“My mother was the most beautiful woman ever saw. I attribute all my success in my life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” – George Washington
As we come upon Mother’s Day, George Washington’s quote rings true; there is no way that I would be the person that I am today without the sacrifice, motivation, and love from my mother. My mom has had a significant influence on the success that I – and my siblings – have been able to accomplish.
Let me introduce you to my mom, Suzanne Blake. Mom was raised by a single mother in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, her father was an alcoholic and was emotionally and physically abusive. My mother’s family was extremely poor and her mom spent her days and nights trying to make enough money to provide a safe shelter and food on the table. What that meant for my mom is that she had to raise herself. In addition to school, she worked from a young age, sewed many of her own clothes, and prepared her own meals. She had every excuse in life to not succeed, but she would not accept the fate of failure.
My mother decided that she could accomplish anything that she set her mind to. She ran for school office (and won), played on the school softball team, and made the cheerleading squad. She persevered and became the first person in her family to attend college, even though she didn’t have the financial means to do so. Because money was scarce, she had to work full-time all through college to pay for her tuition.
As you can imagine, my mother’s example taught my siblings and me the value of hard work, and the importance of the phrase “if it is to be it’s up to me.” Because of her background and experience, she really motivated us to think, “you can do this, you can be the best.” She set a very high bar in our lives in whatever it was.
After college, my mother and father were married, and had 7 children: 1 daughter (the oldest) and 6 boys (I’m the youngest). Let me introduce you to each of them:
* Darcy (stay-at-home mom) married Chris (Founder & President of Allegis Advisor Group)
* Brett (CEO at Origami Owl Family of Brands)
* Brady (Senior Customer Marketing Manager at EA Sports)
* Dave (Founder & CEO of ClientSuccess)
* Mark (Senior Counsel, Intellectual Property and Litigation at Broadcom Limited)
* Brock (Founder / CEO of Lendio)
As you can see, 4 of the 6 of us are either founders / CEOs / Presidents of companies (by the way, you don’t need to be a founder, CEO, or President to be a leader). The other 2 (Brady and Mark) may not have a CEO title, but are more capable than the 4 of us CEOs. I don’t mention this to be bragadocious, but to help you see the type of impact my mom has had on each of her children. To honor her, and moms everywhere, my siblings and I pulled together lessons she taught us that can serve as examples and life lessons for entrepreneurs everywhere.
My mother has helped me in countless ways, but there are two lessons that stick out when I consider my mother’s influence on my own professional career. Growing up, we didn’t have smartphones, tablets, or in-car entertainment systems to occupy our time. Instead, anytime we were in the car for an extended period of time, my mom would give us math problems, games, riddles and brainteasers to practice problem solving. Why did I go into law? I saw it as problem solving. I see each case, issue and dispute as a problem to be solved using facts, the law, procedure and wit. That passion for problem solving stems from my mother.
She also loved to shop, but more accurately, she loved to get a deal. She would drag us boys to store after store in her mission to research and find the best deal. Most times, she would never buy anything, but was cataloging in her mind the prices of the products so that when a deal was presented, she could recognize it and take advantage. Professionally, evaluating and executing a good deal is crucial. I gained the tools to negotiate deals from my mother.
My mom has had a huge impact on my life in too many ways to even describe. While I believe her biggest impact on my life was shaping my values around faith and family, she has also significantly influenced my professional life as well. My mom was a hard worker, working her entire married life as a schoolteacher while raising seven children. She instilled the value of hard work in each of us at a young age by ensuring we did chores every day after school and on Saturdays. This is no easy task, as most parents will attest, because it takes tremendous self-discipline from the parents themselves in order to ensure a consistent pattern. While it could have been easier to just let us go play rather than hear the daily whining and complaints, she knew that sticking to her principles would teach us the importance of hard work. From the time we were children, we learned to do hard things and to complete our assigned chores with a sense of accomplishment and pride. The value of hard work has always been a core of my professional life.
She also taught us the principle of value-based leadership by encouraging us to be leaders in whatever we do, whether in sports, school, faith, family or work. She fostered courage, character, values and confidence in each of her children and inspired us to get out in front and lead. But in doing so, she also taught us to lead with purpose, to be an example, and keep honor and integrity at the core of everything we do. As a result, each of her children has a passion for leadership and have benefited from the values that she instilled in us. I believe the best leaders in life are those that inspire leadership in others. My mom fits that description. She has inspired me to be my best self in all that I do. My mother is an amazing woman and I’m grateful for her love, encouragement, nurturing, and examples that have molded me as a man, husband, father and professional.
