Great Lessons from My Mom



“A mother understands what a child does not say.” — Author Unknown

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, this one’s for Mom.

Everything I needed to learn in life, I didn’t learn in kindergarten.

No, I got an earlier start. I learned from Mom.

(Besides, in kindergarten, I was way too busy with the arts – finger painting, tasting glue, drawing hand turkeys, etc.)

Mom Taught Me to Dream Big

The most important thing my Mom taught me is to follow my dreams—in a big way.

Dream big, follow my dreams, and give it all I’ve got.

If I reach for the stars and get lucky, then count my lucky stars. If I fall down along the way, get up and try again.

It’s that simple.

Best Lessons from My Mom

There’s no way I can boil down what my Mom taught me into a simple set of lessons…wait a minute, that’s not what my Mom taught me.

My Mom

My Mom taught me to give it my best shot, so here it goes:

1. You’re special.

Right from the start, at least to one person in the world, I mattered.

2. Love is unconditional.

“I’ll always love you.”

My Mom always made sure that I knew her love wasn’t based on my performance in school or my achievements in life.

That’s what unconditional is all about.

She did also tell me that you could love somebody without liking them, so that got me thinking early on.

3. Your dreams can come true.

The little dreamer in me started early on.

My Mom filled my early days with Disney, and I can still hear Jiminy Cricket sing, “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”

Wherever we went, if there was a fountain, my Mom would let me throw a penny in and make a wish.

If there was a star in the sky, we would sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Whenever I blew out candles on a birthday cake, I made a wish.

Mostly I wished for a better world or a better life for everyone, but now and then I wished for a super power or a new bike.

P.S. – My Mom says don’t tell anybody your wishes or they won’t come true 😉

4. You can be whatever you want to be.

My Mom taught me early on that I can be whatever I want to be.

I remember I took this to heart, and I planned to be the first person to find Santa’s North Pole and make a map.

She never told me to be a doctor or a lawyer.

Instead, it was be whatever I wanted to be, and it was up to me to figure out the answer to, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

5. Just do your best.

“As long as you do your best, that’s all I ask.”

Mom knew how to set the bar, and how to have me reach for the stars.

“You can do better.  Try again.   Practice makes perfect.”

I continue to compete with myself and see if I can set a new bar.  It’s a process.

6. A job well done is it’s own reward.

This goes hand in hand with doing your best.

Be proud of what you do.  Stand behind it.

7. The world doesn’t revolve around you.

It’s not always about me.

When things go wrong, the world’s not out to get me.

When things go right, sometimes it’s just luck.

8. No fear.

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” and “…if I should die, before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I thought bed was supposed to be a safe haven, except for the monsters under there.

No, I had to worry about bed bugs and dying in my sleep.

Once I got over that, I could face anything.

9. Look both ways before crossing the street.

This is timeless.

I use this every day.

Thanks Mom.

10. If they jumped off a bridge…

Just because everybody else does it doesn’t make it right.

Don’t be a copy-cat.

As a kid, it was easy to fall into, “monkey see, monkey do”, but my Mom always knew the right question to ask, “If everybody jumped off the bridge, would you do it too?”

Of course, the wise-guy in me would have to ask back, “Which bridge?”

11. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“Do the right thing.”

As a kid, this math was hard to follow.

When my sister and I fought, I didn’t think of getting her back as adding another wrong … I thought of it as making things even.

My Mom thought otherwise.

Eventually I figured out the math.

12. See the funny side of things.

My Mom’s super skill is a sense of humor.

What would Lucy Ricardo (of I Love Lucy) do?

Life has a lot of sitcom and comedy moments.

You can see the good.  You can see the bad.  You can see the sad.

Rather than wait until someday when you can look back on this and laugh, just find a way to laugh now.

A sense of humor is the best recipe for dealing with life’s worst tragedies.

13. Do unto others.

My Mom taught me empathy and compassion.

