Advice from My Mom, on Business & Life
When I was a senior in high school I participated in a scholarship contest and during the final round of the competition – the private, in-person interviews – we were asked who our biggest hero was.
I spent the answer talking about mom. Maybe not the coolest or most highbrow answer – I was sure other kids were talking about Mother Theresa or whatever athlete or world leader was on-trend at the moment – but it was my best and most honest answer.
Not much has changed since then. My mom continues to be my hero, inspiration, tough-love giver, cheerleader, stylist, mentor, and more. Her advice is golden, is often right, and comes from a lifetime of incredible experiences.
For that reason, I thought today, shortly after Mother’s Day, would be the perfect day to share three of the most useful lessons (applicable to both business and life) that she’s taught me over the years. I’m also going to sprinkle it with a couple of bonus vintage photos of my momma and me.
Mom’s background in 10 seconds …
My mom (a.k.a. Momma Maria) is a self-made and successful entrepreneur who moved to this country from Poland as a physicist in her twenties. She taught herself English, started life and work over again at the bottom, found true love, went on to build a business (in a completely different field), lost a child, beat cancer, served her community in big ways, and raised a family. Phew.
She did all of this while cooking amazing home-cooked meals on a regular basis and dishing up life advice that she’ll remind you she’s “always right about” and, well, she often-mostly-is.
For that reason, I go to her regularly for insight, and I (try to) accept it when she decides I need it.
Today, I’ve also decided to share it with you.
Below you’ll find 3 quick one-sentence life/business lessons from my mom, my own summary of them, and a superquick backstory on each of them because every lesson needs a good story.
3 Quick Business & Life Lessons from Momma Maria:
MOMMA MARIA SAYS:
If You Can Draw a Small Circle, You Can Draw a Big Circle
What you can do on a small level comfortably can be easily replicated on a larger level. Know this. Accept this. Do big things. You already have the ability within you, I promise.
Years ago when I was running a publicity agency in New York City as a young entrepreneur, I had an opportunity to take on a client that really interested me, but shortly after I did they had a big ask:
Take over an event they were hosting in TWO weeks in Los Angeles, that was going to be packed with A-list celebrities (Jennifer Aniston was co-hosting!), that needed major publicity coverage, and came with a set of logistics I’d never once had to manage at any job.
Sure, I’d successfully pulled off smaller events in New York but this felt way out of my league. I’d thrown events before with important hosts, but never RACHEL FROM FRIENDS.
I called my mom for advice and she said to me, “If you can draw a small circle you can draw a big circle” and explained the phrase to me. She’s used it several times since then, and she’s always right. I CAN draw the bigger circle.
Now I use that phrase when I encourage my students at Press for Success or guests at the events I speak at to go for big asks, take bigger chances, and push themselves to go beyond what they think they are capable of – we’re often able to do much more than we think.
MOMMA MARIA SAYS:
You Have to Tell People Where to Put the Parsley
If you do not clearly communicate what you want you will not get it, and nobody wins.
Though she entered the workforce as a physicist when my siblings and I were in elementary school my mom (an excellent chef) started a catering company that evolved into a gorgeous and widely + well-reviewed restaurant.
Not only was the food exquisite but the presentation was as well, with pristine white dishes that were plated just right, featuring parsley delicately sprinkled around the outer rim.
And thus the lesson about the parsley…
When a new waiter joined my mom’s team and was prepping their dishes for meal presentation my mom would make sure that they were shown exactly how she wanted them to decorate and present the plates.
You can’t just say to someone, “Put parsley on the plates” or before you know it you’ll have an overly generous dusting of parsley all over the place, which isn’t a good look. Bad communications = bad results.
You have to show and tell someone (only once) exactly what you want to be done, make sure they understand, have them show you, and everyone wins. You have to tell them where to put the parsley.
Make the time to communicate exactly how you want something to be done for you (show, tell) or you’ll get what you don’t want over and over again and you’ll be the one to blame.
MOMMA MARIA SAYS:
Enjoy the Ride!
You know that adventure you think you’re working and heading towards? The joke’s on you – this IS the adventure! This IS the thing! So look around, be present in it, and enjoy it!
We often forget that the exciting/fancy/expensive/Instagram-worthy thing we may think you’re working towards isn’t the prize. Oh no, the ride you’re on right now, though it may be a bit bumpy and rough at times, THIS is the part you’re supposed to be enjoying and celebrating and LIVING.
YOUR FINAL STORY…
When I was just about thirty years old I was on a beach vacation with my family, and my mom and I were standing in the waves talking about life, work, a recently ended relationship of mine – all the things.
Knowing that my mom is wise and loves sharing that wisdom, and knowing that I myself was feeling sort of lost and unsure of what my next best steps would be, I asked her if she could lay on me what she felt was her best advice – what should I be doing right now?
I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe something about gaining more financial wisdom or self-love – but instead my mom gave me a simple answer:
“Enjoy the ride.”
Ah yes, enjoy the ride. And I think to do that we need to stop, pause, get present and realize THIS IS THE RIDE. You are on it RIGHT NOW my friends.
Try to fully experience it! Even this part.
And with that, my lessons for you – my mom’s lessons for you – are complete, for now…
I wish you a wonderful week, I hope you draw big circles, tell people where you want your parsley, and enjoy bits and pieces of the ride we’re on right now!
P.S. I ended up winning that scholarship contest (shout out to the Blaske-Hill Foundation). Proof that following your heart rather than the crowd is always the right answer.