5 surprising pieces of life advice my dad left me before he died.

My Dad suffered from Parkinson’s, a disease that methodically and steadily destroyed his body and mind  — and ultimately took his life.

During my dad's last remaining days in hospice care, ​my four siblings, mother, and I huddled around him and shared, amidst laughter and tears, stories about the man he was, the lessons he taught us through his own successes and failures, and the tremendous impact he had on those around him. Dad’s life was far from perfect, and he had had a rough last handful of years. Our time together helped all of us remember who Dad was when we was in his prime —  when he was our hero.

Dad, while nonverbal, was alert and attuned to what was happening around him. Occasionally one of us would look over and find a trace of a smile on his face, an observation we would point out to him and the others. Dad was clearly enjoying time with his entire family for the first time in over 20 years.


Throughout his closing days, Dad heard anecdote after anecdote about the legacy he was about to leave behind.

People shared the memories he would leave us with. Here are the lessons he left behind for me and my family:

1. Dream big.

Dad grew up in a small, middle-class Irish enclave in Queens, New York. His father would periodically take him to wealthy neighborhoods to walk around and show him what was possible for him when he got older. The message from his father was that this could all be his. To Dad, it was impossible to dream too big. He wanted the world for himself and his kids — and fully expected us all to get it. Dad pushed us to imagine the unachievable and race like hell to achieve it. When I told him I was going to write a business book, he told me to prepare for the New York Times Bestseller list.

2. Live big.

Dad packed his life with rich and full experiences at every turn. If Dad wanted to have something, he got it. If he wanted to do something, he did it. The moment he had two nickels to rub together, he spent them. Dad lived big.

“You only go around once,” was something Dad frequently said to justify a risky business play or explain away a lavish purchase. It seemed to serve as a reminder to him (and us) that life could be cut unexpectedly short and that it would be wise to get big experiences in while he (we) could.

3. Be present.

Dad spent most of our upbringing racing around the country consulting with and training business leaders. The moment he was done working, he would race back home just in time to coach a basketball game, have dinner with the family, or play a pickup game in the backyard. He wasn’t vacant or lost in his work when he was with us. When he was with us, he was fully with us.

Long after we went to bed, Dad would return to work, staying up until the wee hours of the morning to get a proposal out or prepare for the following day’s events. He threw himself into whatever he was doing and made you feel as if you were the center of his universe when you were with him. He was magnetic. Being present undoubtedly added to his magnetism.

4. Pick your moments. (But when they appear, pounce.)

Dad rarely made a move that didn’t have a purpose behind it. He had this remarkable skill of letting the insignificant things go and dealing head-on with the things that really mattered.

5. Be interested, not interesting.

In his final days, what struck us most was the overwhelming number of personal stories from old friends and extended family about the impact Dad had on their lives. Dad was fascinated by people, and he had an art for drawing out their stories. When Dad was at his best, he was comfortably and confidently Dad. And in that comfort and confidence, he could let go of his own ego and pull out the complexities of the people he was with, instead of sharing his own with others. His sincere interest in others drew them closer to him and left them convinced they were in the presence of someone endlessly interesting.

My siblings and I were with Dad when he passed. We were sad, of course.

But there was a positive feeling in the room as well — each of us left Dad that night feeling closer to him and each other than we had in a very long time. We left armed and more cognizant of the lessons he had equipped us with.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less