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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

AJ Jacobs Braved the Internet to Bolster His Daddy Wisdom

Guest Post by A.J. Jacobs, Writer and New York Times Best-Selling Author

father and son sitting on empty beach looking out on water

As the father of three sons in this mind-bogglingly complicated era, I’m always interested in what wisdom I can try to teach my kids. My own dad gave me lots of great advice, but the one that sticks out is this: “Try to enjoy every moment.” I keep that thought with me always.

What advice do other dads impart to their children? I could ask other dads, one by one. Or, I could learn from several thousand in one long sitting.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a fascinating thread on Reddit about the following question:

For those who grew up with a good father, what was the most important thing you learned from him?

I decided to read all 11,700 comments and compile and arrange my favorite by theme. It’s been an enlightening experience that I hope will make me a better dad. I already learned one lesson: the Internet isn’t always a cesspool of vitriol.

Sometimes it can be lovely and wise!

The best from Reddit:


  • "Be quick to listen and slow to speak."

  • "Two ears, one mouth."

  • "Don’t speak unless it improves upon silence." (This is a quote from Ghandi, but he was a dad too!)


  • "The 6 P’s of life are Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance."

  • "Always plan for 'plan C'...or maybe D."

  • "Measure twice, cut once."

  • "First of all, don't regret and don't look at things you didn't accomplish. Instead, look at what you managed to do and what to do next."

  • "The most important lesson he taught me was 'If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late.'"

  • "Every time I mess up he asks me, 'Okay, now, what can we do about it?'"


  • "Bite off more than you can chew, and chew like fuck."

  • "If it was easy, everyone would do it."

  • "Never do anything half-ass. Always do everything 100 percent ass."

  • "When facing a difficult problem that feels impossible, break it down and only worry about solving one step at a time."

  • "Always be the best at everything or just give it 100 percent and always try to do a damn fine job. If you are a garbage man, be the best garbage man in your entire crew."

  • "You don't have to be the best, but you must try your best."

  • "Done is better than perfect"


  • "If you're the smartest person in the room go to another room."

  • "There will always be someone better than you that you can learn from no matter how good you get. The best doesn't exist."

  • "You don’t know what you don’t know."

  • "The most successful people in this world became that way because they continuously learned new ways to self-improve."

  • "You’re not as smart as you think you are."

  • "Being able to admit when you’ve made a mistake. I remember when I was 6, and him apologizing to me when he had punished me for taking something that belonged to him. Turns out he’d misplaced it after all! That changed my perception that adults were always right!"

  • "I learned from my dad that not having all the answers is OK. That some questions will never get answered, and it’s OK. The process of wonder and discovery and never-ending learning will suffice."


  • "Don't make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions."

  • "When you are arguing with someone you have to choose between being right and being happy."

  • "If someone is being totally unreasonable with you, sometimes you should just silently walk away."

  • "Being angry is meaningless, just fix it (or just leave) and move on."

  • "The squeaky wheel sometimes gets the grease, but sometimes gets the ax instead."

  • "Don't talk shit about your best friend's partner. Even if they are sitting there talking shit. Even if they just broke up. Even if it's been a long time since they broke up."


  • "Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity."

  • "There are no angels and no demons. No one is going to be perfectly moral all the time and no one is pure evil. We are all trying our best."

  • "He cheated on my mom but was always a great dad. So, I guess he taught me that good people can do bad things?"

  • "If you choose to look for the worst in things, you will find it with ease. If you choose to look for the good in things, you will also find them with ease."

  • "When something didn't go my way he always said, 'Life isn't fair, but try to make it fair.'"

Author A.J. Jacobs with wife and three sons outdoors
With my wife and our boys


  • "Laugh at your own jokes. Make them for yourself. You can never be sure a joke will land with others, but if you can make one person laugh, let it be yourself."