I have shared advice from beauty, fashion, and etiquette books, but never from a novel. “Mildred Pierce” written by James M. Cain in 1941 is about a strong woman named Mildred and her road to success and eventually failure during the depression era in Glendale, CA. Mildred has many faults but she was also very smart and determined and I think we can learn from both her mistakes and accomplishments. This book is a super interesting read, with tons of drama as well as a historical insight into the life of a single mother in the 1930s.
1. Sometimes you have to suck up your pride and start from the bottom. Waitressing was Mildred’s last resort, in a desperate moment she decided to put on the apron and serve others. She didn’t realize it at the time, but that one desperate moment was the start of her successful career. There is no shame in taking an entry-level job if you have goals and aspirations and the willingness to learn from others.
2. When starting a new business, keep things simple. Mildred’s restaurant was so successful because she had an extremely simple menu and she didn’t take on too much at once. Sometimes when imagining a future goal we can get a little in over our heads, imagination and dreams are a good thing, trying to accomplish every single goal you’ve ever had will lead to an overwhelming failure.
3. Spontaneity isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes fleeing town with a guy you just met can lead to an entire lifetime of bad choices. Use your head, don’t use “yolo” as an excuse to make rash decisions. Every action has its consequences.
4. If you want to win a man over, cook him a homemade meal. Mildred’s legs and amazing cooking skills got her far in life. And remember, if you cook him dinner at your home, then you have all the power and you owe him nothing.
5. Do not let a man (or anyone for that matter) use you for money. Lending money is a recipe for disaster, you will develop resentment, and end up broke.
6. Know when to let a man go for good, and also know when to let a man back into your life. If Mildred had never married Monty then she wouldn’t have had the heartbreak of watching her daughter steal her man, Bert was the right man all along, it just took them both many years to realize it.
7. It doesn’t matter how poor you are or how screwed up your life is. Hard work and diligence will always lead to a road of success. Mildred was a single mother without a job, but she built a wonderful life for her family, they just didn’t appreciate it…
8. It’s okay to disown your family. Veda was an awful child and Mildred should have cut her off long before she did. Sometimes no amount of love or giving can make a person love you back. Just because you share the same blood as someone does not mean you owe them your life.
9. Be frugal. Pay off your debts, and do not pull money from your company if you cannot afford it. Mildred would have been a very rich woman in the end if she had just been smarter with her money.
10. Hone in on your skills and passions. You may think that because you don’t have a proper education or because you’re a little older that you have no use in the world. But everyone is good at something, and there is always room for improvement. Perfect your talents, love what you do, and the world will be your oyster.
Sources: Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain