Early on, my mother was trying to teach me a critical lesson – always be kind. My path to it was a bit more complicated though. Sacrifice and dedication. Surgery and rehabilitation. The same routine. Over and over. That was my high school football career. At the time, I was focused on my teenage self. My dreams of playing Division I, and then professional football.
Looking back on that time now – particularly since I’m now a dad and have kids of my own, has allowed me to view my past through the more mature lens of parenthood. I can’t imagine what the experience must have been like for my mother.
The sad fact of life is that no matter how painful it is out there on the field, every hit a kid takes in the game hurts the parents even more. Knowing that now, I can’t fathom what it must have been like for my mom to sit in the stands every Friday and see her oldest boy go through the sort of physical pain I went through from kickoff to final whistle.
Every game. Week after week.
I’m amazed now that she never once complained or tried to talk me out of my mad pursuit. It would have been an easy out for her, but she never once took advantage of it—even knowing that I would’ve done anything for her. Instead, she bore a mother’s pain with her big, bright smile, all too aware that she couldn’t say a thing about her ordeal without killing my dream. She just smiled.
She was the one who came to my room when the doctor’s prognosis was grim or the physical therapy didn’t seem like it was working fast enough and told me, “It’s all right to question your dreams from time to time, but don’t you ever give up on yourself. Because if there’s one thing I’m sure of in all my heart, it’s that one day you’re going to make all of your dreams come true.” That was my mom.
And she wasn’t that way just to me. She was the “house mom” of the neighborhood, of my team, of my friends. Every weekend, she always had the door open and there were always guys from the team staying for dinner or friends sleeping over.
My teenage self never gave it a thought at the time, except that this was the sort of thing that moms did. It was her nature to be kind. I can see now, however, that her “open house” policy was a subtle and completely successful covert operation to keep me and my friends out of trouble and away from the temptations that were all too abundant and all around us.
My dad had the military background. He was the coach who always demanded more. My mom was just the opposite. She wasn’t stingy with the hugs, and when she knew I needed one, she gave me two. With her quiet, but constant support she did more to foster my belief in myself than anyone else in my life.
And when I look back on it now, I think, she was probably the toughest Jones of us all. There have always been great demands put on me and, as a result, I’m not hesitant about putting expectations on anyone else.
At the same time, however, my mother unintentionally taught me one of the greatest lessons in business management with her kindness and compassion. I admit that I’m quick to bark orders and demand from others the same level of performance that I expect from myself, but I’m equally quick to nurture my team and to offer support to those who need it. My mom gave me that balance. She made me a better manager. A better man, too. Toughness is necessary.
But sometimes it’s best to try a little tenderness. And always be kind.