Put yourself in my shoes for a second: here I am an INTJ Myers-Briggs writing about my mother, who still calls me her “baby.” A guy who sports a 19-inch kettle bell-fueled bicep so he can flex it and say, “Hey, Mom — feel this.” She will say, “I know what your arm feels like.” So we have our ritual, and our behaviors are components of rituals.
A great question recently came from a colleague of mine, forcing me to dig up some new dirt on myself to reflect on where I am at right this moment and what’s influencing that “place.” It should come as no surprise that those whom you spend as much time around as your parents would have such a profound impact on your life, but I was so busy in the technical/metric sourcing world that I missed it. This process has refocused my attention to my own behavior even further and the activity results are showing signs of life.
I just had the gift of time with my mother; she came to our home to provide some additional support on a family issue. She is a 73-year old who is mentally and physically strong and very independent, and when you really need someone who isn’t going to drop the ball she doesn’t disappoint…ever. One of six children, she started her career at age thirteen so she knows how to spell work and what work ethic is. She later worked at and then managed a small loan company. I would sit off to the side quietly while she evaluated people for loans or collected payments or garnished wages. We have shared many interesting experiences together; some hardships, and some enormous victories.
In thinking about the things I’ve learned from both observing her and talking with her, I came up with the following list of life lessons that my mom has taught me that have helped me to reach the point in my career where I currently am today.
I am not ranking these in any particular order because they all have equal yet very different meanings to me and therefore I didn’t want to assign a value that might bias you. As you will soon see (and I am admittedly biased) my mom, Phyllis, has got some of her own game going on.
- Fiscal responsibility. I watched my mom do the deals and make the loans, which to me are the consequences of not managing your finances properly. My mother and a former CEO equally influenced my philosophy of carrying very low levels of debt, stockpiling my operating expenses a year forward so that I am free to make no pressure decisions based on what’s best — not based on where my next meal may be coming from. For those who like to squeeze just remember you would be better served to take that energy to ensure you understand exactly what you want.
- Show up. Mom didn’t miss work; she was there on time. My mantra is, “It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get up.” Show up when the times are tough; it’s like fishing when it is raining — you won’t have too much company. The fish can bite quite well.
- Walk the talk. Mom has a very low BS threshold, and she said the other day during a walk, “It’s easy for people to talk, as it requires little actual execution. Most don’t walk their talk….I just watch what people do and it tells the story.” For me, I have what I call personal BS ‘checks’ where anything I really think I can do gets tested to ensure I’m acutely aware of what my capabilities are.
- Manners and common sense will take you anywhere you need to go. A Harvard PhD recently described me to someone else as” intelligent, but he is so polite.” I’m from the South and you will hear me say, “No, ma’am” or “Yes, sir” — it is a Southern thing, but it does not mean my IQ is below 40. Common Sense – I take highly calculated risks that are percentage shots. Manners – I would like to be more consistent although I don’t believe most people would describe me as “impolite.”
- Maintenance. Mom has always taken care of herself physically; she is known amongst our family for her collection of “lotions and potions” she likes to apply to her skin. The oil in her Honda was always changed at 3,000 miles, below the suggested 4,000, and her car never has broken down…never…ever. I maintain my gear at a high level of readiness. My three computers are routinely optimized, my three phones are constantly being tweaked and upgraded, and my fishing reels cleaned – in fact, I just put fresh line on all of them. When the game is on, you should not be worrying about your equipment.
- ‘Great White Shark.’ “Rusty, you have to remember something — you are one of ten great white sharks in a 10-foot long pool. If you are going to swim with them, you’d best be one.” I personally thought that was pretty deep — or perhaps she just knew how afraid I was of great whites after watching Jaws at a young age. (LOL)
- Faith. Mom’s spiritual faith is strong – she has faith in her ability to navigate tense circumstances and she knows how to survive. I do have my own faith which is growing through study, prayer, and thought. The navigation piece is the result of experience, learning what does not work and what does work in particular situations. When sourcing know the person exists and attempt to stay calm, they are out there you just need to find them.
- Diverse influence. Mom dealt with a diverse population throughout her 28 years with Southside Finance Company and later during almost a decade of hospice work. She understands that everyone is not the same, and I think some of that perspective, in conjunction with global work experience, has left that mark in my style. I find people generally interesting. With her viewpoint, I learned to get on the phone, SMS, email, blog, post, and connect with people who have the answers I was seeking. From doing this, you can pull all that information in and see what common themes are present.
- Durability/Commitment. I have seen Mom up, down, and in-between. Deep down she is as tough as any Moon there has been, while retaining a very lady-like female presence. She perseveres. Having learned from observing her, one of my former supervisors early in my career told me she thought I was successful because I “wouldn’t quit.” Now, I would prefer to hear, “You were successful because you executed,” but at that time that was a sincere compliment. This is a classic “I wonder what happens if I do this”…..over and over and over. I prefer now to pay the price and know the answer beforehand.
- Look out for ‘#1.’ – Mom’s philosophy is that at a survival level, most people will tend to look after themselves first and others second if it moves them towards their objective. Note I’m mentioning at a survival level, as in life or death. Sometimes everyone will salute in unison as the ship sinks, but normally not. (I base this on watching several WWII submarine movies, not from having leapt from a sinking ship of course.) My take on her words is that there is some truth there and where I deviate slightly is the reasoning. I like to think of myself as being able to support and help more people based on keeping myself in a position of strength.
*Dad gets an assist with “Show me, don’t tell me.”
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*My Dad gets an assist here also with his “Are you willing to pay the price” soliloquy.
Be strong in your fundamentals, be strong in your self-leadership, try to learn from as many diverse situations as possible, and you have then positioned yourself to be more able to help others. My inner circle keeps me in positions of strength and I find I am then more in the moment in helping others. I do have several people whom I coach and try to offer them the opportunity to learn from my errors so they can progress faster than I have. Strategize while informed and calm, “Train like an Olympian,” and build the strength before you need it — and you will find you like that feeling. Mom taught me all this and more.
Happy Mother’s Day to Phyllis Moon, my “mommy” and all the (moms | mums |mothers) out there.