3 Pieces of Advice I Got From My Mom That I Use Everyday.

Mom gives the best advice.

I wasn’t so sure about that when I was a teenager, but boy am I now.

So, in pre-celebration of Mother’s Day (It’s this Sunday – in case you haven’t ordered your gift yet!) I thought I’d thank my mom by sharing three pieces of advice she gave me that I use every day.

Here they are:

 1.  “Don’t ever use that word!” 

She snapped at me so fast, you would have thought I say the eff word in church. But what I said to her back in my early 20s wasn’t even a cuss. It was this . . .

“But Mom, I deserve . . . “

“Deserve,” she said. “Oh no. I won’t let you say that. You don’t deserve anything.  You work hard.  You work long.  And you receive. If you’re not happy with where you are, do something to change it.  But don’t just sit back and think you deserve anything just because.”

It’s easy to get to that place in this business.  Because you can work your tail off and still not be where you want to be.  But thinking that you deserve something over other people is not going to help. In fact, it’ll put you in that bitter camp of people who go backward rather than forward.

I’m so thankful my Mom set me straight that day. And her verbal slap in the face is what I remember on the tough days when I’m super frustrated that something isn’t further along.

Eliminate “deserve” from your vocabulary and you’ll find yourself getting further, and you’ll be happier throughout the process.

2. “Finding out what you want to do is like that SAT course you took.” 
On another day in my early 20s, I called her almost in tears, because I knew I was about to get fired from a job. (I walked in on my supervisor interviewing a potential replacement.) It was ok, I hated the job. And I wanted to quit anyway.

“So what’s the problem,” Mom said.

“But Mom, I’m 22 years old . . . I’ve worked in at least 10 different jobs in this business.  And I don’t know what I want to do!”

And that’s when she truth bombed me.

“Kenneth, it’s ok. First, you’re only 22. Second, with every job you do that you don’t like, you get closer to the one that you DO!”

In other words, finding the right career path is like the trick they taught me at The Princeton Review SAT Course.  Finding the right answer is about eliminating the wrong ones.

I settled into a job that I loved about three months later.

And lastly . . .

3.  “Come on, Kenneth, you’re auditioning for this show.” 
This wasn’t so much a piece of advice, as it was an order. I was only five, so that’s all I really knew. But for some reason, maybe it was because I was an only child.  Maybe it was because my parents were recently divorced. Maybe it was because they were both involved in the local theater, so it was a place we could still be a family.

Whatever the reason, my mother dragged me to an audition for The Steadfast Tin Soldier when I was five, and my life was forever changed.

Because I not only got to spend time with both my mom and dad, but I also met the family that I will spend the rest of my life with: theatermakers.

Mom, you’re the best.  And I thank you for every piece of advice you ever gave.  Even the stuff that I said was crazy at the time.

Happy Mother’s Day and please . . . keep telling me what to do.  Because I owe so much of who I am to you.

How do you honor your mom? Drop a comment here and let me know!

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.