Our Three Most Important Things

One of the joys of living a few blocks from the elementary school is that I frequently get the opportunity to walk my kids to school, especially our oldest in the morning. I’ve come to love these leisurely walks and chats about life, legos, dreaded math exercises and stuff that we often don’t get to talk about in the hustle and mechanics of our “pass through” life. One of the rituals we’ve developed is something I call the “three most important things.” These are the three things we’ve chosen as a family as our operating principles for daily life.

The ritual goes something like this: as we approach the school, I will turn to my son and say, “OK Ethan, what are the three most important things?” He gets a wry smile on his face and will say something like, “Build robots, read comic books, and take over the world.”


I smile, then say “OK – what are really the three most important things?”

He complies. I’m pleased.

1. Work hard.

Nothing in life comes easily. Even the things that come easily don’t really come easily because there is always a consequence on the backend for things that don’t require sweat or acclimation. I want the kids to understand that hard work is simply a part of doing anything worthwhile, whether it’s learning to read, playing guitar or building a business.

2. Have fun.

At the same time, a life of drudgery is not something we wish for. I want our kids to have a TON of fun at school, which sometimes means finding ways of enjoying work that would otherwise be incredibly boring or monotonous. I want our kids to seek fun while they’re working hard. I greatly enjoy building AC. Though it’s hard hark – long, stressful, tiring work – it’s a blast!

3. Love other people.

I want my kids to know that life is not about them. It’s not about comfort, accumulation or self-gratification. It’s about finding ways to contribute, to add meaning and value to the lives of others, and to ultimately love and respect others even at cost to themselves (at times). This ethic holds true in life, business and any sphere. I believe whole-heartedly that those who love are those who thrive.

These three ethics, “work hard, have fun, love other people”, are the principles we’ve chosen to be the core operating code for our family. If we were a computer, they would be our operating system. They have also provided a simple way of gauging the success or failure of a particular day. If a child has a tough day at school, we can ask “did you work hard, have fun and love others?” It takes the pressure off and gives them a simple framework for engagement.

How about you? What are your “three most important things”?

Photo credit: cicciofarmaco

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  1. WantVSO

    I teach my kids what I was taught and what has held true for me throughout my life: Spend your time and other precious resources on giving back in the only currency that matters to the One who has given us all our blessings – spend your time working at giving back in the form of loyalty and appreciation. This will mean daily work and making adjustments to achieve balance. And the two rules I give them are simple: Never give up & Never think you’ve arrived.

  2. Euromix75

    i did walk my sons to the school every morning, i wish all fathers could experience that.

    our rules are:

    – respect yourself (allow your feelings and express them the way you find best for yourself)
    – have fun (no need to take everything serious)
    – dont give anyone the power over your happiness or sadness (
    – know to ask for help
    – dont judge yourself nor others (as jugement is just a cloud to hide a feeling -> rule 1)
    – allow yourself the risk of failure enjoy welcome the unexpected fruits of it

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I'm Todd Henry.

I'm Todd Henry.

I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More

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I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas.

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