50 Things I Learned From My Dad Before He Died

“This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments – and you get the tears at the end, too.”

– Harlan Coben


December 19, 2017 started as a regular Tuesday. I dropped my boys off at school, I proceeded to head to work and during my commute, I remembered that I needed to return a very important phone call. My father had called me days prior to let me know he had finally purchased a new car and things were really going great for him financially and spiritually. He was excited to be able to come and pick up his grandchildren, but in the meantime, he requested that I send him over their Christmas list so that he could begin shopping. I made a mental note to return his call soon. Due to the end of the year quickly approaching, work had gotten extremely busy and I could not answer my phone as much as I would like during the day and finding the time to talk at home was out of the question due to my hectic schedule. 

Around lunch time, I got a phone call from an unfamiliar number. I knew that I would be going on lunch within a few minutes so I ignored the call. My friend and co-worker, came over to my desk, and as normal, we began to spend our lunch break catching up on the latest adventures of motherhood and dating. 

My phone rang again, this time I answered it and within 20 seconds the person on the other end of the phone spoke 14 words to me that altered the entire course of my life. “Dasha, are you sitting down, baby? Your father was found dead in his room.” 

14 words. 

I’ve sent text messages, composed tweets, and wrote instagram captions longer than 14 words that didn’t have as much power or impact than those 14 words that were spoken to me on December 19th, 2017.

Fast forward almost two years later, and today, August 17th, 2019 would have been my father’s 50th birthday. Unfortunately, heaven and earth separates us. In his physical absence, he leaves behind invaluable lessons about money, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. To celebrate his 50th birthday, I thought I would share with you 50 lessons that I learned from my father that have been a direct contribution to the powerhouse, Dasha Kennedy, that you see before you today. 

  1. Whatever you decide to do, be the best at it. “I don’t care if you grow up to shovel sh*t, be the best sh*t shoveler you can be”. As I struggled to find my career path as a young adult, my father assured me that it did not matter to him what I wanted to do, his only request of me was that I was prepared to be the best at it. 

  2. Find comfort in being the second smartest person in the room. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. Surround yourself with people that you can learn from and people that forces you to level up. 

  3. Be adaptable. “I’m from the hood’, but I’m welcomed everywhereBe open to any new challenge or change, regardless of your background and skills. My father was barely a high school graduate from North City St. Louis and he could speak to a room filled with the most prestigious people and an hour later quiet a room filled with the most ruthless men with just his demeanor.  

  4. Be content with a little. There were plenty of times growing up, when money was tight. Take a moment to be grateful for what you have and find the little things that give you joy. 

  5. Be open to criticism.  “You fu***n’ up.” Depending on how he said this, would determine how severely I had indeed “fu***d up” however, this was how he called out my shortcomings and proceeded with correction. 

  6. Be quick to help. If there is a need, do it. If there is a void that you can fill, fill it. If there was anything to be done within our family, my dad was usually the first to volunteer his services and time to assist. 

  7. Disagree humbly. No one gets it right every time. Disagree with humility and move on.  

  8. Forgive quickly. My dad started to get gray hair in his late 20’s and I am almost sure it was because of me. I really gave him a tough time as a rebellious teenager, but he forgave me almost immediately. His reason being that there would be a time that I would need him and he couldn’t carry anger in his heart and still show up to properly save the day. 

  9. Laugh often. Find something to laugh about a least once a day. My dad had the most beautiful smile and he found joy in the smallest things. I can still imagine him belly laughing while sitting in his favorite black chair.

  10. Live within your means.  Keep your needs simple and enjoy small pleasures. My dad was a master at shopping on a budget and he always pulled off the flyest suits and outfits for less. He entertained himself at home with his pool table and rarely splurged.

  11. Don’t share your personal business unless you are prepared for people to ask questions about it later. I believe this is self explanatory. 

  12. It is okay to cry. My father was not shy about showing his children affection. Just as quickly as he would show us he was happy, he would allow us to see him sad, even if he cried at times. He helped us understand that men, especially fathers, experience the same emotions as everyone else. 

  13. Be active. You are never too old to get up, go outside and play in the grass, run in the street or simply jump off the porch. My dad spent a lot of time with us outdoors and we enjoyed racing him in the middle of the street. It was a thrill and he gave us a peek at his inner child. 

  14. Remain honest. My dad unintentionally broke a promise to me when I was younger and I never let him forget it. From that day forward, he told me he did not want to be made out to be a liar so he would only promise to do things, he absolutely knew he had the capability to do and if he wasn’t able to do something, he would be honest about it. 

  15. Always have a side hustle. My dad worked at a college as a chef, but he always kept a side job to make additional income. He owned a catering company, he was a handyman, he was a mechanic, and that is just to name a few. He was always in his bag. 

  16. Study words. My daddy took pride in his vocabulary and he used big words often. I will be honest, he did not always say them correctly (which is something my sister and I laugh about today), but he definitely knew how and when to use them. 

  17. Value your children. This was a tough lesson for me. Growing up, I compared value to monetary investments only. My father was not always able to invest into my dreams monetarily, but he invested into me mentally and spiritually everyday.  

  18. Tough times don’t last, tough people do. People who are able to weather tough times are equipped to handle just about anything. 

  19. Get some sleep. This characteristic about my father drives me insane just to think about it. Once he went to sleep, he was out and there was no waking him. Waking him up was a full time job and it was not worth the hassle so we opt to get as much out of him as we could before bed. He was not shy about needing his rest and definitely got as much as he needed. 

  20. Self experience is the best teacher. My dad did not get involved in my personal affairs and he gave me space to make mistakes and learn from them on my own. 

