My Grandfather, The War Hero: 7 Life Lessons I Learned From Him

by Isabelle Zanzer
Warner Bros.

The horrors of the World Wars are still discussed today.

I would know, since I've been listening to them ever since I was a child.

Growing up with a grandfather who was a war hero was both a privilege and a blessing.

Fearless soldiers stood up for themselves in the darkest times, and they fought for survival like they had nothing left to lose.

He taught me the lessons he learned on the battlefield, and many of them can still be applied to our lives today.

Although he never expressed his pain, I could easily see his eyes were filled with countless upsetting stories.

They were stories he preferred to hide away, locked up in his subconscious. It was as if remembering them was more than he could bear.

But, he did teach me these seven life lessons I will carry with me for the rest of my days:

1. Education is everything

My grandfather worked day and night in-between jobs to provide his sons with the education he never received himself.

He never told me I needed a college degree to succeed in life, but he made me realize that while not everything we are taught in college is practical information, your knowledge and ability to adapt to any situation increases with further education.

You become more aware of your environment, both economically and socially.

He strongly believed the education he provided for his sons would increase their opportunities and would give them agency in their own lives.

The essence of a degree shouldn't be underestimated, as one can provide you the opportunity to lead a more fulfilling life.

The critical thinking, reasoning and analytical skills you learn in college will stay with you for a lifetime.

2. Know your worth

Every human life has a purpose. Whether we believe it or not, we're here for a reason, and so is every other person we see walking down the street. We all ask ourselves the very same question, "Are we good enough?"

Are we good enough to get in to Ivy League colleges? Are we good enough to get the jobs of our dreams? The list may be endless, but the questions remain the same.

Fortunately, for us, we have the luxury of asking ourselves that question.

In a time of war, on the other hand, you don't have time to question your own worth.

When your life centers on survival, there is no doubt your life is worth it.

At the end of the day, we overthink every decision and every insignificant detail in our lives, which only ends up keeping us up late at night.

My grandfather taught me that in life, you just have to believe in yourself and go for what you want without reservation.

At the end of the day, would you rather say "Oops!" or "What if?"

3. Be passionate

"You either put your heart and soul into your work, or nothing at all" was a phrase my grandfather would often say.

Starting his life with virtually nothing, he waited tables, transported goods from shop to shop, along with countless other jobs.

One day, he was asked to take out an expensive bottle of wine in one of the restaurants he worked.

Of course, he took the wine, but he was horrified by its dusty state. So, he cleaned it thoroughly and made it look spotless.

Little did he know that the bottle of wine was a 1869 Château Lafite with a price tag of $233,972, and it had to be served in the condition it was originally in.

He figured "Oops!" was the appropriate response when the manager expressed his outrange.

Luckily for him, his intentions were good, and he wasn't fired. The customers still enjoyed their expensive wine, and they gave their waiter a generous tip. Plus, it did turn into a story I'll tell my kids one day.

4. Family first

Friends come and go. Some leave you with an ever-lasting impression, while others make you think twice before trusting them.

I was often told that while friends have the luxury to simply walk away, our family doesn't.

You're bonded by blood, and that's the only thing that will never change.

They love you unconditionally and act as your very own GPS throughout life.

My grandfather lost his family young, so he made it his duty to remind me every day that family comes first.

And for that, I'll always be grateful.

5. You're incomplete without integrity

"Adherenceto moraland ethical principles" is how the dictionary describes integrity.

Let's face it: In our competitive world, morals and principles are more often than not thrown out of the window and ignored.

But, when you're part of an army, deciding on the easy option would never cross your mind. Whether it's in business or in our social lives, our morals and principles shouldn't be forgotten.

When you look in the mirror after a long day at work, what do you see?

Do you see someone you can be proud of? Or, do you see someone you never expected to become?

Integrity is what makes you stand out of the crowd. So, don't be afraid of your principles and values.

They're the reason you're you.

6. Confidence is king

There’s as fine a line between arrogance and confidence as there is between stupidity and bravery.

But, when it comes to the battlefield, there’s no place for uncertainty or hesitancy.

You follow your gut and hope for the best. So, keep your head high and chin up because if you don't have confidence in your decision, no one else will, either.

7. Live every day as if it is your last

Whether we like it or not, no one is immortal. My grandfather taught me to see the good in every aspect of life, as optimism was his only savior growing up.

He dreamed of having his own family one day, and he wanted to watch his children grow up to be great men or incredible women.

He dreamed of finding his soulmate. He dreamed of making a life for himself he could be proud of.

He accomplished his dreams, and he made me promise to do the same.

"Your life will one day flash before your eyes," he said. "Make it worth watching."

It's been a long day without you, my friend.

And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again.

But, in the meantime, I truly hope you rest in peace.

You may be out of sight, but you're never out of mind.