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Things I learned from my Nonna!

In Italy, they say…Natale coi tuoi, Pasqua dove vuoi. Put simply, it means you must spend Christmas with your family but Easter is up for grabs.

This Easter we hung around the house – hosted the inaugural Lambaliscious festival, complete with lamb themed dessert… (A WHOLE other blog) and on Saturday I went and hung out with my Nonna. My grandmother is 83 years young and one of my favourite people on the planet.

Pina Tognini arrived in Australia in the 50s with two young children in tow, to reunite the husband and father none of them had seen for the better part of a couple of years. My Nonno had fled post war Italy and come to Australia in search of a better life for his young family. He found it in Western Australia and saved up until he could bring his family here too. Theirs is a story which I hope to one day tell in full.  My Nonna and Nonno met as teenagers in their village – the village my family still calls home, about an hour north east of Lago di Como.  When World War 2 broke out, my grandfather, like so many other men of the Valtellina, joined the partigiani – the Italian resistance. But again…this must be a story for another day.

Back to my Nonna.

To say I have learned a lot from her over the years is like saying Margaret Thatcher leaned a little to the right. Like I said, I hope to one day tell her story in full but for now, here’s a taste of some of Nonna’s favourite sayings that have served me so well in life and in business..

1.You lie down with dogs, you start to bark.

Have a think about the people you do business with. You clients are a reflection on you and the kind of business you run.  Over the years, I’ve had to make some tough calls and let clients go. It’s never easy. But it’s easier than trying to partner long term with a client who doesn’t share your DNA.

2. Il tuo torno arriva

Your time will come….When I was a young, green as green reporter looking for a full time gig, my Nonna would encourage me with this phrase over and over again. Some things never change. Starting a business from scratch is a daunting thing to do. In the early days, there were many cups of tea in the kitchen of her Dianella (GREAT part of Italy) home.  There are no short cuts in life as in business, no silver bullets. Persistence is key.  Stay on course and your time will come.

3. There’s a lot to be said for perspective

I once asked my Nonna what was the first thing that she said to my Nonno when she got off the boat at Fremantle. It was “take me home.” At first, I thought she meant to take her home to Italy but she said, no, that Australia was, from that moment her home and she wanted to see where THEIR new home, her house was. It’s a powerful lesson in perspective. Her mind was made up, her course set. She spoke little English and her family were all on the other side of the world but she was looking forward, not back. This has always inspired me to do the same.

4. You gotta find your thing.

My Nonna worked for many years as the pastry chef at the (then) Home of Peace (now Brightwater) in Inglewood. She remembers seeing the job advertised and thinking “That’s MY job, that’s for me!” She loved people and she was an excellent cook. Her skills were greatly valued and she worked happily until her retirement. There is something absolutely priceless and powerful in finding your thing and working with that. Things I am weak at or not skilled in end up being delegated or outsourced. Like me, you will be way more effective and productive for your business doing what you are good at. Turning a weakness into strength, in my view is highly over rated. I chose to maximise my strengths and I won’t let me weaknesses be costly to either myself or the business.

My Nonna is getting on a little and her memory sometimes plays tricks on her. On Saturday, for example, she asked me if I still lived in Italy and who the nice blonde man in my life was. I reassured her that I definitely lived in Australia now and reacquainted her once again to Matt, my husband of 12 years.

But while these moments are becoming a little more frequent than they used to be, she’s still the same woman who would, when I most needed to hear them, speak those words of wisdom.  Feel free to make them your own.

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Gemma Tognini

Gemma Tognini

Business owner, communication specialist, some-time runner, ex journo, V8 ute driver, story teller and lover of shoes, WA’s Gemma Tognini is an often homesick half-Italian and passionate Collingwood tragic. She’s never far from a red notebook, where she jots down her plans, anxieties, business strategies, brilliant and ridiculous ideas alike. Now she’s flinging wide the pages for all to share. Welcome to The Red Book. Enjoy the read. Find out more at <a href="www.gtmedia.com.au">www.gtmedia.com.au</a> or follow her on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/gemmatognini">@gemmatognini</a>

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