This past Sunday, my husband’s grandmother passed away at the ripe old age of 102. Grandma T, as we fondly called her, lived a long and vibrant life. As a result, she leaves behind an incredible legacy of love, laughter, and learning. Here are some of the life lessons learned from my favorite centenarian.

Life Lessons Learned: Save It For Later

Life lessons learned jam-packed freezer

Grandma T had the most jam-packed freezer I have ever seen. She kept everything in there, sometimes well beyond the expiration date. Like we’re talking years beyond! Whenever she ate out, she would always be sure to ask for a “doggie bag.” There were a couple of times she packed up the remains of my meal too.

At first glance, you might write off this behavior as evidence she was either poor or cheap. Neither was true. It was more a result of growing up during The Depression. She was the complete opposite of the current generations of entitled folks. Grandma T knew what it was like to go without, which is why she never took anything for granted.

As entrepreneurs, I often see my clients and myself exhibiting the same behavior as Grandma T. We look at all the great information available to help us better market our business. We’re appreciative of all the free content available to consume. Free webinars, blog posts, online courses, videos, and more. Anything we need to learn is one Google Search away.

Like Grandma T, I often find myself packing away “doggie bags” of information to consume later. I like to store my online information goodies in, my favorite internet bookmarking tool.

Life Lessons Learned: Reach For the Top

Life lessons learned reaching for the top of the tree

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Grandma T spent more than half of her life in Mesa, AZ. One thing that she loved about living in the Southwest was growing citrus. A ton of citrus adorned her property. Whenever we would go to visit, the first thing she would ask us to do was to go out and pick her oranges. Grandma T would always oversee this, acting like a taskmaster. Being city slickers, we would always reach for the low hanging fruit.

Grandma T never tolerated slackers. She would bark at us to get back outside and pick the oranges at the top of the tree. To get the job done, she’d hand us a fruit picker extension, which allowed us to reach for the top.

As small business professionals, it’s easy to shy away from goals that make us stretch and grow. Instead, it’s much easier to set our sights on the goals that are easy to reach. Yet, if we look around for the right tools that help us extend our reach, we can get to the top after all.

Grandma T always believed the fruit gleaned from the top of the tree tasted better. Isn’t it the same with our goals? When we achieve those really big wins it seems so much sweeter.

Life Lessons Learned: Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up


Life lessons learned speaking up at the bar mitzvah

Grandma T was a strong and vibrant character. She also had a lot of chutzpah. I remember when she traveled up to Utah for my son’s Bar Mitzvah. She had prepared a little speech to read during the service. Unfortunately, even though she was listed on the program, the rabbi forgot to call on her. Big mistake.

Immediately after the service, as everyone was leaving, Grandma T hopped up and had a word with the rabbi. She then insisted he get everyone back in their seats. Which he promptly did. Grandma T then walked to the front of the room and gave a lovely speech in honor of her great grandson. The rabbi later confided he’d never met anyone as commanding as Grandma T. This from a man that had served in the Israeli army.

Grandma T was never afraid to speak up. She figured that if she had something to say, then it was our job to listen. Boy, how many of us could use a big dose of that? I don’t know how many times I have been at a business event and felt self-conscious about speaking up. After watching Grandma T assert herself, I became much more courageous about speaking up.

As business professionals, we may need to tell our clients things they might not want to hear. We must not be afraid of speaking up. Even when it seems that your turn is over, and nobody seems to be listening, empower yourself to speak up anyway.

Unlike Grandma T, most of us will probably not live to 102. It is a rarity to live to see your 100th birthday. I think the people who do live that long, must do so because they have grit. Maybe that inner grit flags them for longevity.

I am honored to have known Lillian Tannenholz (aka Grandma T), for the past 25+ years. I will always be grateful for the life lessons learned from her. May her memory be a blessing.

Lillian Tannenholz at 100 years old

Lillian Tannenholz

December 10, 1915 – June 17, 2018

Launch4Life - Gillian Whitney

By Gillian Whitney

Communications Consultant