Real Simple readers share the paternal words of wisdom that have proved to be true in their lives, time and again.

By Real Simple
Updated May 13, 2011
Illustration of a father with a speech bubble
Credit: Christopher Silas Neal

My father taught me the importance of making my bed every morning. When I was six years old, he showed me how to complete the task Marine Corps–style and would inspect my work on a daily basis. Today my bed is one of the only things in my life that is consistently neat and orderly. (Sigh.)
Mary Usen
Buffalo, New York

How important it is to have fun. My dad was never boring: He often stood on his head to impress his three kids. And he made even mundane errands exciting. For example, he once coaxed us to imagine a trip to the fishmonger’s (with its live octopus on display) as a Jules Verne adventure. My dad taught me that life is better when you have a good time—and bring others along for the ride.
Monique Citron Stampleman
Larchmont, New York

Many mornings when my dad dropped me off at school, he would repeat the adage “Don’t take any wooden nickels.” He meant it to mean: Don’t settle for less than you’re worth. I’ve relied on this advice countless times over the years. It has motivated me to end harmful relationships and has kept me from underestimating my abilities at work. Thanks to my father, I don’t let self-doubt keep me from achieving my goals.
Hilary Heindl
Salem, Massachusetts

While I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 60s, my dad made sure I knew that I could do anything a man could do. He showed me how to use power tools, climb on the roof to install a radio antenna, and lift a trailer onto a hitch. He also loved to see me dressed up for dances and even bought me my first lipstick. He wanted me to recognize that I could be feminine and self-sufficient.
Winifred Norwood
Ellsworth, Maine

When I first entered the working world, my dad told me that it’s as important to remember the assistant’s name as the boss’s. It’s good manners, but it’s also smart business: After all, if you ever need something, you won’t get to the boss unless you’re on good terms with the person who handles her schedule. Having worked as an assistant myself, I know firsthand that he was right. I would make a point to go out of my way to help people who treated me kindly.
Carolyn Juris
Astoria, New York

My father says, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” And he should know: He’s an incredibly industrious doctor who manages to get to know his patients well, play ball with his grandchildren, and pursue countless hobbies. In my own life, I’ve discovered that I am more productive when I have more going on.
Kim Prywes Bloomberg
Chicago, Illinois

Before I got married, my father advised me to avoid complaining about my husband to my friends. If you don’t hash out problems with your spouse, he said, you might start harboring resentment toward him or cause your friends to view him negatively. Because of this sound guidance, my marriage is thriving.
Lara Carr Winton
Pinson, Alabama

You don’t have to answer the phone just because it rings. My dad always felt that if he was with a family member or a friend, that person took precedence over whoever might be calling. He taught me to focus on the people I’m with, regardless of the situation. After all, they deserve my full attention.
Jessica Barr-Gabriel
Okotoks, Alberta

The best advice my father ever gave was passed down from his dad: Never try to solve problems at night, because they always seem worse than they do in the morning. Though I sometimes lack the self-control to follow this sage suggestion, I’ve learned over the years that it’s true. Darkness can make even the smallest obstacle seem insurmountable.
Laura Sinrod
New York, New York

Everything—especially when it comes to gardening. Thanks to my dad’s smarts, I know that I should check the average date for the last frost in my region before I start spring planting. I only hope that one day my backyard will be as enviable as his.
Kristin Monaco
Washington, D.C.

To avoid the blues, my dad said, you should always have something to look forward to. Now when I’m in a bad mood, I find myself thinking about that “something”—a sunny vacation spot, a trip to a café, or even a good-night hug from my boys.
Amy Canby
Englewood, Colorado