(I’m writing something every* day for #100days. This is post 97/100.)
“I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say.
I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”
A good Mum is life’s greatest competitive advantage.
A good Mum secures you, empowers you, sends you out into the world in a bold, straight line.
I am lucky to have the best kind of Mum.
A Mum who is a friend. A Mum who is unflinching in her values. A Mum who, the older I get, teaches more by doing than saying. A Mum who gives me a clear mandate for how a good life is to be lived.
Here’s some of what she’s taught me.
In an email in 2005, Mum said “have confidence and a good dose of humility and tolerance. With these, everything else falls into place.”
It has sometimes been a puzzle to me to see which of the things I do fill her with pride.
Certainly none of the things I’ve done professionally have generated anything more than mild pleasure for her, and most of that pleasure was directed at me.
She was happy I was happy, not because I’d started or finished a certain thing.
The markers were always bigger and broader. Are you happy? Are you living a good life? Are you making a difference?
The little peaks and troughs along the way mattered less than the actual trajectory.
Don’t seek your future too consciously.
From the earliest age, my Mum fostered in me a desire and entitlement to pursue the future I wanted. She constantly reminded me to keep exploring the world until passion found me.
And looking back on my twenties, I jumped around a lot.
I spent a lot of time not going in any particular direction.
I lived in France. I studied in Mexico. I tried journalism. I studied Law. I studied Political Science. I worked in Government. I worked in bars. I worked as a labourer. I worked in a surf shop. I spent time in Israel and Argentina and Japan. I never stopped travelling. I stopped and started lots of things that didn’t end up feeling right.
I grew up thinking that people had jobs. It oddly never occurred to me that people can make jobs. I found startups by accident. I was 26. As I explored the world, and then startups found me.
And from that minute, I found my place in the world. The diversity of the experiences that led up to that point gave me confidence in knowing there was no ‘other’. Since finding that place, I’ve never been tortured with the thought that there might be something else out there, some place better.
Be impeccably honest.
This is the one I come back to the most.
Impeccable honesty is hard when most of adult life is just technical truth.
Impeccable honesty is the highest standard, and comes at substantial upfront cost.
Being honest with yourself, and being honest with the people you love. Being honest with the people in your life can sometimes bring hurt.
It’s hard to inflict that hurt, even when intentions are good.
But in the long-game, the long-term, it’s simply a better way to live.
Never lose sight of the needs of others.
At every point where I’ve made something for myself, or inched ahead of where I started, Mum’s influence has always been to ask — “Did getting ahead help anyone but yourself?”
It’s an ongoing challenge, and continual push to make sure that I’m doing work that matters. But it’s Mum’s compass against which I measure my direction.
Family Is Everything
While studying abroad in Mexico, she wrote to me and said:
“Always remember that your friends, and your families past, present, and most importantly the one that you create in the future, are the ultimate source of your happiness. The fun, food, music and even the difficulties you share are the stuff of life. Never sacrifice them to the pursuit of your professional fulfillment.”
The consistent theme of her life, and her advice to me, has been to constantly question the sacrifices you make for your professional life.
These have come into the sharpest view since having a child.
This is where values really show up.
This is where having that clear voice in your head, that family is everything, makes the difficult decisions easier.
These lessons have each had their place.
They each form a part of who I am, and strive to be.
But Mum’s greatest achievement has been keeping it all together.
My Dad died young.
I’m the eldest in the family. I was 19 when it happened. I had some life, some completion to bolster me through that nightmare.
For my younger siblings, Dad’s death came in their most formative years, when they were very young.
Mum held it all together.
We all made it out of the storm.
And we made it out because of Mum.
We should have blown apart. We should have been torn to pieces.
But her love. Her unwavering love and devotion. Her unwillingness to let the roof cave in is what kept us all going.
What she did was heroic. And that’s ultimately the kind of human being I have to aspire to be. That’s the kind of love I know parenthood will take.
That’s what matters in life, when all the leaves are blown away.
She taught me so much.
But she’s given us so much more.
I love my Mum. To us, her children, she is the atmosphere.
She brought her whole self to us. She is our mother.