If I die before I wake. . . here’s what I want my kids to know

I don’t know if many men, or women think about this from time to time, but I’m sure that people who are in the military, or in high risk professions, or are just away from home a lot, do – we think about the lessons we want to pass on to our kids if something were to happen to us. These are the same lessons we hope to teach them as they grow up, but for Navy SEALs and others in similar professions, many will write a letter (sometimes referred to as a death letter) to their kids in the hopes that some of their wisdom will be passed on.

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Rorke Denver, in his book, Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior has a list of life lessons for his own children and they are valuable lessons for all of us. Here are just a few:

  • Laugh a lot (Denver 224)
  • Push yourself until you’re uncomfortable, that’s where the growth is (Denver 225)
  • Search out mentors – as many as you can (Denver 225)
  • Seek good company and friends (Denver 225) – actually, there’s a great line in the George Clooney movie Up in the Air that sums this one up – think about all the good times you’ve had, were you by yourself? No, life’s better with company.
  • Discover what you’re passionate about and pursue it – don’t be bound by other people’s expectations (Denver 225)
  • Treat everyone with kindness until they give you a reason not to (Denver 225)
  • Family is everything

The items I’ve highlighted in bold aren’t any more important than the others, but these are areas in which I think most people fall short. We don’t laugh enough – I laughed so hard the other day at Easter dinner I nearly fell off my chair – I rarely laugh like that and I need to do that more – the residuals have lasted for days.

Push yourself – its not fun to go beyond your comfort zone but that’s where all the growth is. Remember, that which is easily within your reach today, was once beyond it – you had to push yourself to get there.

Finally, since I’m also a university professor, I see a lot of students who pursue their parents’ dreams instead of their own. I also see students who pursue the almighty dollar at the expense of their talents and true desires – unfortunately, many of them will spend their youth not pursuing their greatest desire – they get some “mcjob” out of college that pays them enough money to pay their college loans and buy a car, and then one day they wake up and they’re 50, and they’ve never pursued their passion.

What are the key lessons in life that you want your kids to know. Now celebrate the fact you’re still alive – how could you start teaching them these lessons today?

Denver, Rorke, and Ellis Henican. Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print.


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