Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned From Mom

Jeannette Bitz
May 8, 2020

The lessons from the book “All I Ever Really Needed 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 helped shape 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, 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 on how my mom’s early advice sticks with me and continues to help me in my career today as a PR professional and business owner.

Lesson #1: Surround yourself with people that you trust

My mom always emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with people that have your best interest at heart. In the PR world and 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 your bottom line and reputation. It’s essential to cultivate relationships and surround yourself with people you trust and rely on and inform you to part ways with those that 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 kept a calm voice, at least in front of my siblings and me. Dealing with pressure is a part of the PR world and is the case when running a business and dealing with the shifts in the economy and media landscape. Being able to stand strong and do what needs to be done rationally is important. You’re allowed to have emotions; you’re human. Whether that means helping a client in crisis or overcoming an obstacle in the business, it’s crucial that no matter the deadline, client request or employee issue, it’s important to take a deep breath and have grace under pressure.

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 insults 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. A typical crisis communications tactic is issuing an apology – assuming the mistake was theirs–and taking subsequent action to correct the mistake and make sure not to 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 and makes you seem insensitive. 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 stay ahead of the changes and master your craft requires going through regular training, participating in webinars, reading 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. But if we take a break from our days-to work – sometimes all it takes is some time for you; your mind needs this as much (or more) than your body does! My mom taught me to work hard and find a hobby that brought joy. I have been lucky enough to find ballroom dancing. While it can be mentally and physically challenging, it brings me much joy and helps me bring perspective to my work and life, which my mom wanted. She was proud that amid my career, I started taking ballroom dance lessons nine years later and am still learning the art of ballroom dancing.

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


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