After 17 years battling Parkinson’s, my mom passed away quietly on January 31. In his wonderful book, The Art of Living, Thich Nhat Hanh presents a concept called Interbeing. Interbeing is the thought that we are all a continuation of the world especially our parents. My mother is with me every day, as I wake up and as I go about my life. Whatever I do, wherever I go, she is with me and a part of me.
I woke early this morning thinking what LIFEies she taught me. And the lessons came flooding in. Here are the top 6 lessons that I took as Interbeing from her:
1. Do what it takes to do it right. My mom was a high school English teacher. She took her job seriously. As an English teacher she never gave multiple choice questions. EVERY test, EVERY paper and EVERY assignment was a chance to make kids write. All those papers added up to thousands of hours of work – reading and editing. I recall every holiday and weekend her editing papers. She never wavered in her commitment to doing it right. All five of my siblings had an opportunity to take a class from her. My oldest brother Jim was the first to try. He ended up with a B after failing to turn in his final on time. That was my mom—committed to doing it right. Every single day of my 34 years of being a broker, I have committed to doing what it takes to do it right. Thanks, Mom.
2. Get it done. My mom had three boys in less than 4 years and within a year of having me (I was the third), she found herself single. She didn’t waiver in her plan. She entered into a master’s program at the University of Arizona and completed her degree in British Literature. She was stubborn and she passed it along to her kids. All six of us have college degrees. Three of the six have advanced degrees. I wanted to run one marathon…Well that turned into 70 marathons. Now my son Charlie is running the Austin Marathon. Interbeing. Thanks, Mom.
3. Follow your own path. All six kids have taken different paths. We have an electrical/mechanical engineer, a college professor in auto mechanics, a real estate broker and entrepreneur, an English major who works for a defense contractor, a civil engineer and an anthropologist. Everyone was encouraged to do what they wanted. My own kids are in sales, writing, finance and student athlete. Interbeing. Thanks, Mom.
4. Be there. I cannot remember a time that my mom and dad missed any event, or did not stay at home on the weekend. My mom and dad simply were there…ALL the time. In high school, I came home drunk (that night was the last time I tried tequila 40 years ago), and of course my parents were there. Lesson learned—double times over. As Tracy and I finish raising our four kids, we simply have been there. Being there has made all the difference in our lives first as a kid who knew his parents loved him and now as a parent whose kids know they are loved. Thanks, Mom.
5. Marry the right person…even if it’s the second time. My mom married my dad when I was very young. He took my mom AND the three boys. Adopted us. Raised us. And made us men. I am the man I am today because of my dad. Thanks Mom for marrying Dad. Thanks Dad for the 4 for 1 marriage and for being there for the past 55 years including the last 17 years as Parkinson’s stole our mother.
6. Lastly, It’s not about you. Inherently in the teaching profession the focus should be on the student. My mom took that as a Hippocratic oath. And she did it at home. Family First. My uncle said it best: “she held the family together.” I have taken this as my own oath and have put my family and our clients first and foremost in all I do. We teach this to our runners and team starting day one and every day thereafter. My coach Dan Sullivan says “make your act bigger than your applause.” That was my mom’s life.
Rule #1 from my book The Fantastic Life: Know Your Story
Our story starts with our parents. They are the ones who form our early years, who shape us into who we are, for better or worse. Understanding where you come from and the road you took to the person you are today, is the first step to crafting a Fantastic Life.