When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time hanging around my dad’s office.
After hours, on weekends. Whenever he was busy catching up on work, I’d be wheeling around the concrete floors, plugging away on an IBM Selectric or pulling magic (carbon paper) out of the trash.
I remember that office so well. I also remember a little yellowing piece of paper my dad had hanging above his desk. It had been there forever. It was very small. 8- or 9-point type.
When I was 15, he made a copy of that paper and gave it to me. I laminated it – or what I thought was laminating but was really just layers upon layers of Scotch tape – and put it in my wallet. And for years, that’s where it stayed.
The other day I was sitting in my office, looking out the window wishing spring would come. Or at least that the sun would come out. Or that I’d pull myself out of what most people would call a funk. It was March in New York. And I was feeling sorry for myself.
That’s when the text came in. It was from my partner ,who just happened to be home doing some spring cleaning. In a small box, in the back of a closet, he’d come across a piece of paper.
It was my dad’s list. Still small. Still laminated. Here’s what it said –
TEN THINGS TO REMEMBER:
1. The value of time.
2. The success of perseverance.
3. The pleasure of working.
4. The dignity of simplicity.
5. The worth of character.
6. The power of kindness.
7. The obligation of duty.
8. The influence of example.
9. The wisdom of economy.
10. The virtue of patience.
Reading it, I understood why my dad had given it to me. Why it was important to him and why it meant so much more to me now than it did at 15.
It was a reminder of how easy it is to lose the plot. How easy it is to forget how fortunate we are. To do what we do. To be where we are. And have what we have.
How easy it is to lose touch of our own reality, if even for just a few minutes. Of the things that really matter in life. The lessons that ground us. The things that make us better.
Well, today that card is back in my wallet. And it’s found a place on my wall.
What a note. And what a gift.
Jeff Kenyon is head of planning, BBDO New York.