She would ask, “How would you like it if they did that to you?”  If I wasn’t sure, she would show me, then ask, “Now, how does that feel? How do you like it?”

It didn’t take long to learn that if she had to ask, I didn’t want to know.

14. Don’t dwell on it.

My Mom wasn’t a psychologist, but she knew it didn’t help to dwell on things.

Whether it was think about something else, or go do something else, my Mom taught me to be more action-oriented than stew in my own juices – and “Don’t mope.”

15. Sticks and stones.

Moving around as a kid was tough.

As the new kid, the break in period always meant making new friends and foes.

Name calling came with the territory.

My Mom gave me a simple defense, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

This wasn’t always strong enough, so my Mom gave me a backup —  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Of course, some kids would respond to the challenge and whip out the sticks and stones.

Ah, the games kids play 🙂

16. Don’t be a sore loser.

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

As long as you played your best, that’s what counts.

Of course, winning always felt better 🙂

17. Clean up your mess.

“Your room isn’t going to clean itself.”

This was so true.

Pick up after yourself.

18. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

My comic books always showed ads for pet sea monkeys living it up, and x-ray glasses that had me believing I would see through clothes or see through walls.

My Mom thought they were dumb ads, but eventually I got sea monkeys.  She was right.

19. It’s the thought that counts.

Little things mean a lot. My Mom actually meant this.

She liked the lopsided ashtray I made her in school, more than anything I could buy in a store.

She didn’t like it when I picked the neighbors flowers for her though.

20. Things can always be worse.

Between “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” and “I’ll give you something to cry about,” Mom had a way of helping me keep things in perspective.

21. Share.

Mom kept the rules simple here.

Share what you have.

It’s the right thing to do and the nice thing to do.

22. Play fair.

“You don’t want to win that way; play fair.”

My Mom knew that it was more important to play by the rules, than win the game.

Everybody should get a fair shot.

23. Life’s not fair.

Ha, don’t I know it.  I’m glad my Mom taught me early on so I didn’t grow up with any false expectations.

It’s still great though when Karma does it’s thing or “what goes around, comes around.”

24. You’re part of the problem or part of the solution.

“Don’t just complain—do something about it.”

Whenever I catch myself on the problem side of things, I quickly figure out how to get on the solution side of the equation.

25. You’ll have plenty of time to rest when you’re dead.

This is one of those lessons that always keeps me going.

If I ever forget why I should ‘”carpe diem”—seize the day—this hits the spot.

26. Take your time.

If something needed to be done well or if I was learning something new, my Mom would remind me to “take your time.”

Sometimes I have to catch myself and remember, take my time.

It worked back then, and it still works now.

27. Know who your real friends are.

“If you can’t be yourself with your friends, then they aren’t really your friends.”

So true, Mom, so true.

28. You have to earn it.

“Don’t wait for it to just fall into your lap.”

If you really want it, then work for it.   Go out and get it.

29. Try it, you might like it.

My Mom always encouraged me to eat my vegetables with, “Try it, you might like it.”

As long as I genuinely tried it with an open mind, she was fine.

It’s when I shut my mind to the idea, that she wasn’t happy, “How can you know if you didn’t try it?”

Many vegetables and I never got along, but it’s not for lack of trying.

30. There’s always somebody worse off than you.

Appreciate what you’ve got.

Enjoy it while you’ve got it.

A lot of people are worse off.  Take care of things.

Don’t fall into the pit of, “You’re never satisfied.”

31. You’re smarter than that.

This was my Mom’s way of saying, “Use your head,” and, “Use common sense.” (Well, she said those too.)

My Mom knew the power of thinking, long before knowing about our lizard brain.

32. I’m handsome.

My Mom says so 😉

33. Don’t come crying to me.

My Mom taught me to be responsible. “You made your bed, now lie in it. “

This was tough love in action, but it taught me to be responsible for my actions.

