Everybody needs a hero—someone they can look up to, a mentor for guidance, an ear for listening, and a person to offer new perspectives.
My hero does not wear a cape. He does not have supernatural powers. He can’t fly. He doesn’t have superhuman strength or speed. He’s never disabled a bomb to save the universe or created a time portal. His sky blue eyes don’t have lasers or telepathic powers, but glisten with life and spirit despite the wrinkles around them.
His super suit most days consists of dark denim jeans, leather bottomed cowboy boots, a long-sleeve western shirt, felt cowboy hat, and on special occasions a boldly colored wild rag.
His superhero name? Well, I call him “Grandpa.”
My grandpa has been one of the most influential people in my life. He’s the type of person you ask one yes or no question and find yourself sitting across from him three cups of coffee and four hours later. He will even tell you himself, “you can never pass up a good audience” and if you are ever lucky enough to meet this incredible man, allow yourself some time—and by time I mean the better part of your day.
He has filled his 83 years with a lot of life, a lot of experiences, and a lot of wisdom.
Here are a few of my favorite bits of wisdom from my superhero rancher grandpa.
I have the feeling that many people don’t associate farmers and ranchers with being the most academic or intelligent group of people. To me, that just shows that people with those assumptions may be dumber than they look. Just because my grandpa is a rancher and would prefer to be atop a horse herding cattle than in a stuffy conference room does not make him inferior to suit-and-tie folks in any way. Farming and ranching is hard work, not just physically but mentally. As a farmer or rancher, you are a businessperson, a finance manager, an environmental steward, a veterinarian, a mechanic, and an agricultural scientist.
He talks simply, not because he is simple minded or unintelligent, his degree from Berkeley suggests otherwise. Some people use complex words just to show off how smart they are, or rather utilize a copious abundance of multifarious terminology to accentuate their intellectual capacity. Intellect is about far more than vocabulary. Don’t underestimate people. There is something to be learned from everyone, whether it’s a graduate with a Harvard law degree, a struggling homeless person living on the street, or a 4-year-old that is partial to snacking on glue. It would be a shame to lose the opportunity to learn from the experiences and perspectives of others by narrowing your network because you feel the need to appear intellectually superior.
Keep your mind young.
It is important to treat your body well, but let’s face it, gravity will eventually win out and time will take its toll. Just as exercise and fresh air are good for your body, exercising your brain with fresh ideas is good for your mind. As long as you are able, refuse to let your mind become stagnant. Read often and fill your time thoughtfully conversing with likeminded people as well as people from different walks of life that challenge your perspectives. If you never challenge your views, how can you justify them or truly know you believe in them? Never become complacent with your knowledge, learning should be a lifelong adventure to be embraced and continually sought after.
Personality trumps appearance.
Or in his exact words, “A good personality could excuse anybody’s looks or crazy hairdo. If you don’t have a personality then you’re no better than a wart on a cow’s tit.” Yes... my grandpa likes to talk in pictures and what a picture this one paints! A wart on a cows tit is, well, not necessarily a nuisance but not necessarily an asset. Personality is far more impressionable than appearance.
Be someone people remember, for the right reasons ideally. Be someone different. Be someone people look forward to seeing. Be someone people think of fondly. Be thoughtful. Be someone that makes people think about things a different way. Be honest, kind, pleasant, and good-humored. Be crazy, energetic, and eclectic. Above all else, be unapologetically yourself and let your personality tell your story rather than waste your time worried about matters that are only skin deep.
Invest in memories.
To be honest, I use this piece of advice to justify my decisions probably far more often than I should. “Should I buy a plane ticket for a weekend getaway to visit friends or save it for the new tires I’ve been ignoring the need for? Meh, WEEKEND GETAWAY IT IS!”
Let’s face it, no matter how much a person may try to fight it, money impacts and in many ways shapes our lives. We are constantly working for it, trying to save it, spending too much of it, wanting for more of it, or worried about wisely investing it. What if we thought about money differently? Sure, money can give you a nice house, car, jewelry, clothes, and gadgets. Yes please, sign me up! There is nothing wrong with liking and wanting nice things. If they don’t become damaged, destroyed, or stolen, they will all eventually become outdated. Then what? Nicer house, car, jewelry, clothes, and gadgets? Things fade. They become irrelevant. They are temporary and can be taken away. There is one thing that can’t be taken away from you, though—memories.
Money can’t buy memories, at least not directly. In fact, there is a non-monetary form of currency that we all have, some more than others, that is too often taken for granted—a little thing called time. Invest your time in memories. Happiness does not come from objects. Life is not about things. It is about moments. It is about the first time your dad taught you how to fish, the warm embrace from your mom the first time you came home after leaving for college, the spontaneous road trip you took with friends, and the happy tears you cried when your siblings said “I do.” It is about sharing belly aching laughter on game night, fireside cuddles and bedtime stories, laying on a trampoline drawing shapes in the stars, holding your niece or nephew for the first time, and talking with your grandparents on a Sunday morning over a warm cup of coffee. Good memories will remain far longer than any THING money can buy. Fill up your bank with good memories and don’t forget to invest your currencies wisely in the things that truly matter.
I am grateful to have a hero that has given me the courage to take chances, the confidence in my ability to impact the world, and blessed me with deep family roots to allow me to grow beyond the ranch on which I was planted.
Having a real life superhero as a grandpa is pretty amazing, and cowboy hats are far cooler than capes anyhow.