12 Rules for Life

In my eulogy at Anthony’s funeral, I shared what I called his ‘6 Rules for Life’. I knew there were more than six, but the ones I shared were all I could think of at the time. Since then I’ve had to chance to edit and expand, and I hope you’ll indulge me as I share the expanded version.

Rule 1: Actions speak louder than words

Ant had a little acronym: ATNA. Short for All Talk, No Action.

Sometimes he used it fondly (as in the case of my brother Shane who still hasn’t gotten Foxtel to work on our outside TV. Hi Shane! *waves*).

More often, it was used derisively. He always felt words were pointless if they weren’t reflected in your actions. And even when words matched actions, that actions spoke louder anyway.

If you asked him for advice, and then did nothing with that advice, it drove him nuts. If he told you that you had more to offer, he loved watching you to step up. He didn’t want to be told you loved him, he wanted to be shown.

More than a few people have told me they wish they’d gotten the chance to tell Ant exactly what he meant to them and what influence he had on their lives. I’ve told them all they could sleep easy knowing that their actions said more than any words ever could have.

Rule 2: Be honest with yourself

What does it even mean to ‘be honest with yourself?’ For Ant it meant taking personal responsibility. Not blaming other people for your poor behaviour or poor results. Taking ownership of your goals and dreams rather than letting others dictate to you what those should be. Being comfortable with who you are rather than futilely trying to be something you’re not. Setting high standards for yourself, and holding yourself to those standards, not those of other people. Not being a victim. Not running from challenges. Setting strong boundaries around the behaviour you’d expect from yourself and the people around you.

Rule 3: Do the hard thing now to make life easier for yourself later

There are so many ways he felt people could apply this rule to life. (And did himself.)

Taking the time to show someone how to do something for themselves now means you don’t have to do it for them later. (Like teaching your kids how to tie their shoelaces.)

Setting clear boundaries for your kids and holding them to appropriate standards now means they’ll develop strong habits, behaviours and values that will make parenting them easier later.

Writing a process for something you do all the time in your business now means you’ll be able to hand the task over to someone else later.

Preparing properly now – be it for training, a game, or a meeting – means you’ll execute better later.

Eating well now means you won’t have to lose weight later.

Choosing to live within your means now means you won’t be fighting crushing debt later.

Paying good money for good advice now will save you a huge amount of money later.

Rule 4: Be an energy conserver

Ant didn’t spend energy on worrying about things he couldn’t change or had no control over.

He didn’t engage with other people’s drama.

He didn’t dither and go around things that were better to go through.

He was forever reminding me, ‘Kel, I’m an energy conserver.’ He saved his energy for the things that were important to him: family, friends, work, sport.

Rule 5: Listen more than you speak

People think Ant was a good talker because he was always up for a chat (he’d often come into the house 20 minutes later than normal after dropping the kids to school because he’d stopped for a chat with someone on the walk back from school.)

The reality, however, was that he was a great listener. He loved talking to people who were passionate about what they were doing and would ask question after question about what they were doing and why. He once spent two hours talk to a guy with a metal detector on a beach in Dunsborough once because metal detector guy was so passionate about what he was doing.

Listening to people was his favourite way to learn. And he was a dedicated, lifelong learner.

Rule 6: Understand your privilege

No matter what challenges we faced together (and we faced many over our 23 years together), Ant was always very adamant that we acknowledge we lived a good life. And that much of our ability to have good lives stemmed from things beyond our control:

  • being born to people who loved us and provided us with safe environments to grow and develop in,
  • living in a safe country,
  • having access to great education,
  • free and easy-to-access high-quality health care, and
  • all the countless little advantages our individual situations gifted us.

For this reason, he never felt entitled to the good life we enjoyed. Nor did he labour under the assumption that we ‘deserved’ the life we did because we worked hard and were good people. He was just grateful for the things we had and didn’t spend time or energy worrying or feeling angst about what we didn’t.

Rule 7: When in doubt, use humour

Ant had quite a weird sense of humour. And I’m not sure if he had difficulty reading a room, or he could well read a room but always decided humour was the best way to go anyway. (From the reaction I got to that line when I said it at his funeral, I’m going with the latter.)

I’ll never forget a time in the office on Hay Street which we shared with a friend, Wade. Parking was always an issue on Hay Street, but we had two car bays – one for Wade and one for us. One day Wade came back to the office, got down into the car park which was an awkward place to get in and out of, found Ant parked in his space and scraped his car getting out to find another place to park. Wade was quite furious by the time he got up to the office to vent his displeasure at Ant. Ant thought the best way to defuse the situation was to ask Wade whether he needed a box of tissues – presumably to dry his tears.

