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Mother Knows Best: Business Leaders Share Mom’s Advice

Poet George Herbert once said, “One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.” And we agree. Some of the best lessons of all time have come from moms. After all, who else would warn us to always wear clean underwear in case we get in an accident or stop frowning before our faces freeze that way?

Mothers do know best, which is why we asked some of our most popular EntreLeadership Podcast guests and new host Chris Hogan to share what they have learned from their moms and how they’ve applied it to their businesses and careers. Here’s what they had to say.

Chris Hogan
Host of EntreLeadership Podcast, speaker, business coach

My mother challenged me at an early age to have goals and to be willing to work hard to achieve them. If I truly wanted something, I had to be willing to sacrifice—stay focused and work toward the goal each day. She always reminded me that when you stay focused on the goal, you don’t hear people’s doubts about you. I so appreciate her instilling that desire in me. She has definitely been instrumental in any success that I have achieved in my life. As a dad, I am working to teach those same life lessons to my three sons.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Best-selling author of Thou Shall Prosper, Rabbinic scholar, host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show

I remember my parents announcing, “Road trip!” and my siblings and I raced to pack our suitcases and climb into the family’s ‘64 Chevrolet Bel Air. Our distant destination was the Kruger Game Park in South Africa, the country where we lived. The journey involved two or three nights in small-town motels to which we’d pull up in the evening and depart from after an early breakfast in the morning. Though our entire stay in the motel was seldom more than about 12 hours, Mother insisted that each of us unpack our suitcases into the worn wooden dresser drawers before bedtime. In the morning we’d repack our suitcases, laughing hilariously at Mother’s idiosyncratic rule. She explained, “Don’t always just be passin’ through. Behave as if you’ll be here forever.”

Her advice has stood me in good stead. Make ourselves settled and comfortable wherever we find ourselves, regardless of how soon we plan to be moving along. Sometimes we take a job we expect to be a short-term commitment. Behave as if you’ll be there forever. Sometimes we make what we believe and perhaps hope will be a temporary move into a new neighborhood. Behave as if you’ll be there forever. Sometimes we see a position as merely a stepping stone to better times. Behave as if you’ll be there forever. Mother was right! Happy Mother’s Day.

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Jon Gordon
Best-selling author of The Seed, leadership expert

Seven years ago, my mom gave me life-changing advice without saying a word. She made me a sandwich. It was the last time I saw her alive. Despite the fact that she was battling cancer, she walked into her kitchen and made me a sandwich for my five-hour drive home. At the time, I didn’t think much about the sandwich. But looking back, I realize she was showing me what selfless love and servant leadership are all about. When we serve in small ways, we impact the world in big ways.

Lisa Earle McLeod
Best-selling author of Selling With Purpose, sales leadership expert

When my mother was dying of breast cancer at only 53 years old, she said to me, "One of my biggest regrets in life is that I should have hired more help." I'm not kidding. After a lifetime of accomplishments, my mother's biggest regret was that she had tried to do everything on her own. When a woman that smart and that accomplished gives you advice from her deathbed, you listen. 

I took her advice to heart. Even when money was tight, I always hired out the smaller tasks so that I could focus on what really mattered. It meant paying someone else to do my website so that I could focus on business development, and hiring a cleaning person so I could spend time with my kids. 

I also invested in my own development, paying for coaching and training. Thanks to Dave's advice, I've always paid cash. In many cases, we made sacrifices to hire help.

My mom was a smart woman. She gave me lots of great advice about how to succeed in this world professionally and personally. But that single piece of wisdom—hire help—stands out as something that made a big difference. 

Mark Sanborn
Best-selling author of Fred 2.0, speaker, president, Sanborn & Associates

My mother always said, “Do what needs doing.” She wasn’t talking just about work, although it applies. She was talking about being of service. What made my mother’s advice so powerful was watching her live the principle. She had many talents but never considered anything that needed doing beneath her. When she saw a need, she did her best to meet it. While I acknowledge that we all want to contribute in ways that create the greatest good, my mother taught me to jump in to do whatever needed to be done. In business and life, people appreciate the willingness to do not the best or most glamorous, but that which truly needs doing.

Michael Hyatt
Best-selling author of Platform, blogger, former chairman and CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishers

I really don’t remember much of what my mom said when I was growing up. Though she liked to talk (and still does), she rarely gave advice. She was much more focused on living out her beliefs.

One of those beliefs was that we had more than we needed. Without saying a word, she taught me to give freely to others, because there was always more where that came from. Interestingly, she and my dad didn’t have much to give. But you would never know it by the way they treated others. My mom shared everything—with a smile.

Robert D. Smith
Best-selling author of 20,000 Days and Counting, global customer service rep, speaker

My mom, Juanita H. Larson, is known affectionately as “The Goose”as in, “Mother Goose.” The Goose is kind; she taught me to be kind to everybody. The Goose listened to me; she taught me to listen to all who were speaking. The Goose gave; she taught me to give freely of my time.

The Goose was sorry when I skinned my knee; she taught me to feel empathy for others. The Goose created great birthday parties; she taught me to celebrate often with others. The Goose loves God; she taught me to love and honor God. The Goose is now in a nursing home. Every Saturday when I see her, she teaches me to be thankful in any circumstance.

Stephen M.R. Covey
Cofounder, FranklinCovey Speed of Trust Practice

Growing up, my mother insisted we kids become “cultured.” She dragged us to every play, symphony and production performed at the local university, and she even bought season tickets to the ballet and opera in the big city an hour away. While my dad was taking us to football and basketball games, Mom demanded equal time spent viewing cultural events. Despite my resistance during those teen years, some of that culture my mother exposed me to sunk deeply into my heart and became part of who I am and how I view the world. It gave me context and appreciation for all facets of life. I deeply appreciate my mother for showing me the beauty inherent within.

As entrepreneurs, we’re always moving forward, thinking of the next big project and focusing on that ladder of success. But sometimes, especially this month, it’s good to stop and take a few moments to remember the advice of our moms—the true mothers of invention. Happy Mother’s Day!

What is one piece of advice your mother passed on to you?

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