The most important thing my mother taught me

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I knew I was in trouble when there was hard crunch in my ice cream sandwich. Sure enough, chunks of a tooth that had been in my mouth were now in the ice cream. Until that moment I never thought you could break a tooth eating an ice cream sandwich, but now I had proof.

That’s why I spent most of yesterday at the dentist. Thanks to a truly horrid experience early in life, I am petrified whenever I go to the dentist. I told the dentist about that. At the end of the procedure she smiled at me and said, “You did very well. You made your mother proud.”

That stopped me. My mother died over thirty years ago. But I still try to make her proud. And yesterday would have been her 99th birthday. I told the dentist and she asked me: “What’s the most important thing your mother taught you?”

I don’t think anyone ever asked me that question before, so I had to think. There were lots of lessons and many bits of wisdom, but I finally realized that the most important thing didn’t come from what she said, but from the way she lived.

You can adapt to the world and be successful without compromising your principles or who you are.

My mother faced many challenges in her life and met them all with dignity and grace. The Depression vaporized her college education, so she went to work at the five and dime and became their top candy salesperson. She married my father, a poor young Lutheran Pastor, but she was never that extension-of-your-husband that people expected her to be. When she went to work in an advertising agency, she re-wrote the copy she was hired to type and wound up as a copywriter.

As I’ve moved through life, I’ve learned that beings successful while being yourself and holding on to your values is an art. It’s easy to accomplish your goals, but compromise your principles. And it’s easy to stick to your principles but go down in flames. My mother’s example is that you don’t have to do either of those.

Boss’s Bottom Line

You can adapt to the world and be successful without compromising your principles or who you are.

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