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Listen To Your Mother! What Mom’s Timeless Words Of Wisdom Can Teach Us About Business And Marketing

By May 11, 2012June 26th, 2015True Stories
Listen To Your Mother! What Mom's Timeless Words Of Wisdom Can Teach Us About Business And Marketing

That’s me and mom, and judging by the colors and styles, somewhere around the late 80s.

In honor of Mother’s Day and mothers everywhere I wanted to do something a little bit fun that’s also a tribute to all those unappreciated lessons moms have to teach. My mother raised six of us – me plus five brothers – and somehow came out the other side still sane (though sometimes she may beg to differ). Mom taught us lessons big and small, but some of the most memorable were in the little momisms that mothers everywhere use every day.

We may not realize it at the time but something as simple as “wear your hat!” can have a long-lasting and significant impact on our lives. Heck, I still wear my hat. I bet sometimes you do, too.

So here are some eternal momisms and the takeaways that can help us be successful in business – and in life.

Momism 1: If You Say That Again, I’m Going To Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap

Alas, this was no idle threat in my house. I can tell you with great specificity the taste of Ivory soap, the quality of the bubbles, the texture of a bar ripped right from the wrapper.

At least my mother was hygienic about it. No soap out of the bathtub or kitchen sink went in our mouths, only fresh bars. Large, white, fresh bars. Yum.

I don’t remember exactly what I said that was egregious enough to warrant soap. I didn’t know the F-word until sometime around Junior High and as a kid the worst thing I could think to say in a fit of the reddest rage was “oh hell”. Whatever it was, I wasn’t supposed to say it. And clearly I did.

Lesson Learned

Reasons be damned (that word probably warranted soap, too), the lesson was simple: there are consequences.

You may not like them. You may not agree with them. But you can’t avoid them.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

Ever shoot off an email to a client in anger and live to regret it? Ever forget to answer someone’s customer service call and get a Twitter lashing about it the next day?

How about something mundane, like procrastinate on a project until it was past deadline? Or post a Facebook update slightly less than NSFW and neglect to “hide” it from your business connections?

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we do them unwittingly. Sometimes we should know better. Ultimately they all lead to consequences and we must be willing to bear them.

I don’t recall if begging, pleading and apologizing ever got me out of a tasty encounter with soap, but you can bet your booties that begging and pleading is not only unprofessional but will most likely not work with clients either.

Maybe a good old-fashioned apology will help mitigate disaster but wouldn’t it be better to think through our actions first and react second? Next time you’re feeling crabby about a client, ignored by a prospect, irritated by a co-worker or put out by an acquaintance, remember what mom has taught us, and before you go sending retaliatory/pointed/snarky emails/updates/tweets consider the consequences and have a cookie instead. It’s much better than soap.

Momism 2: Wait Until Your Father Gets Home

You’d think dads everywhere beat their kids with bamboo sticks on a daily basis the way this threat works.

I’m not sure why this was a threat except that dad certainly got us to listen. He did that stern dad-face and sent us to our rooms and we went. Mom could run around the house chasing us with a wooden spoon (for spanking, not for cooking…) and we wouldn’t go to our rooms. But one dark look from dad sent us running.

In fact, just the threat was enough to subdue us. We hoped, somehow, that our subsequent angelic behavior would make mom forget to tell dad after all. Dad didn’t carry a wooden spoon but hearing those words struck the fear of God into us. Every time.

Lesson Learned

There are bigger people than you who can beat you up if they want. But they don’t have to because you know better than to test their strength.

These are the people who have power.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

Have you ever had one of those clients who is so darn nice… and fun… and pleasant? And scares the crap out of you because you know if you ever cross him he’ll beat you up?

I don’t mean literally of course. But think about it. Some people exude power and it’s not because they wield big sticks or wooden spoons. It’s in a look, a sentence, the way they walk into a room.

Power is something you carry on the inside, not something you invent on the outside. Think of the people you admire who are the “powerhouses” of your industry, the ones who are a little bit intimidating because they’re smart, strong and serious about what they say. Think of the clients who you race to meet deadlines for because you don’t want to disappoint them.

These are the people who walk, speak and breathe confidence and authority. They’re the ones we want to be and the ones we want to please. Even without the reminders, it would behoove us to conduct ourselves at all times in a way that would be worthy of the people we admire. And for the sake of the poor wooden-spoon wielding moms of the world, promise yourself to treat everyone with the same respect!