Most moms are great at helping their kids along and reminding them do the little things everyday like get up on time, don’t be late, do their homework, and do their best. But not every mom is great at truly demonstrating those values and ideals and helping kids understand the ‘why’ behind the requests. I can be stubborn sometimes and slow to learn lessons, but when I finally ‘got it’ and figured out how amazing my mom was by understanding her life experiences, it helped me understand her persistent encouragement and inspired me to do more and be better.
So when my mom told me to get a job to learn the value of work, it’s because she worked incredibly hard herself throughout her life. When she told me to do my homework and strive to excel in school, it’s because she excelled in school and was the first from her family to go to college. When she told me to not hide my creativity, but learn to embrace it and let it bloom, it’s because she loved to sing, write poems, paint pictures, and decorate spaces. When she told me that I could do hard things, it’s because she has battled – and I mean battled – cancer for over four years and the accompanying chemotherapy treatments, surgeries and side effects My life in general, magnified in business pursuits, has been influenced greatly by a small, 5’2″ woman who literally ‘talked the talk, but more importantly, “walked the walk” her entire life.
My mom was my first employer and my first venture capital money – all before I turned eight. I remember her hiring me to fold clothes and because I often got distracted by Bob Barker and the “Price is Right,” she paid me per piece of clothing rather than by the hour. It was amazing how much she could get out of me for loose change, which meant penny candy for me. By the time I was in kindergarten, she had “invested” in my first venture, a backyard “fair” for the neighbor kids. She provided the money for me to purchase the fair kit and was fortunately forgiving when the fair failed to produce a return on her investment.
By the time I was in first grade, she secured my first paper route, a Sunday morning only route in Saint Paul, Minnesota. By the time I was in sixth grade, my mom secured my first job at a small grocery store a few miles from our house. A few years later she secured the worst possible weeding job – at least from my perspective – and then a great job for me as a custodian at Uintah Elementary School from 10th grade until I left for college. My mom made it clear that work was not optional, and the opportunities she helped secure for me taught me how to work, serve and earn money. She would have given us the world if we had wealth, but fortunately we didn’t, so she gave us everything by teaching us how to work for what we want in life. For that lesson and thousands of others, I’m eternally indebted to my dear mother.”
I was fortunate to marry into the Blake family and gain another mother when I married her daughter. Since I have known her, she has encouraged us all to be entrepreneurial and build something of service and value, which would benefit the welfare of others. But without question, the biggest blessing she has given to me has been her lifetime of effort in raising her only daughter, my wife. I could not have built my business without her support and encouragement. Mom taught her from an early age that relationships are what matter most. It is the people and relationships that bring joy and satisfaction in life. That has been a core value as we have assembled teams and built partnerships.
“She taught her daughter to be optimistic, which has been a stabilizing force through challenging times when I thought about giving up. On more than one occasion she has reminded me of the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” I am grateful for a mother who has spent a lifetime of effort and energy teaching and fostering development of character in her daughter.
Because she was a schoolteacher, my mom dealt with every type of personality in elementary school. She knew the smart kids, the jocks, the awkward kids and the lonely kids. Because she had seen them all, she wanted us to be happy and friendly with everyone we came in contact with. Even though I naturally enjoyed being around people, she ingrained in me that it wasn’t acceptable to bully or do anything to others that was unkind.
She taught me that in order to be a leader, you can’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing, you should do it the right way and be kind to others. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she taught us a lot about leadership. She pushed us to get out of our comfort zone early. Even at a young age she wanted me to be a leader. She encouraged me to run for school office, and pushed me to not worry about what the crowd was doing and just do what I knew was right.
My mom is a pretty special woman. In fact, all moms are. What would this world be like without the effect of mothers who love, nurture, motivate, and care for their children? I’m so grateful to my mom for the many life lessons that she has taught me.
And, finally, to the moms that are reading this…. Thank you! When the days get long, the patience gets short, the disappointments mount, and you feel like you’re not making an impact… stick with it! We need you. The world needs you.
Happy Mother’s Day!
By Brock Blake: Founder / CEO of Lendio, the nation’s #1 marketplace for small business loans.