Lessons To My Daughter

Stories are great teachers.

So before I forget the lesson-laced stories I've recounted to my kids over the years, I am making the effort to record them below.

They are in no particular order, but somehow they have value to me.

1. When traveling alone, make a mental note of great bathrooms. You never know when you may need to sleep in one.

A great bathroom is one with a floor-to-ceiling door that locks, usually found in an upscale hotel.

As a young, adventurous travel junkie, I had the opportunity to make a stop-over in Hong Kong for only $25. I did not realize that the summer Olympics in nearby Seoul, Korea would mean no available hotel rooms for less than $2500 a night. I was 19 and poor.

Let me tell you, it is awful to be stranded in a big city with no safe place to sleep. I ended up calling my father's tailor--some Hong Kong merchant who my dad had mentioned to me years earlier. Said he had ordered custom suits from him.

I swear, the dude had no idea who my dad was! But I called his store, and the man took me in. He took me to dinner at a fancy Chinese restaurant with his wife and other family members. I ended up staying in one of his guest houses-- with my own servant who made me ice cream sundaes and my own driver to boot!

Thank goodness, I did not need to sleep in a bathroom. But that experience taught me I must prepare my daughter. In case of emergency, I don't want her calling strangers for help.

So, God forbid, if Nicole finds herself stranded in NYC with no credit card or phone, she knows exactly where to find a safe place to sleep. I have walked her through these specific bathrooms several times through the years.

2. Dream big.

Another NYC lesson. I've taken Nicole to the Big Apple every year since she was 8. I would walk her through Times Square, hold her hand tightly, and ask if she could picture herself up on those giant billboards.
"Would you like to be in one of those big things one day? You can do it, Colie. What will you be doing on that big screen?" I'd ask.
She'd tell me about the cool Nike shoes she would be holding or wearing--or the awesome basketball clothes she'd like to model one day.

Nicole is now 20.  She is the sophomore captain of her University of Oklahoma basketball team. She trains every day and plays so, so hard. Last night at dinner, she told me she'd like to play in the WNBA so she can be a part of NBA All-Star Weekend, shoot with the guys in the 3-point contest, that she has had visions of the Nike ad campaign she wants to front.

Dream big, baby. See it. Picture it. Then go work your butt off to get there by being the best YOU can be.

3. Have a "mean girl" in your life? Get to know her story. Or cut your losses and leave.

Empathy is the great equalizer. It is hard to be jealous of or angry with someone who is struggling, hurting, or being treated unfairly. You will understand how to love mean girls (and boys) and overcome their ugliness when you seek out the "why" behind their actions.

With that said, mean girls can sometimes grow up to become mean women. When you encounter a mean women--and especially if she is in charge--one of you may have to leave. And unless God or karma intervenes first, it will likely be you. The nice girl.

This is extremely painful, and it may require that you leave something you absolutely love and/or people you adore. But unless mean girl gets fired or does something to completely tarnish her reputation, you may be absolutely stuck and suffer deeply and intensely trying to take the high road and tolerating the mean girl. This can possibly cause PTSD or other life-long, emotional effects. It's not worth it.

Yes, sometimes you need to cut your losses, take your ball, and go play on someone else's court. Give yourself a fresh start. A clean slate. Embrace a new leader or boss who believes in you and allows you to shine. Some of us, especially us nice girls, are emboldened, strengthened by and flourish with people who believe in us. Their faith in us makes us stronger. It's like new, romantic love: it makes you feel invincible. The sky becomes the limit. Our confidence soars through the roof. Success follows.

Remember, mean girls are usually jealous; some how, some way you make them feel inferior. Or perhaps you represent their unrealized goals and dreams. Or you've been given a greater gift or talent in an area they deeply desire and/or envy. So they choose to punish you for it, for as long as you choose to work with/for them.  

4. Exercise or die.

When your mom dies young, you understand that health is everything. Exercise continues to be the proven cure-all for so many illnesses and diseases. Plus, it makes you feel happy, strong, energetic, and physically confident, which helps you feel more beautiful. And every woman wants to feel beautiful.

5. Suck the most joy and adventure out of every day. Life is short.

Another lesson you learn when your mom dies young.  Seize your younger years when you are healthy and energetic and relatively unburdened by life and responsibilities.
Go for it all--now!

6. You don't regret the things you do; you regret the things you don't.

When a cool opportunity knocks on your door, take it. Try out for everything that comes your way. Take that trip. Audition for that play. Give that speech. Interview for that job.

Say yes to positive opportunity whenever possible. You will meet interesting people, expand your comfort zone, and amass yet another experience to prepare you for something else down the road.

7. Garbage in, garbage out.

The more garbage to which you expose yourself, the more will come out. Steer clear of explicit or evil  lyrics and movies--and mean people.

Thoughts become actions. So keep your thoughts pure and positive.

8. "Be careful little eyes what you see."

