In Honor of Father’s Day, Here’s The Most Valuable Advice My Father Ever Gave Me

The Next Time You Feel You’re At A Crossroads In Life, This Simple But Powerful Advice Will Help You Choose The Right Path For You

This weekend in the United States, we celebrate Father’s Day – a day to honor the fathers and father figures that have been influential and meaningful to us.

Every single one of us on the planet has something in common…

A birth mother and birth father brought us into this world.

Regardless of your relationship with your birth father, join me in giving thanks that he had a hand in giving you the precious life you’re currently living.

Whether you had a wonderful relationship with your father growing up, or it wasn’t so wonderful, or perhaps he wasn’t ever around…

You’re here in part because of him, and your existence is a joyous reality!

Today we can give thanks both for the life we are living, and for any and all positive impact our fathers, father figures and other wonderful men have made on our lives…

The encouragement, love, traditions and wisdom they’ve imparted to us.

My own father shaped my life in many ways.

mary morrissey fathers day 2018

But perhaps most profoundly, my father gave me invaluable wisdom regarding how to make good choices, even in the face of the most challenging circumstances.

When I was growing up, my father was a loving but stern man. Born in 1918, he served in World War II and the Korean conflict. After that, he worked in trucking and was a teamster.

As a little girl, I remember that I was slightly afraid of his sternness, even though he had a big, soft center you got to see now and then.

And for as serious as he was, in adulthood, we became good friends.

When I was in my mid-40s, I was facing a tricky situation. I was at a crossroads in life, and I didn’t know how to proceed.

I’d gotten married at a very young age as a result of becoming pregnant at age 16. After many years of marriage and nine years of couples’ therapy, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue in the relationship.

My then husband and I liked and respected each other, but we’d come to see that perhaps we weren’t a great fit as husband and wife.

At the time, no one in my family had ever gotten divorced. I knew this and was afraid of what leaving my marriage would mean to my family, but I also didn’t know how much longer I could stay.

I was afraid to talk to my dad about this…

I respected him so much that if he’d said, “You can’t get divorced. You need to sleep in the bed you made,” I would have honored that, at least at the time.

But I still felt I needed to talk to him about this crossroads I was at, so I went to him and poured my heart out, with great respect for the values he placed on commitment and marriage.

My parents had been together 60 years by that point!

I told him how I was feeling, that I was thinking of leaving, and asked for his advice, wisdom and life experience.

fathers day lesson from mary morrissey

My father looked at me and said, “Mary, there’s only one thing you can do…”

He said, “Mary, do what gives you life. Doing anything else will make you a false person. Do it well, do it kindly, but do what gives you life.”

Hearing this, I truly felt set free, because I already knew in my heart what would give me life, and that was to leave the marriage.

Of course I wanted to end things kindly, but I also felt a wave of the freedom that would come from actually pursuing a life I truly loved living.

And that advice helped me move forward with one of the most critical decisions of my entire life, which led to a far more joyful and expansive existence for me.

fathers day 2018 mary morrissey

Years later my youngest son Mat called me, finding himself at his own crossroads and seeking advice…

Matt was just about to graduate from college with a pre-med degree. He was well on his way to becoming a doctor.

Then one day, Mat called and said:

“I know you’ve invested so much in me to go to school and study medicine, but I just have this nudge inside of me that I don’t want to be a doctor. I want to be a teacher. I have two applications in front of me, one for medical school, and one for University of Oregon’s graduate program in teaching.”

He was at a significant juncture in his life, and he was struggling to make the decision.

He asked if I would be mad at him if he changed course entirely and dedicated his life to teaching.

I said, “Mat, there’s only one thing you can do. I’ll tell you what my dad told me when I was at a crossroads: Do what gives you life.”

And he did!

Mat became an incredible teacher which led him to be an even more incredible and difference-making author and life coach, serving hundreds of thousands of people in the world, and all because he answered his calling and chose the path that gave him life.

And now, here’s a question for you in honor of Father’s Day…

What’s something that you learned from your father or the father figures in your life?

Exploring this question may bring up warm feelings, or not-so-warm feelings, but either way, I invite you to leave your reflections in the comments below.

Whatever our experiences may be in life, by sharing them we can help others grow, and we can expand and evolve ourselves by hearing from others, too.

So go ahead and leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!


Categories: Inspiration

Comments (49)

  • Melisa Downing

    Mary, your story is so heart-felt and inspiring. I too, am at a crossroads in my life. I am an unemployed single parent with two small children and most of their lives I was traveling with my job. That took a toll on me and my children. I have been struggling with returning to my previous job and finding a new way of living. I feel frustrated and don’t know what avenue to take. I have always wanted to start my own business working from home, which will give me the opportunity to be at home with my children. I just don’t know what I want to do. I want to give my children a better life and also help someone else in return. I love your videos, they have been an inspiration to me.

