Life Lessons from the Women in My Family

When I was young, my mother hung a plaque above my bed. It said: “Don’t tell your daughter to marry a doctor or lawyer, tell her to be one.” I ended up becoming a CPA, but regardless, the confidence that my mom tried to instill in me early on as a little girl has benefited me throughout my career and life.

This plaque was just the start. I remember early on learning about the groundbreaking accomplishments of my grandmother and great aunt as women, and watching my mom’s career. They were all hardworking, successful entrepreneurs and business women.

Here are a few key lessons that I learned from them that have helped me in business and life. I hope that they inspire you too:

Go after what you want despite what people think

My grandmother Edith ran an antique store. She was the first person I knew who owned a business. Today that might not seem like a big deal but back then there weren't a lot of women entrepreneurs in the ‘50s and ‘60s. To add to this novelty, Edith often traveled alone and wore pants instead of skirts and didn’t marry and have children until late into her 30s -- all of which were uncommon at the time.

While my grandmother was a business owner, my great aunt Charlotte went to business school at the University of Minnesota and was a member of the business club for women. This was in 1930 when 99.9% of business students were men. She went on to work with her husband in his accounting practice, which was also in the same building as my grandfather’s CPA practice.

As you can see, both my grandmother and aunt didn’t let societal norms or expectations get in their way. They pursued their dreams and lived their lives on their own terms.

Keep your head up when times are tough

From the age of 12, I grew up working in my mom’s business, a maid service company in Cincinnati. The school bus dropped me off there each day and I helped out with paperwork and customer phone calls. Needless to say, I saw the many ups and downs of owning a business.

Some days it was winning the next sales proposal and the excitement of a big project. But other days it was one customer complaint after another or employees not showing up for work. I saw how my mom dealt with these successes and setbacks every day.

In particular, I learned from her how to develop grit and tenacity. So when things weren’t going well, I learned how to not throw in the towel, even when I really wanted to, and hold my head up and keep moving forward. When we made a mistake in the business, my mom taught me to quickly learn from it -- not dwell on it -- so that we could make a better decision the next time.

These stories are a part of our family lore, passed on from generation to generation. Now as a third-generation woman entrepreneur myself, these stories live within me as a reminder to always go after what I really want, not let what people think get in my way, and persevere when times get tough.

How about you -- do you have family members who have taught you how to keep moving forward in business or life? Please share your stories in the comments section.