  21. Family is important. We grew up spending a lot of time with our family. For around a decade, we all lived in one apartment complex and spent every holiday and special occasion together, outside of seeing each other daily.  

  22. Speak kindly to yourself. Every morning before school, my dad would say an affirmation with us to encourage us to have a great day and open our minds to learning. At 31, I find myself repeating that same affirmation before I walk out on stage or before attending an event. 

  23. Be a reliable friend. Friendships should be stronger than your pride. My dad helped me understand that there will be a time  that my friends (estranged friends as well) will need me, just like I needed them after his death, and it will be necessary for me to show up and put my pride to the side. 

  24. Always say I love you. He did not believe in rushing off of the phone and that if you had time to explain why you need to get off of the phone, then you definitely have time to tell your family and friends that you love them before ending the call. 

  25. Basic car maintenance. He taught me how to pump gas, put air in my tires, add oil and check all of the fluids in the car. He did not recommend that I do these things without him, however he wanted to be sure that I knew how to do them, just incase. 

  26. Dance like nobody's watching. Once a week my dad would sit my siblings and I in the front room and slow dance with us one by one. We enjoyed this time with him because we knew in that moment, he was happy, free and spending quality time with his children. We felt like princesses. 

  27. Always return what you borrow. This came years after using items out of his toolbox and not returning them. He told me not to make a habit out of this. 

  28. Great music is supposed to be played loudly. Loud music and cleaning up is one of the most therapeutic things I’ve done. Listening to loud music, while trying to focus on the beat, the lyrics and the energy of the artist can really jump start a meditation session within your soul. 

  29. Dress for the occasion. Showing up properly dressed to someone’s event, home or place of employment is a non verbal way to express your respect for them. Nothing is worse than wearing flip flops in an environment that calls for dress shoes. 

  30. Call your parents. 

  31. Call your parents. Yes, I said this twice. 

  32. Be passionate and outspoken. Never let anyone take away your voice or the ability to speak up for yourself. 

  33. Keep cash on your at all times. Things happened. Accounts freeze. Cards get declined. It would be best to keep a little cash on you in the event of an emergency. 

  34. Save things that are important to you. My Dad kept a box with all of our baby teeth inside it (sounds gross, I know) and every paper or letter we have written to him since elementary school. Find these items after he passed away made me love him more. 

  35. Stay informed on what is going on out there in the world. My dad read the evening newspaper every week and watched the news every morning. He was informed about things that were happening within our city and around the world and that is how he planned to stay steps ahead of everyone else. 

  36. It’s okay to curse sometimes. Profanity was used by him as a daily emotional expression and as a means to let us know he was serious. 

  37. Root for your local sport teams and local artist. Supporting your local talent gives your community something to be proud of. It shows how the community can rally behind one person and push them beyond anything they could imagine. You could always find him throwing a super bowl party for the St. Louis Rams or buying someone’s mixtape.

  38. Talk to strangers. My dad spoke to everyone, regardless if they were coming or going. He shook hands, he smiled, he held doors and he always made sure his encounter with someone was a positive one. 

  39. Cheer loudly at your children's event. You will not get these moments again. Be the loudest and the happiest parent in the room. 

  40. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. My dad was extremely popular, yet his integrity was never questioned. Every person I’ve met that knows him has had nothing but good things to say about him as a father and as a man. 

  41. Meet people where they are. Don’t stress yourself out expecting certain things from people who are incapable of meeting your expectations. Some people are ready to change and sometimes they aren’t. YOU have to learn to accept it, either way. 

  42. Try new things. Most people spend their lives only having seen the corners of their cities. He encourages me to see new things, try new foods and visit new places. He pushed me to live my life covering the earth before it covers me. 

  43. Some things aren’t as bad as they look. I scraped my knees a thousand times as a child and would scream at the first sight of blood. He would sit me down and tell me to relax,  only to get the wound cleaned and find a small scratch underneath the blood and dirt. Yes, I was dramatic. 

  44. Words are powerful. Do with this as you wish, however, he taught me how to cut a person and get my point across with words only. I had just the right amount of grit and grace that this works every time. 

  45. Fight for what you want, but know when to walk away. I witnessed a few of my Dad’s relationship trials and tribulations. He loved hard and he fought for those whom he loved, yet he knew when it was time to cut his losses and save a little ounce of his dignity. 

  46. Don’t be ashamed of the things you can not control. I struggled with acne as teen and I had a rough time adjusting to having my “period”. My dad taught me how to go into the store and purchase pads without being ashamed and different home remedies I could do to help my skin, but also that my skin wasn’t what defined me as there was much more to me than acne breakouts. 

  47. Money is a tool. It can build or destroy. Money is not to be worshipped. Money is a tool, similar to a hammer, it can build a home or destroy it. 

  48. Your relationship with money should grow as you age. At 31, I do not desire nor spend my money the same way I did when I was 21. My desires have changed and so has my relationship with money. I think about the long term consequences of my short term spending habits. 

  49. The more you give, the more you get. People are more reluctant to do things for you or help you when they know there is a great chance that you will either pay it forward or return the favor. 

  50. Sometimes, it takes balls to be a woman. The term “having balls” doesn’t mean to be a man, it means to have  “courage or bravery”. This world is tough, especially on minority women and my dad helped me understand that I was going to have to have balls to be a woman and exist in this tough world. 

Ask anyone about their relationship with their dad and you are sure to spark a conversation that could be either inspiring or damaging. My relationship with my father falls in the middle. We had an amazing 30 years together and although he is no longer here, his guidance will live with me forever. 

Happy Birthday, Daddy.    I love you.    - “Dayda Boo”

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

I love you.

- “Dayda Boo”