5 Pieces of Advice I Learned From My Father

  • Strive for a balanced cash-to-equity ratio.
  • Work, toil, and achieve.
  • Seek to balance your long-term investments and short-term gains.

I have always looked to my father, not so much for advice but rather for perspective on life. He doesn’t tell me what to do, instead he gives me guideance about what’s important. Here are his five “ratios” that guide me today:


In one’s life work, what is success? How do we make the most impact on other people?

“Watch your fluff-to-substance ratio. Too much fluff and no one will take you seriously. Too much substance and no one will listen.”

I must admit, I lean towards too much fluff, because it’s fun. But I try to deliver true substance — knowledge and insight — as well.


In life, we have many choices between pursuit of short-term earnings and investment in long-term gains — particularly in Silicon Valley where I work. But this advice applies to everyone anywhere who wants to improve their financial life.

“Watch your cash-to-equity ratio. Too much cash and you’ll never make big money. Too much equity and you’ll starve.”

Early in life I strove for cash, because I needed to. Later in life I sought equity, because I could.


We all need to achieve in the here and now. We also desire to expand the range of talents we possess for future achievement.

“Watch you doing-to-learning ratio. Too much doing and you’ll never broaden your horizon. Too much learning and you’ll never get anything done.”

Work, toil, achieve. At the same time, build yourself into a better person. I’m reminded of that ancient prescription, “In all thy getting, get wisdom.”


We sometimes forget that the most important part of life lies in the people we love — friends, parents, children and spouses. (What is the plural of spouse … spice?)

“Watch your fun-to-soul ratio. Too much fun and you’ll miss the depth of loving. Too much soul and you’ll miss the giddiness.”

Of course, I’m drawn to the fun side. But I try to remember my father’s counsel and be open to true expression and confession. It requires comfort with vulnerability. I’m not naturally good at that, but when I let myself be vulnerable, it leads to true intimacy.


We live in a world of instant gratification. So much energy is devoted to immediate desires. But we all seek balance.

“Watch your now-to-later ratio. Too much focus on the now and you bankrupt your future. Too much focus on the later and you miss the beauty of life.”

There’s a famous experiment which studied the characteristics of delayed gratification in young children. The experiment participants were offered one marshmallow if they wanted it now, and two marshmallows if they waited for a short time. Not surprisingly, this long-term study showed conclusively that the children who were able to wait were more successful in later life.

My father did not tell me how to act, but rather suggested a framework to decide for myself how to act. For that, I thank him.


Personal Capital Logo

Like what you're reading?

Get tips, tricks, and tools sent right to your inbox.