Looking Back: Life Lessons From a Nun

By Georges Levesque

You read that right. I am the son of a nun. To be precise: an ex-nun. My mom was a member of the Roman Catholic Sisters of Wisdom in Edmundston, Canada, from the age of 18 to 26. After she left, my mom continued to teach, met my dad, had three kids, moved 11 times and welcomed the ultimate gift of seven grandchildren. All the while, her experiences and values as a nun guided her on her journey. And in many ways, those values are the same ones that drive me in business and life. Here are three of the biggest lessons my mom imparted through her experiences:

Moving On is Not Quitting

Even after you make a commitment, it’s OK to move on if it’s no longer fun or valuable. Moving on is not quitting. It’s moving on. My mom left the convent despite staggering social and family pressures to stay. She didn’t quit her beliefs, on her family or on the time that she had invested. She simply moved on. In business, transitioning to a better situation is often seen as quitting, so we keep going with the notion that we can’t give up despite disliking what we’re doing or it being a financial boon. We’ve simply invested too much time and money, and we begin to forget why we started in the first place. If your business is fun and you love it, keep going, otherwise look for something else. My mom’s journey taught me that you’re only alive for a few brief decades— why burn them by sticking with something that makes you unhappy?

Your Past Does Not Define You

When my mom left the convent, she became just the second person in Canadian history to do so without being excommunicated. She never looked back, held her head high and returned to the classroom (this time without the penguin outfit). There were no pictures of her as a nun hanging in the house, no annual retreats with ex-nuns and no regrets. It’s not that she was hiding that part of her life; her new life was her identity. How many times as entrepreneurs do we let our blemished past affect our unspoiled future? Sure, I lost a lot of money in 2000 with my grossly mismanaged company, but do I need to carry that burden forever? I can choose to focus on words like “waste,” “loss” or “fail”… or I can choose to focus on words like “learning,” “preparation” and “opportunity,” just like my mom did when she transitioned to a new life. It’s time to let go of the guilt— the past is the past!

“Nice” Does Not Mean “Weak”

My mother is the nicest human being on the planet, but if she feels like you’re trying to take advantage of her, she’ll step up big against you (a lesson she learned during her days as a nun). This approach helped her achieve success at home and at work, and it taught me the importance of measured action. When I started out as an entrepreneur, I operated under the concept of cutthroat business. I wanted to prove to myself, my staff and my clients that I was determined to make a difference— at all costs. But a few missteps early on reminded me that you can get to the goal line faster by being strategically agreeable, and that it doesn’t mean you’re weak if you make positivity a pattern. Watching how my mom engaged other nuns and the students she taught offered me a valuable lesson that I was able to apply later in life: A balanced approach creates far more results, personally and professionally.

Often as entrepreneurs, we look for guidance and direction from business books, learning events, organizations like EO and our peers. In my years of being a business owner, I’ve discovered that inspiration—and support—can come from the most unexpected of places. In my case, my mom’s remarkable journey as a nun, teacher and mother served as a compass for me, and continues to play an important role in the direction of my business. I’m thankful for her incredible experiences, and continue to marvel at how they shape my own journey.

Georges Levesque is the founder and president of GAL Consultants and The Levesque Group. Fun fact: Even though he didn’t board an airplane until he was 15, Georges has traveled to every Canadian province and U.S. state, as well as 83 countries. Contact Georges at georges.levesque@levesquegroup.com.

This story was originally printed in the March 2014 issue of Octane magazine.

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