My grandmother always hoped I would grow up to be a genteel southern lady. What she got instead was a tomboy who loves camping and golf and shudders at the thought of putting on a skirt. But while I may not have followed my grandmother’s guidance on matters of femininity, my family’s advice on dealing with people and determining what is really important was invaluable.

My mother, in particular, taught me to be considerate in my dealings with others, yet firm in my convictions. She urged me to put integrity above all else. She encouraged me to appreciate and celebrate differences in people, and to value my own opinion on a par with anyone else’s. My mother’s words of wisdom—coupled with insights gained from my real world experiences have served me well during the highs and lows of my many and varied careers.

One of the most important things I have learned is to “take that leap.” I started my career in the legal profession and then moved to running a state lottery commission and directing a $12 billion state budget. Those first steps away from my legal “safety net” were the toughest—and scariest. I soon discovered that the successes and failures I experienced in each new position made the challenge that much easier the next time. When I was no longer afraid of change, I could embrace it as a way to make a positive difference for my employer and myself.

I also realized that I needed to get my priorities straight. As a young professional, my thoughts were on getting ahead. Over time I began to understand the importance of focusing on the success of the organization, rather than my personal triumphs. When I put the interest of the whole entity ahead of my own, we both ended up winning.

I have learned the importance of being myself and developing my own style. Each of us is unique, and it is important to tap into that inner self to feel fulfilled about what you do and who you are.

Finally, I have discovered that the best thing you can do for an organization or company is to surround yourself with people who are more talented than you. You do that by hiring good people and giving them opportunities to grow and succeed in their jobs. Helping others be wildly successful is a wonderful legacy—and one that I hope I can continue to build for many more years.