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3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from Langston Hughes “Mother to Son”

 Today we are examining Mother to Son by Langston Hughes and its 3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs. Poetry is a great way to learn lessons in a more relaxed way than traditional learning methods.


 Let’s start by checking out the poem.


Mother to Son by Langston Hughes      

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor


But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin‘ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So, boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps.

‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still 1goin‘, honey,

I’se still climbin‘,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

As stated above, this great poem has 3 lessons for entrepreneurs. These lessons are:  

  1. Sometimes life is hard. 
  2. There is always someone who sees you as a role model.
  3.  You can keep moving forward even if life is hard.


Sometimes life is hard is just one of the lessons for entrepreneurs in this poem.


Sometimes life is hard!

 In the poem, the mother tells her son that life is not always a smooth ride. The mother makes it clear to her son that life is hard sometimes. As I read the words, I see an old staircase. I see tacks, nails, and splintered wood. Sometimes, I even feel the need to massage my feet as I think about getting a horrible splinter that I have to dig out. This poem and the mother’s words are full of lessons for entrepreneurs.

I remember how scary it was to walk up the stairs in strange places when there was no good light. I remember being tired from the weight of the day and wanting to sit down in the middle of a flight of stairs, but not being able to sit down. I have lived this actual life. It feels as if I have walked these actual stairs and I know for a fact that life is hard some times.

Whether you think about the mother’s words as a metaphor for life or an actual accurate description, you will agree that she is describing life as a hard road. Not only is the staircase the mother is describing far from a smooth ride, but she also has to walk up it, she has to walk down it. She cannot skip the staircase because it is hard to walk up. No matter how much she might want to, she cannot avoid those steps. She has to take them. So, she puts on her big girl panties and gets moving.

It is important to understand and accept the fact that sometimes life is hard. When we ignore this fact, we live with unrealistic activities and do not prepare ourselves for the hard times that are to come. Entrepreneurs need to understand that some days their businesses will be a dream come true. Everything will work well. Employees will do their jobs with good attitudes and excellent productivity. Customers will sing praises from the rooftops.

At the same time, sometimes things will go horribly wrong. Employees will have bad attitudes and do things that cost the business money it cannot afford to pay. Customers will complain unjustly and post untrue horror stories on social media.

When an entrepreneur walks into work each day, she has no idea what she will be facing. However, if she understands that sometimes life will be hard and she is prepared to handle hard days, life will be better than had she not prepared in advance. I always advise my clients, “don’t get ready, stay ready.” This is an excellent idea for entrepreneurs. Create a plan to deal with bad days, bad employees, and bad customers before you need it. That way when the hard days, the bad days come, you will be ready for what you have to face.

There is always someone who sees you as a role model, another of the lessons found in this poem.


In the poem, the mother is modeling resilience, perseverance, and determination. There was no formal declaration, but that mother, like so many mothers, was a role model. She was a role model for her son. As a mother, it is her job to take her son from birth to adulthood. Along the way, she must do all she can to help him be strong and self-sufficient. In order to do that, he must do as his mother did. He must make his way in the world even when he cannot see what is coming next. He must keep going even when things are hard to do. His mother has shown him the way so there is no reason for him to miss the mark.

Additionally, she was a role model for other members of her family, the world at large, and people whom she did not know were watching her. One of the most amazing things for many entrepreneurs is the number of people watching them. Of course, they think their competitors are watching them. Customers are watching. At the same time, there are people watching who will never purchase the entrepreneur’s goods and services. People who travel past the entrepreneur’s place of business on their daily walk through life are watching. There are others who follow the entrepreneur on social media and never see the entrepreneur in person, but nonetheless, watch her every move with extreme interest.

As entrepreneurs, we are role models. We are role models for other entrepreneurs. We are role models for those who want to become entrepreneurs. Interestingly, we are also role models for people who have no desire to operate businesses of their own. We are also role models for people the world over who have dreams of their own they want to pursue. This is an awesome responsibility. Because we are role models, we must operate our businesses to the best of our abilities. We must never take for granted our role model status. After all, to whom much is given, much is required. The fact that entrepreneurs are role models, even if unknowingly, is just one of this poem’s lessons for entrepreneurs.


If  you want to read more about succeeding as an entrepreneur, check out:


Be Thankful for Your Business – It Provides Jobs — Even if you a solo operation with no employees, your business decisions matter far and beyond your business. Click here to read more. 


