The Greatest Investment of Your Life
When you think of your father’s voice, what are the first words that come to your mind?
Do you think of words like “encouraging“, “comforting”, and “trusting”? Or do you think of words like “angry” or “shaming”?
The way you live every single day is determined in large part by the words you hear from your father that are deeply embedded into your heart.
Your confidence and ability to take risks might come from your dad’s confidence in you.
Your perceived confidence might just be a deep rooted insecurity that comes from a need to prove yourself to your dad who never affirmed you.
What about your children? If I were to go to your children and ask, “what words describe your dad? When you think of your father’s voice, what do you hear?”
I believe the most powerful voice on the planet in your children’s lives is yours. There are words you could say to your children today that would absolutely crush them. It would wreck their life. I could say those exact same words to your children and it might sting a little, but they would be able to brush them off.
At the same time, your words also have the ability to bring confidence, bring hope, and help your children find purpose and meaning in life. So the question is…Which words of yours do your children hear? Which words from you are in their heart?
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve said the “right” words to your children or what you hope they hear… it only matters what they actually hear and what actually gets embedded deep in their heart.
My father made an investment with his words when I was 19 that paid off big time.
With this investment, he made sure his words cut through all of the noise of this world and connected with my heart in a way that only he could.
My dad had always been a good dad. He was my hero. To me, he was larger than life…metaphorically and in reality.
He was drafted to play tight end by the Atlanta Falcons but his main claim to fame was being Terry Bradshaw’s tight end at Louisiana Tech. They were best friends and roommates.
Being a humble man, he hardly told anyone about playing with Bradshaw…but I told everyone growing up! It was my claim to fame!
When I was 19, we took a family vacation to Hawaii. On the first morning we headed to Hanauma Bay for some snorkeling. With the rest of my family laying on the beach, I found myself out in the water with my dad. It was Heaven on Earth. There was nowhere else I wanted to be than right there next to him.
As we went further out, the water got deeper, the current got stronger, and the waves got bigger.
There was a moment where I realized I didn’t see my dad anymore. In between the massive waves I scanned the water, looking for him. Panic set in. Then I saw him.
And I knew he was in trouble. As he treaded water, he looked right at me, and with his normally deep booming voice, he whimpered, “I need help.” I swam to my dad as quickly as I could.
By the time I reached him, he was unconscious underneath the water. I dove down, wrapped my arms around him, and pulled him to the surface.
It was a long way to shore and I’m grateful that a nearby snorkeler showed up to help, followed by the life guards.
As they performed CPR on my dad, I was on my hands and knees next to him crying out to God,
“Please save my dad’s life!”
Even as I write these words I am taken back to that exact moment almost 20 years ago.
I feel the same feelings today as I did on that day. Helpless. Surreal. This can’t be happening.
Even in my despair, I really thought he would wake up at any moment.
But he never did. My dad drowned.
I was in shock. I couldn’t comprehend it.
“What just happened? He was just right there with me and now he’s gone!”
Fast forward a few hours.
Back in the condo, I was in the back bedroom, sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to process what happened and how my life as I knew it had completely changed.
“How were we going to make it without my dad?”
“Where was God? Why did he allow this to happen?”
“Was this my fault?”
Then my mom appeared in the doorway. She said,
“I found something in your dad’s briefcase that he was going to give you on this trip.”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
She walked across the room and handed me some sheets of paper…
It was a letter from my dad.
I read it as quickly as I could, hanging on to every word.
Apparently he had been working on this letter for several months having no idea that he was going to die and that his letter would be his final words to me and my siblings.
It was everything I needed at that moment. Among the many things he wrote, he shared how he felt about us and how we could have a successful life.
I felt closer to my dad than I ever had in my life.
I felt so loved. In the midst of my dad’s busy work schedule as a hospital CEO, umpiring football games (his hobby), and being very involved in our church, my dad made time to write me a letter.
Don’t tell me my dad didn’t love me.
My dad’s words provided hope and confidence that I was going to make it. His words also protected me. Anytime I started the “what if” questions, it was as if my dad was right there saying…”This is not your fault. There is nothing different you could have done.” He protected me from the shame and guilt I could have easily experienced.
My life purpose completely changed. I now wanted to serve God and live for his eternal purposes.
As the years passed, I graduated with my accounting degree, started my career, got married and started having kids. Through the ups and downs of life, my dad and his words keep guiding me, influencing me, and giving me confidence to keep pushing forward.
I can’t imagine my life without that letter.
A few years ago, when my children were younger, I knew it was time to write them a letter. If anyone knows the value of a letter from their dad, it’s me.
As I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper, I realized how difficult it was going to be. “What the heck do I write? How do I get my thoughts and feelings organized? And what was blocking me from getting started… spiritually and emotionally?”
I knew this letter was too important to leave unfinished.
I went into research mode to answer those questions. I read books, articles, listened to podcasts, and of course looked at my dad’s letter as a guide. If I was going to write this letter, I wanted it to have all the best things in it… all the things that everyone needs to hear from their dad.
I finished the letter… and it felt amazing! The letter was for my children, but initially I was the one benefitted the most. I became a better man and dad as I found myself living out the words of my letter.
Around that time, God brought a man into my life who told me a story of receiving a life changing letter from his biological father when he was 25. That’s amazing, I have a letter from my dad too!
A month later, another man tells me a story about receiving a life changing letter from his dad. Ok God, I get it! We’ve got to help more people get a letter from their dad! That’s when our mission began: to help 1 million dads write at least 1 well written, meaningful, lasting Legacy Letter.
Not just any letter, but a Legacy Letter. It’s so much more than writing a letter. Writing a Legacy Letter is an experience. This experience brings out all the right words, written in a way that cuts through the noise, and embeds them deep into their child’s heart.
For the last two and a half years, our business has been helping executives, business owners, professional athletes, members of the military, guys who work with their hands, corporate teams (like Walmart), etc. write their Legacy Letter.
They all have the same response… “That was life changing.”
Within the next few weeks, a popular morning show will be featuring us - our first national exposure.
My dad could have never known the impact his letter was going to have on my life or on so many others’ lives. It was such a simple act… writing a letter. But as we know, simple doesn’t mean easy.
His simple act took an investment of his time and his emotional energy. He also took a risk. There was no guarantee that it would have the impact he hoped for.
When I think back on all my dad’s accomplishments in sports and in his work, his letter to me was the greatest investment he ever made. It changed my life.