34. Listen to me when I’m talking to you.

“I feel like a broken record.”

My Mom taught me to show respect and pay attention when somebody’s talking to you, and, “Don’t look out the window.”

35. Money isn’t everything.

Growing up, we didn’t have money so this was an easy lesson.

My Mom never cared about material things.

She likes the simple things in life and the little things in life. And the little things really do mean a lot.

As long as you have what you need to get by, you’ve got what you need.

When you don’t drive from money or material things, then you have to know what you really want, and drive from there.

36. Do what it takes.

My Mom set the example here.

Whatever needed to be done, she did, to support the family and make the best life for us that she could with what she had.

Sometimes, I think it was pure will.  I think this is where I learned my determination and how to be a work horse.

37. Believe in magic.

Maybe this was when the kids first put the magic hat on Frosty and he came to life one day, but my Mom taught me to see things with magic and wonder.

In fact, she would say, “If you knew how it was done, it wouldn’t be magic.”

She was right.

As I’ve unlocked a lot of life’s mysteries, I’ve had to find new magic … and luckily life never ceases to amaze me, especially physical prowess and amazing feats of nature.

When you believe in magic, you see magic; when you don’t, you won’t.

38. Do as I say, not as I do.

It’s not the preacher it’s the practice.  It’s not the messenger, it’s the message.

Nobody’s the perfect display of all the right things to do.

While sometimes “what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander,” I like that my Mom taught me to judge a book by its contents, not by it’s cover, and to evaluate an idea on its merits.

39. “Because I said so.”

I was good at asking, “Why?”  Mom had a simple answer.   When that didn’t work, she would say, “To make you ask questions.”

That usually worked or at least got me thinking.

When I really needed to know why, she would take the time and explain.

40. Read a book.

My Mom taught me to read early.  All those bedtime stories and Dr. Seuss books really paid off.

I learned that reading is the way out and the way ahead—it levels the field.

And it’s a great way to learn new things, expand your horizons, and see a bigger world than your immediate box.

One of my Mom’s super skills is reading, and I think that gave me a big advantage in life.

41. There’s a nursery song for any occasion.

If it was raining, my Mom would sing, It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.

If the sun popped out, it was a perfect day for my Mom to sing, Itsy Bitsy Spider.

For no special reason, you can always bust out I’m a Little Teapot or Frere Jacques.

42. Family first.

Family is priority.

It’s your immediate tribe.

Mom’s a defender of her tribe and a protector of her nest.

43. Kids come first.

It’s such a simple rule, and a good way of saying, you’re kids aren’t here to live out your unfinished dreams or be a mini-me.

Make the world a better place, and give kids the best life they can have.

44. Do the right thing.

My Mom is a big believer that you don’t need other people or school to figure out the right thing to do.

Just do the right thing.

She looks inside for what’s right.

45. Do what makes you happy.

Mom always knows just the right question, “Are you happy?”

That’s all she cares about, and that’s her measure of a good life.

More importantly, she thinks everyone owns their own happiness and doesn’t have a right to complain—just do something about it, and definitely, “Don’t whine!”

46. Get some fresh air.

Don’t sit inside and waste the day.

Go outside and enjoy the day.

Get some fresh air.

47. If you’re stronger than them, it’s your job to protect them.

Whether you’re older, stronger, smarter, richer or whatever, take care of the weaker ones; take care of the ones that need your help.

48. Say you’re sorry


Mom kept this rule very simple—when you make a mistake or do something wrong or hurt somebody, say you’re sorry, and “Mean it!”

49. Use two hands.

Whenever I practiced my fancy-pants waiter skills, Mom worried about her dishes.

Yeah, two hands seemed to work better in a lot of scenarios, even beyond dishes.

50. Take two trips.

Don’t ask me why I was compelled to overload myself for the sake of making one overflowing, off-balanced, pathetically slow trip, rather than just take two fast, simple trips.

Mom was right, yet again.

