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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 10:58 am | Mostly Cloudy 58º


Harris Sherline: Confessions of a Family Patriarch, Part II

Passing down words of wisdom for a happier life to the younger generation

Continuing with my previous commentary that “I’m not sure what a patriarch is supposed to do, other than being the oldest male in the family,” the following are some additional things I have learned over the years that I would like to pass along to the younger generation, again in no particular order:

» Don’t abuse your power or authority.

» Be a loyal friend or associate. Loyalty is a precious commodity in today’s world.

» Treat others with the same respect that you expect from them.

» Always be punctual. People who are habitually late believe they are more important than others. Tardiness can be a serious disadvantage in working with others, who interpret it as disrespectful and self-centered. I try to arrive at least 10 minutes before an appointment or a meeting, even if I have to wait for the other party.

» Try to take care of your health, not just for yourself but for those who love and care about you. I have had a number of serious health problems, a few of which might have ended my life, but somehow I managed to get through them. Those who know me are aware that I consider my longevity to be a lucky combination of advances in medicine and the skill of the doctors who have cared for me. Without that, I have no doubt that I would not have made it to age 83.

» Invest in your community. Not necessarily financially, but with your time, energy and expertise. Working with others to accomplish good things invariably has a positive outcome. Participating in the life of the community in which you live is important, not just for those around you, but for your own benefit. Furthermore, I believe those who are fortunate enough to achieve financial success have a special obligation to contribute to their community, both financially and with their time and expertise.

» Respect and protect the freedom that the Founders gave our nation with the Constitution. Take the time to learn about our Founders and the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights.

» Learn from history. The course of history invariably provides lessons that we should understand in order to guide our decision-making today. History has a way of repeating itself.

» Take pride in your accomplishments, but don’t be “pride full.”

» Learn everything you can about your family history, which can often provide you with insights into your own characteristics and those of your immediate family. Where we come from often helps us understand where we are going.

» Profit is not a dirty word. Neither is capitalism. Learn to understand the importance of the profit motive in making our capitalistic society work.

» Try to be patient with others, even when they say or do things that may offend you. Patience is a virtue, and it is often difficult to be patient with those who are close to you, as well as other members of the community. But we should always try.

» Try to avoid reacting immediately when you are offended or insulted. Reacting too quickly invariably results in saying things that are often better left unsaid. I know it’s tempting, but waiting usually produces a better outcome.

Like most people, I think, when I was young, I had a tendency to react to things that were said or done to me in the heat of the moment. Over time, however, I learned that I often only added fuel to the fire. Eventually, I decided that I would try waiting at least three days before doing or saying anything in response to others whom I perceived to be unfair or insulting. At first, it took some doing, but I ultimately found that, after a waiting period, I no longer felt the need to respond at all. As time went on, I decided that I would try writing a letter to the other person, in which I would unload everything that was on my mind, including every nasty word or expression that occurred to me. After waiting three days, I would re-read the letter and delete all the nasty or hateful things I might have said, then re-read the redacted letter again the next day. By the time I had done that, I invariably decided that I didn’t need to send the letter at all. Trust me, it works. I rarely find the need to write such letters any more, but I still try to wait at least three days.

No doubt I overlooked some sage advice that perhaps I should have given, but if you learn to at least follow the observations I’ve made in the two commentaries I have written, I believe your chances for a successful and happy life will be significantly improved.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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