From A Single-Wide To A ForbesBooks Author
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
Best-selling author and motivational speaker Denis Waitley could have garnered these words of wisdom from watching my parents as I grew up.
When my mother met my father, he was the son of a first generation Italian immigrant who, while born in the U.S., was raised in Italy. When my grandfather arrived in Pennsylvania as a teenager—barely escaping fighting for the Axis powers during World War II—he spoke so little English that he was put into the first grade. Soon after he married his Italian-born wife, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force and served in the Pacific before a long career with Westinghouse.
My dad was raised as American as apple pie and baseball—enjoying both often—and avoided ties with the local Cosa Nostra at my grandmother’s behest. My mom descended from some tough Scandinavian ancestors as well, pioneers who built their cabins from the ground up, tending to wounds, war, and acts of God with equal aplomb.
When I was born in 1973, my parents lived in a single-wide trailer perched on the hill above my grandparents’ West Virginia cottage. My dad did whatever was necessary to provide for his family: he was a newsman as well as a photographer for the paper and the occasional wedding. He worked in the boys’ reform school as a guard. And he always took the time to throw a ball with me in the backyard.
The old line, “I had to walk a mile uphill in the snow to get to the school bus” was no joke during my childhood. Rain or shine, I walked past the creepy, “haunted” house, past the neighbor’s big, scary dogs, and up the hill to the school bus. West Virginia is hilly; there was literally an uphill walk both ways!
My mother didn’t coddle me. She raised me to be an independent thinker. I talked everything through with her as a child and teenager—I still do to this day. I have never doubted that she would tell me straight—for better or worse—because she loved me.
My parents also taught me how to work hard. They taught me that giving up was never an option, and that no matter the “wolves” you will face in life—as my dad frequently says, “There’s always something”—you must find the mandolin moments that get you through.
For my parents, that was often faith. For my grandfather Eugene, it was often also a glass of good Italian wine. For me, it’s enjoying my patio with my kids on a nice Spring weekend, along with all of the above.
In the past 10 years, I have founded and sold a 5-time Inc. 5000 company, published my first book, and started a lifestyle brand based on the legacy of my family and their stories. I’ve gotten to watch my fourth child join my business, in some capacity, even at the young age of 11! I’ve enjoyed traveling the world—particularly visiting Italy five times—and even had the opportunity to visit the Little Italy district in most of the United States’ major metropolitan areas. I’ve been able to trace my ancestry back several hundred years, and develop a relationship with cousins in the Old Country.
All of this has been possible because of the roots I have been fortunate to enjoy. My biggest hope in life is to continue passing down a legacy that extends far beyond my own time on this earth, just as my ancestors passed down over the centuries.No matter how humble your beginnings, you can overcome and achieve great things in life and business. Click To Tweet
I know that I am not the only success story in this great country of opportunity. No matter how humble your beginnings, with vision and perseverance you can overcome and achieve great things in life and business.
May we teach our children to appreciate their roots, and have the independence to develop their own. I’m grateful that my parents did this for me.
Brandon Vallorani is CEO of Vallorani Estates and the author of The Wolves and the Mandolin: Celebrating Life’s Privileges In A Harsh World with ForbesBooks. Learn more at valloraniestates.com.