Get Your Fingernails Dirty

by Linda Sanford
IBM Senior Vice President, Enterprise Transformation

Linda Sanford

Linda Sanford

Dear Linda,
You cannot imagine the life ahead of you. It will be full, I can assure you – but live and love life to the fullest right now … the happy memories you are creating you will cherish forever. The lessons you are learning working on your grandparents’ farm will also stay with you – so take ‘em to heart!
You know all those times your Grandfather tells you “get your fingernails dirty” when you’re pulling weeds or pulling shallots … you have to dig into the dirt to get to the root of things. You will find that principle holds true in every job you will have later in life. You have to dig into the details – you will have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands and fingernails dirty to do the best job.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. In fact, you will encounter some real messes, just like you have on the farm … like that time Laura insisted she drive the tractor back hauling a flat bed full of bushels and bushels of shallots … and there were those railroad tracks that ran through the heart of the farm and somehow Laura managed to turn over the flatbed trailer smack-dab in the middle of the railroad tracks – scattering shallots everywhere. You remember how all five of us sisters scrambled to get the shallots picked up before the next train came, or even worse, our grandfather? That just shows how working as a team you can accomplish anything – and find solutions in a tricky situation.
Listen to Mom and Dad when they tell you that you’re good in math and should pursue it. And, by the way, you’re learning some practical business skills operating that vegetable stand … figuring out what to throw in for free with each bag of shallots at the end of the day to clear out the inventory, for example … this is going to help you if you ever have to make a sales number at the end of the quarter some day in the business world.
You know those days in the summer … those days when work hard all day on the farm in the hot sun … and then the day finally ends … and you and your sisters walk down the path and across the street to the Peconic Bay and kick off your shoes and jump in and swim ‘til dark … those really are special days – enjoy them with all your heart. You are lucky to be part of a wonderful, close family and they will provide the ties that bind through all the years ahead.
You have great parents and grandparents … I know you know this, but don’t ever take that for granted. Lots of kids aren’t so lucky … and enjoy all the time you are spending with them now … one day, they will not be there and you will wish you could talk with them and listen to their advice. So listen to it now – when you can!
One final thought: in life, not all doors will be open for you – you might encounter some resistance as the “first female this” or the “first female that” … don’t be discouraged … if the door is locked, find the key. If you can’t find the key, push open the door!

With love and the wisdom of retrospection,

(PS: Don’t worry – one day, you will be taller than 4’11’’ – maybe not that tall, but tall enough to see over the dashboard!)

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