Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - Part 1: Family - The Brilliance Mine

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – Part 1: Family

Over the course of my life, I have been blessed with many mentors. No Brilliance Nugget journey would be complete without thinking about what I have gotten from them and how they have influenced my journey. The list of mentors is long – too long for one nugget. Thus, I will break it up into periods. I will loosely follow “Pablo Picasso and the periods of life,” I wrote about before.

What is in it for you? I invite you to get inspired. Think of the people who have influenced you. The people who have helped you to get to where you are today.

In this Brilliance Nugget, let’s start with my parents and my favorite grandmother. The contrasts of what I got from each of them are pretty interesting. I’m grateful to them all! Also, of course, I could write a whole lot more about each of them. But this is a Brilliance NUGGET. Thus, I will keep it short!

My Mom – A Passionate Teacher

My mom taught me to work hard and to do as great a job as I can. She also said, “As a woman, you have to be 10x better than a man to have the same opportunity!” Luckily, the factor may have come down a lot since then. But in any case, for better – and sometimes for worse (perfectionism) – I work hard and I strive for excellence in what I do. She also taught me that you can find fulfillment in the work you do. She had a lot of passion for being a teacher!

My Dad – Family, Balance, and Always A Book in His Hands

My Dad who also worked as a teacher taught me something different. He taught me about the importance of family and balance. From him, I learned about meditation and yoga, philosophy, and lots of topics. I learned about things that these days we call self-development.

The Fisherman Story

I remember a story my Dad shared about a fisherman who is sitting at the beach, enjoying the sunshine, doing nothing. 

A man comes by and asks him why he is not fishing. 

The fisherman said he already caught two fish and that was enough for him and his family. 

The man says, "Why don't you catch more? Then you can buy a boat. And as you catch more and make more money you can hire others to do the fishing for you!" 

"What is the point?" asked the fisherman. 

"Then you can sit at the bach and relax!" said the man. 

"But I'm already doing that now" replied the fisherman.

Think about that. What a contrast! Work ten times harder than anyone else versus the message of the fisherman story. That ties right into the Yin-yang nugget I wrote. Opposing but complementary forces. Wow!

Both of my parents taught me I can do anything I set my mind to. That is priceless!

When I asked my parents a question they often said “There’s the dictionary. Look it up!” That was before the internet and search engines.

Or my Dad would say, “Wait a moment!”. Then he’d go into the basement where my parents had a library of thousands of books. I’m not exaggerating. Thousands of books! My dad would come back with a stack of 7-10 books and say “Here. Read these. That will answer your question.” I’d say, “Oh Dad, I just had a small question….” – I have to laugh about this memory.

My Grandma – A Go-Getter Pioneer With So Much Spirit!

The next person I want to introduce you to is my Grandma, “Omi”. She was my Dad’s mom. She was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1906. She became a dentist at a time when women didn’t do that. Most women anyway. She was determined. When she “fell” she got up and resumed what she was going for.

She made amazing ceramics. She said just because she didn’t sell them that didn’t mean they could be of lesser craftsmanship. When she was in her 70s, her hands couldn’t handle kneading the cold clay anymore. She didn’t just quit. She picked up a new hobby and learned to master it. She made delicate silver jewelry with embedded gems.

When she got even older, her hands started to shake a bit. She was determined not to let that happen. Guess, what she did? She bought a brand-new Commodore 128 computer with a joystick and one of the first video games. You had to maneuver the joystick carefully so that the knight in the game could safely cross a river filled with ferocious crocodiles. Go, Omi, go! And yes, I was both a little jealous of that computer and filled with pride about having such cool Grandma!

She was one heck of a Grandma. For example, I started to rock-climb and said I wanted (and needed!) rock-climbing shoes. She was the only one in my family who got that climbing in sneakers doesn’t cut it. You slide right off the rock. I can’t remember who got the shoes in the end – I may have bought them myself. But her support meant a lot to me. She got why it was important to me.

When I wanted to go to the U.S. for a 9-month student exchange program (that turned out differently!) she was supportive. My parents expressed doubts. Would I lose time in my chemistry studies as a result of the exchange? Would my English language skills be strong enough? My Mom who was teaching English was not so confident! Omi believed in me. She thought I’d figure it out. And I did. 🙂

In fairness, my parents As I said, I got so much from my Mom, Dad, and Omi. Thank you!

I’m Curious

  • Who are the first few people in your life who influenced you?
  • Where did you run into “opposing but complementary” messages?

Live Brilliantly,

Dr. Stephie

P.S.: I appreciate you commenting and sharing this Brilliance Nugget with others. Thank you!

Stephie Althouse

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