3 Role Model Lessons From My Mom That Have Universal Business Appeal
During a time of reflection recently, I began to think about the ways that my Mom has been a role model; not just to me but to people from all walks of life, ranging from public figures to aspiring artists from our tiny community in Tennessee.
Today is my Mom’s birthday. I won’t tell you how old she is of course, but I will say that you would probably guess that she’s 20 years younger than her actual age.
Just two days after my Mom’s 23rd birthday, I was born. I was a rambunctious kid, so it’s hard to imagine what it must have felt like being a first-time mother with a kid who was all over the place. All over the place on some things, useless in others, but meticulous and nuanced in certain ways. Somehow my Mom survived, and maybe that’s because she’s invincible.
That’s us. Happy and smiling.
As an honor and tribute to my Mom on her birthday, I wanted to share a few role model character qualities that make her a leader that we can truly learn from and to provide a lesson to folks like us who depend on people and our relationships with those people to make business work.
Never once have I heard my Mom speak a racist, sexist, homophobic, or insensitive word about any person. When I was growing up it was all around me, but in our home, there was not a single instance; never from my Dad, either.
When I was around 5 or 6 years old, my Mom took me to a Native American Pow-wow hosted by the Lenape tribe. It wasn’t too far from our home, but it felt like it was in another world completely. The setting was beautiful as if out of a storybook. It was the type of place where you can feel the history and forget everything about normal life for a moment.
My Mom and I, quite pleased to be around the pony.
I remember two things about that day: one of those memories was the ride home. We had a white Toyota Celica that my parents let me pick out one night when the three of us went car shopping.
Who lets a 5-year-old pick out a car?
I guess mine do and that’s part of why I love them. When it comes to my Mom, she’s always done things the way she feels led, no matter what people think when she knows her intentions are good.
But what I remember most about that ride home was sitting in silence in a solemn way. At the time, my ability to connect emotional experiences to understanding people wasn’t developed, but now looking back on it, I feel that was the moment when I began to learn what empathy is.
My mom has far more empathy than I do, but I have to wonder that if we’d never had that experience if I’d have any empathy at all. If my Mom had not been so empathetic to the point of encouraging a 5-year-old to sit still in a car and reflect on the experience they just had, and the people they met, where would I be today?
My Mom runs her own little eCommerce store and she also has a photography business. But that’s not exactly how she makes money. She makes money in those small ventures by treating every client with dignity. To my Mom, the client is always right, even when they really aren’t.
She will lose money on a deal because in her eyes, it’s not worth trying to prove yourself right although you are. So let’s commit to doing more of this in business and see what happens.
My Mom works so that she can give. But it’s far more than just giving money; she gives her time helping people, giving them dependability and strength. Giving can be a lot of work. It’s the most rewarding work, but it’s still work. When I was around 10, life was weird to me. All I wanted to be was 21 so I could stop having to do “kid crap.”
It was at that moment in my life that my Mom became my friend.
Night after night, she would sit at the edge of my bed and listen intently to the things about life that hurt my feelings or made me confused. She’d also listen to all of the dreams and ambitions I had coursing through my imagination. I wallpapered my room with maps from National Geographic magazines, and my Mom would spend hours listening to me talk about the places in the world I wanted to go and the people I wanted to meet. That in itself is giving; caring about somebody, listening to them, and being a friend.
My Mom would do that for you too because that’s just who she is. Maybe the biggest lesson of all is that there shouldn’t be much difference between how we treat people in business and how we treat people in life.
People are people, after all.
Life is an adventure. Always.