Last night I sat down with a glass of wine, and an old ledger I pulled out of my grandmother's things. I have a box that contains letters and photos and newspaper clippings, much of what I have looked over numerous times - but this book I had not seen before.
I knew the minute I opened it that it was a personal journal, as I recognized my grandmother's barely legible handwriting. She was a smart woman so far as common sense and intuition... but not so educated in reading and writing. Still, I discovered that she was a beautiful writer. Not something I would have ever guessed, even after knowing her my whole life.
This particular journal was for the year 1937. The year she left her job at the 'dirty old mill' to open her first business.
She worked in that business, loving it every single day, until she was 91 years old. For 66 years - until 2003, when I moved here to stay with her for her last two years of life.
I was born in 1973, and my grandmother was already an incredibly successful woman. All I'd ever known of her was her strong work ethic, her business success, her awards and honorable mentions. By then she was doing so well that she was also investing in the stock market and in real estate, among other things.
But this journal told another story. She poured her heart out on those pages. She shared her doubts and her fears, her internal desire to find or create something more out of her life.
I always looked up to my grandmother, and most of you know she has been a great source of inspiration to me. It never occurred to me just how human she was...
Reading her entry the night before she opened her business - full of dreams and fears and doubts - I found a great source of personal inspiration.
All too often we look up to the people who have succeeded, or gone before us, and think it must have been handed to them on a silver platter. We imagine that they must be greater than we are in some way, or that we are missing something they obviously possess.
As I closed the ledger, carefully tucking all of the loose pages in, I realized that there is no pedestal. Only our doubts playing tricks on us, encouraging us to see others as more special or more talented. As larger than life, or at least larger than us.
I would guess that most people have that internal desire to make more of life. More than just waking up, working and sleeping - day after day, year after year. And if so, what separates those that do create an exceptional life... and those that do not?
After reading Grandmother's story, it was clear to me that she made her own path. There was no divine intervention. There was nothing handed to her. She had an idea, and she shared that idea under a full moon with a dear friend, sitting at the farm's gate. That friend told her to do it, to make it happen. And so she did.
She later gave credit to that moment for her success, and shared how it stayed with her throughout her first year. She thought back on it often, and used it as a focal point on the days that were hard - the days she wanted to give up.
Maybe it's as simple as having someone or something that inspires you beyond your own fear and doubt. Perhaps success is not a mystical elusive thing - but freely available to anyone willing to step out and take action.
If all it took for her was that desire, plus a tiny bit of personal inspiration - and plenty of hard work - then maybe it really is that simple. Fully sure that may very well be the case... I wanted to pass this bit of personal inspiration on to you as well.
p.s. On the night before my grandmother opened her business, she defined her objective. In that journal entry she never mentioned fame or wealth, but instead defined it like this: "I want to make people happy, and I want them to make me happy too - through my work." She was describing personal fulfillment.
As I read that entry, I thought back to her last days when I sat by her bedside. Every now and then she would resurface from the depths of dementia and squeeze my hand... and she would say that she was not afraid of death. That she had a long and rewarding life and that she was content with how it ended.
One small-town farm girl turned successful entrepreneur. One tiny speck of life in one very small corner on this huge planet. And her success continues through the happiness and inspiration she passes on to all of us...