Elated with the thought that school was finally over, I walked into my house with utmost excitement as mother greeted me in the living room. In that moment, I was officially ready to be an adult and hop on to the freedom wagon that a college provided. Mother, at this point, broke into my reverie and asked me, “College now, huh?”.
My excited reply, “Yes, of course. I can’t wait.” What she said next — looking back, I think was my first proactive lesson in survival. She asked me, “Since you are so excited to start college, I am sure you have figured a way out to manage your pocket expenses?” A sudden blow and I was back to my humble reality. What she said was true. My parents had communicated early on that they will pay for my educational expenses, but I had to bear the cost of my own expenses.
And there began my journey as a part-time tutor for children in my neighbourhood that later paved a way for me to guest lecture at various colleges (which I still do till date) and which also became an opportunity for me to meet my current colleagues in the education industry. What started as these simple questions and conversations with my mother, became sermons and lessons for life.
Parents are our role models growing up, and nobody is as dear to us than our mothers. That’s why I decided to jot down the management skills that my mother passed down in the form of thought-provoking questions, intimate conversations and simple truth bombs.
“That tree used to be a seed”
The first time my mom suggested I should teach the neighbours’ kid, she said they would give me Rs 150 a month to help their child. Though this was back in early half of 1992, I still thought it was hardly any money for all the hard work, she replied that “The tree outside our house used to be a seed.” For any business there is no shame in starting small, gauging the market and then growing. Proving the concept by generating profit no matter how small, goes a long way in making founders, investors, stake holders confident about the next natural step of growth. Also, by the time I finished college I was making more money than I had imagined. That seed sowed many years ago by my mom gave me the confidence to venture in education business.
“You have only two eyes, but the world has many.”
I didn’t quite understand what she meant every time she said this phrase but as I embarked on my role as an adult in the society, I realized what she had insinuated earlier. One might think that their actions may or may not be noticed by their community, or that they might be able to bypass the societal scrutiny because of their ability in being stealthy. But the fact is that no matter what you do people/society will always watch you, so make it count. Be it that uncle by the nook of your neighbourhood who may pass on your actions as evening gossip or your niece and nephew who watch your actions and model on your behaviour. She taught me to be responsible for my actions and respectful to all despite personal predicaments, so that there was never a negative vibe around my presence or any trouble that might have impacted others.
The same thing also extends to your workplace today — where your boss might keep an eye on your demeanour while as a leader, your team and colleagues will also look at you as a model of their own actions within the work place. The key is to do the right thing, despite how tough it gets and keep doing it so that you help others find their way as you find yours. It is the same for brands as well, the world is watching so make it worth their time and you will be successful.
“Watch how you treat your Wealth, Food and Woman”
This statement is etched in my mind since the first time I heard it, the teenager me had just had his first heartbreak and my mother had overheard me warily complaining to a male friend about it. That evening while I was helping her with the veggies she said, “You can tell a character of a man by watching how he treats his wealth, food and women.” I laughed it off asking if the three came in that order of priority.
This was and still is the most important lesson my mother taught me. It’s not only about personal integrity but also about discipline and conduct. She explained that it’s crucial to know which friends and acquaintances we share our food with. They become a part of our social lives and largely influence our choices and ambitions. Associating with the wrong set of acquaintances can break your career or your outlook towards life goals, and similarly, getting to know the right kind of people will only inspire to do more and be more productive in each aspect of life.
When it came to women, I was always taught to have immense respect for women and treat them with the same reverence that I had for my mother. She taught me the value of loyalty, and strength that good relations can carry. We all know the importance of not being reckless with money, how many times we have seen a well-funded start-up failing because they didn’t recognise this on time. Thankfully the corporate world has no patience for people with low integrity and I hope more organisations take a strong stand against harassment.
“Save something for a rainy day”
Every month, mother would get a certain amount of money from dad and she would have to manage all household expenses within that. From the choosing between buying a new pressure cooker or repairing the old one, to designing the household meal plans for the month, it was all up to her creativity. She managed it so well despite frugal means while also passing on a few rupees for the children every month, which was really a talent. This somewhere passed on to me, as lessons of savings and value of whatever little money one can earn. “Don’t spend all you earn” are, even today, her regular cautionary words to me. Being in a business, it is easy to spend newly earned money in newer verticals like ad sales, marketing or myriad lucrative options without establishing if these practices will truly be ROI intensive and sustainable. As business leaders, it is imperative to give a good thought to the importance of right expenditure as well as finding creative means to find the needed solutions without spending a higher amount. Inventive planning goes a long way in keeping a business viable.
“Tomorrow will be a new day”
Every start-up leader knows that there are bad days at work, but one cannot let a bad moment define their whole day. There is always a latitude to undo yesterday’s mistakes today and rectify a badly done job again. She’s always emphasised the importance of gratitude. We all have come a long way in our journey and instead of merely thinking about the long way ahead, one must stand still and appreciate how far you’ve already made it.
That’s it, folks! These are a few mom-taught lessons that I hold close to my heart and hopefully it ignites others to go back and reconnect with their mums too.