and then make more mistakes. This is where you’ll find answers.
“Failures and disappointments are part of life…But it is the strong, mature person who copes with setbacks, puts them behind and uses them as a motivation to overcome—to strive harder.” James H. Fisher, Esq.
At the end of your life, you won’t regret the things you did—you’ll regret the things you didn’t do. Take a chance, the worst that happens is you fail and who cares.
“Don’t live in fear of making a mistake.” John Wooden
Never Too Old or Young
Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel at age 89; Benjamin Franklin created bifocals at age 78; and John Keats wrote famous poetry before his death at the age of 24. You are never too old or young.
Dad’s Final Words of Advice
I could not do justice to the final words my dad wrote to me, so I’ll let him have the final say:
“If nothing else, you have the chance to do and to be whatever you will…but you can never count on us being there–not even for tomorrow. You must be prepared to stand on your own feet and to make your own success in life without anyone’s help. You must start now.”
P.S.: My dad died in January, 2005, but his words will live forever.
photo credit: Reese Under an Umbrella via photopin (license)