There's great meaning to the lyrics of this childhood song. I found myself repeating this phrase again to my daughter this week, as I dropped her off for her Junior year of college. I know the movies she's watching with her friends, films I intentionally chose to protect her from as long as I possibly could. I know the popular television shows her friends are watching.

Girls, make the choice NOT to watch the sexually, violent, or dark stuff. Turn it off, leave the room, go use the bathroom. What you expose yourself to will stick. You may remember those images for the rest of your life. They can instill deep fear within you or pollute your future romantic relationships.

Protect your heart and spirit, girls. Be careful little eyes what you see.  

8. Where there's a will, there's a way.

I threw an elegant, formal wedding in 30 days. So I forgot to book a band until the night before? No worries! I believed it would all work out. And did it did. Beautifully.

So your son wants to play guitar for the school-wide prayer service, even though he's only taken lessons for two months? Sure! Why not!

Your daughter want to go to homecoming even though she doesn't have a dress, a date, or a ticket--and it starts in two hours? Sure! Take her to Ross and buy a dress, get her eyes done at Ulta, and make her feel beautiful.

9. Don't underestimate good grooming and nice fabrics.

Keep your ears gunk-free, trimmed and plucked brows, no nose hair, white teeth--these things matter.  Nicole has always cared about these "little things," but the boys are just finally grasping it. John said yesterday that it's crazy what an advantage attractive people have in the work force. The most successful guys at his company are well-dressed, fit, well-groomed, with a great smile and swagger. He finds it hilarious. And it's life. 

You may have heard the phrase, "Dress for the job you want, not the one you have."   It's true, look the part. People will begin seeing you that way. More importantly, YOU will see YOURSELF that way. Men, buy the nicest suit you can afford. Shop the sales at Nordstrom Rack, Saks, Bloomingdales. You can score great deals on Armani suits. Then have everything tailored. 

10. Show love to everyone, especially those who don't fit in.

went to the smallest K-8th school on the planet. Some years we had fewer than 10 kids in the entire grade. So come middle school, if every single girl didn't go out for every single sport, we wouldn't have a team. (Which explains why we lost every single game in every single sport, with the exception of one volleyball match, all of my years there!)

I was by no means a great athlete. But I was never picked last. I always felt terrible for the two girls who were. Every day they were insulted, demoralized, and embarrassed by this process.

When I got into television, I realized there some sort of "validating power" that comes with it. Some people find it neat to meet or know you cause "you're on TV."

I've been cognizant of using this "power" for good. I've tried to teach my children to do the same: that especially when you're in the spotlight, which as athletes, they are--you must befriend the friendless and be particular kind to those who don't fit in.

I was given great comfort by a letter I just received this month, tucked inside the wedding invitation of one such special person. I met her during a church training. She was obese and very sickly--but she was my age. She was quite critical of just about everything and seemed to expect rejection from everyone. She tried to push us all away.

I took a little extra interest in her. I eventually invited her to Bible study. She decided to have gastric bypass surgery and started working out. We would say hello in fitness classes. She became an aunt to twins, so I visited her and her nieces on several occasions. I tried to always remember her birthday.

A few weeks ago, some 7 years since we first met, she invited me to her wedding. She included a hand-written letter with the invitation, which I happened to receive the very day she died of a heart-attack in her sleep.  

You never know how showing even a little bit of love, may change a person's life.

11. Change "oh gosh, i'm nervous." to "Oh great, i'm nervous!

Olympic gold swimmer medalist in 2012 Dana vollmer shared this in a recent speaking engagement. She talked about returning to the same pool where she had blown in years before. She realized embracing that nervous excitement and anxiety...is the key to winning. ALl of your synapses are firing. Your focus is intense. Your body is responding physically to the heightened emotion of the moment. Harness it , first, by changing your thoughts. 
Feel the nerves and label it a great thing. 
Embrace a winner's mentality!

12. Cure to Jealousy: Become the Best Version of Yourself

I address jealousy in almost every speech I give. It is an emotion we women seem to struggle with more often and severely than men--from the time we're little girls in grade school, to grown women in carpool lines and Bible studies. I say this with authority, because I personally don't handle jealousy well. It is the most toxic emotion to my mental and emotional health. So I do whatever I can to avoid it.

How, you might ask? My agent told me more than a decade ago, when I was feeling particularly stuck in my job, to "be the best Tracy I can be." As cheesy as it sounded at the time, it forced me to take a look at myself and ask the hard questions: Am I exercising as much as I should? Am I eating too much? Am I working at the top of my game? Am I feeling envious of others getting more opportunity than I, because I've gotten lazy and negative?

Sure enough, I was guilty in all of those categories.

I believe the more envious we feel is often a direct reflection of our own complacency or failure work toward our own goals and best self.

So the next time you feel a tinge of jealousy, get to the gym. Update your resume. Set a work goal of applying for a new job or promotion. Get your eyes done at the MAC counter. Open a travel or adventure fund at the bank and start putting away $20 per paycheck. Buy a new, trendy pair of dark denim jeans that make your butt look good.

Start taking steps to create the life, body, or career you want. The one you envy in others.



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