I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by incredible women my entire life. The core is centered with my mom and grandmother; Emma and Madeline, my two daughters, and Angie, my wife, remind me daily that I live in an all female household – for which I am grateful; and, my professional network is infused with a variety of influential women.
Below I share some of their pearls of wisdom that serve as near daily reminders to which I can refer as I progress on my path.
Stand Tall and Be Proud
I’m 6’5”. I’ve been tall my entire life. If you see me at a conference I’m either sitting down or slowly inching my feet further apart to get into a lower conversation range. I’ve always been aware of my height and never was that truer than when I spent time with Gramma Johnson. She would always remind me to stand tall and be proud of my height. It was a reminder to not slouch but on a bigger scale it was a reminder that I bring value to the room. We do our best work when we stand tall and bring value to the room knowing that our place here is important.
Dazzle Them with Brilliance
The amount of mom wisdom I use really should have a separate post. I quote mom wisdom all the time to my students and colleagues. Perhaps the phrase that makes me smile the most is “dazzle them with brilliance or baffle them with…” well, you know. Looking back, my mom was my first exposure to student affairs and leadership development. She volunteered nationally with her sorority for many years while I was growing up. Because of her I always return home from trips with a gift for my daughters because that’s what she did for me and my brother. To this day, the Sigma Nu house at Michigan State will always be the Delta Zeta house my mom shut down (I’m not sure if she really closed the chapter but that’s how I remember the story and the reason I got to run through the vacant home.). She is a life-long educator who comes from a family of educators. She follows my social media feeds and asks about my work in ways that ring true to her counselor training. As such, I don’t have the luxury to baffle her. Rather, in her own words she reminds me to do my best work and dazzle people with brilliance. It’s a nice standard to which to we should all aspire – dazzle people with brilliance.
Dust Off, Suck it Up, and Get Back Out There
All the things Angie wanted you to know that I’ve learned from her are not really fit for this post. Suffice it to say that she has whipped me into pretty good shape and even with all my nuances, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and faults she is still willing to be my refuge. She’ll be sympathetic for as long as necessary but ultimately she’ll challenge me to be better than I believe I can be and she won’t let me quit (at least not easily) no matter how many excuses I can muster.
The Worst Question is the Unasked Question
Madeline is our thinker. Because of her I know how to prepare and embalm a mummy and explain the forces of nature including volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. She’s 7 going on college. She keeps me on my toes because she operates in a world where the worst question is the unasked question and therefore you can never ask too many questions. The great thing about her is that, most of the time, she thinks before she speaks and her questions become more refined the deeper we probe into a subject. We’d all do well to mimic her thoughtful probing style with colleagues, students, and in committee meetings.
Be in the Moment
In our leadership living learning community this year I introduced the concept of right here, right now. Essentially it means this is where you are at this moment in time, nowhere else, so be fully present in this moment right now. No one embodies this mantra better than Emma, my 4-year old daughter. She’s my reminder to put aside the distraction of emails, phone calls, meetings, and politics so I can give my full attention and my best self to whatever is in front of me right now. Emma is also my reminder to practice Namaste – seeing the good in others – because that’s what she sees in you. Her love, spirit, joy, and kindness are unconditional and she’ll shower them on you every chance she gets.
Develop an Inner Circle
I have a very small core group of colleagues to whom I refer as my Inner Circle.
They are a network of trust, care, and no pulled punches. While I’ve never had sisters, the women of my Inner Circle are what I imagine sisters would be.
They are people with whom I share laughter, tears, good times, fun times, and ultimately, women I deeply respect. They are people, just like everyone else I’ve introduced to you, whom I love very dearly and who have helped me become the person I am today. Namaste.
This has really been a public thank you to each of these women for the role they play in my life. I hope some of their wisdom resonates for you and, perhaps more importantly, I hope they encourage you to reflect on the members of your family, friends, and colleagues who provide the foundation for you to do better than your best work.
Make it a good day.
Mike Severy is the Director of Student Involvement and Leadership at UNC Pembroke. You can email him at email@example.com