jen spencer coaches

Dad & Jen’s Top Ten

When I read this article about a dying father’s wishes for his daughter, I wondered what my dad would say in regards to his lessons and legacy of learning. I decided not to wait until he was dying to find out. To spark conversation, I sent him my top 10 list:

#1 We create our meaning. Isn’t it more empowering to create meaning that inspires?

#2 We typically are our own biggest barriers. The upside of this is once we recognize this, we can seek counsel, environments, head space that supports our dreams and goals, wants and desires.

#3 Team is essential to life.

#4 Sometimes you need a meltdown.

#5 Perfection isn’t a reality.

#6 When we aren’t in alignment with our values, our efforts aren’t sustainable long term.

#7 Laughter is essential.

#8 Attachment is the quickest way to block what you want.

#9 When my body is healthy, I thrive.

#10 Love and relationships are irreplaceable. Enjoying them and being grateful for them reminds me of what really matters (see #1).


Sugar My Dad Says

In response, below are the 10 personal lessons that
have enriched the way my father has looked at his life and world. To set a little context, Larry Spencer, is a 71 year old retired Presbyterian minister, who played a big part in sex education in the 1960’s, was active in the Civil Rights movement, including marching in Selma, and he has seen everything from birth to dying many times over and over again.

#1 When problem solving, always begin with basic assumptions. When I was a freshman at the University of Texas (1957) a trigonometry grad student placed on the black board 10 simple formulas, which he indicated were the basic assumptions on which all mathematics was based. He told us that if we memorized solutions to problems, we’d fail his course; but if we could show how we used those basic assumptions in solving problems, we’d pass with flying colors. Weekly and often daily, I use that lesson to find approaches to all sorts of problems (personal, financial, relational, and areas of conflict). I have had scores of excellent teachers, but only the mathematics graduate student gave me a way to deal with the world in so many circumstances.

#2 Try Wonder. I learned from one of my mentors, Parker Palmer, when overwhelmed [or scared or angry or out of control or attacked or hurt], try wonder. Step back and say, “Hmm, isn’t that interesting. I wonder what that is about?”

#3 Don’t sweat the small stuff. From Jane Dobbs, M.D. (long-ago Houston friend and colleague, psychiatrist, and involved Presbyterian Elder) came her reply when I asked her how she was always able to have such a positive, constructive countenance about her–especially, since she spends most of her awakening hours dealing with major dysfunctions and many crummy situations in the lives of her patients: “Well, I learned long ago not to sweat the small stuff. And when you step back and really look, so much of what we confront is small stuff.”

#4 Choose laughter. Also from Jane Dobbs as a 2nd answer to my question in number 3 above: “I’ve learned that there are many things in life about which we can either cry or laugh. I have chosen to laugh.”

#5 Trust the limitless, unconditional, empowering love that the God of everything has for us. It is always helpful to remember the core of the faith that Jesus clarified with his teachings, his life, and his death: We are saved, safe, okay, complete, whole not by our own doing, but by trusting the limitless, unconditional, empowering love that the God of everything has for us. When we can accept that, we are free to live and love fully–we just naturally want to pass that on.

#6 Love yourself. My greatest challenge is always not to love others enough; rather, it is to let the love and affirmations of others for me in, to bathe in it, to be changed by it.

#7 Don’t regret “experience”. It creates who you are. In looking back at my life, I see many situations where I did not give my best, treat others as I would want to be treated, may have failed in the moment or caused hurt for others. While I regret those actions on my part, I have no desire to relive or try to redeem those shortcomings. From those “failings” as well as my “successes,” I have learned, grown, and forged the best of who I am this day. I have not arrived, but without all the past experiences, I’d not have the best I have to give here and now.

#8 Sharing makes us complete. I have never truly benefitted from a piece of incredible, home-made apple pie until I have shared it or told someone else about it. True blessings become real only in community, with sharing–therein are we complete.

#9 Experience all of it. The great journey of our lives on earth are not just to prepare us for eternity after our brain waves cease. Our great journey is to engage the mysteries and wonders of full, whole, awesome life (and the pains of empty, broken, and awful separation from life) in the here and now.

#10 Experience now. Being one who appreciates history and having skills to plan and enable the future, I have to keep learning that the only time I can live is in this moment. And my living is always a gift from, with, and relating to others. Having been through life-threatening disease, this moment of life is always a holy, precious gift to use and use well.


1 Comment so far
Leave a comment

i love the list
thanks for this.
i am more excited excited
in sharing with your apple pie piece!

Comment by bendedspoon

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