  • Jacquelyn Sowells

    Hi Mary I didn’t get a chance to reply to your email on Fathers Day but I will take the time to do it now. My mom died when I was 8 leaving my Dad with 5 siblings to raise and even though the emotional connection wasn’t there the way I desire he never abandon us. I knew he loved us by his sacrifice and how he provided for us. He’s passed away now but I will always cherish the good memories I have of him. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  • Leslie Deanna McTavish

    I wasn’t very close to my Dad, but in writing my Dad’s eulogy this last February, I listened alot to my Dad’s freinds and what they said about him. They unanimously said the same things and poured out their love for my Dad. I learned from them, from writing my Dad’s eulogy that I am in fact alot like my Dad. This I didn’t realize so much when he was alive. When I think about my Dad now and reflect on when he was alive, that telling stories is so incredibly important and caring for others is just the same. that is what he taught me.

  • Oh, Mary! What a gift your father continues to be in the world and thank you for sharing his wisdom through your life work. Father’s Day is a wonderful day at our house as the father of my children is a man I love to celebrate. My own father, who is gone, wasn’t such a man. But the idea of looking through my memories and finding joys there with him as the centerpiece is the way I choose to see him from now on. Thank you, and I’m sure my father thanks you from the other side.

  • Debby donlan

    And I will use that advice toThank you that is good advice

  • My father would say every knock is a boost.

  • I totally underestimated how good and wise my father was. He died without me even realising that. Today I quote him often and impart the great advice he gave me BUT which I did not take, to others in the hope it will empower themselves to reach for their dreams. Thank you Mary for sharing your thoughts.

  • Suzanne

    I thank my Father for the money I got after
    he died. I learned to make it on my own
    while he was alive. I learned to take care
    of myself. Love you Dad….

  • Chris A.

    My dad was a first generation Italian-American and education was, to him, the path to freedom, abundance, fulfillment. This was one of his priceless gifts and lessons to me. He gave me a full college tuition with only one stipulation: that I apply myself and excel in the way that he believed I could. He never dictated what that may look like, simply that I get all that I could from it. He taught me how to embrace opportunity and that the outcome was entirely up to me.

  • My father worked hard all of his 93 years… but what he taught me was to trust myself enough to do the things I loved to do and to be my own person and to not follow the flock.

  • Be true to yourself no matter what the circumstances are.
    Keep it simple.
    Follow your passion.

  • Debra Williams

    My father taught me to take care your children. He taught me that you are to provide for your family.

  • Mary…Thank You….This is what I needed to hear!

  • Sherber

    Thank you, Mary. My dad, long gone, said this about work but it applies to every relationship: “Everyone needs to be appreciated.” (And don’t stay, if you are not.) I’m at a marriage crossroad but I’m acutely aware that we all have different styles of loving and showing our love. Problem is – we all have different ways we need to receive love and our partner may not be capable of providing that. It doesn’t mean he/she does not love you, but it still leaves you needy.

  • Lisa Kesecker

    My dad taught me to laugh rather than cry . He loved my mom so much and me an only child . He taught. Me that life is what you make of it . To be strong and be proud of your heritage . Taught me that love will make you do crazy things . Fathers are so special to their daughters

  • Michele M. Dupey, MLIS

    “Oh! What a tangled web we weave
    When we practice to deceive.”

    *That* is the pearl of wisdom I remember most from my father, Bill Dupey, an engineer at New York Telephone (the New York offices of the original AT&T, nicknamed, Ma Bell), who also was a councilman in our small town, the Borough of Bloomingdale, in northwest New Jersey.

    That little rhyme has guided me throughout life, especially in how I conducted myself as a PR professional in governmental communications. I retired last year.

    Having represented elected and appointed officials with a strong sense of accuracy and honesty, I built a solid reputation as someone who conducted herself with stellar credibility.

    At my retirement dinner, I received numerous Proclamations and Citations from the elected officials I had known in my nearly 30-year career in Hudson County, NJ, and its county seat, Jersey City.

    I never expected to receive the very types of writing I had done early in my career. It was overwhelming. Certainly, gratifying…and stemmed from that little poem etched into my mind and heart from my father, an elected official himself.

  • David Panton

    My own father died about 10 years ago, but he had done the doctor thing, largely because his parents would not pay for anything else. He became a damn good one, but hated it, but because he had seven kids to raise didn’t feel he had any options. He was married his practice at his families’ expense.
    Your father gave you some good advice!

  • Dear nice lady, what advice! I did not have much rights to do the things that give me life, but sometimes though, thanks for reminding me!

  • I learned from my father that sharing my own personal struggles with him was a gift to him. I’ve taught my daughters the same thing. I appreciate it as a gift to me whenever they share their personal challenges with me.

  • My dad had been a catholic brother, he loved stories of a simple, traveling carpenter. He loved repairing things, doing projects and seeking understanding.later he quit and accepted lots of quirks in mom and me and my 5 siblings. somehow he encouraged me to live to learn and learn to live.



  • What a beautiful presentation! Your dad was a wise man! Thank you so much for sharing. I was at a crossroad today and this advice was just what I needed to hear???

