Mo Anderson is a post depression era tenant farmers daughter from Oklahoma.  She went to school with dresses made from feed sacks and remembers when living “green” was using what you had over and over again and then turning it into something else to be used again.

Mo_AndersonShe’s as much a fire and brimstone preacher as she is businesswoman.   She tries to contain her spirit but finds herself off her chair passionately preaching and calling everyone she see’s Darlin’, which is her personal call sign that she’s about to straighten you out in a hurry.

She makes no bones about who she is; in fact, it’s likely she’s surer of what she stands for and how she sees the world than most of the rest of the world’s people combined.  Her beliefs and politics, her point of view and business sense… they are so jaded, so totally set, so absolute… when around her, you find yourself hesitant to disagree… not because she’d love you any less but because the extent of your conviction is so pale in compassion to this woman’s hell-bent certainty of nearly everything.  She’s even certain of what she’s not certain about and it turns out, this conveys a confidence that is seductive.

I suspect she’s convinced more than a few people to follow her to the moon.

You can’t help but believe every word she says, even in fact, when it goes against your long held beliefs.  That’s what happens when someone is so beautifully clear about what they stand for.

She’s a friend and a wife and a mom and a grandma.  She calls herself an old lady if she’s asking you to overlook her tendency to say whatever’s on her mind, but at 78 she suggests that she’s going to consider slowing down at 100 and she doesn’t need to prove herself, watching her for 10 minutes makes that perfectly clear.

At first glance you might think your talking to a run of the mill southern Grandma.  She looks like a grandma, she’s as southern as fried chicken and she loves Jesus with a fierceness that would humble any follower of Christ.  She is bold and outspoken about her religious beliefs and thinks it’s ridiculous to not place God at the center of everything… so she does.

What you miss by not getting to know her more is Mo’s ability to see the good in people.  I observe that she clearly see’s God in the people and she treats each person with that level of respect.  She lives by a moral code and playbook that has unwavering nobility.  It’s an accomplishment, no doubt, to live a life of designed intention and integrity, to establish core values and principles and then live and breath them in all your affairs… however Mo didn’t stop there.

At age 58, when normal people are beginning to fantasize about winding up their career, Mo began the job she describes as being “born to do” and took the helm of a small, quirky and struggling real estate company.   She infused the rank and file with a strong dose of all she stands for and in 10 years time turned Keller Williams Realty into what is now the largest real estate company in North America with an army of more than 100,000 agents who consider her the symbol of riotousness and nobility and an iconic legend who’s way of doing things became a manifesto for how to live and thrive in this world.

She has 10 core values she learned on the farm that she says for her are the essential ingredients to thrive in this life:

1)   Work Ethic:  living on a farm gets you focused in a hurry and poverty leaves no room for laziness.  What matters most becomes clear and if you don’t work hard you’re done for because nothing gets done on it’s own.  “Surrounded by farmers and people who work from sunrise to sunset, it’s impossible to not understand the reward of solid effort… the results show up every night on the kitchen table.”  If things come easy, do more things because easy is never the point.  “Get up, work like a dog.  That’s what pays off in the end.”

2)   Learn to dream:  “With your hands in the dirt all day and the chores the same day in and day out, dreaming is what pulls you thru.”   To dream is to believe more is possible and dreams give you a ray of hope in the darker hours.  If you don’t want more, what’s the point of things?  Allowing yourself to dream gives fuel to your inner fire and that will propel you farther than anything else.  “Make them big, wild, audacious, its ok… no matter what you’ll land much farther ahead than if you never tried in the first place.”

3) Generosity & benevolence: The thing about farmers is they give even when they don’t have enough.  “They have this common understanding that being generous and giving to others is the same as watering your own crops… without it your whole life withers up.”  People who give find far more joy and satisfaction and basic happiness than those who don’t and if you want to be successful and make allot of money, be generous because that makes you happy and everyone wants to do business with happy people.  You’ll soon discover that when you give, you are rewarded with intangible treasure that will sustain you in a way little else can.

