The Secret to My Success

UPDATED: April 7, 2009
PUBLISHED: April 7, 2009

Forget what Hillary Clinton just said or did. Who
is she to me? And while I’m grateful for the likes
of Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa,
Madeleine Albright and even Oprah, they’re not
responsible for who I am today.

There is only one woman responsible for my success:
my mom.

Don’t misunderstand me—I have issues with my mother like
you do—but I’m smart enough to realize that what she taught
me when I was young has been imprinted in my brain and has
positioned me for the success I have today.

My mom taught me that life and dinner
don’t require a recipe. She cooked the
most complicated meals. But she rarely
cooked from a recipe. It was more like
watching free-form jazz. She taught me
to improvise, add ingredients by taste, to
make mistakes. It’s no wonder my media
business has grown at breakneck speed;
I’m not following someone else’s recipe.

saw firsthand that competitiveness and likeability work beautifully together."

In her 30s, she had nerves of steel as
a big hitter on the ladies’ softball team,
but it was her post-game that really stood
out—holding court, cracking jokes and
making friends over pitchers of beer with the opposing team.
I saw firsthand that competitiveness and likeability work
beautifully together.

When I was in ninth grade, my mom decided she wanted
something more than being a mother and a wife. She
wanted something for herself. She wanted to start her
own business. She conspired with her best friend, Suzy,
and they decided to open a gourmet kitchen retail store.
But how?

She’d get a loan. It couldn’t be that difficult. We
lived in a small town. Both she and my dad had
been with the same bank all their lives. I remember
this because it was a summer day and I was there.
I tagged along out of boredom and for the free
Tootsie Pop I wasn’t embarrassed to ask for.

It happened in slow motion. The bank
manager was nice enough about it: “Have
your husband call me if he has any questions.”

“Why would my husband have questions? It’s my loan.”

“Well, I can’t give you a loan unless he co-signs.”

The air left the room. I looked at my mom. Her face changed.
Somebody dropped something. My stomach started to hurt.

She was very cordial: “I see. Can you do me a favor? I’m
running errands with my daughter this morning, so I’d appreciate
it if you’d quickly pull together all the paperwork I need
to close out all my accounts—mine and my husband’s, his
business, our mortgage, our credit cards, the car loans, the
brokerage account. Every one of them.”

He gave my mom her loan. I was so impressed. I incorporated
that day into my DNA.

If I want something, I ask for it. If there is something or
someone in my way, I figure out how to get around it. It’s really
that simple. It’s not about getting angry. It’s about getting what
you want, being competitive as hell, but extremely likeable.

I learned it in the ninth grade from my mom and it was
burned into my psyche. You can learn it today.

Where did my mom get it from? Her mother, of course. My
grandmother’s a cattle farmer. She still runs the family business
in upstate New York. She’s 84.

Want to know why you are who you are? Look no further
than the most influential woman in your life—your mom. You
should thank her for everything she taught you. While
you’re doing that, remember
that everything you say and do
provides lessons for your own
children. You are influential,
too. Make sure your influence
is positive.

Mel Robbins is a nationally
syndicated radio talk show
host, CNBC contributor,
spokesperson for Microsoft
and serial entrepreneur.

Read Mel’s weekly SUCCESS blog.


Mel Robbins is a contributing editor to SUCCESS magazine, best-selling author, CNN commentator, creator of the “5 Second Rule” and the busiest female motivational speaker in the world. To find out more, visit her website: To follow her on Twitter: