by Jennifer Gibson, Director of Learning Solutions at Forward Momentum

It was 1980, and I was eight years old. My family, including my ten year-old brother, was taking our first ever vacation: a long weekend in Niagara Falls. At dinner on our first night, we sat in the grand hotel dining room waiting for our meals to arrive. My brother and I were uncharacteristically quiet; perhaps we were tired from the long drive, or maybe it was because of our discomfort at the fancy surroundings. Whatever the reason, my parents seemed to be basking in the glow of the rare and blessed silence.

Suddenly, my dad leaned forward and slowly and quietly spoke, “He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well, is not as apt to make the dollar as he who climbs a tree and hollers.”

My mom, brother and I sat blinking in surprise for a few moments.  Finally, my mom broke the silence, “Did you just make that up?”

My dad smiled mysteriously.

“Wow, Daddy,” I piped up, “that was really cool! Say it again!”

My father obliged. We all sat grinning at each other for another moment, and then he let us off the hook. Taking a yellow sugar packet out from under the table, he showed us the words of wisdom were written on one side. We all laughed and happily chatted during the rest of our dinner.

More than thirty years later, my dad still remembers those words and can quote them on command. I myself have quoted them to others many times over the years when the wisdom of those magical words suited the occasion.

Reflecting back over my 40+ years, those words served me well and helped shape me. Maybe not in a huge way, but they still had an impact. Other pearls of wisdom that were gifted to me by my parents had a greater impact; becoming words that I live by every day. Ever since I can remember my mom has constantly reminded me, ‘You can eat an elephant one bite at a time.’ And to this day, every time I travel, my dad will still say, ‘Don’t ever put yourself in a vulnerable situation.’

When I have become overwhelmed by work or life in general, I think about eating the elephant, and I manage to achieve my goals. In my world travels, I’ve always carefully considered whether or not I’m making myself vulnerable and putting myself at risk, and it’s helped me to avoid many a mishap. Without these ingrained words of wisdom, I don’t think I would have made it this far. My parents aren’t thought leaders. They aren’t authors. They aren’t CEO’s. They’re just my parents. But they are two of the wisest people I know.

I’m not a thought leader. I’m not an author. I’m not a CEO and probably never will be. But I have gleaming nuggets of wisdom to share with those who are willing to listen. I’m betting you do too, and we want to hear it!

For a moment, let’s all be thought leaders and share our own sugar packet wisdom.  What are the quotes, the sayings, and the life lessons that have served and shaped you?