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The best advice I never received
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The best advice I never received
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The best advice I never received
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
30 January 2018

The best advice I never received

“My father left me with a gift of self-determination that continues to serve me well at age 78.”

Written by Parker Palmer

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

In the lottery called life, I had the good luck to draw a father who raised me in an environment that was alive with unconditional love and charged expectancy, and almost bereft of advice.

“Expectancy” is not the same as “expectations.” Dad never said what he expected me to do with my life—a rarity in a community where most fathers were successful men who pressured their sons to follow in their footsteps. Instead, he urged me to follow my own leadings, while surrounding me with a force-field of belief and trust that I had the potential to do something worth doing, and to find it for myself.

Of course, this meant I needed to takes risks as I found my way forward—which in turn meant falling down with some frequency. It was the unconditional love that made my risk-taking possible. Whether I succeeded or failed at what I set out to do, I always knew that there was no way I could lose his love.

My father gave me hardly any advice while I was growing up. Instead, he asked a lot of good questions, probed gently into my answers, and occasionally asked me to look at something from a different angle and talk about what I saw. It was, I suppose, a soft version of the Socratic method—a question-based, conversational way of helping a young person understand what he or she was called to do in a given situation or over the course of a life.

With “the best advice he never gave me,” my father left me with a gift of self-determination that continues to serve me well at age 78. I’m just a few years younger than Dad was when he died, and still full of gratitude for the way he raised me.

Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer is a writer, speaker and activist, and the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal, an organisation dedicated to creating a more just and compassionate world.

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