My mother was the first to love me, cherishing my life and praying for my future well-being long before I had any sense of self-concept. As mothers do, she passed along her wisdom–the things she had learned in her 30, 40, and 50 years of life on earth. Her advice is, and always has been, heartfelt and imperfect (as so much in life is).
My mother is so much more than merely the woman who birthed and reared me: she is my teacher, my friend, an inspiration, and my role model. Over the years, she has taught me how to live well, with an open mind and an open heart. Today, I’d like to honor her her wisdom, but sharing my ten favorite pieces of life advice.
- Pay yourself first (your future self, that is). Whenever you receive a raise, divide that amount by two: add one half to your retirement contributions, and add the the other to lifestyle expenses. For example, an additional $5,000 annually is an extra $400 a month; add an extra $200 monthly to your Roth IRA or 401k, and use the other $200 for new clothes or a weekend trip.
- Read every day. If you have kids, encourage them to read every day. If your children don’t know how to read, take on the responsibility of reading to them every day. Reading opens up new worlds; don’t shut that door.
- Practice kindness towards everyone. My mother has a heart of gold and leads by example, always going out of her way to support family, friends, and strangers. She hung an embroidered quote in my childhood bathroom that displayed a variation of the following quote from Kathy Davis: “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” I was constantly reminded that it’s not what I have, but how I choose to behave to determines success in life.
- Keep an open mind. My mom’s favorite quote is: “A mind once stretched from it’s original dimensions is never the same,” a variation on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s similar musing. She taught my siblings and I to be brave and try new things. Even if we decided we did not like something, simply being willing to try something new made us better.
- Hot and sour soup will cure whatever ails you. Whether a cold, pneumonia, or a bout of anxiety, you can drive up to the local Chinese restaurant to pick up the special elixir and start feeling better. I have no idea what the secret ingredient is or whether my mother’s conviction is simply a strong placebo, but I swear it works!
- Balance your checkbook. Set and follow a budget. Know how much money is coming in, as well as how much you’re spending. Continually reassess your budget to ensure your cash is going towards your priorities, and not simply conveniences. As Dave Ramsey would say, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
- Do what’s right, not what’s popular. Ethics and values outweigh all else. My parents often read The Children’s Book of Virtues and Fables, exposing me to clever and playful lessons on morality. These messages stuck with me and helped guide me through tricky situations and identify good-hearted friends.
- Family is everything. Make time for loved ones. Sibling rivalry is real, but it’s important to get over your differences and find some common ground. Friends, jobs, and political leanings waver and wane, but family is forever.
- Do what you love and the money will follow. My mother has her degree in childhood education, but chose to stay home to raise her kids. Her love of teaching translated into an opportunity to become a direct-seller of education books, where she became the top seller in the country, earning six-figures and traveling around the world. By example, she taught me: you can have your cake and eat it too, but you must first define in your mind exactly the kind of cake you want, acquire all of the ingredients, and then put the time and effort into properly baking it.
- Self-employment creates a fast track to freedom. My mother worked harder than any mom I knew, continually taking action to build a reputable business. We listened to Zig Ziglar cassette tapes on the way to school, and I plucked books like The Millionaire Next Door off her shelf when I was bored. Her chosen career was trying and time-consuming, but it gave her the freedom to work from home and attended her kids’ school events.
- There’s often no difference between generic and name brand. The name brand plastic wrap and it generic equivalent were likely manufactured on the same machine, in the same factory. The difference in cost is due to the lackluster design and marketing efforts of the generic brand, rather than sub-par quality. I’m not quite sold on this one; I suspect these were the world of a hard-working mama whose priority was education, rather than status (see #6).
- Marry a man who is kind to his parents and respects restaurant servers. Marry only for love, but be sure to interrogate your heart thoroughly until you know with certainly that your love is true. Find a man who treats you well whether you’re cheerful or in a frighteningly foul mood. Fall in love with a man who shares your sense of humor (once you meet him, it won’t be hard).