4)   Thrifty :  “These days everyone’s all “green” and recycling things.. but they just don’t get it unless they went to school with a dress made with the old feed sacks from the farm.”  People work so hard to accumulate wealth but often end up blowing it consuming things they don’t need and not working with what they already have.  A path to real wealth is to not need very much and use what you have— farmers have no choice about things like this and as a result become some of the most creative people around.  An extra bonus; consuming less is the only hope for our planet.

5) Responsibility vs. Entitlement:  “no matter how bad things got, and they got bad, my dad said; we’ll do it on our own initiative”.   Being accountable, recognizing that to whom much is given, much is expected.. that’s how you really thrive.  People who feel entitled never make it very far…  to make it in this world you must show up and chop wood, carry water.  “a cow isn’t going to milk herself, just cause I don’t feel like I should have to do it on my birthday…”

6)   What God givith, god can takith away:  Being attached to things brings suffering.  Life will always bring a storm, some things will never go as planned and no matter what you’ve got, it can be gone in an instant.  “the house I dreamed of all my life and spent years building burned down days before we got to move in….  thankfully growing up on the farm I learned to value what I had and pick myself back up and carry on…. if you don’t, farm life will break you because things rarely go according to plan”.  Gratitude for what we’ve got, while we’ve got it is the best insurance policy ever written.

7)   Never never never give up:   We are not in charge of the universe, so to give up just because things don’t appear to go our way suggests we knew how things were supposed to go in the first place “and the farm taught me that’s just hogwash.  I learned when I fell down I had to give myself a few minutes for a good cry and then pull up my big girl pants and get back to work”…   When you live long enough you are afforded the opportunity to look back and realize that everything happens for a reason.  You can take that to the bank.

8)   Teamwork:  Nobody does teamwork better than farmers.   “When a coyote was spotted on a neighbors farm the phones would start a ringing and within minutes you’d see all the surrounding farmers pulling up with their pick up trucks and shot guns ready to lend a hand and work together to keep the chickens safe.  I saw the power of teamwork first hand and realized that when people work together, anything is possible”.

9)   Accept and love who I am:   “Darlin, let me tell you, A tenant farmers daughter is not the most popular kid in the school..  and a dress made from a feed sack did little to hide the poverty that was our reality… I had no choice but to love myself as I was and accept my reality because if I didn’t, nobody else was gonna do it for me…”.  Knowing who you are and accepting your strengths and weaknesses is the kingpin of skillsets on the road to success.   Authentic people who are comfortable in their skin own the world and success and happiness become inevitable.  It’s just a fact.

10)  Faith:  “I’m so thankful to the previous generations of farmers who gave my family the gift of faith because without it you’ve got absolutely nothing”…  People and companies who don’t stand for something rarely thrive.   Knowing who you are and what you believe is essential and a deep inner life is everything… we need not believe in the same things but believing in something and cultivating a strong spiritual life is really what defines success… when you let spirit lead the place, success always comes.   Start and end here, because this is all that matters in this life.

Work hard.  

Dream.  

Give.  

Reuse.  

Be responsible for yourself.  

Be grateful now because things change later.  

Never give up.  

Teamwork.   

Love yourself.  

Believe.   

These 10 values are neither universal nor complete.  They aren’t even necessarily right for you…core values are deeply personal.

What made these work for Mo was not the content, it was the awareness of them.  She consciously defined what matters to her and then designed her life to accurately reflect who she is.

When you do this, you become unstoppable.

Mo knows that her way isn’t “the way”… so after inspiring the world with her passion and wisdom, she boldly demands that you investigate your own life experiences and determine what shaped you and what matters to you and then she asks that you consciously decide what you stand for and how you want your life to look.

Then, nearly screaming from the stage Mo responds to a final question about dealing with difficulty:  “Grow where your planted.  Do you hear me?  Just GROW where your planted.  Quit your winning and deal with what life brings you and just work hard, tell the truth and everything will work out! G-R-O-W where your planted”

It works when you work it.

 

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