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My mentor, Dick, wrote down his 100 best pieces of advice. Here are the first 50. Photo by Phil Houseal



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An Interrupted Conversation: Part I

by Phil Houseal
April 25, 2012


This spring seems to be abundantly filled with fundraisers. Local groups have put on concerts for Relay for Life and the Katie Stevens project, Stephanie Urbina Jones played in support of the Cantu family, and there are several musical benefits helping Kiara Galindo and for our old friend, Cowboy Doug Davis.

These are bittersweet affairs. There is the shadow of sadness, balanced with the benevolence of a town coming together in support.

For some reason, these stories of tragedy and triumph make me think of my friend Dick. For 15 years, he mentored me through my work-a-day world. Retired from the Air Force, he often wielded his words as a cattle prod to get my attention. But under the gruff exterior, he had an empathy that betrayed his humanity.

When Dick was well into his 80s, I asked him to write down 100 truths - 100 bits of wisdom to pass along to help the rest of us navigate the world he was looking back on.

To my surprise and joy, he wrote them out in longhand on a yellow legal pad and sent them to me. Here are the first 50...

  1. We learn only by looking back
  2. It’s easy to be humble if you are a great leader.
  3. Please don’t ask me why before you do it. By the time I explain it to you I could have done it myself.
  4. Appreciate your parents. If they knew what a self-centered, self-aggrandizing little bastard you would turn out to be they still would have had you.
  5. If you start it, finish it.
  6. Judging others is a dangerous game.
  7. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  8. Honor our great men and women before they’re dead.
  9. A great companion is the finest thing in the world.
  10. She anticipates my needs before I ever get the thoughts out of my mind.
  11. Human pettiness isn’t worth recognizing. It rots in its own uselessness.
  12. Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you are saying.
  13. My mother will always be the wisest person I have ever known.
  14. Wisdom was hard to come by: don’t sell it cheap.
  15. Ideas, ideas, ideas... how great thou art.
  16. I never met a woman that wasn’t smarter than me.
  17. Freedom isn’t only the best thing, it’s the only thing.
  18. Our minds drive everything we do.
  19. You are a human becoming, one way or another.
  20. A straight line is not always the best way to get there.
  21. Wishing is great. Now make it happen.
  22. A storm cannot often be controlled. The secret of survival is riding it out.
  23. Success is in the minds of others.
  24. It’s a long, long road to Tipparary; enjoy each inch of it.
  25. Where your attention is, is where you are.
  26. Your brain is what you tell it to do.
  27. I never have had to ask you if you love me.
  28. Just being together and doing nothing is the test of happiness.
  29. In this world of ours, it is every nation for itself.
  30. Learners are scarce. Just look around you.
  31. Truthfulness must be administered carefully.
  32. A sincere smile disarms.
  33. I respect you unless you prove otherwise.
  34. Genius is rare: cultivate it.
  35. Prosperity is not having to worry about money to make ends meet.
  36. Liberty is about freedom of movement.
  37. To hope is great, but it must be covered by action.
  38. Each day is opportunity. Use it.
  39. Impossible is only a word.
  40. Each life is precious. Especially your own.
  41. Fly right and there is no worrying.
  42. If you go up, stay there.
  43. Own a piece of land and your country is yours.
  44. Wish me not a long life, but a healthy one.
  45. Integrity isn’t acquired - it’s in you or not.
  46. Good friends make great companions.
  47. Fool me once, and it’s over.
  48. An intellectual thief is the worst kind.
  49. The fastest thing in the world is time.
  50. Good, clean humor is prideless.

Next week: The other 50?