Top Five Executive Tips Learned from My Eastern European Parents

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When you’re a child, input from your parents can at times seem unfair or unrealistic based on your inexperienced views on life at that given time.  But as you grow and develop, your gratitude does as well, and you realize just how much impact these lessons can really have.  

While I did greatly respect my parents even when I was young, a lot of the accuracy and influence of their actions and advice didn’t truly hit me until I was an adult, wearing many different hats and trying to keep things in balance.  My parents’ Eastern European upbringing and experiences were different than my own in the U.S., but our home here was none-the-less an Eastern European household, and my siblings and I were raised with English as our second language.  I was also exposed to my parents’ Eastern European ways, and the wisdom that resulted – amazingly useful life lessons that were ultimately handed down to me.  The fact that my parents didn’t just talk the talk, but also walked the walk, provided a greater illustration, especially to a child, and even to recall now.

I’ve had some time to not only appreciate these lessons, but to also put them to good use in my own adult life.  It’s important that as business leaders, women support each other, in a similar way to how my parents’ unique experiences and input have supported me.  So let me share with you a glimpse into some of the invaluable teachings my parents have brought into my life:

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#1: When you first wake up, wake up!  If you snooze, you lose.

This may sound a bit silly initially, but you will quickly see what a real difference it can make.  When that alarm goes off each morning, it’s time to get up and get started with your day.  When you snooze, you are essentially missing out on officially starting your day on the right foot.  Splash cold water on your face, wake up, and face the day – straight on.  This solid piece of advice that gets your day off to the right start probably came from the fact that in the village my parents were raised in, there were no options.  If you didn’t get up for the day, you didn’t eat.   

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#2: Work is work.  If it were fun, it would be called fun. 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to enjoy your work, but you always have to remain realistic that work is work.  This comes from the mentality that there needs to be a solid work ethic driving your life.  You should tackle your job with pride and get it done to the best of your ability.  I well remember my dad coming home from his 30+year position, and every night, we would ask how his workday was.  The answer was always, “Work is work,” and then the conversation was over.  In some ways, he left that at the job, and was then able to be fully engaged with our family.  This principle was crucial for me to learn first-hand.  While at the time, I did want to know more, hear the work stories, etc., now I can clearly appreciate leaving the office at the office, following suit with my own family.

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#3. The Hostess with the Most-ess; always be ready to host.

I don’t know any self-respecting Eastern European household that isn’t host-on-the-go ready.  While I may not have inherited the skill to be able to duplicate recipes on a dime, the always-ready-to-host mentality is forever engrained.  Eastern European households are always this way, and it sets a strong example for both being a gracious host in your own home, and also in the office setting.  Properly welcoming people sets the type of warm tone and environment we all want, supporting communication, comfort, and productivity.

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#4. Live within your means: Budget and budget wisely.

In my own personal experience, both my parents worked hard to put their kids first.  Each of us received a college education and a car when we turned 16, and this on the budgets of two middle-class workers.  To this day, I still am puzzled on how they did this, while leaving work at work.  They were able to stretch their budget and all while not incurring debt.  Quite frankly, this is still a mystery, but if I go back in time, my parents didn’t go on vacations, spend on fancy cars, or even go out to eat more often than once or twice a year.  It is those little things sometimes that add up, and they were incredible financial planners.

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#5. Family first, no matter what. 

Last but not least is family first.  While all the above are in motion, you can’t lose sight of setting your priorities straight.  If you can stay focused and organized, and also prioritize, a lot of your efforts will fall into place for not only you, but for the benefit of your entire family.  My parents saw a lot of changes in their lives, as we all will, but your family is there no matter what.  Don’t lose sight of that, even on rough days.

One of the nicest ways any of us can honor our parents or show our gratitude is by taking and keeping such gems of wisdom, passing them along to others, and putting them to use, no matter where our own lives take us – in business and beyond.  Keeping these tips in mind during the course of a busy day helps you to have perspective, maintain balance, and prioritize with heart.