Momism 3: If Your Friends Jumped Off A Bridge, Would You Do It Too?

Meant to combat peer pressure, as a kid it mostly made me wonder how much it would actually hurt and whether or not I’d die before a ship could pick me up out of the water.

I don’t think this worked as a deterrent as much as it indicated a close to the argument. It normally came after a lot of whining about how so-and-so was doing something much cooler than I was and why couldn’t I do it too? After reasoning and explanations failed, the bridge always made a showing. Sometimes it was a cliff. Mostly, though, a bridge.

And the real answer was, “Heck, yeah, I’d jump.”

Lesson Learned

Life is full of decisions and you’ve got to make them on your own. You can follow the crowd and relinquish your ability to think on your own, or you can choose.

Sometimes your choices aren’t popular.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

When it comes to marketing, there is always going to be some new and exciting direction to take. Think of… oh… just about everything that’s happened in the past five years or so. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram. We could knock ourselves out trying to keep up with and follow every trend.

Or we could stop and think it through.

How much is it going to hurt to jump off that Twitter bridge? How long until someone rescues me from drowning in Pinterest? Sure, “everyone is doing it”, but is it right for me? Is it right for you?

As kids we probably didn’t care how much it hurt to jump and we most certainly would’ve followed our friends into a dragon’s den if they asked. But we’re (hopefully!) smarter now and the stakes are higher. There are careers on the line. And reputations. And budgets.

Before we follow the crowd into the next trend, let’s stop and consider whether it’s a wise thing to do.

Momism 4: Be Careful Or Your Face Will Freeze Like That

In my world this usually came after one of us stuck our tongue out at another. As an adult I laugh at the simplicity of a kid thinking that “making faces” is about the worst thing you can do to someone. If only!

Mom never said that with any particular threat or force behind it. All things told it was a pretty innocuous statement, more of a throwaway comment she said with a sigh of exasperation. With six kids there was probably a lot of tongue-sticking.

And none of us ever thought our faces would really freeze that way. But we took the point, which was, “Seriously, could you cut that out already? It’s annoying and you look stupid.”

Lesson Learned

If you do something enough times it will start to define you. Eventually it may even become you.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

The way we behave is the way that we’re perceived and the way we build our lives and reputations.

If we say, do or think something enough times it becomes part of us, consciously or not. How many times have you told yourself, “I’ll never get this right” or “This meeting is going to stink”?

And how many times have you been right?

Probably a lot – because we generally fulfill our own expectations. If you walk into a room thinking you’re going to hate everyone in it, you probably will. If you “make faces” at people long enough, whether in your speech, body language or simply in your mind, that attitude will follow you everywhere.

So mom was right to some extent – your “face” does freeze like that.

Thanks to mom we have been rightfully admonished to check our behavior and be sure that we’re acting positively and appropriately. Next time you meet with a client, engage in a social group online, or just find yourself in a room full of people, ask yourself if you’re “stuck” in a behavior pattern that is blocking your success or if you’re approaching the situation with a smile.

Momism 5: Turn Off The TV And Go Play Outside

Along with “TV will rot your brain” and “You’re going to grow roots in that chair” mom was constantly pushing us out the door.

Sometimes it was to get a reprieve from us (one of my biggest “chores” as a kid was to take my brother outside to play for an hour) but mostly it was because she wanted us to get up, get some exercise, entertain ourselves, be creative and play.

I bet she never knew how easy she had it, with only a TV to contend with. Nowadays I bet even if kids do go “out to play” the iPad or cell phone goes with them. But back in prehistoric – I mean pre-internet – days the choice was between TV and sunshine.

And whether we liked it or not, she made us have fun, damnit!

Lesson Learned

There are many things that will demand our attention. But it’s important to take a break and have some fun.

What This Has To Teach Us About Business And Marketing

We need to remind ourselves that all work and no play will make us grow roots into our chairs and our eyes go square. Otherwise, it will suck the productivity and creativity out of us.

If you’re busy marketing your business online, you’re always “on”. You’re always connected, probably sleep with your cell phone, check your email at least once a week at 2AM and answer tweets faster than phone calls.

Being so “engaged” may be good for business but it’s bad for your brain. You need time off. You need time to play and to recharge.

It’s as hard today to turn off the computer as it was to turn off the TV when we were 5. But it’s even more important. Take time away from your business and away from marketing. Do something purely fun. Enjoy the sun.

Mom knew what she was talking about, didn’t she? I hope you’ve enjoyed these lessons and I bet you’ve thought of a few momisms of your own. Will you tell me one of your favorites in the comments below?

And while you’re at it, make sure you thank your mom. Happy Mother’s day to all!

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Fantastic post. I hope one day you’ll start a “what my father taught me about marketing” series.

  • Adrienne says:

    What a fun post Carol and I hope your Mom had a wonderful Mother’s Day!  

    I really had to smile as I was reading through these.  Love how you shared a bit of what your Mom use to say and then how we can actually apply those lessons to our business today.  You do such a wonderful job at explaining that.

    As I read through them my Mom never said those until I got to #4 and #5.  Oh yeah, memories!

    Thanks for sharing this and you always some up with so many wonderful topics.  Glad you shared this one with us today.


    • That’s funny, Adrienne, you aren’t the only person who said that #4 and 5 were the most common! So far nobody ever had an encounter with soap. In fact, my mom was laughing when she read that because she said, “I don’t remember doing that so much.” Oh, I do, mom!!

      I bet there are a million little lessons we don’t event think of that we learned and that help us be better people thanks to our moms. It’s fun to think about them now, even if they weren’t always fun at the time 🙂

  • Hi Carol,

    What a great idea you had here.  Comparing mom’s sayings and applying them to our business. Humm, very ingenious!

    I have so many of my mom sayings. They stay with you forever. I don’t care if you’re 20, 40 or 65. What mama said is here to stay!

    Fathers do have an immense power over children without doing a thing, that’s why my mother was running around the dinning table after me and my bother with a belt when she couldn’t take use anymore.  Because, there were NO father to scare us with.  But if my dad I’d been alive, I KNOW that she would have had a break.

    Smart moms also make us being good business people and respect our clients. My mother always taught me to respect people by NEVER being late.  Always say thank you way more to strangers than to herself. Always showing good manners. Not being greedy.  Think before you talk. Never repeat to someone else what was shared to you in secret.  Not to be selfish only pleasing yourself.  Be ready to service those who are in need if you can, and more 🙂

    Thanks for this great pose, Carol. I really enjoyed it!

    • So your mom chased you with a belt and mine chased me with a spoon 🙂 Your mom certainly had some good advice, all quite positive and I wish more people would learn those things. My mom (and dad) were both very big on “being on time” and sometimes I wish that one had sunk in a little more because I feel like I am always running late!

      Like your mom, mine was also constantly trying to teach us good manners. Fortunately those stuck in my head, very simple things like please and thank you, holding doors open for people, saying “excuse me” instead of interrupting people. I’m sure we could think of about a million of those.

      Your mom sounds like a smart lady! And it sounds like she had a challenge raising kids but did a pretty darn good job from what I know of you 🙂

  • Bob Clarke says:

    This was such a great post, Carol.  I can remember my Mom saying almost all of these, especially “wait til your father gets home.”  Besides all of these lessons, my mom taught me another … when you’re nice to people — genuinely nice — and try to help, really good things will happen. This is true in business and in life. 

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Thanks, Bob, mom’s lessons surely stick with us. Your mom’s lesson reminds me of a similar one: you catch more flies with honey. Sometimes people are going to be annoying and make you mad, but if you are always kind and polite, you can usually turn those things around. Having the right attitude is definitely important for any relationship!

  • Super post Carol that made me smile – I can also relate to all of these and many more Momisms! – “Take your coat off inside or you won’t feel the benefit” – Not sure what that would mean in business terms, but they stay with us and the funny thing is that I hear the same words come out of my mouth sometimes when I am cross with the children!

    Hope you all had a good Moms day over there – we had ours earlier in March!

    • Nicky, that cracked me up! I have no idea what benefit you’re supposed to feel, lol… never heard that one before but it’s so funny I think I want to use it just for fun. When I used to teach, I heard a lot of the same things come out of my mouth, too. Sometimes it would crack me up, to be so stereotypical. But they must be good lessons, we hear them and learn them all the time!

  • How very true this post is Carol Lynn, with the exception of number 2, I can remember them all clearly. Number 2 was wait till your brother gets in and when he did it wasn’t the look or the words, he’d stamp his foot on the bottom step and we’d all dive for cover…. gulp.

    When it comes to my online activities I think I’ve got them al covered except number 5 and I’m sure if I asked my wife to read this post she’d agree with me. I really do have trouble switching off as there is so much I want (or need) to do.

    A couple of months ago all I done was work at the PC and go to visit my mum but since then have started back at basketball to give myself an interest away from the computer as well as a work out every week.

    I still need to apply myself in this areas as no sooner did I return to training than the season ended… But I’ve made the move and will keep at it.

    Great post Carol Lynn, loved the way you’ve been able to apply your moms lesson to our marketing efforts 🙂


    • Thanks Barry, and I know what you mean about “switching off”. I can’t even take my own advice sometimes. It takes an effort to stop thinking or just getting some more little things done. Especially now with cell phones and iPads, you can be online 24/7 and believe me, sometimes I am. Starts to make your brain fuzzy after a while.

      You made me laugh with that story of your brother. I bet that stamping foot was the loudest thing you ever heard! It’s funny how some people become those authority figures. Good thing we are all grateful for them now, even though at the time I bet we all did a lot of complaining! 

  • Carol,

    This was a fun post to read as I loved the similarities you tied between your momisms and marketing. Brilliant! I remember a few of these all to well, but the notion of consequences was very apparent. However some of the lessons learned took a while to sink in.

    the point you made about following everyone in all these different types of marketing really hit home for me. It’s hard not to jump into a cool new marketing trend. However it sometimes can lead to more distraction than it’s worth.

    I like to watch it for a bit and see how I can leverage this new trend and give it away to others first, as I know it will come back to me down the road. With this in mind I can usually wade through the hype.

    Ken Pickard
    The Network Dad

    • Ken, I know you and I have had that conversation before about watching out for all those new “shiny objects”! I can definitely understand. Especially if you’re in the business of keeping up with trends to help direct other people, it can be a little like a playground – and you always get dizzy after a while 🙂

      Mom’s lessons never sink in until we’re older and wiser and can appreciate them. But the good news is we did live and learn and we’re better for it today. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Katherine Kotaw says:

    Hi Carol Lynn,

    I always smile at how we think so much alike! No matter what article of yours I read there is always something that rings so true to me (or is EXACTLY how I think! Must be our mutual love of pie that connects us so!) Before reading this blog of yours, I too wrote about lessons you can learn from mom to apply to your business and personal brand ( Don’t know how to tell you that without sounding like I’m trying to promote myself and I hope it doesn’t come off as so — I just get so giddy every time I feel another connection to you, like with how we both wrote about lessons in marketing to be learned from family holidays!

    I find myself smiling with every blog of yours I read, but this conclusion completely made my day: “It’s as hard today to turn off the computer as it was to turn off the TV when we were 5. But it’s even more important. Take time away from your business and away from marketing. Do something purely fun. Enjoy the sun.”

    I love the rhyme at the end. Reminds me of my favorite writer, Dr. Seuss 🙂

    And I think this is the most important lesson for any entrepreneur. Some people think that since entrepreneur’s don’t hold 9-5 jobs that they spend all day slacking around in their PJs… when the truth for me is that since I work from home, if I’m at home, I’m working because I don’t have the luxury of clocking out. Which means MORE hours, not less. There’s always a social network or an e-mail to check, always another article to write and my laptop is always right there so I might as well make it an 18 hour day… Except that I find my inspiration when I’m out in the sun, walking my dog and hanging out with my daughters. This is one of the reasons I’m one of the last people on the planet who doesn’t own a smartphone… because when I’m out of the house, I’m off the clock, totally and completely. And this is crucial to my personal well-being AND to my ability to keep being creative in my work.

    Thank you for always inspiring me with your words and spirit. We must chat soon!

    • I remember the lessons you wrote about holidays, too! You’re such an awesome storyteller and I’m glad you sent me your post – can’t wait to hop over and read it.

      I completely agree that if you run a business from home – and I’m not talking about the get-rich earn-six-figures-stuffing-envelopes type of business – then you do in fact work more hours. There is no escaping! At least for us, our business is our baby. And we never “go home” because our business just comes with us 🙂

      I love getting outside (at least once the temperature hits 70!) and clearing my head. Taking some precious thinking time and down time is so revitalizing and important. I actually had to stop and reread the part where you said you don’t have a smartphone. That’s pretty amazing! I’m not sure I could NOT. But there are definitely times I have to shove it into the sock drawer or something and just do something else.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for your kind words. I always appreciate you 🙂