14 Life Lessons From My Nanna


The last couple weeks have been rough.

It’s starting to feel like life is back to normal but two weeks ago I had to say goodbye to my grandmother for the last time. It was brutal. Still is kinda but I can smile knowing the impact she had on me will carry on through my life and hopefully through others I meet in some little way for years to come.

I’m usually talking about content marketing excellence and the opportunities that SaaS companies are unlocking every single day through SEO, content distribution, repurposing and some other techniques.

Today… It’s going to be a bit different.

I’m writing to share 14 lessons that my grandmother taught me that have played a significant role in me becoming the person on the other end of your inbox.

My grandmother’s name was Onita Simmonds, born and raised in North Preston, Nova Scotia these are the lessons that she taught me that I hope you can find some inspiration or insight from. Let’s get to it…

There's enough for everyone to eat

1) There’s enough for everyone to eat

Every Christmas and Thanksgiving – she had enough food for 50. Everyone was welcome and she always made sure you left full. I think about this often in business. I’m a big believer in the idea that the pie can get bigger for everyone instead of thinking that everyone’s slice gets smaller over time. It’s the abundance mindset in action.

The abundance mindset is deeply rooted in gratitude, optimism and the belief that helping others achieve their goals can help you achieve your own. This is at the core of content marketing. I’m convinced that if I can create great content that helps you win; the wins are going to come back to me in some way, somehow…

This mindset is also why I want everyone I associate with to win & achieve their ambitions. When I started Foundation, I wrote a guide called ‘Foundation Rules’ and it talks about my goal for building a company where great people can thrive and great people can learn so much that they’ll eventually be able to go out and do whatever their heart desires — whether it’s at Foundation or not. This is still true.

keep your nose clean and in your own business

2) Keep your nose clean and in your own business.

It’s easy to get caught up in gossip and neighborhood drama. My grandmother always taught us to ignore the neighborhood noise and stay focused on the things influencing your life. For her that focus was her kids, grandkids and great grandkids. It’s so key in a world of non stop breaking news to lose focus from your own priorities.

It’s easy to have a todo list on Monday just to be sucked into a bunch of Twitter drama at 10AM because someone sent out a tweet that tried to shame someone else in your industry.

I’m not about that life.

If it’s not about growth. If it’s not positive energy. And it’s not serving my vision… I don’t really have much time for it.

That’s not to say I don’t have time for negative feedback or criticism. I’ll take those in stride even if I don’t agree with it. Because to stay focused on your own business you need to be okay with hearing perspectives that are different from your own to better understand and see what blindspots might exist.

practice your craft

3) Practice your craft.

Nanna baked pies for the sake of practice. She didn’t want to serve anyone a bad roll or not tasty pie (Apple Pie was her speciality) So she practiced regularly and let us (the grand kids) be the testers. She perfected it.

She also practiced knitting all the time. Two weeks before she passed she gave my daughter a pair of knitted slippers. The same style she used to make for me when I was a kid. She spent hours learning how to make slippers over the years. And they became perfect…

I’m a believer in hard work. Take two people with the same intelligence, same circumstances, same privileges and understanding of the world and give them the same amount of hours in a day.

These people are just as smart as one another on day one. These people have access to the same resources. But one person decides that they’re going to work two extra hours every single week without impacting their 8 hours of sleep each night.

There are 52 weeks in a year.

In year one, the person who puts in an extra two hours has 104 extra hours of training, learning, execution & perspective. In year two, that person has 208… In year three, that person has 312.. In year four, that person has more than 400 extra hours of experience under their belt in comparison to the person who they started with.

Who do you think will have the bigger advantage because they decided to practice?

Exactly. Put in the work.

don't be afraid to tell people the truth

4) Don’t be afraid to tell people the truth even if they don’t like it.

Sometimes people need to hear what no one else will tell them. It’s not always pretty but the truth is often the easiest path to resolution.

It’s going to require a level of trust. But once you have that… It’s these people; the people who give it to you straight that you always want in your corner.

eat good food with good people

5) Eat good food with good people.

Sounds simple but I’m sure it’s a life hack for longevity.

Nanna always had great meals with the most random people at the table. It was always fun and you really never knew who would show up if you were there for supper. I’m convinced that if you can enjoy a good meal with good people; there’s nothing like it and in some cases — it could be the last time you spend time together. Make time for it. You’ll remember these moments.

At conferences, I always make time for random and spontaneous dinners or lunches. I’ve made some of my closest friends through these random encounters and meals. I’ve eaten some delicious food and met some amazing people. All because when it came down to the question: “Do you want to grab a bite?” instead of going to my room (like the introvert inside of me probably wanted) I said of course.

assume good intentions

6) Assume good intentions.

If you assume good intentions from the start of a relationship — it makes it easier (and improves the odds) for good things to happen out of that relationship.

Nanna always saw the best in everyone. This is something that I think gets beat out of a lot of professionals after they get played one or two times by someone they trusted. It’s easy to go sour on the world because of one or two bad interactions but I encourage you (and often have to remind myself) that the world is full of good people trying to do their best.

If you go into every interaction skeptical, it’s not going to help you long term. It’s going to cause friction and it’s going to limit your own ability to succeed.

listen more than you speak

7) Listen more than you speak.

Nanna was always on the phone with people but rarely was she talking. She was a great listener. Asked a ton of questions and made a couple jokes here and there.

You always felt heard after chatting with Nanna. Listen more. Talk less.

be the person who reaches out first

8 ) Be the person who reaches out first.

Don’t wait for people to always reach out to you. Call the people you want to stay in touch with. Email the person you miss having conversations with. Send the DM to the person you want to connect with.

Don’t be afraid to be the person making the first contact.

Even a cold email can change your life.

do what you say you're going to do

9) Do what you say you’re going to do.

If Nanna said she was going to make you slippers; you got slippers the next time you saw her.

If Nanna told you she was making you an apple pie; you got that pie.

Remember the importance of your word and don’t play with it. It’s important. I always say that the easiest way to stand out in business today is to do the things you say you’re going to do.

A lot of people come up with excuses after telling someone they’ll be able to accomplish a certain thing by a certain time. But if you’re able to actually do it on time… Every time. You become reliable.

And in life, we all want people in our corners who we can rely on to do the things they say they’ll do. So be reliable. It’s a trait that people will cherish.

speak positivity into your circles

10) Speak positivity into your circles.

Nanna loved her family and never spoke a poor word about any of her kids, grandkids or friends.

She spread love and compliments throughout the family every chance she had.

Be the person who spreads love in your circles. When you see your friends, celebrate their recent wins. When you see them winning online, share their wins on your accounts. When you see your team achieving success, be the first person in the Slack channel to celebrate with 100 different emojis and an over the top GIF celebrating. Be your team’s biggest cheerleader.

know your worth

11) Know your worth.

Don’t let the world shrink your success or society tell you what you must become or cannot become.

Be comfortable with your ambition, success and greatness.

Nanna knew she was a great Grandmother — And she let us know it haha.

embrace your own style

12) Embrace your own style & swag.

Nanna always wore a fancy church hat on special occasions and a fancy dashiki when it was a family gathering. She had a style of her own. I’m 99% sure she gave me my first suspenders as a toddler and they became my signature style for presentations over the last few years.

never stop dancing

13) Never stop dancing.

She taught us the importance of play. She taught us the love of dance. She showed us how to have fun without worrying about what other people thought.

enjoy the ride

The last lesson:

14) Enjoy the ride.

She saw a lot, went through a lot but smiled through it all. Remembering that none of us get outta this thing alive is something to think about often.

It helps maintain perspective. Life’s short ya’ll…Love your loved ones.