George Washington once said, “My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. I attribute my success in my life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” These words strongly resonate with me as I think about my mother Dakshadevi Thaker. . As I reflect on my life and career, I realize that I owe much of my success, discipline, and strength to her. The lessons that she taught me and the values that she instilled in me growing up have undoubtedly shaped me as a leader and as a businesswoman.
My mother has always worked to create change in her community, despite facing hardships and setbacks. Although she was a single mom who worked several jobs at one point, she still gave back to her community and strengthened her business acumen by serving on a variety of civic, economic, and political boards. Now, she’s a CEO, an internationally recognized speaker, a U.S.-India expert, and even served as an advisor to the Obama Administration on minority business enterprises. She achieved all of this (and more) as an Indian immigrant while single-highhandedly raising three young daughters.
With Mother’s Day nearby, I’ve been reflecting on the impact that she’s had on my life. Many of the lessons that I’ve learned from her are things that I’ve been able to apply to my career. I share these learning in hopes that others will glean some wisdom from them as well:
1. Success requires discipline and practice.
Success wasn’t an option for my sisters and me — it was an expectation. We were often reminded how much our parents sacrificed by leaving India and coming to the U.S. with barely any money in their pockets. These sacrifices made us acutely aware of the fact that we couldn’t throw away our shot. My mom taught us that to be successful at something, we needed to practice and be disciplined. Although she wasn’t as much of a “tiger mom” as the infamous Amy Chua, she was strict and demanding, and she pushed us hard. Like most children of Indian parents, she woke us up at ungodly hours to practice for the spelling bee (a.k.a. the “Indian Superbowl”) before school. After school, we had to practice again and recite spellings in between bites of dinner. On weekends, we spent hours practicing Kathak, an Indian classical dance form, and often performed at cultural events.
Although I didn’t enjoy it at the time, I realize now that she was teaching me the value of hard work, commitment, confidence, and stamina. All of these are critical components of leadership. Leaders should be willing to learn, and that often takes unwavering focus and persistence. As I mentioned in another article, in his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Gladwell’s message, like my mom’s, is that successful people aren’t born geniuses, but instead get there through grit and effort.
2. Be responsible.
I learn from my mother. you have to be responsible to Family member and dependent on you. You are also accountable to people who are counting you. High-level commitment, continuous performance, No sound of doing it, and WITHOUT ANY EXPECTATIONS.
3. Relationships are the true currency.
We all know that relationships matter. But through my mom, I learned just how powerful they can be. One day, she had prepared snacks for her close relatives without a word and served them till they suggest satisfaction. Absolute awesome. She just a handshake, and it was clear that my mom found her niche in consulting, largely due to the commitment. Her success started humbly thanks to her social and familial connections.
She has many stories like this, and they’ve helped me realize a few things about relationships all leaders should learn. Every relationship counts. Treat everyone with kindness and respect (because you never know when today’s intern may become tomorrow’s executive or, in this case, when the homesick college kid at the store may become a meaningful business connection), and don’t be afraid to put your connections to work. Having relationships isn’t enough. It’s what you do with them that matters.
Invest in people at a young age.
When I was growing up, my mom would take me to her business meetings. I was often the kid at the end of the table, quietly coloring or eating my Happy Meal. I complained about this a lot as a child, but in hindsight, it was the most valuable experiential training I’ve ever received. As a young girl, I was able to observe how to navigate political conflict firsthand. In between bites of french fries, I learned how to influence, negotiate and connect with people at varying levels, particularly in male-dominated forums.
The same concept can be applied in the business world. I think back on the impact these experiences had on me, and I now try to give younger employees similar opportunities to learn, observe and grow. I often include them in meetings, have them shadow me, or invite them on business trips. Even if they don’t say a word in the meetings, they can still absorb. Leaders should never underestimate the impact these types of activities can have on younger talent.
4. The heart is greater than things.
If you broke something—even something precious to her—she didn’t care much. Sweep it up, throw it out, and it was long forgotten. But, if your heart was broken, she spent as many hours with you as you needed. She would agonize with you. If you were broken in spirit, she would encourage and lift you out of a dark place. She still does.
5. Connecting with other people is more valuable than living in isolation.
We are social beings, meant to fellowship with others around us. You should spend time alone reflecting and meditating, but we are here to interact with others. Together, we can do greater things than if we are apart. Each of us is gifted and has potential. If we allow others to shine, we all benefit.
6. You are always more valuable than me.
To this day, my mom considers others above herself. She focuses on you like a spotlight on a Broadway stage. She wants to know about you and then tell everyone who will listen about your story and your gifts.
Just a few years ago, I visited my mom in the hospital. Here she was fighting an illness, needing oxygen and 24 hour care. That’s the one time you would think that she would understand that she needed to focus on herself.
Why was I not surprised when each nurse came in, off would come the oxygen mask, and my mom would introduce the nurse by name, rattle off family members, and recite all sorts of facts? The medical staff was receiving more than they were giving as they heard her encouragement and her counseling.
7. There are far more opportunities in the world.
Her degree was in elementary education and she taught at an inner city school for a time. Her specialty was teaching children to read and other critical life skills. Part of her mission was to make a difference in young lives. Later in life, she returned to teaching as a substitute teacher. Volunteering at a “deprived” school, she quickly became known as the “Skittle Lady” because she was always rewarding students with the candy. She consistently taught that where you start is not where you have to end.
You can be anything you want to be. You can do anything you want to do. You have the ability to create, inspire, and become.
When challenges are discovered, know that you have the talent to dodge them and find a way around them. Nothing can stop you if you are determined to make it to your destination.
8. What goes into your mind is more important than what goes into your body.
Your diet may be important, but spend more time thinking about your mental diet. If you fill your mind with trash, it will stay there in your subconscious. Mom would often quote Philippians 4:8: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
9. How you live is more important than where you live.
My parents taught me that the mission field is not a place. It is a life. They originally intended to be missionaries, and both attended seminary. They never moved out of the country, but they became missionaries of a different sort. Giving to THE WORLD was part of the normal way of life.