Memories are about to be made this weekend. One of my favorite holiday movies is “A Christmas Story.” Set in the 1940’s, the film uses a series of vignettes to narrate the misadventures of 9-year-old Ralphie who only wants one thing for Christmas—an official Red Ryder BB rifle. Everyone who learns of his wish responds with the same answer, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Recalling Christmas memories is one way we keep the past alive. Mine include a bicycle, oranges, and getting up long before dawn on Christmas morning. How can memories and life lessons serve those of us in leadership? My mother’s recent passing on the day before Thanksgiving offers some insights.
Here are three memories and life lessons I learned from mom.
Connections. Anyone who met my mother likely became a friend. She could initiate conversations with complete strangers and quickly find ways to make connections that often lasted beyond the time and distance of their chance meeting.
I’m not as socially adept as my mother. While my work frequently involves attending social functions and speaking in public, I am quite content to spend quiet time alone. Leaders who share mom’s gift for social interaction may not appreciate how to develop those connections into relevant and meaningful networks. Those of us who struggle to meet new people should find ways to develop our people skills so we can share the expertise and ideas that sometimes never make it into the conversation.
Generosity. Mom was one of the most generous persons I have ever known. She did all this with very limited resources. When I was growing up, mom frequently shared vegetables from our garden, baked goods from her kitchen, or meals around her table. It didn’t matter how well she knew you, or how long you had been a friend, everyone was welcome to receive a blessing from her hand. If she was worried about having enough, it never showed.
Today’s leaders tend to view the world through the lens of scarcity. Eliminating positions, cutting human resource budgets, or postponing training efforts are often cited as necessary to remain competitive. Withholding recognition and limiting feedback or praise seem like normal behaviors for many leaders. A generous spirit could transform a dispirited workplace into an engaging environment.
Perseverance. Mom persevered in the face of adversity. She suffered from a wide variety of health issues, including more than one battle with cancer. Her youngest son died of a heart attack before his thirtieth birthday. She lost her spouse of more than fifty years after a massive stroke. As her most recent cancer spread, she faced unpredictable bowels, limited mobility, and eventually debilitating pain. While she sometimes complained about her circumstances, her steadfast faith in God offered courage and hope.
Most leaders are not taught how to persevere. When business takes a downturn or a competitor steals market share it’s easy to blame or give up. Perseverance is remaining steadfast despite how hard things may be or whether success is within reach. It is something that most of us learn through experience, or role models like my mom.
I hope you will be encouraged and inspired to learn from mom’s example as much as I have been. Finally, during this holiday season, treasure every opportunity to create your own memories.