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Lessons of Motherhood that Helped Me Create and Run a Company
Written by
She Writes
October 2019
Written by
She Writes
October 2019

Margery Kraus with Phyllis J. Piano recently released their book Roots and Wings: Ten Lessons of Motherhood that Helped Me Create and Run a Company. Whether you're just getting started with your writing career or you're deep in the thick of it, this book can help you wade through the ups and downs. Check out this excerpt on "Being Fearless" and pick up a copy for more inspiring insight. 


By Margery Kraus with Phyllis Piano


Lesson Three: Be Fearless

I often think of the quote from President John F. Kennedy when he made his inspiring speech about the US program to land a man on the moon, and I’ll paraphrase here: “We don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

It isn’t easy to achieve your dreams; it takes commitment and hard work, along with the courage to take risks.

I truly believe that being fearless starts early—back to roots and wings again—so I must go back in time to pinpoint moments of courage from my past. It might be a great exercise for you to think about the times you were fearless while facing challenges.

I do think that one must have confidence to be fearless.

Confidence, plus a sense of curiosity about the world—about different cultures and people who are different—certainly fed my desire to be fearless.

I remember one of the toughest times in my life in which courage and being fearless helped get me through—my parents’ divorce. I know there was a time when my parents were really in love. They were a beautiful couple. My mother was stunning and my dad a real ladies’ man. Although they were both born in Poland, their paths to the US were very different. My dad came as a young child and never knew another life than the one here. He was very American—no accent, a real sports fan, and, except for the war, not widely traveled.

My mother went from Poland to Cuba and grew up there and was much more Cuban in her formative years than either Polish or American. It sometimes was part of her charm. Her family was very close and often spoke only in Spanish, although they were all able to speak English. They were just more comfortable when they were all together, which is very common in immigrant families. I grew up learning kitchen Spanish—the Spanish you learn working with the women of the family in the kitchen. While I didn’t realize it at the time, I think it made me very comfortable around a broad variety of people.

My parents were both good parents – but different. They each influenced me in different ways. They were decent people with good values and generous to strangers. We were not affluent, but in our small town, we were solidly middle class. Memories of childhood were shaped by living in a small town where everyone knew each other, and my family was very well known because of our store. Certain behaviors were expected. We had a lot of independence but a lot of responsibility, which is probably the best lesson of all. Those two things are linked—responsibility and freedom. Perhaps this was my first attraction to roots and wings—a life philosophy that governed my own value system that I have now seen at work for my kids and my grandchildren, as well as my company.

# # #

Many connections that I and others at APCO Worldwide have developed started with me going up to total strangers. Many times, I’ve heard intriguing speakers and then approached him or her and asked if we could meet for coffee in DC to follow up. It all starts with one approach. If you can develop the courage—the fearlessness—to do this, it is truly amazing what you can achieve. I like to call it “calibrated persistence.”

When I think about it today and the tremendous network of friends and acquaintances I have made over the years, I reflect on how a small-town girl, the child of immigrants and someone with no connections, was able to build such a network. It is a reminder that courage and initiative can often substitute for other less controllable things that come from privilege and connections.

The reason I could be persistent was that I was confident (at least on the outside!), believed in what I was doing and what I was “selling,” and had the fundamental belief that people needed me and what my organization was offering. I also learned that it was important to present things in a clear way that communicated why what you were suggesting was good for the person you were trying to reach.

In terms of being fearless, sometimes you have to pick up the phone and make the first move in your career or life. You’ll get plenty of rejections, so steel yourself, but, oh, when you are able to accomplish your goals, do good, and perhaps build relationships that last a lifetime… well, rewarding doesn’t fully cover it. Be fearless, be confident, and don’t be afraid to fail, because that is exactly how you ultimately win personally and professionally. It is also an important life lesson for your kids and their success. Of course, you have to make sure they don’t equate fearlessness with acts of irresponsible action!

About the Author

Margery Kraus, founder and executive chairman of APCO Worldwide, a global consulting firm headquartered in Washington, DC, specializes in public affairs, communication, and business consulting for major multinationals. She is the author of numerous articles in the fields of public affairs management and corporate reputation; has been a guest lecturer throughout the world; and has received many prestigious awards. Kraus serves as a trustee of American University and sits on the advisory board of the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, is the Chair of Women’s Presidents Organization, and has served on the boards of various industry, professional associations, and corporations. She has been married to her husband, Steve, for more than fifty years, is a mother of three, and has nine grandchildren.

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