June 21, 2019

The Advantage of a Latin Business

I remember it wasn’t a Sunday.

I remember, because I’d normally call her on Sunday evening.
That was our family tradition.
But this wasn’t a Sunday.

Which meant that she was surprised.
Surprised, and even more delighted than usual.

And the sound of her delight soothed my jangled nerves.

“Oh, hello my darling!
How wonderful to hear your voice. And what a lovely surprise.”

We talked about this and that.
About her beloved grandchildren and our family’s comings and goings.

I asked her the inevitable question.
”Tell me what you’ve been up to, Mum.”

I already knew the answers.
”Well, I did enjoy visiting the old folk in hospitals and homes this week.”

I chuckled at this pattern in our conversation.

“Mum. You’ve only recently celebrated your birthday.
Tell me. Which birthday was that?”

“You cheeky boy.” she tried to be cross.
”You know that I’m 81 now. And very proud of it too.”

Our routine continued.
”And tell me, Mum. How old are these “Old Folk”?”

“Well, there’s one poor dear in her 70’s, and…”

Our banter continued until she paused.
(She only ever called me that when I was in trouble; or when a serious conversation was about to start.)
”What’s wrong, sweetheart.”

A mother knows the sound of her child’s voice.
So, the floodgates of my emotions opened, and a torrent of words poured out.

Somewhere amongst that I heard myself blurting out:
“I think I’ve made a terrible mistake, starting this coaching and speaking business.
It’s been four years, and I’m struggling to make it pay.”

After listening to my tales and my woe, she was quiet.

“David.” Here it comes.
”Do you believe in what you’re doing? You know this ‘making a difference to a million souls’?”

“Yes, I do Mum. Or at least, I did.”

“Then hear me.” Her voice dropped an octave.

“Nil Desperandum.
I believe in you. I always have.
Look at you. You’ve just devoted 9 months to write a book!
So, ‘Nil Desperandum’.

Now, you studied Latin for 4 years.
So please tell me what that means.”

“Never Despair, Mum.
It means ‘Never Despair’.”

“Right.” Now her voice shifted from tender to telling.
”Now, you go and figure out your dream.
You figure out how to make this work.
You let me know, before I leave you, that you’re blessing lives.”

My mind flashed back to scenes of my childhood and early teenage years.

Mum on her hands and knees, cutting our lawn with kitchen scissors.
Because we couldn’t afford a lawn mower.

Mum perched on the bath in the kitchen, holding her plate of curried chicken and rice.
Because we could only afford 2 chairs for our little kitchen table.
And those chairs had been bought on the ‘Never Never’.

Mum’s mouth bleeding and ulcerated again.
Because she could only afford to take Marmite and marmalade sandwiches to work for her lunch.

By heck, she was tough.
She was brutally gritty, in her fight for the survival of her three children.
As a teenager I remember hating her for her utter conviction that she was right.

But here I was loving her for it.

Picturing her in her beautiful home in Florida.
Retired and happy with my Dad, occasionally bickering like a couple of squirrels.
Surrounded by her gardens and her photos and her memories.
Her happiness reaching a crescendo: growing more sublime with the passing years.

“Yes Mum.”
Was all I could manage.
Then she blessed me with her mother’s farewell.

That was 11 years ago.
I miss her voice.

Nil Desperandum.

With all of our skills, strategies, techniques and disciplines…
This grittiness is an essential quality if we’re going to lead our business to it’s Magnificent Possibility.
This barmy belief that we can ‘Do This’.

It’s what helps us to step out of the comfort of the crowd, to do this crazy thing.
This creating a business… This pursuing a dream… This leading a team.

She’s watching me, I know.
And I’m going to hold her in my arms and say:

“Nil Desperandum, Mum.
I did it!”