My mother, like many mothers, was amazing. But she is also the reason I am a multimillionaire. It turns out that I'm not alone in this. The May 2013 issue of The Atlantic cites new research showing that men who had a warm relationship with their mothers growing up earned an average of $87,000 more a year than men who didn't.
Here's what I learned from my mother that's driven my success to this very day.
Step One: Reclaim your mentality.
In 1969 I was present when a doctor told my mother she had less than six months to live. I noticed her eyes flicker as her brain struggled to compute the diagnosis. She paused, then looked the doctor in the eyes and said, "I am sorry, but that is simply not good enough. I need more time." The doctor had no idea how to respond.
When word got out in the rural Welsh town where we lived, people reacted as if she were contagious. They would suddenly change directions when they saw her on the street, and the more ignorant among them would point and whisper. She never let any of them off the hook, often timing her visits to the post office and store when she knew they would be packed.
Relatives started visiting in droves, and she berated them for their mourning expressions. She even refused to allow the vicar to dedicate prayers at the Sunday service.
When I questioned what she was doing, she told me, "No one has the right to tell you how to feel. We choose our own emotions. I choose to be happy rather than sad. No one can tell you how to behave. We choose how we react. I choose to react positively."
That lesson of mentality control has stuck with me all my life -- when the careers officer laughed at my desire to become a naval officer, when the immigration lawyer told me I had no chance of moving to America, and when dozens of investors told me to give up my dream and get a day job. I graduated as an officer, and in 1994 moved to America. I sold my first company in 2010 for over $100 million. Thanks, mum.
Step Two: Live in the moment.
My mother defied all the doctors, but several years later was hit with a second blow, a new tumor that brought another prognosis of death within a year. One night I asked how it felt to know she would die within a year. She answered by asking me how many days there were in a year, then hours, and minutes, and finally seconds. I tried calculating it in my head, but she cut me short: "There are millions and millions of seconds in a year. But how many moments are there in a second?" I answered that of course there was one moment a second. She said, "No, there was the moment you counted, and the moment you spoke, the moment you heard your voice, the moment you took a breath, the moment your heart beat, the moment you looked in my eyes, and the moment you felt hopeful. You see, there are dozens of special moments in every second, but most people are too busy worrying about the next second and the next hour and the next week. The secret is to stay in the moment, and enjoy it."
She reinforced this lesson every time we went outside for a walk. When the cancer spread to her thigh, she still walked five miles a day to work and back. All the time she pointed out trees in bud, birdsong in the distance, the sound of an electric wire overhead, the sound of her stick on the road. She taught me that if we live well in the moment, which is all we have, the future takes care of itself. This has been a vital lesson in my businesses when investors and stakeholders constantly want forecasts and strategic plans far in the future. It is what you and your companies do right now that counts.
Step Three: Cultivate unshakeable belief in yourself.
One time my mother was washing dishes, and I was hiding out in the hallway to avoid being recruited for the drying. Through the gap in the door I watched as she grimaced in pain, dropped a dish, and rubbed her chest. Then she got her breath back, pointed her finger angrily through the window at the sky and said, "If you think I am coming now when my kids are not full grown, you have another thing coming. I am not leaving until they have all safely left the nest." I crept into the kitchen and saw an expression that I have never forgotten. I saw what unshakeable belief looks like.
Ever since, whenever I face a tough challenge or decision, I see that expression again, and it fills me with belief. There are ways to develop that degree of belief, and I have used the techniques to get me where I am, but there is no power stronger than a mother's love for her kids.
Happy Mother's Day.
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