Self-development has always been a huge part of my life. I mean, we can always learn something right? Every morning I try and get about 2 hours of self-development work into my brain. It motivates me to be better, do better and it’s a constant reminder that we have so much to learn. For me, I have my laptop close by and when I read something that really hits home, I type it on my word document titled – Life Lessons. I can’t help but think that when we have kids, I can share all this wisdom and they may want to carry on the list for their offspring.
One of my early mentors was my Grandpapa. He was a very hard-working man. He moved from Quebec to Cochrane, Ontario, not knowing how to speak English and worked for the railway for many years. He lived through the depression and told me that he never wanted his family to suffer the way he did back in the day. I could go on and on about some stories, but I will keep it short for the purpose of this blog.
We had this ritual when he would come to visit me (it may seem odd to you at first, but it definitely shaped my philosophy of – if you work hard, you can get anything you want). To help bring this story home, I’ll give you a visual of my grandfather. He was very well dressed (picture Italian mafia, lol), he always had two silver pens in his front pocket (he would often say “all the smart/wealthy men had pens in their pocket.”) and his wallet always protruded on his back side. I remember asking at a young age, roughly 7, what he carried in his pocket and from there the ritual began…
I can’t specifically remember that first time we did it, but each year until he passed away, we did the same thing each visit. He sat me down at our kitchen table and pulled out his wallet. He would toss it my way and I would count the contents inside. I mean it was crazy. He never had less than $3,000 in his wallet – I remember one occasion he had about $5,000! And this was back in the late 80’s! As I aged, the fun game of counting the large (first and only time I’d ever seen a thousand dollar bill) and small denominations, turned into curiosity, which led to questions, which then led to valuable life lessons.
I was about 14 and I asked him why he needed to carry so much money on him? Aren’t you scared someone will rob you? He looked at me and explained his life as a young boy. The struggles they went through, the lack of education and how his family depended on him to work to support them. In 1930, it was quite a different life than the years I grew up. He then explained that having money on him reminded him everyday how hard he worked to have a better life. Looking back on it, I think it was my grandfather’s book end – it started off his day in such a positive way. He’d get dressed and when he grabbed his wallet to put it in his back pocket, he’d reflect on his accomplishments. He also added, “Si quelqu’un veut voler un vieil homme, ils doivent en avoir plus besoin que moi.“ (If someone wants to rob an old man, they must need it more than me.) At 14 the lessons were:
- You can start with nothing, work hard and achieve any goal.
- Compassion – always remember someone is less fortunate than yourself.
- It’s not about the money, it’s about self worth and how you feel when you look in the mirror.
- Be grateful for what you have and the people in your life that have made it possible for you to have opportunities.
This ritual led to many conversations about life, finances, family, hard work, education and struggles. My grandfather shaped my thinking and has influenced my choices in such a positive way. He will always be someone I look up to and admire. To this day, I carry his wallet in my back pocket when I have to make huge decisions. It’s a reminder that he achieved every goal he set. And being his granddaughter, I want to make him proud and follow in his wise footsteps.
The second tier of this ritual is that I want to pass along helpful information to others. I’m so grateful for all the conversations I had with my grandfather and the wisdom he passed along from his experience. I think that is why I love teaching so much. I get a chance to educate and share life lessons with my students. There is no greater gift than hearing a student say, “you’re my mentor”. It’s an honour that I don’t take lightly. I have a responsibility to give them 100% as their educator. They challenge me every day and when I see them walk across the stage to get their diploma, I feel so proud that I had a small part in their success.