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October 25, 2012

A Mother's Final Gifts: Courage and Chutzpah


I buried my mother a week ago. I knew this day would come yet it was way too soon.

Last August, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and the worst kind.

GG, as she was called, had two goals, and was uncharacteristically direct with her doctor the day she was diagnosed: “I have a grandchild coming (my second daughter), and a wedding to attend (her grandson’s), and you’re going to help me get there,” she said, leaning her head close into his and pointing at him.  My Mom abhorred pointing.

I thought to myself, “That’s what I call determination.”

I would come to find out how determined my Mom could be.

I always thought I was a courageous person.  Some day I hope to have half the courage she had.  The Yiddish word is chutzpah, which is defined as gall, brazen nerve, incredible guts.  That fits Mom well.

How might the workplace be with a little more chutzpah?  With more courageous conversations? I firmly believe there’s more courage inside each of us than we might even think, and how powerful it would be to tap some of that – for our benefit and the benefit of others:

  • To ensure senior leaders hear the truth, even when the news is bad
  • To take the high road when a co-worker acts in a passive-aggressive way
  • To be more direct in our feedback with others, because the people around us need feedback to be better
  • To do what’s right, even when it means ending a relationship or losing business

These are the actions that speak to the essence of who someone is.  And many of us have these defining moments regularly.

The choice is ours. The easy path or the one that requires a little chutzpah?

In the words of my 2½-year-old, “I promise to remember GG.” 

Me, too.  There’s much to remember, and then there are the parts of her that are in me forever.  These last lessons were some of the most powerful and important.  And that’s the greatest gift of all.

What courageous conversation do you need to have?

--David Grossman

Tag(s): Leadership

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