Don’t rely on YouTube for what really matters

File Photo / Learning to tie a necktie is not only passed down from one generation to the next, but can be learned via YouTube without a family member's help.

"Who's your daddy?"

Imagine if that were an honest question, not a taunt.

I fear that kids today -- at least boys -- would say, "YouTube is my daddy."

The idea of hand-me-down knowledge, like we baby boomers got from our fathers, is now considered old-fashioned. I thought of this the other day when our younger son was attempting to tie a necktie before a high school dance.

"Do you need help?" I said to our 15-year-old.

"No, I know how to do it," he replied matter-of-factly, as he draped the tie behind his neck and began to even up the ends.

"You looked up 'how to tie a necktie' on YouTube, didn't you?" I said.

"Nope, you taught me how to do this," he said amid a flourish of loops.

"That was years ago," I said.

"Well, I still remember," he said, putting the final touches on a Windsor knot the size of a cat's head.

Perhaps feeling guilty, he admitted later that, yes, he had gone to YouTube for a refresher course.

Why ask dad anything anymore when you can go to YouTube to find out how to tie a necktie, change the oil in your truck, grill a steak, paint a deck or any of 100 other practical life skills?

Well, Son, here are a few things you can't learn from YouTube.

– Resist talking about politics. Otherwise, you'll influence nobody and cut your universe of potential friends in half. People who billboard their political beliefs, left or right, are just trying to be part of a tribe. Let your family be your tribe. Express your politics quietly, on Election Day.

– Do talk about religion. If you have faith in a higher power, and those beliefs help you shape and regulate your life, don't be afraid to talk about it -- but humbly. Honest faith requires it.

– If forced to choose between being kind and being smart, pick kindness. I saw a quote the other day from the late Pat Summit, former coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols, who it seems borrowed it from Teddy Roosevelt. It goes like this: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

If everyone lived by that rule, life would be cake. I wish I had internalized this when I was 15.

– Who is your daddy, really? Don't wait until your father is dead to wonder what he thinks. Otherwise, you'll spend the first half of your life thinking you are smarter than him, and the second half wishing you'd have known him better. If that sounds like a personal regret, it is.

– Every minute spent on YouTube is a minute lost to conversation. Although YouTube will entertain and inform you, it also eats up precious minutes you could use to talk to another human being.

Most of my personality is a mash-up of smart things people have said to me. For example, I had an old city editor who liked to say, "The sun doesn't shine on the same dog's (expletive) every day."

I've repeated that to myself hundreds of times in the last 40 years and find it the perfect answer to the scourge of human envy.

There's a "daddy soul" in every human you encounter.

Just press play and listen.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.