Four Lessons I Learned From My Mom

As the Mother’s Day brunches and barbeques come to a close, many of us spend a few minutes reflecting on the impact our moms have made.  They sacrificed and worked around the clock in a thankless job to prepare us to lead productive adult lives.  This hilarious video illustrates just how outrageous the demands of the world’s toughest job can be.

In my case, I thought back about the powerful lessons I learned from my mom.  Sadly, her life was far too short having lost her fight to cancer 18 months ago, just after her 65th birthday.   I especially missed her presence at this year’s festivities and began to think about the big ideas she passed along that have shaped my life.  I wanted to pass along four of her most powerful lessons, so that we can all learn from this giant who stood only five feet tall:

Stand up for your beliefs.  Back in the 1960’s, my mom was a vocal advocate for women’s rights, the anti-war movement, civil rights, and many other causes.  She challenged those around her to do the right thing, even in the face of opposition. She attended protests and marches, burnt her bra, and spoke out against social injustice. She made it clear that standing up for core beliefs is both important and non-negotiable, even when it’s difficult or out of favor.

Develop curiosity and a love for learning.  One of the most curious people I’ve ever known, she would interrogate nearly everyone with questions.  She taught me to be a lifelong learner and to use each moment as an opportunity for growth.  She was fascinated by the way the world worked, and passed along the love of knowledge to all who would listen.

Use grit and determination to craft the life you want.  As a broke, single mother in the early 1970’s, the obstacles of pursuing an advanced degree seemed insurmountable.  Yet she put herself through law school, raised her son, and managed to keep a roof over our heads.  Instead of caving to the forces against her, she tapped an immense reservoir of persistence and managed to become a successful attorney in a male-dominated field typically inaccessible to most in her economic situation. Through her example, I learned that nearly any goal is achievable despite the intimidating odds.

Follow your passion.   After practicing law for ten years and achieving financial success as a trail lawyer, she completely walked away from that lucrative area of the law.  She felt she could make a bigger impact by helping to create families, so she became a pioneer – and ultimately a leading expert – in the field of adoption law, even though the pay was dramatically less. She taught me that making an impact is far more important than maximizing cash flow, and that the purpose of life is a life with a purpose.

While she’s no longer with us in person, Monica Farris Linkner has certainly left an impact on those she touched. I sure miss that tenacious, passionate, idealistic, inquisitive, wicked-smart woman.  I hope her wisdom makes a difference for you as it has for so many others.