My Mom Went From Teacher to Trailblazer

How my mother overcame stereotypes and statistics to find success at work and at home

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Before having her first of three children, she never saw herself as a mom. She didn’t think she’d be nurturing enough.

Not only has she become a nurturing, loving mother, but she has broken the mold and found success as a woman in a heavily male-dominated industry.

She has pursued growth in every area of her life – her marriage, her career, her health – and her path continues to influence what I believe is possible for my future.

When I think of a woman who has pursued her passion, challenged herself to grow, and designed a life she loves, I think of my mom, Nancy Bryant.

I’m inspired by her example of what it means to be a strong, ambitious, tenacious, successful businesswoman, and wife and mother.

She is the middle child of five children and was born into a family that didn’t have much financially. She was quiet and a good student, but she always felt a bit out of place and misunderstood. She didn’t come from a place where she saw people set goals and follow their dreams.

My mom’s mom wanted to be an opera singer when she was younger, but she didn’t pursue that path because she had five kids to raise.

That left my mom without a model for how to be a career woman.

Blazing Her Own Trail

Fortunately, one of my mom’s high school guidance counselors saw something in her and said: “Nancy, you’re smart. You should go to college.”

With no financial support from her family, she applied to college and got in. She studied education because she had a heart for teaching. After graduating, she spent the first part of her career in the classroom, until she found her true calling in finance. She worked in banking and with stock brokers, and eventually found her way into wealth management.

When she was in her early thirties and newly married, my mom earned her M.B.A. and became a certified financial planner, while raising two young children. She and my dad hired babysitters to take care of us, so she could study.

My parents struggled in the early years of their marriage and briefly separated when I was about five years old. My brother and I moved out of the house and into an apartment with my mom.

My parents realized they didn’t know how to live with each other, but they couldn’t live without each other. I saw them invest in and work at their marriage relentlessly. When I was six years old, they had a renewal of their vows ceremony. I was the flower girl, and my brother was the ring bearer. I drew the program cover.

Watching them redeem their marriage when I was at such a formative age has shaped me and influenced my approach to marriage. Because of my mom’s example, I believed I could have a great marriage, too.

Her Tony Robbins Moment

About 15 years into her career, she felt a nudge to be brave and bold, to take a big risk.

She and my dad had just gotten back from a Tony Robbins seminar, and she was fired up. She had taken part in the infamous fire walk and felt inspired to dream big. My dad had been listening to Tony’s CDs for years, and he had been running his own business as a career coach and consultant for nearly 20 years at that point.

When they walked in the front door after the seminar, he told us, “Mom is going to start her own business!”

Within a few months, my mom left a stable and highly lucrative career working for a wealth management firm to launch her own financial planning practice. For the past 23 years, she has been the President of her own business, paving a successful and ambitious path in the male-dominated field of finance and investing. She’s earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues and carries herself with grace, kindness, humility, and confidence.

I was shocked to learn that, even today, less than 20% of all financial advisors are female.

My mom started doing this work over 30 years ago.

She’s a trailblazer.

I’ve seen my mother go after what she wanted. She taught me that I could be successful as a woman in business, that I didn’t have to apologize for being good at what I was doing, and that I could have an influential voice in a male-dominated field.

I sparked change and helped positively impact my industry.

My mom’s example inspired me to dream big dreams and to believe that I mattered, that my voice was needed, and that I could have an impact.

After a successful career in the male-dominated field of insurance for the past 13 years, I launched my own business last year. I’ve joined the family business of becoming an entrepreneur.

My mom is a supportive advocate of my work and was excited for me when I made the leap. A big part of what gave me the courage to step out on my own was influenced by what my mom has taught me about being fiscally responsible. Her financial guidance and advice throughout my life motivated me to start investing in my 401(k) as soon as I entered the workforce and to always live within my means. “Don’t spend what you don’t have.”

Without my mother’s path as a guide, I don’t know that I’d have the confidence and conviction to pursue my dreams the way I do. My work is about the importance of courageously using our voices to speak up, speak out and advocate for ourselves, our dreams, and to give voice to others. She has helped shape that and continues to inspire what I do and how I do it.

I believed that I could be a successful, female entrepreneur because I saw her do it, too. (I also hope I age as beautifully as she has!)

Breaking More Barriers

My mom’s ambition didn’t stop with her career.

Inspired by the example of my father, who has completed six Ironman triathlons (140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running), my mom started participating in triathlons in her mid-fifties.

At a time when many people use age as an excuse to slow down, my mom learned how to swim in her fifties and overcame a significant fear in the process. She has now participated in over a dozen triathlons, most recently attempting a half-Ironman triathlon last year at the age of 66.

She is healthier than most people half her age, and on any given Saturday morning, she can be found doing laps at a pool, running a few miles, or training on her bike.

She’s in better shape than I am… and I’m 30 years younger!

In the years since my parents renewed their marriage vows, they have taken that experience and now counsel and coach other couples who are struggling. They’ve gone through counseling and therapy and have taken what they’ve learned to help others.

My husband and I have been influenced by their journey. We have even co-led some coaching and teaching sessions with them, guiding couples how to connect and communicate more effectively and experience their own healing and growth. We have even traveled together to weekend-long marriage retreats with my parents.

We’re committed to leaving a legacy of strengthening marriages, starting with our own.

My mom is now the proud “Mimi” of four grandchildren, with another on the way. She’s devoted not only to her clients, as she continues to work full-time at the age of 67, but she also makes time for her family, her husband, her spiritual community, and her health and well-being.

The world is a better place because of my mom, and I’m grateful to be her daughter. She continues to inspire me to live a life of love, grace, and courage, to believe that anything is possible, and to passionately pursue my purpose.

She’s overcome stereotypes and statistics to get to where she is today.

Last year was her best year yet in her business.

She’s shown me what it looks like to be brave, to do things no one expects you to do, and to step into and embrace the fullness of who you are and go for it.

Thank you, mom.

I love you.

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