Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned From Mom

Jeannette Bitz
May 8, 2020

The lessons from the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” are as relevant today as they were when I was growing up. ‘Play fair’; ‘live a balanced life—learn some and think some’; ‘clean up your own messes’; ‘draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some’; ‘warm cookies and cold milk are good for you’; – these simple but powerful principles have never gone out of style or utility!

Known for her wit and wisdom, my mom shared many of the valuable principles of this book, many of which have shaped how I approach clients, mentor employees, run an agency business and approach life with fairness and balance. As a public relations professional and a business owner, I regularly face challenges that call for staying calm in the face of adversity, strategic thinking, taking a balanced approach, always learning, playing fair and enjoying some warm cookies and cold milk.

In honor of Mother’s Day, here are the top five lessons I learned from my mom’s early advice that have stuck with me and continue to help me in my career today as a PR professional and business owner.

Lesson #1: Surround yourself with people you trust

My mom always emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. Whether you’re in the PR world or you’re running a business, it is crucial to develop trust with clients, media, analysts and employees. If you cannot trust them (and vice versa) with your vision and your process, do not let them in — it will only hurt you and potentially hurt your bottom line and reputation. It's essential to cultivate relationships, surround yourself with reliable people you trust and part ways with those who will only bring you down.

Lesson #2: Have grace under pressure

In a crisis, my mom was the one you wanted by your side. She was the personification of grace under fire. She never panicked and always kept her voice calm, at least in front of my siblings and me. Remaining calm under pressure is a necessity in the PR world – and it’s even more vital when running a business and dealing with shifts in the economy and media landscape. Standing strong, thinking rationally and doing what needs to be done are important skills. Still, you can’t be totally stoic. You're allowed to have emotions; you're human and so are your clients and contacts. Whether you’re helping a client in crisis or overcoming an obstacle in your business, it's crucial to take a deep breath and have grace under pressure, no matter the client request or employee issue.

Lesson #3: When you make mistakes, apologize and own it

We all have good intentions, but sometimes we make mistakes. For example, we make a promise to a client and cannot deliver on it, or we say something that unintentionally offends a colleague or employee. Nobody is perfect, and my mom was always the first to remind me of that. She also insisted that when you mess up, own up to it and apologize. Issuing an apology is a typical crisis communications tactic, where a client assumes the mistake was theirs and takes subsequent action to correct the mistake and ensure they won’t make the same mistake twice. When you're wrong, not admitting fault or trying to shift blame makes you look like you have something to hide. Even worse, it makes you seem insensitive to your target audience. A sincere apology goes a long way, especially when followed up by a period of sound reflection and correction.

Lessons #4: Learn and master your craft

As a schoolteacher, my mom viewed education as the key to success. Learning continues well beyond the classroom, and it is critical to keep up with the latest trends in technology and PR to succeed in both industries. You should never stop being a student of your industry, even as you teach others about its ins and outs. Staying ahead of industry changes and mastering your craft requires regular internal training, webinar participation, reading industry publications and going through online training courses.

Lessons #5: Live a balanced life and sometimes dance

Life can be overwhelming with the constant pressure to succeed and thrive. Sometimes, all it takes to relieve that pressure is taking some time for yourself; your mind needs this as much (or more) than your body does! My mom taught me to work hard, but she also taught me to find a hobby that brings joy. I have been lucky enough to find ballroom dancing. While it can be mentally and physically challenging, it brings me much joy and gives me a fresh perspective on my personal and professional life, which is exactly what my mom always wanted. She was proud that, amid my career, I started taking ballroom dance lessons. Now, many years later, I’m still dancing and learning.

I think my mother would be proud of the woman I am today. And while she may not have given me advice about PR or business ownership specifically, her early teachings on how to live a full, fulfilling life continue to guide me personally and professionally. So, what lessons from your mom still stick with you? Share them in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!


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