Persistently Positive: Character Lessons from My Friend, Kerry Motelson

November 13, 2009 – 9:11 pm | by Matt Ackerson

kerry motelsonKerry and I have been friends since our junior year in college, over two years now. The first time I can recall meeting Kerry, I remember feeling sort of amateurish in her presence because I thought at first that she had the hurried air of a graduate student or an aspiring PhD. I had to hustle alongside her in order to keep up and make plans to talk again. From that first encounter she was kind, enthusiastic, and, above all, persistently positive.

They say you can tell when a person is truly smiling because the muscles around their eyes are engaged, crinkled, making them squint from the happiness radiating from their smile below. Kerry’s smile is always true, especially from that first time that I met her, wherein she knew nothing about me.

Kerry loves people, and that is why anyone who has met her is instantly drawn into the desire to know her better. People are attracted to Kerry because she is able to see the good in anyone upon first meeting them. She is confident in her belief in that goodness and everyone she meets is no doubt validated and grateful because of it.

In classes that she and I took together, I couldn’t help but notice how Kerry excelled. When she answered a Professor’s question, the students around me would scrunch up their eyebrows into strange formations of incredulity because the conscious, knowledgeable manner with which she answered was stupefying to them.

Kerry worked hard, much more diligently than the rest of us and that’s why she always knew the answer. Kerry is too modest to bring it up, but she did in fact graduate a year ahead of our class as valedictorian, and then went on to get her masters in a single year. I should also mention that she did this while working three jobs simultaneously. A mutual friend of ours was once baffled by the site of her open notebook planner because every portion of her day was crammed with meetings and scheduled down the minute… for the next two weeks.

There are a few key character lessons that I’ve learned from Kerry. First of all, you are only limited to what you can achieve in so much as you believe that there is a limit. “What drives you, Kerry?” I once asked. “Always raising the bar,” she responded.


Second, the rule of positive attraction applies in life; this means that if you know what you want, you believe in yourself, and you act with the greatest passion, enthusiasm, and work ethic toward that goal, you will achieve it. I consider myself a very capable person, but there were a few times that I needed someone to lean on. At times like those Kerry would listen and remind me of this principle, even though she probably was not explicitly aware of it at the time.

Third, and finally, everyone has potential. As much as you believe in your own ability, you must believe in the ability of others. People will fail, they will make mistakes, and they will let you down. However one must realize that the best talent in the world is not innate, but is instead developed over time and with practice.

Kerry has repeatedly taught me these lessons over the last two years. They continue to inspire me to be a better entrepreneur and a better person. If you never have the opportunity to meet Kerry, I hope you will at least take these same lessons to heart.

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  1. One Response to “Persistently Positive: Character Lessons from My Friend, Kerry Motelson”

  2. By John Exley on Nov 15, 2009 | Reply

    I’m glad you shared this story of your friend Kerry, Matt! She exemplifies some terrific qualities that we can learn from.

    I like the second lesson a lot, “the rule of positive attraction applies in life”. I find that I am drawn to people whose high ambitions are matched with positive, energetic personalities much like my own.

    I think that goes a long way in sales too, as customers are more likely to buy (at least based on what I have read) when the salesman is passionate, enthusiastic, and trustworthy. Good stuff Matt

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