Late CEO's Letter to Children Has Advice We Can All Use

Woman writing letter with child


Working Mother
Joseph Barberio via Working Mother
It's safe to say that Brenda Barnes, the former CEO of Sara Lee and PepsiCo who passed away last week, left behind an admirable legacy in both the business world and as an inspiring working mom. In a letter to her children that has been published, her wisdom and maternal knowledge shine through as she shares advice on how to live life.
Barnes famously left her role at PepsiCo in 1997 to spend time with her young children, saying, “If I didn’t spend more time now, I would not have that opportunity.” She would later make a career comeback, eventually rising to become the CEO of Sara Lee from 2005 to 2010. She stepped down from Sara Lee after suffering a stroke.
On January 17, she died in Naperville, Illinois due to complications following a second stroke. But her ability to balance success in the business world with making time for her family won't soon be forgotten. Her daughter Erin remembers her mother with,, "She really was the perfect mom and was there for us for everything."
After her first stroke, Barnes penned a letter to her children Erin, Jeff and Brian simply titled, “Ten lessons from your momma.” The letter includes 10 universal rules on how to live your life that are sure to warm your heart and provide some food for thought. Here they are below, via the Wall Street Journal.
  1. Work hard and do good work.
  2. Value family. They will always be there for you. You may have tiffs, but work at keeping a healthy relationship.
  3. Be generous to family and friends; it will come back to you over your life.
  4. Be charitable. Through some form of luck/genetics/living in the U.S./etc., we have the opportunities and life that we do; others aren’t as blessed through no fault of their own.
  5. Don’t be arrogant. People can easily see it, and it is not attractive.
  6. Treat all levels of people with respect no matter what level you achieve (either in income or position). All levels will know their job better than you do. Expect a lot and they will give it to you if you are respectful and fair. Be tough, but never be mean.
  7. Be optimistic. Seeing the best in things and the best outcomes will usually make you happier and more pleasant to be around.
  8. Live life to the fullest (in a safe way). You never know what can change it or end it!  Enjoy the moment rather than dwelling on the past or future.
  9. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your emotions and energy are needed for the important stuff.

This article originally appeared on Working Mother.

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