  • Ronie E Larmore Shackelford

    Beautiful message Mary. <3 "Do what gives you life. Do it kindly, do it well. But do what gives you life." Wonderful. Your Dad would have been a great heart-centered life coach. :)

  • M Kim Ferris

    My father said to me and my 3 brothers and sister, before leaving for school, “this is another new day for you to succeed”. I always remembered this as a child and adult. It was encouraging. It made us invincible!!

  • Barbara

    My dad taught me to share what I have for ones that truly needed it. To be discerning in making that decision.

  • Love this – “Do what gives you life.” SO wise! Thank you for sharing this Mary. I love your work. Thank YOU for continuing you to put it out there. xoxo

  • Suzanne

    Your messages give me hope as I feel extremely hopeless

  • I asked my Dad a similar question…things were not going well in my marriage…I said I was not happy…and he really surprised me when I asked what I should do…He said…Well if you are not happy…then you should get a divorce…I never ever expected him to say that…

  • Yes. It’s the one and only right answer. But it means that it will not always be clear which way you need to go.

  • Wonderful advice to share…..thank you! Reminds me of similar phrases my dad used to say… do your thing, and do what makes you happy. And I can relate to the perceived sterness.

  • My birth Father taught me how to hug with my whole being. He gave me my very first “bear hug” when we met for first time when I was 44. I had never seen a picture of this man until I opened my front door on that special day. We had ten years we spent getting acquainted. I became a “princess” for the first time and felt unconditional love.
    My Dad died 14 years ago but he is with me every day in memory.

  • Sharlyn Zimmerman Tollefson

    My father taught me that I have to value myself and be my own hero. Don’t wait for Prince Charming or Superman because he’s not coming to save you.

  • My Dad taught me Latin. Many people would call that a dead language, but one of my customary activities is finding out the etymology of words and Latin features in a large proportion of them. I’d have liked to learn Greek, which I find more artistic, but am continually entertained learning Etymology.

  • Sarah Jane

    My father instilled in me a desire to never give up, keep trying and to have faith in myself

  • Varda Rose

    Beautifully said and what a timely reminder!

    I am myself at a cross road at this time, in a frustrating and difficult relationship, problem is that I have mixed feelings… of compassion for a disabled man and frustration as it’s too difficult for me and quite limiting. My father would have said – do what makes you happy! he was always so supportive and loving! I have also my brother who is older and was a father figure always in my life – he said to me many times that this relationship is not good for me! time to take all this in and make a decision!

    • Barbara Last

      Wow that’s a tough one. Wondering if you can arrange his care so that you have some “me” time and can build a satisfying life, that you can then share with him, without completely abandoning him. Since you are struggling with this, it seems like both things are important to you.

  • Valerie

    Thank you for this video celebrating Fathers and life.
    My Dad taught me that it is tiring and inefficient to “put out fires”, better to do your job and delegate where you can!

  • Wonderful blog post! My Dad taught me about caring in many ways but one incident stayed with me as an example of simple caring in spite of an angry impasse. He and my Mom had an argument; my mother stormed out of the house declaring that she was going to the movies by herself. She had to wait for the bus. My Dad came to me and asked me, “Will you please take your Mom’s glasses out to her. She’ll need them.”

  • Nice and encouraging story. My dad never advised me the way your dad did when at crossroads. However, l observed from childhood that my dad did whatever gave him life not minding what others felt about it.

  • Thank you for share your gift your father gave you!
    Simple yet so profound !
    XO Lisa

  • Mary, Thank you for what you do in helping people that have gotten stuck. Don’t know how to continue and be fruitful in this life. My Father, the Heavenly Father said this is the way to live life through His leadership. The book of Proverbs 18:21 says Death and life is in the power of the tongue, those who love it will eat its fruit. The way I have been taught is; Wisdom is the principal thing. Ive been taught to use your words wisely because each word is a seed when spoken. So I thought I’d share this with you, and I wanted to thank you for the words you speak because people do have cross roads that they do have to cross in their lives. So Thank You Mary for what you do in leading people through their cross roads. Blessings to you Mary

  • Bobbi Soderstrom

    My father always said, “Don’t try to keep up with the Jones…meet them on their way home!” My father always showed unconditional love to me.

  • Tami Smith

    My Dad taught me that hard work pays off and never give up what truly is in your heart!

  • Emilian Cristian Zidariu

    My father always told me t odo certain things, like don’t leave your clothes like that, or the shower head has to be like this or things has to be in a certain way, I was always annoyed about his remarks, I never actually understood that he means well, he just did not know how to explain things better to me, we were always low on money so, he always delaying on buying some things, later in life I realize that that was the practice of delayed gratification, and is not something actually bad at all, it is the positive trait of the successful people, I always saw the things done by him,in a critical and negative way, but today the more I develop myself and learn and change my mindset I realize that everything he taught me was something good, but was not explained properly.

  • Alice Coe

    Loved your Fathers advice! Thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story as well.

  • Alinda Coats

    Thank you so much the video was something I needed to hear. It is amazing how a message of Hope and guidance can come your way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *