Some of you are saying “Dude, he’s writing a blog post the day after his Nana passed away? How callous.” Wrong. This is exactly what Nana would expect from me. To remember the good things and pass them along and to honor her memory by living brightly.
She was a phenomenal woman who overcame a great deal of pain and adversity in life. She built strong children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She taught me a hell of a lot of things over the 40 years I’ve known her. I’d like to share a few of the things she taught me and that I’ll never forget. If you pay attention to some of Nana’s lessons, I know you’ll be a stronger leader, a better person, and a happier soul.
Just by way of a little background so you can picture Nana, here are a few things you should know about her before you absorb her lessons on being a stronger leader. She started out about 5’4″ but ended up around 4’10” (I think). She smoked her entire life despite us repeatedly telling her to quit so she would live longer (wrong!). She loved having her beer, chocolate, vodka, and great Italian food. She was also the classiest, kindest, funniest, sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life.
So here goes – leadership lessons from Nana:
Nana had a spine of steel. She stared down every challenge she faced in life and fought like hell to get through them. She lost a daughter to cancer (Hi Aunt Linda! I know you’re taking good care of Nana now). She lived a difficult life at times.
She busted a hip a few months ago and went to physical rehab. She worked harder than anyone they’ve ever seen in that rehab facility. It was like a 93 year old version of Rocky training in the wintery woods of Russia. For a month she focused on the one goal of coming home. Even when she faced a setback of a terrible infection landing her in the hospital, she was still full of fight right up until the end (you guys shoulda heard her arguing with us about wanting to get these damn tubes out of her so she could come home).
Are you tenacious? Do you have a single-mindedness about pursuing your goals? Do you have deep sources of strength to rely upon during difficult times? As a leader, your people look to you during those difficult times. Are you a model of strength and relentlessness for your team?
Caring and Service
Nana put everyone else first. “Nana, for my birthday can you make me 100 meatballs so I can freeze them and eat them all year?” “Sure!” And arthritic little hands performed a wonderful (and tasty!) labor of love. Cookies, pasta, soups – all made lovingly no matter how tired or hurting she was.
She put her kids first and sacrificed everything to give them all. Her grandkids and great-grandkids were the recipients of more care and love than possibly imaginable. She left it unquestioned in everyone’s mind that she put them first. Without hesitation Nana would drop everything to do everything for someone else. And not just family – friends, acquaintances, and even strangers (who were never strangers for long around Nana) all knew how caring and selfless she was.
How do you care for the people on your team? Do you sacrifice for others? Do they know you put them before yourself?
A Love of Life
Nana enjoyed the world around her. She fought through physical pain to be there for special events (graduations, weddings, confirmations, birthdays, and anything else she would enjoy being at). She would dance and laugh all night in spite of arthritis and old age. She defiantly smoked, drank her beer, ate her chocolate, and dined on the tastiest Italian food ever (usually made by her own hands).
It was always fun to be around her. Yesterday as we all sat around grieving we probably did more laughing than crying as we remembered all the hysterical times we had with Nana. None of us could come up with a single bad memory about her. Every time we interacted with her, it was full of laughs and joy and indulgence in the best things in life.
Are you spending time taking in the fun and wonderful things around you? Are you enjoying life? Are you setting a good example of balance for your people?
Go Honor My Nana
Be tenacious. Be caring and selfless. Enjoy life. Try these things out both at home and at work. You’ll make the world around you a better place. Do it for me. Do it for Nana.
And also, go pick up the phone and call someone you love and care about and make sure they know it. That’s one regret I do NOT have. I always made time for Nana. She always made time for me. I’m blessed to have had her. Be sure the important people in your life know how you feel about them too.
I’ll see you later Nana. I love you.
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