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Three Key Things I Learned From My Mother

by Diane Kovanda

Sitting in a café with my friends I asked this quest, “I’m writing a story about three things my mom taught me about work ethics. What did your mom teach you?”

Before I knew it, much of the café was a buzz about their mother’s wisdom. Not only did it bring nostalgia to the group remembering what they’d learned from their mother regarding work ethics, it also brought up the importance of a moral compass in the work force.

Here are a few spontaneous comments from my friends at the café.

“Always have a good handshake.” Coby

“Look at the positivity in life. Whenever a door closes; a window opens.” Sue Rae

“Follow your passion! Get a career, not a man. When you’re in pain, go help someone else.” Jurian

What I learned from my mom, Jamila, was not so much what she said to me, but what I observed from her throughout my life. Her way of being is really what inspired me to be the determined, ethical and successful business person I am today.

Here are three things Jamila taught me that I take into my own life:

1. You are never too old to change careers or start your own business.

My mother had worked for a publisher in her home country of Czech Republic. When she arrived on Cape Cod there weren’t any big city jobs available so she did odd jobs to make a living.

She would tell me, “Do what you want to do for work, as long as your heart is happy, the money is secondary. Of course, while going out and getting the work of your heart’s desire, you better do something to support yourself.”

This meant that nothing is beneath you because your pride and self-worth aren’t really wrapped up in the work you are doing.

Jamila demonstrated that you can change your career at 55, and be an aesthetician at 72 if you felt like it.

She had been working in retail but her true interest was in wellness, health and healing. She applied for work as a receptionist in a chiropractor's office. She then went to school to learn Shiatsu, a Japanese form of acupressure.

At 53 she studied to become an aesthetician. Her favorite thing in school was shaping eyebrows. She was the oldest student, attending school with people in their early twenties. Her teachers appreciated her willingness to take her education seriously.

Jamila wanted to pursue the wellness interests she had been raised with. Her father was an herbalist, her mother a gardener who grew herbs in their small garden at home.

Her mother would give her homegrown chamomile tea to help her sleep at night, ginger root to aid digestion, plantain leaves to help with swelling from a bee sting, peppermint tea to clear the mind and refresh the body, and St. John’s Wort in olive oil for massage to relax.

Jamila researched all kinds of natural beauty products and found that many things on the market contained harmful chemicals, preservatives, and other unnecessary additives and fillers. She became committed to using only natural ingredients in her facial treatments.

After working at a local beauty salon for many years, with her own substantial following of clients, the owner wanted to give Jamila’s business to a younger employee. Jamila was inspired to strike out on her own, at 61, so she opened her own Natural Beauty business in Osterville, where no one could tell her what age was appropriate to be an aesthetician.

Jamila had once again listened to her inner voice, “Get the hell out when it’s not working for you.” Just as she had left the Czech Republic after recognizing the government was becoming an ogre, she also didn’t tolerate disrespect from an undermining boss.

With this inspiration from my mom, I continue the family interest in health and wellness, expressing it through teaching yoga and mindfulness, and also running my own Kind Yoga school.

2. In the realm of your work, be overly responsible and dependable.

Growing up with Jamila as a mom, it wasn’t an option to ever be late to anything. I was brought early to appointments, set off early to the bus stop, and went early to bed.

Jamila has a full schedule of clients all week, arriving to work a half hour before her first appointment. The way I incorporated this “mom lesson” into my own life is to follow through in every facet of my own business regarding my commitments. People who know me, know they can depend on me.

3. Take good care of yourself.

Even though her work is consistently busy, Jamila makes sure she recharges her batteries by taking time for herself. A great appreciator of nature, she feeds wild birds, loves to garden, and gets outside every minute she can.

Jamila takes walks every day with her dogs, Lucky and Willow, her two “personal trainers.” Both are rescue dogs from shelters. She says it works both ways in that she gives them a great home to live in, and they give her lots of love and exercise.

She also practices yoga and finds that it brings balance to her life. She has been practicing yoga for many years. Perhaps this is why I was honored to have my mother as a student in my yoga teacher training program. She says she will start teaching yoga at 90, right now she is too busy.

Kind Yoga Teacher Training

508 -776-1990

Diane and Jamila

One of my favorite quotes from my mother is this, “You need to take life seriously but not too seriously. A sense of humor is essential.”

My mother and I still talk every day. We take walks on the beach and in the woods. We talk about business, we talk about life. We laugh a lot. This laughter tends to save my sanity in running my own business. My mother has taught me to laugh at myself and not take myself, or life, too seriously.

Photographs courtesy of Diane Kovanda

Diane Kovanda

Diane Kovanda, M.Ed, is the Director of Kind Yoga Teacher Training

She is also the co-founder of The Calm Warrior Training Inc., which provides criminal justice professionals with stress reduction and decompression tactics. For more information visit

Diane is also the co-Founder of Cape Cod Yoga Association.