51. Set the example.

If you can be the role model, be it.  Sometimes this means being the bigger person.

Sometimes this means paving the way.

Sometimes this just means being the friend you want in others.

Either way, my Mom was quick to remind me when I need to set the example, and I think it’s a great lesson.

It’s easy to complain … it’s more effective to be the change you want to see.

52. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

It’s true.

Whatever you bounce back from, you grow a little stronger.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom – Love, JD

You Might Also Like

The Greatness Distilled Series: The Best Lessons from People
The Best Lessons I Learned from Bruce Lee
The Best Lessons I Learned from Dr. Seuss
The Best Lessons I Learned from Oprah Winfrey
The Best Lessons I Learned from Tony Robbins


  1. JD!
    This is both sweet and wonderfully filled with lessons that truly matter in life. Mom’s are way awesome!! What a wonderful celebration of your mom!!! Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mother’s out there!

  2. Hi JD .. what an amazing list – a great tribute to a great lady – she certainly gave you the opportunity for a head start .. and I loved number 8: “I thought bed was supposed to be a safe haven, except for the monsters under there. No, I had to worry about bed bugs and dying in my sleep. Once I got over that, I could face anything.”??!!

    Lots of lovely flowers to the women in your family from me .. Hilary

  3. Moms can teach us SO much! On April 19th (my mom’s birthday) I posted about all of the lessons I learned from my mom — and if I’d really written them all down, I’d still be writing. That’s for sharing these great lessons!

  4. @ Alik — Now I’m going to have to ask her to write a book 😉 Thank you!

    @ Ivana — Definitely true with my motorcycle … with my Jeep, it’s still up in thear 😉 Thank you.

    @ Lance — Thinking back I was surprised by how much my Mom set me up for the jungle of life. I guess at the time, I was just too busy with greasy kids stuff to know I was starting my Jedi knight training. Thank you.

    @ Fred — I think that’s something unique. Some people treat everybody special, but a Mom treats you special just because you’re you. Thank you.

    @ Hilary — I’m thinking I was 3 or 4 at the time, so I really had to wonder what the heck was going to happen while I slept that I would die. Either way, I planned to go out fighting. Thank you.

    @ Positively Present — That they do, and I liked your list. I find myself still thinking of more lessons, but I caught the ones that play through my head the most. Thank you.

  5. Very thoughtful post and I hope one day my children might say some of these lovely things…my forte was to make up silly songs to teach the lesson…
    I learned criticism and constant analysis from my Grandmother and Mother – almost nothing I ever did was right….I vowed to work at not being that way for my children..

    Right now I am working on just being whole in my own world…not giving myself away. I think that is a valuable lesson to share with my children too. I think younger women are better at it these days.

    Great post/ I would be proud of it and I tweeted and SU’d and Facebooked it…

  6. I almost got teary-eyed reading your posts today. Your mom certainly mirrors in a lot of qualities I want to have as a mom to my son. I thank you for sharing this today. Glad I came to visit. She really sounds like a diamond on the inside. Her heart is as big as the ocean.
    Thank You JD my wonderful friend for sharing!

  7. Sources of Insight taught me some of your Mom’s teachings:
    1. Sticks and stones.
    2. Share.
    3. You’re part of the problem or part of the solution.
    4. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    My father taught me:
    1. Don’t come crying to me. That incredible story I’ll have to blog.

    Nobody’s been able to convince me:
    1. Its the thought that counts.
    Its how the thought is harnessed using good/bad karma that’s emphasized here.

    Otherwise my mother taught me the same stuff as this post states… Mother taught me to bifurcate good & bad as sugar is sweet and sweet is good and therefore loved. Father taught good may be wrong as serving sugar to diabetic owing to love.
    And I’m figuring out how to balance the 2 for myself, for eg. by carefully paying attn 2 ur experienced insights.

