Has your mother ever told you, “You’re not smart enough to do that!”? Or your father said, “I tried that but it didn’t work. You shouldn’t do that either.” Has your brother or sister made fun of you saying, “You don’t know what you are doing. You’ll make a fool of yourself!”?
Well, take out a one dollar bill and look at the man in the middle of it. Orphaned by his father at age eleven, George Washington was left to be raised by his mother. As the oldest child still living at home, his mother Mary relied heavily upon him then and later in life. She discouraged him from every opportunity and never congratulated him for his accomplishments. She neither praised him publicly or privately for leading the Continental Army, winning the Revolutionary War, or being President. Nevertheless, he was successful.
Let’s look how George was able to succeed without his mother’s support.
1.) Establish Boundaries. George not only limited his time with his mother, but he also limited the emotional influence that she had upon him. He spoke to her truthfully. When she would play a guilt trip on him, he would call her out on it. He did not allow her to manipulate his decisions. When he set a boundary with her, he did not cross it. (Are you struggling with guilt trips? Read “How To Navigate A Guilt Trip.”)
2.) Get Broad Positive Support. Washington had friends and other family members that he sought for support. He had local friends and far away friends, rich friends and poor friends, old friends and young friends, northern friends and southern friends, religious friends and non-religious friends, learned friends and illiterate friends, funny friends and solemn friends, thoughtful friends and silly friends. He had many persons to lean upon.
3.) Enact Discipline and Determination. George awoke early and worked hard. He kept detailed notes and memorized important sayings and facts. He kept himself in shape by swimming, hunting, fencing, horse-riding, and dancing. Never attending college, Washington taught himself law and economics by monotonously copying out legal forms for bail bonds, leases, and land patents.
Like Washington, John D. Rockefeller, the world’s richest man, was the epitome of discipline and determination. When he first began looking for a job, he wrote down the companies that interested him and he visited them for the next six weeks. He visited from sun up to sun down. When he exhausted his list, he simply started over again visiting many firms two or three times.
4.) Take Calculated Risks. George did not sit on the sidelines. He took risks. At 21, he journeyed deep into the American frontier to deliver messages to the French. He surveyed land in hostile territory. During the Revolutionary War, he was away from his plantation leading the army for seven years. When he returned, his estate was nearly bankrupt. But George knew the risks were worth it.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Teddy Roosevelt
5.) Find Strength in a Higher Source. Washington’s nephew George W. Lewis said that he accidentally witnessed Washington’s private devotions in his library both morning and evening, seeing him kneeling with the Bible open. He believed that to be his daily practice. Washington didn’t relie upon his own strength, but looked to God for his ultimate power. So next time, when someone tries to discourage you, take out a dollar bill and be reminded of how George Washington succeeded despite his mother.