5 Startup Lessons I’ve Learnt From My Grandmother

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This past Mother’s Day I chose to spend some time reflecting about one very special person in my life whom I will hold deep in my heart forever.

Born in Maymo, Burma in 1929 to immigrant parents, my grandmother, fondly known as ‘Safta’, was a fighter from the get go. Burma in the early 30’s was a tough place to be. From a young age, her brothers taught her how to box and fend for herself. Her father worked on the Burma railroad, they escaped to Calcutta, India, lived in Mussoorie at the foothills of the Garhwal Himalayan ranges for a number of years, after which her family made their long journey to Melbourne, Australia.

Growing up, I loved hanging out at Safta’shouse- her food, her warmth, and that special feeling of endless love and support (being the oldest grandchild had its perks!) As I got older, she instilled her fighting spirit in me, giving me greater confidence, direction, and the realisation that you can do almost anything when you put your mind to it.

Over the last 18 years that I have spent in business, and especially more recently over the last few years in startup land, I’ve found during some of the toughest moments, going back to basics, back to our own foundations, is often what gives us the strength and determination to propel us forward and succeed at what we set out to do in the first place. One of my strong foundations is my Safta.

Below are 5 great startup lessons that I proudly attribute to her:

  1. Believe in yourself. There’s no better advocate. If you don’t, who will?!
  2. Never shy away from a challenge. Yes, you may fall down from time to time, but it’s not about the fall, it’s how you leap back, always learning, pivoting and adapting to changing environments and circumstances.
  3. Stand up for yourself and those around you. Don’t let another person crush your inspiration or your drive to succeed. They’re not worth it.
  4. The glass is half full. Without this mentality, you are doomed to fail. Always be on the look out to maximise every opportunity.
  5. Most of all, do everything with a smile. Get tough when required, but always be kind and genuinely respectful. This is a trait that money can’t buy.

Now in her late 80’s and living in Melbourne, Safta continues to be an inspiration to us all, regularly attending cross-fit classes, taking care of our ageing grandfather, as well as being a loving great-grandmother many times over.

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