Leaving Tracks

No one can pass through life, any more than he can pass through a bit of country, without leaving tracks behind, and those tracks may often be helpful to those coming after him in finding their way.

– Sir Robert Baden-Powell –

With the passing of my father, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of all of the things that he taught me, how he influenced me and how he helped to shape the man I am today. During these times of reflection, it’s occurred to me just how much we influence and shape the people around us.

We often talk about Nature vs Nurture and I tend to believe that we are who we are, in large part because of who we’ve known in our lives. It’s impossible to spend any significant amount of time with another person and not be influenced by them. This was especially true of my father. He loved to share what he knew and he knew a hell of a lot.

He didn’t spend a lot of time explaining things, he showed you instead. Dad’s way of teaching was to jump in and do something by your side, not for you, not in front of you, but with you. Every time I worked with him it was a learning experience. He was a master at passing on tips that he’d learned the hard way.

There’s an endless number of things that we can learn by being taught, but the things that really count can’t be taught in a traditional sense. You can’t teach someone to be a good person, to respect others, to be kind, to be honest and forthright. But you can show them how by exhibiting those traits yourself.

When you’re around someone who you respect and love, you desire to emulate them, to be like them, to gain their respect. By simply being a good person and sharing yourself with others, you’ll pass those traits on. Attitudes and behaviors are infectious and self-perpetuating, for better or worse. We’re social animals that desire to be accepted.

Sorry if that got a bit too “rainbows & unicorns” for you, but my point is that we are who we are because of the people around us. I’m a better person for having the father that I did and I’ll continue to pass on the things that he passed on to me.