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7 Things My Father Taught Me

By | Susan Cain | Bestselling author, award-winning speaker, and chief revolutionary at

I’m afraid I took an unplanned break from posting. My father passed away on Friday night. It’s become a familiar pattern: family member in the hospital, dying of COVID, me lying awake at 5 am, flooded with memories. Knowing I should get out of bed, that it would feel better if I were upright. Also knowing that I’m doing some kind of accounting, making some kind of passage. That I’ll get up soon.

Here are 7 things my father taught me by example.

1. Do beautiful things, just for the sake of it. If you love orchids, build a greenhouse full of them in the basement. If you love the sound of French, learn to speak it fluently, even though you rarely have time to visit France. If you love organic chemistry, spend your Sundays reading “orgo” textbooks.

2. Find work you love and work that matters, and do it as excellently as you can.

3. Make a life where you’re as free as possible from the forces of dogma, orthodoxy, and bureaucracy.

4. If you want to live a quiet life, live a quiet life. If you’re a humble person who has no use for the spotlight, be a humble person who has no use for the spotlight. No big deal.

5. If you happen to be a doctor, take care of your patients – really take care of them. Study medical journals after dinner, train the next generation of physicians (my father kept teaching until age 81), spend the extra hour to sit at the bedside of every last one of your patients in the hospital.

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