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Advice from Dad: The Original “Soft Skills”

When I was in middle and high school, my dad was home to greet us after school every day. He and I would often drift into long conversations while enjoying a snack together (usually saltine crackers with butter).

soft skills advice from dad

Dad Kruger and his crew. The “life lessons” (soft skills) I learned from Dad are the reason I eventually discovered study skills; I knew there had to be a better way to manage school, too.

Looking back, those “cracker conversations” with Dad were my personal “Soft Skills University.” It was during those conversations that I learned what it meant to “Never burn a bridge!” I learned the power of a smile and the importance of work ethic. And I was often encouraged to “Never get in a ‘peeing’ contest with a skunk!” (Except dad used a different word for peeing…)

My dad worked his way through college as a janitor, so he taught me some hacks for cleaning… “Always make sure the sinks are clean and the faucets are shiny. If you’re short on time, you can skimp on other things, but people notice the condition of the sinks.”

He also taught me the importance of respecting everyone in the school, especially the janitors. This came in handy as a young college student, substitute teaching in an inner city high school. I was nice to the janitors… and they had my back with the students!  (As a result, the students quickly became cool with me.)

We didn’t know the term, “soft skills” back then. But, the on-going “life hacks” learned from Dad are the reason I eventually discovered study skills; I knew there had to be a better way to manage school, too.

Regardless of what you call them: soft skills, study skills, life skills… they’re all about using strategy to manage your life.

I came across a list –in his handwriting– of Dad’s top life-hacks, while cleaning out my file cabinet a few months ago. I don’t know why he created it. Perhaps he planned to share it with one of his nephews as they graduated. Or, maybe it was to share with my brothers and me. Regardless, I’m now sharing them with you, in honor of Father’s Day.

On one hand, the list is somewhat simple. Yet, simple lessons are the most easy to overlook…

Dad Kruger’s Top List of Life-Hacks

Dad Kruger's Handwritten Notes

Dad’s handwritten notes, unearthed from my file cabinet a few months ago.

Dad’s handwritten notes, unearthed from my file cabinet a few months ago.

  1. If you think you can, you can.
  2. If you think you can’t, you probably won’t.
  3. Create goals and picture them in your mind’s eye.
  4. Think positively. Don’t waste your time/energy focusing on negative thoughts.
  5. You are what you think you are.
  6. Keep in mind someone you respect and try to be like that person. (I know Dad’s role model was his grandfather. “He never had two pennies to rub together, but he was always the happiest person in the world!”)
  7. If something goes wrong, think about the incident or problem. Ask yourself, “Did I do anything wrong? Did I hurt someone?” If so, fix what you did wrong and apologize. If it’s something you can’t control, say “____ it!” and forget it.
  8. When someone you know or love passes away, reflect on what you admire about that person. Then apply those characteristics to your life.
  9. Don’t be afraid to try something new. It expands your mind. Next thing you know, it’s easy and part of your everyday life. (Dad continues to model this with his openness to learning technology.)

This Father’s Day, ask a man you admire to share their fatherly wisdom; “What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were younger?”

These soft skills are anything but soft. They’re “real-world!” And they’re the foundation for a successful life.

Happy Father’s Day!


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