After a long struggle with cancer, my father passed away when I was 16. His passing changed my life. I had hoped to go to medical school; instead I took a job at a local Safeway store to support myself. From this difficult personal experience I learned some important lessons that guide me to this day.

I came to understand that everything happens for a reason. You make the best with the hand you are dealt. My father taught me the value of hard work and commitment, two things that formed the foundation of who I would become as a wife, mother,and executive. Over time, I built on that foundation and forged my own expanded set of guiding philosophies—drawn from a mix of experience and common sense picked up along the way.

For example, an extension of my father’s work ethic is my eagerness to take on the unpopular or tough tasks. During my early retail days, nobody wanted to run the frozen food department in my store. It was cold, physical work, but I volunteered to take on the job in the dead of a frigid Iowa winter. The experience showed my boss that I wouldn’t shrink from tough assignments.

Five years ago, the company added labor relations to my already long list of responsibilities. We needed to restructure our labor contracts, a seemingly gargantuan feat. Yet I embraced the challenge. It was an important company initiative, and one of those rare opportunities to test my skills at the highest level. I have some bruises to show for it, but the progress we made was critical to our future and to our ability to remain competitive in a new, challenging retail environment.

Otherwise, I’ve always been a lifelong learner. I read alot. I have always looked for opportunities to build my knowledge base by learning from different sources. I surround myself with the best people who can teach me as much as I can teach them.

Finally, in his own way, my dad instructed me to exceed expectations at even the most mundane task. By extension, I’ve learned to seize opportunities to create better, smarter ways of doing things. Executives can increase their upward mobility by being creative and devising growth opportunities for their company. A great executive not only gets the job done, but also uses their skills as an innovator to go beyond the expectation. Some people call it “raising the bar.” My father would call it “stepping up to the plate and then knocking it out of the ballpark.”