Today's blog is by Herman Dixon, president and CEO of Think BIG! Coaching and Training, Inc., a professional practice that helps CEOs, entrepreneurs, leadership teams, and sales professionals maximize their goals and opportunities.
I never knew my paternal grandma. She passed in the early part of World War II, a few years before my birth. However, my maternal grandma, better known as “Mamie,” was indeed one of the oracles of life. What a wonderful touch of comfort she always seemed to provide at just the right time. Food…wow, she could whip up a full meal in what seemed like a matter of moments. But it was Mamie’s abilities to listen and intuitively confront the many challenges that faced her daily that have proven to be the learning principles I followed and continue to follow today.
Here are the life and leadership principles I learned from her.
1) Love is a strong medicine.
Where love exists, it is difficult to find lasting conflict or dissatisfaction. It has a way of “softening” even the most unbearable moment to make it at least tolerable. When love is given unconditionally, well, that makes it even more effective. Grandmas quite often express how this simple trait can have such incredible impact regardless of the situation. You are not excused from wrongdoing or falling short of performing in a manner that fits your capabilities; but, through it all, love stands out and you are confirmed in your assurance that someone truly cares about your hurt, your shortfall, and your celebrations regardless of size.
2) Be thankful for what you have.
My family was very modest in its accumulation of wealth. We never knew we were poor. It really never crossed our minds and spirits. However, I learned from an early age that there was always someone who was in a more dire situation than I.
My maternal grandparents were farmers. I can still remember when they got indoor plumbing at their house. That was quite a spirited day. Grandma, though, always let it be known – in her mealtime prayers and otherwise – that the family was thankful for what it had: life, food, clothing, shelter, good health, and togetherness, to name a few. She often reminded me how important it was to always, always be appreciative for the things you have. In doing so, you set the stage for what you might receive later. Her thoughts were simple: If you can’t appreciate your immediate rewards, how can you really understand and appreciate what you might produce or obtain later in life? Thankfulness helps even the most challenged person better understand that wealth and fame are more than cash in the bank or a news headline. Thankfulness is that simple characteristic that lays the foundation for life itself. Without life, what is really possible? Therefore, be thankful for what you have. It could be worse.
3) Make a positive difference in someone’s life each day.
Now, Grandma was not a Norman Vincent Peale or even a W. Clement Stone, but she was one of the most positive people I have ever experienced. She had a smile on her face and a song in her heart every day, and she did her best to convey that theme to all who came in contact with her.
Whether you are dealing with neighbors, family, business associates, or close friends, positive insight and reinforcement can sweeten the sour parts of life. Life and people are full of problems. It is when they are helped to see there can be a different viewpoint that life changes.
4) Sometimes you have to simply tell people what they don’t want to hear.
Being polite and diplomatic in approaches with others is valid – especially when issues are somewhat controversial. However, in the larger spectrum of interaction, diplomacy and politeness have their limits. Sometimes, others must come to grips with reality. In those situations, it is important to be bold – not necessarily authoritative, but bold – and address the immediate facts of life.
Many times I heard my grandmother help others face reality. It wasn’t that she was trying to be uncooperative or insulting; she just understood that, unless something was said about a particular issue (and in a timely manner), the entire situation could move toward a catastrophic climax. While those receiving the sage insight did not always appreciate the words of wisdom, I never recall a lasting protest. Rather, the impacted parties came back to convey their thanks for helping them address the “real” truth.
5) Talk is easy. Actions make the difference.
Like many prudent people should do, Grandma often listened to bold words, but she looked very closely at what various individuals did to follow through with their words. She often would tell me, “Young man, your words are your bond. If you say you will do something, you best do it!” That is sage advice. Just as Andrew Carnegie said, “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” Action truly speaks louder than words.
Grandmas are, without doubt, one of life’s great gifts. They love you, cherish the moments, and have many volumes of knowledge they can pass along to anyone who will make the time to listen. Not that their caring or insight will ever bring you fame or fortune – but their keen understanding of family, leadership, and life will simply help you see through a very different set of eyes. Maybe it’s time to stop and take a long look through the lens of a grandma. A look that just might open up new worlds of opportunity to you.