Tyra Jarvis Headshot

Your journey is your journey, no one else’s.

This journey includes your background, history, upbringing combined with your strengths and life experiences that make you unique. 

Last month’s Women’s History recognition sparked me to look at my history and the women who have influenced my life. This exercise of looking back through the rear-view mirror of my life caused me to notice the source of some characteristics and consistent attributes that have served and continue to serve me well.

Whatever my aspiration at the time – being elected cheerleader in high school, earning two college degrees working full-time, tackling a skilled craftsperson job, getting promoted to management, managing my husband’s health crisis, creating a new family with my stepdaughters, or building my current coaching business, I have relied on these same skills and attributes: vision, determination, confidence, courage, and adaptability.

Each experience set the stage for the next.

With each experience, the challenges, learning, and achievement informed the next experience building my unique expertise and self-confidence, etching my self-identity, and nurturing my self-esteem. 

My unique foundation – background, history, and upbringing combined with my strengths and life experiences is what makes me unique. This unique set has led me to master a path for creating change and transformation. 

Was I lucky, or was my success built on others’ vision, hard work, sacrifice, influence, and contributions? It is not about luck. It’s about standing on the shoulders of those who have come before you, carrying forward what supports you, and dropping anything that does not. 

I have been fortunate because what I have created and achieved in my life has been influenced by the amazing family members who came before me.  

Their immigrant spirit and strong work ethic have influenced my intrapreneur and entrepreneur. Their willingness and determination to grow, stretch, ask why not, challenge the status quo caused me to be the first member of my family to graduate college, take on nontraditional work, and be a corporate manager. Their demand to always have your own income has caused me to create financial independence and freedom.  

Today I acknowledge my family for their vision, courage, and sacrifices that have supported me in living my life. 

My Background, History & Upbringing Influences

I am a descendant of immigrants with strong aspirations and drive. Further, I am blessed to be raised by strong, independent, capable women who have served as my first role models.

My story begins with two very strong and distinct cultures, Sweden and Greece. Both sides of my family immigrated to the US in the late 1800s, seeking the promise of America and a better life for themselves and their future families. They were Vikings and warriors of their times, challenging conventional norms, stereotypes, and the status quo to take on the unknowns and opportunities of their day. 

They all pursued their vision of a better life, whatever it took with the values of family, heritage, hard work, and helping others. These attributes serve as the foundation for my life and have supported me in creating my future beyond my birth circumstances.

It doesn’t matter what defining moment I confronted, the path I carved for myself continued to serve me.

I have been willing to say “why not” and go where I had never gone before and do things I had never done with people I did not know yet. I was willing to take on being different, not fitting in, and challenging others’ status quo. When I failed, I picked myself up, learned from my mistakes, and tried again.

My First Role Models

When I reflect on these qualities that have served me so well in my life, I am so grateful to the incredibly strong, compassionate, generous role models who have influenced my foundation and who I am today. Here’s a glimpse of the lives of these amazing women. 

Lessons I Inherited from My Great-Grandmother – growth mindset, immigrant spirit, and work ethic, adventure, taking care of family, and helping others.

My maternal great-grandmother immigrated from Sweden at the age of 15. Who would leave their family, home, language, and everything they know to travel 30+ days by ship to an unknown place, a new and different place? As I understand things, her father had lost the family farm and everything gambling, and she was setting out on her own seeking a fresh start in America, a new land with the promise of a new future.

She settled in Boston and shortly after met and married my great-grandfather, also a Swedish immigrant. He was a construction worker. She was a dressmaker. They soon had two daughters a year apart when he suddenly died in 1903 of a bleeding ulcer. As a single mother with two infant daughters, she continued to support her family as a dressmaker.

She later would live with her sister, a widow, and her daughter, Tyra, my namesake. She remained the matriarch of this side of my family until her death at 93 in 1968. She would later say, “the only thing remarkable about my sister and me is that we traveled the Atlantic 9 times.” I am thankful she made all those trips and was a stand for a better life and her family.

Lessons I Learned from My Grandmother – immigrant spirit and work ethic, taking care of family including raising another’s children as her own, faith, and service. 

My paternal grandmother immigrated from Greece to Boston and married my grandfather in 1918. He was a recent widow with three young children, 6, 5, and 4. He had lost his first wife during childbirth. She would have four more children, including my dad.

She raised all the children as her own. She was hard-working, willing to take on any task to support our family’s businesses, including grocery, restaurants, cobbler, and millinery.

She relied on her strong faith and was active in her church. She also supported the WWII and the Korean War efforts as a volunteer with the local Red Cross Chapter. She was widowed for 17 years and raised her two youngest daughters as a single mom.