  8. Hi JD

    I hope you do the same for Father’s Day 😉

    Oh, and number 34: we need more mom’s teaching that.
    Don’t look at, wait for, answer etc. the cell phone or pay attention to whatever electrical device / toy is in the area. Somehow phones have become more important than people.
    – You can see this is a pet hate of mine 😉

    Thank you for all the good reminders!

  9. Holy cow!! You and your mother are amazing people.

    Have you gotten used to any vegetables? 🙂

    I can tell about the magic, humor and doing what it takes, from all I’ve read from you.

    Facny-pants waiter skills?? I’d LOVE to see those. 🙂

    skips away singing….

    I’m a little teapot
    short and stout
    here is my handle
    here is my spout…

    HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY!! Whoo-hoo!!


  10. Hello J.D.

    Sending love to all on this Mothers Day. My fav pick is “Do as I say, not as I do.”
    Mom is the only teacher we have before we go to school…we learn almost all the things from her…I am taking this moment to thank my Dear Mom. Thanks JD for putting the post!

    Bye for Now
    Cheryl Paris
    The Acorn Coach Blog

  11. @ Patricia — Having a high bar is a gift in disguise. Some of my toughest teachers created my most important growth. Thank you.

    @ Therese — She is a diamond on the inside. Thank you.

    @ V.S. — I look forward to your story and I think your path to balance is a good one. Thank you.

    @ Juliet –I think I will. I think it would be quite an interesting list actually. We share the same peeve 😉 Thank you.

    @ Jannie — My main vegetables are still whatever comes with my pizza 😉 Happy Mother’s Day!

    @ Cheryl — A lot of life lessons really do start with Mom. Thank you.

  12. JD, this is really a beautiful collection and I enjoyed reading through it! I can see that your Mom made a significant impact in your life and it shows through beautifully! thanks for sharing such a heart-warming post! It certainly speaks of a lovely legacy, and the gift of Moms!
    have a loving week!
    take care, Jenn

  13. Hi JD,

    Awesome Mom you have! All are wonderful and inspiring. Really, really like #37 believe in magic. I’m so into that lately. Glad you mentioned it. Life is magical. If we dare to open are eyes, we can see it …


    Giulietta, always musing

  14. Hi JD !

    Mothers are so important! I am so attached to mine who is teaching – 4 languages at the age of 83. The things I learned from her have served me all my life. Best regards to your mom and take care of her!

  15. @ Jenn — When I was a kid, I was a rebel without a clue. Who knew Mom would end up being right in so many ways. Live and learn. Thank you.

    @ Giuletta — The more I look, the more I find. Thank you.

    @ Farouk — Yes, Moms are the greatest gift. Thank you.

    @ Michael — It sounds like your Mom is sharp, and it’s great she continues to grow and share. I do what I can. Thank you.

  16. It’s amazing how much you’ve learned from your mom. The cool part is seeing how your mom’s wisdom is passed on to us through your blog. It’s why I believe all successful people were build on the shoulders of giants – I believe Einstein was the origin of that statement.

    Your mom was a giant lifting you on to her shoulders to help you reach all of us. That’s a great gift.

  17. @ Karl — I think it’s great how easy it is to share wisdom these days, and it never goes out of style.

    I agree — successful people don’t start from scratch. I think Newton is famous for his flavor of the quote — “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

  18. 52 points, wow! Lucky you to have a mom like this and lucky her to have a son like this.

  19. Man that is a really long list. Now how many of those did you listen to at the time they were given. :-). It is wisdom now but I bet when you were a kid they were just as annoying as my mom screaming at me to close the screen door when I went outside. I always let out the air conditioning. Now my wife tells my son the same thing everyday. Moms are great sometimes it just takes a while for us to realize it.

  20. @ Lana — I thought of it as a deck of cards, but with more Aces 😉

    @ Frank — Ah, you speak of the benefits of 20/20 hind sight. I’m no angel and I gave my Mom a run for her money.

Comments are closed.