As a therapist I find myself saying to clients regularly that, ‘You live what your learn and you learn what you live’. In other words, many of our values, strengths and weaknesses are due to the way we were bought up.
I was a grocer’s daughter. My early years were spent living above the shop in a run-down suburb of Nottingham. The back to back terraces were torn down when I was five but my memory is of an Aladdin’s cave of food and hardware.
Glass apothecary jars filled with sweets and unknowns, huge hams cooked and sold by the slice.
To the locals it was the social services of its day. My parents knew whose husband gambled his wages away. The women, heads down to hide blackened eyes, opened threadbare purses as tears rolled down their cheeks.
I recall looking up at my mother who would raise a finger to her lips to stop me from saying anything, while passing them wax-wrapped packages. I remember the women clutching my mother’s hand and exchanging ‘looks’ but often no money. Compassion in action so not surprising I ended up working for several major charities.
I read no books on leadership or business. I lived it.
Pocket money was earned weighing out 56-pound bags of muddy potatoes into smaller brown paper bags. It was my job was to cut huge blocks of cheese, with a large wire on a marble block, into small predetermined packs. (I hardly ever need to weigh anything as I estimate so well. My mental math is brilliant.) My father would create special offers: buy one, get one free, 10% off… etc. He’d create leaflets run off a Banda machine that I would post through every letterbox in the neighbourhood.
In our living room, we had two huge Indian vases (I still have them in my home today). The vases, cobalt-blue with gold paintings of smoky hills, were always stuffed with money as the banks closed before our shop. Every day I saw the physical reciprocity for hard work but at weekends I would see the toll it took on my father as he often was forced to bed on a Sunday with a migraine. He found it hard to delegate. Early seeds were planted in me to work hard and also to get balance and let go of responsibility to others when you can.
Life-lessons drove me. As early as a 7-year-old, I pushed until I was a Brownie Guide pack leader. At 16, I was chosen as the Girl Guide from Nottingham to meet the Queen.
For me, business was more than a means of making money or a way of feeding my ego. I didn’t really crave success. I wanted to make my parents proud and to honour the service to the community that my grandparents had given. I employed a cleaner who had been in prison and couldn’t find work anywhere else. She was loyal, brave and kind.
Now I help others to live their best lives and guide them to keep the good lessons from their childhood and let the others go.
Which ones will you keep or decide no longer serve you now?