When Old People Talk, You Should (Probably) Listen

Sean Hoffman
4 min readFeb 11

First of all, this is not an “old(er) people are always right” article. Nor is it a “You should listen to me because I’ve got s̶o̶m̶e̶ more than a few gray hairs” article (I’m not old- YOU’RE old!). And finally, it is not a “Dammit!! I listened to my elders, and therefore so should you!” article.

This is an article that is the result of some deep personal reflection. It is the result of contemplation and observation of the families of both myself and those in my inner circle. It’s the result of observing some of the positive and negative of the culture that I grew up in, and the witnessing of macro-level societal trends. It’s the result of living long enough to recognize foreshadowing of the dark things I learned about in history books potentially becoming problems again.

Here’s the TL;DR. With minimal ability to pass on knowledge, history, and generational wisdom to our progeny (and their progeny), on both a personal and a societal level, we’re doomed to making the same mistakes over and over again. Excluding exceptional circumstances, there’s a frighteningly likely possibility that most of the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of life that you accumulate could fade away when you pass on, because your ability to pass on your hard-earned lessons will be dictated by your children’s insistence on learning some of those lessons on their own. That has potential ramifications on their lives. In lockstep, we seem to also be forgetting larger societal lessons that our grandparents and great grandparents (and great-great grandparents) paid an extremely steep price for.

For most people anyway who’ve reached the point in their lives that they have children, our children are our most important legacy. Obviously, those of us who love our children put in some degree of effort to love, listen, observe, praise, and course correct when needed. But sometimes (and every child and every situation is different), no matter how much we try to advise or caution, it can and does at times feel like it’s all falling on deaf ears. My kids don’t realize that Dad is trying to teach them based on hard lessons that I learned in my life. I have been and will be wrong about some things in life, but I will never intentionally hurt or mislead them.

Similarly, I didn’t listen to my Mom and Dad, and my Mother ignored the stern, sometimes harsh, and repeated warnings of her Mother and Father. She married at the ripe-old age of fifteen. She would go on to have her…

Sean Hoffman

Software Developer (C++, C#, Go, others), Husband, Father. I eat fried potatoes annually on July 14th.