 Customer Service Matters, So Make Yours Excellent – Customers help make your business go around so treat them right! Click here to read more.


Also, check out our Confidence Tip of the Day YouTube channel for hundreds of videos on creating the confidence you need to succeed.



You can keep moving forward even if life is hard the third of the lessons for entrepreneurs in this poem.


You can keep moving forward even if life is hard.


We have all heard the expression that there is a time for everything. As entrepreneurs, we must understand that sometimes the time when something must be done is a time when it is hard for us to do it. The fact that a thing is hard really doesn’t matter. We must do, whatever it is that we must do. When things are hard you must find a way to push forward and get things done. You cannot always wait for the easy road, the easy time, or the easy method.

I have a few tried ad true methods for getting things done when they are hard or scary. The first one, I call the “Lost” method.  The second I call the best/worst method.  The “Lost” method comes from the old television show , “Lost.” In the first episode of that show, a surgeon talks about his first spinal surgery. During the surgery, he made a mistake and cut where he shouldn’t have and potentially rendered a woman paralyzed for life. He gave himself five seconds to panic. Once the five seconds were up, he had to get back to work and save the woman’s life and future mobility. Things turned out perfectly for the patient as they often do on television. So, whenever I am overwhelmed, scared, or unable to easily push forward I give it five seconds. I let myself be truly scared, overwhelmed, or unable to push forward for 5 seconds, and five seconds only. Once those `five seconds are up, I move. I do something.

Sometimes life is so hard that I have to repeat that five second method every few minutes. When those situations arise, I do the five second method as many times as I need to in order to get done what needs doing. There have been times in my life where I had to do the five second method 10 times in an hour. However, as time passed, and I continued to move, it became once an hour, then once a day, and once. Month. Eventually, the time came when I did not have to use the five second method for that situation anymore.

The other method I use for getting through hard times is the best/worst method. To use this method I figure out what is the best possible outcome in a situation. Next, I figure out the worst possible outcome. I have learned that once I can understand the best and worst case scenarios in a situation I can handle whatever comes my way.

Lessons for Entrepreneurs from Langston Hughes

There are times that are hard and even dangerous. Even with that being the case, she tells her son that all her life she has kept moving forward, walking over torn up carpet and nails sticking up to trip her as she traveled.

Take a moment now to reflect on these lessons. How can you put them into play in your business? Be sure to share your ideas in the comment section. You may help someone find a breakthrough.

This has been my favorite poem since I was ten years old. It has stood the test of time in my life. As a child, I identified with the mother in the poem. I saw myself climbing stairs, overcoming obstacles, and reaching my goals. As a young wife, I saw the mother as a partner and the son as my husband as I encouraged him to reach is goals and I followed him to achieve his dreams. Now, as a mother of four children, I see myself as the mother again. I push my children to move forward to keep going and to take action now to achieve their goals and to always expect victory.

As an entrepreneur, I look at this poem and I see all the lessons it has for entrepreneurs. I know that sometimes life is hard, but my business will survive. I know that there are always people looking at me as a role model and that obligates me to be a good and ethical entrepreneur. I know that no matter how hard life gets, my business and I can keep moving forward. So, the question for you this magnificent day is what lessons have you learned from the staircase in this poem?

22 thoughts on “3 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from Langston Hughes “Mother to Son””
  1. I hadn’t read his work in so long. I took a lot of English classes in college so I remember him!

  2. Lovely poem – so true. Thanks for sharing – I am looking forward to the month of poems.

  3. That’s a wonderful one to share. I love that you’ve had it as a fave for so long!

  4. I remember reading a lot of Hughes in High School or college! I should have revisited his writing a long time ago.

  5. Langston Hughes is one of my favorites too! Can’t wait to read more!

  6. Beautiful poem. I have never heard of this author before. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I love this and Langston Hughes is one of my favorite poets of all time. I’m waiting to birth a baby boy so that I can name him Langston. Yay for Black History Month!

  8. This Langston Hughes poem describes my grandparent’s experience perfectly. It’s so poignant. I can’t wait to share it with my teen daughter.

  9. I LOVE this! I teach this poem to my 8th graders. It’s not in our new textbook (they included “Harlem Night Song” instead), but I think it is one of his most powerful. He was such a voice of the African American community during his time, and he still speaks so much to young and old people of all backgrounds and races today.

  10. Langston is one of my favorite poets. Though he’s not that popular in the Caribbean I still know of his works. Great Choice

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