If you’ve spent any amount of time with Ant, you will have witnessed similarly inappropriate attempts by him to lighten a heavy mood.

Rule 8: Once you have kids, life’s not about you anymore

I think this reflects how Ant was raised by his parents – two very selfless people who only ever wanted the best for their kids and made their kids their whole priority.

Ant always wanted to be a dad, and once he was a dad, being a great dad and providing a good life for his family became the major driver in his life.

Rule 9: You can plan for the future but live in the now

For all that Ant was a very ‘in the moment’ person, he had goals, dreams and hopes for the future – particularly when it came to what he wanted life to look like for our family. One of the greatest things he ever taught me was that it was possible to look to the future, and make plans for that future, but live here, and be grateful for what we had here in the now.

Rule 10: Friends are the family you choose

In the same way Ant’s love for me was unconditional, so too was his love for his friends. He didn’t care what car you drove, where you lived or how much money you made. All he cared about was that you were his mate. And if you were his mate, your friendship with him was like family – for life.

He also, almost universally, believed in his friends more than they believed in themselves. He was my biggest fan and I know how much strength and confidence that gave me when I most needed it. So I can only imagine the strength and confidence it gave his friends to know he was in their corner.

Rule 11: Always choose kindness

Ant was awesome at dishing out hugs at the right moment, cutting you slack when appropriate or offering a judgement-free ear when you needed to vent. But he was also a master of the harder forms of kindness. Calling you out on bad behaviour. Having the hard conversations most people dodge. Giving you a message straight rather than dancing around something and leaving you uncertain about what he really meant. He always felt if the things you did and said were driven by kindness, you couldn’t go wrong.

Rule 12: Live hard, love hard

Ant’s biggest fear was not being here to see his kids grow up. It’s utterly heartbreaking to me that that fear has been realised. But it’s also important for me to remember that he didn’t let that fear impact how he lived life. Ant loved life and embraced it fully. He truly felt if you got to wake up in the morning, everything from there was a bonus. He brought so much joy to our lives and he loved us so hard. If he influences everyone who reads this to live more joyfully and love a little harder, then I think that’s a pretty wonderful legacy.

Comments 22

  1. Pingback: 28 days | Kelly Exeter

  2. I lost my husband and best friend of 36 years 21 days ago. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband too. Thank you for your beautifully written post. I relate to lots of the things that you have written.
    Sending prayers and thoughts to you and your family.
    Margaret Price

  3. Hey Kelly, You’ve been in my thoughts constantly. Like many people, I wish I could scoop up a little of that grief for you. Just to make it lighter. Thanks for the post with Ant’s insights, it’s awesome. Somehow, I know with time you will shine brightly again. Jenn xx

  4. Just beautiful Kelly. Thank you for sharing. These are principles to revisit regularly. Sending you and your family much love and strength, particularly at this very sad time. Xxooxx

  5. Ant sounds like a fabulous human. I am incredibly sorry for your loss Kelly and, it seems, to all of the people whose lives he touched and altered. It sounds like he leaves a wonderful legacy. Unfairly, taken far too soon. Strength to you and your babies. Thank you for sharing. Xxx

  6. Words to live by. Thank you for sharing this. I don’t know you personally but am sending a virtual casserole, a box of slice and lots and lots of love through the ether xxx

  7. Kelly thank you for sharing Ant’s Rules for Life. Through such caring and beautifully crafted words, we’ve been able to recognise and feel what you and your family have always known, Ant was an incredibly wise, feeling, sensible, loving, generous man. In some teeny way, I hope our simple messages provide some solace to you. Much love to you and your family. xx

  8. Kelly – this expanded list is so rich with wisdom. Ant was wise beyond the years he got to live, thank you for sharing once again.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing. Sending comfort to you now and always. A dear neighbor lost her husband about 40 days ago and this really helps give me ideas for ways I could help support her. Thank you.

  10. These are such beautiful rules that reflect an amazing soul. I am so sorry for your loss. You are much on my mind. May you feel strength with you in every moment.

  11. Wow Kelly I have no words to explain how uplifting this blog is. Both you and Ant have inspired me to be a better listener.Thank you.

  12. Wow! Such beautiful words of wisdom to help guide anyone in life. So sorry to hear Kelly. In the short period I worked with you all, I do remember Ant as being such a lovely soul, always smiling x

  13. I’m just sitting down to read this now Kel. Your words are beautiful and you and the kids are in my thoughts every day. You got to experience a love like no other ✨♥️

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