My dad gave me this advice when I was 7 years old—it's made me happier and healthier

Megan Sauer

Every summer, my parents used to physically drag my little sister and me on long bike rides. I pedaled behind my dad's bike on a tagalong attachment, while toddler Julia rode behind my mom in a yellow netted trailer.

These trips weren't like, "Hey, let's ride to the neighborhood 7-Eleven." Instead, my dad would tie my shoes too tight, cinch an itchy helmet strap under my chin and smear pasty sunscreen across every visible freckle — all in preparation for our half-day excursions down West Michigan's White Pine Trail. 

A couple miles in, he'd chant, "Don't cheat your body! Don't cheat your body!" as if he could feel my scrawny legs quivering up the hills. I'd roll my eyes.

My dad, a psychologist, thinks shortcuts often mean doing something poorly.

But my childhood did have room for error: I didn't get straight As, was a terrible violin player and frequently forgot my homework at home. Still, my dad once gave me a one-man standing ovation at a figure skating competition, even though I didn't land any jumps. 

Sauer, age 4, with her father
Megan Sauer
Sauer, age 4, with her father

Mistakes were expected and forgiven with love, but giving up without trying wasn't allowed. During my sophomore year of high school, I tried to pass off a bad report card by saying I wouldn't go to college, I'd join Disney On Ice instead. 

"Maybe you will," my dad said. "But you have to give yourself the option to do both."

Lots of dads want their kids to be honest, hard-working and well-rounded, research shows, but mine is particular about prioritizing our well-being and passions.

My sister and I learned by example: Despite having two jobs, my dad always made time to watch my skating competitions, go to football games with my sister, and to my mother's amazement, squeeze in a couple rounds of golf every week. 

When I did, in fact, go to college, the idea of not cheating myself stuck with me. It helped me win collegiate championships, get into graduate school and eventually fulfill my childhood dream of moving to New York.

When I go home for Christmas ever year, my family and I take walks, often back on the White Pine Trail. We don't stop until my dad's phone says we've clocked exactly six-point-zero miles. 

Career, money and life advice from the dads of CNBC Make It staff

Advice from your father, whether corny or wise, tends to carry a lot of impact. It can shape how we think about humor, finances, careers, relationships and our own identities. Here, the CNBC Make It staff shares some of their favorite words of wisdom from their dads.

  • Whenever my dad would drop me off for a school dance or some other adolescent social gathering, he'd say, "Remember who you are and what you are," as a reminder to stay true to myself and my values, even when it might not be the "cool" thing to do.
    –Kamaron McNair, money reporter
  • From my dad: "Don't get tattooed. Max out your 401(k) as early as possible. Reputation matters, never do anything unethical. Live well within your means and hoard cash …. You can always buy shiny things later in life when they are no longer a financial burden."
    –Ashley Turner, senior social media editor
  • My dad apparently used to sing this Hafez verse to my sisters and me. The gist of it says, "Don't argue with people who don't deserve your time."
    –Elham Ataeiazar, animator
  • This April, my dad [turned] 50 years old. And there are three things that he's learned in life that have helped him experience more happiness and fulfillment for half a century: Trust your intuition, steer clear of unnecessarily stressful situations, [and] do what you love.
    –Renée Onque, health and wellness reporter
From Marisa Forziati, video editor
From Marisa Forziati, video editor
  • My dad was an architect who owned his own firm …. When he was considering taking on a new project, he had three criteria: Was the job personally interesting to him? Did he like the clients involved? Was the money good? If the project met at least two out of the three of those criteria, he would take it on … [It's] something I thought about a lot when job hunting.
    –Zachary Green, producer
  • From my dad: "There are two kinds of people: The fast and the hungry."
    –Jessica Leibowitz, supervising producer
  • When I was in middle school, I asked my dad, a professional marketing writer at the time, to edit on my English essays. "This is good," he told me. "Now cut it in half." I protested a lot, worked really hard to achieve this impossible task and proudly handed back to him. "This is good," he told me. "Now cut it in half again." …

    After hours of work, I finally managed to pull it off. I was simultaneously annoyed and proud when the essay got an A.

    Later that year, he started asking me to edit his writing. We talked about the importance of learning to edit in the writer's voice, not your own.

    I don't think he was trying to train me as a journalist — I'm pretty sure he just considered writing and editing to be important life skills — but those lessons are pretty darn applicable to my life today. Thanks, Dad!
    –Cameron Albert-Deitch, success editor
  • My dad once told me when I was having a hard time in NYC (making minimum wage and running out of money for rent) that I had to either figure it out or come home to Utah. Five years later, I'm still here!

    I always appreciate that he is direct with me, and doesn't let me spiral out. It helps me see clearly and kicks my ass into gear.
    –Tasia Jensen, producer
  • When we were leaving the house, my dad would give my brothers and me two pieces of advice: "Don't take any wooden nickels," and "Come back with your shield or on it."

    The idea being, "Keep your wits about you; don't get tricked or ripped off," and "Give it your best shot, and really go after what you want, such that you either win, or die trying."
    –Ester Bloom, deputy managing editor

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