She earned her US citizenship in 1953. She was loved by everyone she met. Her funeral required a police escort due to the crowd of attendees wishing to pay their respects.

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Lessons I Inherited from My Grandmother

Family, loyalty, culture, heritage, work ethic, having your own money, having fun, self-sufficiency, resiliency, perseverance, standing up to cultural norms, standing up for those less fortunate, and helping others. 

My maternal grandmother lived at home with my great-grandmother until she married the love of her life on her 21st birthday, the date she was allowed to marry. She later separated from my grandfather because he was abusive.

Although she always loved my grandfather and never divorced, she embraced her role as a single mother with great pride, providing for herself and her children, my mom, and uncle. 

She began working outside the home with Filene’s Basement in Boston just before the depression and earned a full retirement in the 60s. She was an active leader in her Retail Clerks Union. Some of my fondest memories from the 50s were traveling to Filene’s by subway to meet her work friends, shop, and have lunch. 

My Grandmother was indeed one of a kind and so self-sufficient. She was a seamstress and could make and alter anything. She could also fix anything, often wielding a hammer, pipe wrench, or any tool. She was a fantastic cook. She quit smoking after decades of chain-smoking.

She always helped her family whenever she could. She was a friend to all, taking care of others, especially anyone less fortunate than her. She stood up to the bullies of her day. She supported her church through participation and fundraising. She volunteered to help my cousin’s political campaign when he ran for the State Assembly of Massachusetts. 

Lessons I Inherited from My Mom

Being physically fit, athletic, doing well in school, working to have your own money, having the courage to grow and try new things, bouncing back from adversity, loyalty, and unconditional love for your partner, being a mom. 

My mom loved to work and have her own money. She always worked summers on Cape Cod while growing up. She was very athletic and a great swimmer, serving as a lifeguard. She also liked working at the local ice cream shop. Independence and the financial freedom that comes with having your own money were significant values from my mom. 

She dropped out of high school her sophomore year to hang out with older friends and soon joined the war effort. At 16, she worked a nontraditional job at a shoe factory making boots for the military. The work required using tools and equipment, and driving a forklift, etc. She served as a supervisor of the laborers, then Italian POWs. She received commendations for her efforts. 

My mother had an internal determination.

 After the war, she returned to high school and earned her diploma with honors. She soon found more traditional, socially acceptable “women’s” work at New England Telephone as a long-distance telephone operator—exciting and very different times at ATT. 

Seniority is everything in these hourly jobs, especially when it came to selecting work schedules and vacations. When she married my father, she was dropped to the bottom of the seniority list because married women were considered discretionary, second incomes, and less dependable employees.

When she became pregnant with me in 1950, she dropped to the bottom of the seniority list again because a married woman with a child was even less dependable. She left this job before my brother was born.

She returned to work with ATT at Pacific Bell in 1962. Note: the seniority situation mentioned above was considered unfair treatment and discriminatory against women and minorities. It was addressed and remedied in the 1970s Class Action Lawsuit between ATT and the US Government. 

My mom helped my sisters and me secure our first jobs with ATT as telephone operators. With the new upgrade and transfer plan, we all started initiating transfers to other company opportunities. Mom said, “if they can, why can’t I?” Traditionally, you started and stayed in the same department, cradle to grave or retirement.  

This program allowed my mom to explore other growth opportunities. She spent some time in accounting before being promoted to circuit assigner on the project that designed all the telephone circuits for the then-new California State Lottery system.

My parents always loved each other. Yet, the pressures of raising a family of 4 throughout the years took its toll. They divorced in 1973 for a short time and then remarried after 3 years in 1975. With the pressures of raising a family behind them, they thoroughly loved their second pass at marriage. Many of my fondest memories are spending time with my parents as a young adult during their 2nd marriage.


Was it Luck?


So, have I been lucky? I believe my life has been a product of my background, history, and upbringing combined with how I have gone about living and experiencing life.

No question, I am fortunate to have strong ancestry that has influenced how I see and value myself; my self-identity, self-esteem, and self-confidence. At the same time, I have set my sights on the goals that mattered most to me, took responsibility for what I wanted to create, relied on determination to choose the actions to take, and how to best use my strengths, attributes, and experiences to create the life I enjoy today. 

 My unique journey and foundation are how my transformation path has evolved and how it continues to support me. This is the path I teach and use to help my clients who want to change their own lives. 

Are you looking to create a change in some area of your life?

I hope these examples inspire you to move your desire forward – to set your vision, take determined action, get support, be adaptable when facing challenges – and make it happen! It will be amazing for you!

“If you think you can, you can,” the American cosmetics entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash tells us. “And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

 Remember: you can do anything you want to because you can!

You, too, can do this!

 Believing in You!  ~ xo Tyra