Mother’s words of…wisdom?

My mother told me many things as I was growing up. She must have; we were together for over 30 years. But I can really only remember one thing. One piece of advice—terrible advice, I think you’ll agree—that has stuck with me through the decades.

Curious yet?

When I was in ninth grade, my mother told me:

“If a boy asks you out but you don’t think he’s cute, you should go out with him anyway. Because you never know—he might have a cute friend.”

Terrible, right? It basically translates as, “Use whoever you need to so you can get what you want.” My mother, the Machiavelli of North Jersey.

I am pleased to say I never used that advice in the world of dating. But I have found it helpful in other situations—mostly when my lizard brain starts shouting that an opportunity I’ve just been offered is beyond my abilities. I reframe her advice and it keeps me saying yes. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted it.

I’ve been thinking about dear old Mom because I turned down a client yesterday. The client was looking for something specific, something I’ve done for other people in the past as a favor. When someone I respect put my name forward for the gig I said, “Thanks, but it’s not in my core business.” And then I thought, Hey, look at me, respecting my time and not falling into the “yes” trap! I was so proud of myself. For about 45 seconds.

Then I heard my mother’s voice telling me I’d just made a mistake. Yes, this client needed something tangential today, but who knows what she’ll need tomorrow? (She might have a cute friend.) And after I did the tangential thing, I’d be first in line for any more appropriate writing assignments that popped up. (The cute friend might like me!)

It’s the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t dance we’ve all done a million times. This time, I’m reframing it: “Blessed that I didn’t.”

I’m saving myself for the right client. And that’s a philosophy my mother would have approved of.