This month, we are taking time to celebrate our moms (or mums in New Zealand) and highlight three important lessons they have taught us in our life. I remember a quote a few years back that basically said, “Life does not come with a manual, but it does come with a mother.” So, here are my three favorite lessons from my mom:
The value and joy of reading. My mother loves to read, so it seemed natural to be always reading and having a book close by. Whether non-fiction to gather insights, perspectives, and facts, or fiction to lose myself in another’s world, I love to read and believe it has broadened my outlook, opened my mind, invoked curiosity, and helped me develop many of the ideas and points of view that drive my business philosophies and success. I think those books also created my need to travel. Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesake wrote, “[Books] let you travel without moving your feet,” and by the time I was ready to travel on my own, my passion and need were already fully awakened. One person could never teach me all the things I have learned over the years from all the books I read, but by sharing her joy of reading, my mother gave me the most important lesson of all.
Everything is a phase. I recall my mother often saying about my behaviors or that of my sisters that, “it is only a phase” never really getting uptight or overly concerned. I think this perspective allowed me to be who I had to be in that moment without having to justify my actions or likes. I can imagine it must have been quite off-putting for a strong Catholic woman to have a son who relished heavy metal music that often spoke of going to hell or loving the devil. But rather than trying to change my choices, she merely rationalized that it was only a phase. Rather than trying to control my choices or likes, she empowered me to try, test, and work out what was best for me. It allowed me to evolve and embrace change rather than be scared of it, and, anytime I failed, I could always move on to the next phase. I also think this has fueled my entrepreneur and leadership impulses, encouraging me to try so many different things in this life—whether living abroad, doing TV, writing a book, starting multiple companies, or even now being a parent. Life is a series of phases, and it is the summation of those phases that will define you, rather than any one phase, no matter how positive or negative.
Your words are powerful. My mother always put a premium on my speech and delivery, which laid the foundation for a career of sharing stories and motivating others. It was much different when I was young, when my mother insisted on me doing speech lessons and speaking in front of an audience—much to my angst. Even when I was frustrated, she would encourage me to use my words and verbalize what was going on. While it took many years for me to unleash my passion for speaking, there is no doubt where the foundation came from. In my 20s, I read a quote from Zig Ziglar who said, “There is power in words. What you say is what you get.” Thanks to my mother, the power of my words has been the catalyst for most of the things I have been fortunate to receive in my life.
As one of America’s most influential women of the 20th century, Dorothy Canfield Smith, said, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” Thanks, Mom, for making me stand on my own two feet, making leaning almost unnecessary.
Happy Mother’s Day.