When I was 12 years old, my mother gave me a gift that has proven to be one of the most valuable of my entire life. The gift was is the form of a horse, but the value in the gift went well beyond the majestic animal that I spent my youth with.
We were considerably less than wealthy, but that didn't stop a 12-year-old from dreaming great dreams. I had saved all my allowance and other money that I had earned so that I could buy a horse. What I didn't understand was that the most expensive part of a horse is not the initial purchase price, but the board that you must pay to keep the horse. My mother started to explain this to me, but then she stopped and reconsidered. My mother has never been a person that was easily deterred by obstacles, so we went to the ranch to discuss alternatives to paying board. A complex structure was worked out where I would work (cleaning stalls) and my horse would work (on a rental string when he was needed for large groups) in return for feed and board. Imagine the delight of a 12-year-old who could buy her first horse!
But as I look back I realize that, as wonderful as the horse was, the real gift that my mother gave me was the very real demonstration that there are no barriers to doing what you want to do, only obstacles. You just need to figure out how to get around them.
Fast forward to 30 years later. I am the CEO of a software company working to grow the business through a recession. I'm up against major obstacles every day, trying to raise funding where there is little, drumming up sales where there are few. I find my mother's gift is something that I draw upon from dawn till dusk. In fact, my mother's gift is why I am a CEO in the first place. After all, the obstacles to a woman without a college degree achieving the position of CEO are many.
My introduction to the computer industry came at seventeen when I started working on an assembly line for a computer company (my brother brought me in with the agreement that I would do nothing to trash his good reputation in the company). Thanks to my mother's gift, I've always believed that there is nothing I couldn't do. I worked hard to learn the technology, then about customer relations, marketing, finance, and business. At any point in time, when I didn't know what I was doing, I would run out and buy books to help me and turn to the people that surrounded me for advice. I found plenty of obstacles to my success and many different ways around them. I remember one time when I wanted to move from quality assurance into support. The woman who ran support would not accept me as a viable candidate due to my lack of field experience and college degree. After many unsuccessful attempts at talking her into it, I felt completely defeated. But a friend of mine wouldn't let me give up. He suggested that I present the offer of my employment in a temporary fashion. I thought this was a great idea. I talked to my then current boss and got his agreement that he would take me back in my position in a couple weeks if things didn't work out. Then I presented the idea of temporarily going to work in support to see if I could do the job. The support manager finally agreed and was so delighted with my performance that I quickly had a permanent job in support. The change in her attitude toward me was so drastic that, later when she vacated her position, she recommended me as her replacement.
These days I have the opportunity to work with a lot of incredibly bright people. Many smarter and most of them better educated then myself. All too often I will find someone with boundless potential, but who lacks the confidence to push themselves to the next level. I believe it is my mission in life to figure out a way to help them. I want to show them the life is full of obstacles, not barriers. I strive to give to them the "gift of a horse" that so profoundly changed the way I look at life.