We all get busy in life, and it passes so quickly. I look back and I am amazed at the passing of time, the memories that I have, and the friends that I miss. It is when thinking about memories that I reminisce and I am grateful for a lesson my Mom taught me, that helps each day to create the future memories that you will someday look back upon. It was at a time that I was racing through life, like I did so much in the early days of my adult life. I already mentioned my mother would always tell me that I needed to learn to be still, but she also taught me an additional lesson that builds upon that. She taught me to do something that matters each day.
It was at the time that I was in the family business with my parents. Even thinking of that time I realize what a joy that situation was being with them each day. However, I would work and then race off to what I was going to do after work. I had children of my own which my Mom adored. She cherished all of her grandchildren. But she also recognized that although she would always welcome them in her home, that I would ask her to watch them frequently because I always had something to do. One day, when I was dropping them off, she asked to speak with me. I tried to tell her I did not have time and she gave me the message and indication it was important.
“Marcos Antonio, you need to slow down.” My first and last name spoken by my mother grabbed my attention. “You know I will always take care of the boys, but where are you racing off to that you are not spending enough time with them?”
I really had no answer. Where I was going and what I was doing was insignificant. Even rationalizing, or attempting to rationalize that there would be opportunities to spend time with them in the future, would be futile. Mom knew her point was valid and that it pierced my heart and mind. I was a fool. Even today I still feel shame. I can never get back time I did not spend with my children and, yet miss and love them so much. The song by Cat Stevens ‘Cats and the Cradle’ seems like it was written for me, and I am confessing it here in my book. Humility I teach is a strength, not a weakness, and this reality and confession is my most vulnerable moment. I sat in silence in my Mom’s presence.
“Marcos, when you race through life, it leaves you with no purpose and no memories. You have beautiful things right in front of you to cherish, but you are looking for the next thing. Mijo, you need to do something that matters each day. Do something that matters with your loved ones and something that matters with others you can impact. When you do that, you will seldom look back with regret,” she spoke, so passionately.
I sat with my head down. I was in shame, but in reality there is no shame in being corrected. What you do from there is what matters. I remember gathering myself and repacking up my boys and letting them know that we were going to go do something. Just the look in their eyes and faces are a memory I cherish. We packed up and went and did something for them. It was fun and rewarding and better than anything that I had planned. That day I did something that mattered.
In business, and years later, Mom would sometimes ask me when talking about my work, “Did you do something that mattered today?” Sometimes I would have to think for an answer, and sometimes she would bring it out in questioning. She would probe, “Did you take time to mentor someone today? Did you encourage someone and did you work to help others grow?” she would ask.
Mom, I believe, always saw the leadership potential in me, or she knew she taught me from an early age. A mother’s impact can be so significant. From her questioning, I would have answers, as from each of those examples I would have an example and would answer back so excited.
“Yes, I did, Mom,” I replied back and must have sounded like a surprised or excited child. With my Mom I probably always was a child. “I am mentoring this person in this department. She started as an admin and is growing now so rapidly in another department.” The conversation would go on to other examples. Mom knew that doing something that makes a difference each day would impact me and more importantly impact others. Her way of asking about it was an additional part of the lesson. First, it reminded and demonstrated to me that doing something that makes a difference each day is rewarding. Second, it demonstrates that it helps others and builds them for better things. Ultimately that is also what built the success that I had over time by making a difference for others.
To me, the definition of leadership is doing something that makes a difference each day. This is at least a tool as well as a responsibility of leadership. Leaders understand, believe and accept that they have a responsibility to do something that makes a difference each day. When you do that for future leaders they pay it forward. When you do that for your family you are rewarded with smiles, joy and love. Most of all you are rewarded with memories.
I remember at another time Mom used this example when she was concerned about my health. Once again I would hit a cycle where I was always on the run and she would recognize the scenario and intercede. Mom did not worry or care if she repeated herself or brought things up too many times. Mom worried or cared that her children learned, that we were safe, and that we were healthy. This was a mother’s love with a leadership heart.
“Mijo, slow down, you look awful. Are you okay?” she asked in concern.
“Yes, Mom, just been busy on the job. I have a lot to do and work is going through a lot of changes,” I answered, sounding out of breath.
“Marcos Antonio, no matter how busy work is you need to take care of your health. Do you need something to eat mijo?” she asked.
“Sure.” I would never turn down Mom’s cooking. I could have just come from eating pizza but Mom’s cooking was the best.
Mom then reminded me of the lesson. “Mijo, you need to do something that matters for yourself each day. I know that you are always busy and doing things for others, which I love you for. But doing something that matters each day is something that you need to do for yourself as well. Your health is important. Your body and mind will get tired and all the good that you have done would be wasted on your health. You need to do something that matters each day for yourself mijo. Only then can you sustain doing something that matters each day for others. You need to have balance in both.”
Mom was so right, as usual. I needed to do something that mattered each day for me as my health was suffering. So last weekend, I did nothing but relaxed. I did something that mattered because my body and mind needed it. We as leaders must do something that matters for us, or how else do we refuel. Spending time in the Bible refuels me. Reading leadership books by other authors and swimming in my pool are additional examples of things that matter that assist me in unwinding. When I take care of myself, it replenishes my spirit and increases my desire to keep coaching. Doing something that matters hopefully will keep me available to continue to mentor others. Keeping my health in line will allow me to enjoy watching others grow and become successful.
Excerpt from “Leadership Lessons From Mom” available at: https://amzn.to/3mmdNQM