Sometimes you don’t even realize you are being mentored – or mentoring others.
As I reflect, I think of the many mentors in my life; many of them business-focused while some imparted a more spiritual mentorship upon me. Some were strangers, some very close to me,
The importance of mentorship simply can’t be denied; early in my career and education, I researched the history of education itself, realizing that what we deem as a formal education is hardly a space for experiential learning. In the past, we gathered around temples and homes, Socratic learning through questions and debate, were encouraged to ask and to challenge our teachers, to observe and to give input and share ideas. We were not told to simply hone our rote memorization skills or sit quietly and still while we were lectured to. The industrial revolution changed quite a bit of our educational system.
Fast forward into the 80’s and we suddenly stepped away from industry and into technology; we now were told “how to” code, input data and we were taught to create ourselves to work with – essentially – a robotic world.
Meanwhile, though intellectually stimulating, the focus of mentors became less and less. In schools and colleges, it became less important to have internships and externships. In fact, today, a company might have to pay their interns and not even have the opportunity to mentor if they do not offer some financial compensation.
This is beyond me, as someone who has seen value in mentors, far beyond a stipend. That’s it really, mentors have been reduced to a stipend value.
• I recall my uncles being mentors to my male cousins, and admiring the bonding that seemed to take place between fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, during that time.
• My own brother, Robert, the artist, was mentored in not only art and entrepreneurship but also welding, from my father.
• My husband reflected many times, that his father and, especially his uncle, mentored him in woodworking.
When men mentor others, they create bonds which are evolutionary-based. Males traditionally have found value in bonding with their sons, nephews or protege’s by teaching skills and trade secrets. Sharing of information is one of the most respected avenues, according to men I have interviewed, as it helps a person increase their self-esteem, confidence, and independence.
This set the tone for me; and as I reached the ripe age of twenty, I decided that I would move near the beach, and would open a business. Having a lifetime of dance training and a few years of dance teaching experience, coupled with my first mentors, my dance and performing arts school was born; I was writing part-time for “The Millville Magazine” and working for an insurance agency,
At that time, I had a woman by the name of Kathy Lanzi, who mentored me without realizing it by teaching me much about self-employment. She owned an event company and took me under her wing. I began to set my sights on bigger things and within a year, my dance students were winning attention at competitions and I was asked to choreograph for the Bozo Show on “channel 57” in Philadelphia, and also, began working with Mike Nise, the producer of Dance Party USA . These are people and organizations that mentored me, gave me breaks and helped springboard my career. Mike became such a trusted friend that when my mother had cancer, many years later, he drove two hours to visit and help her change world view for a few beautiful hours as she laughed and played with his little, beloved poodle. Perhaps that moment was more mentorship focused than the business even.
Fast forward and as I dove more into writing and broadcast. Trudy Haynes was my next influential mentor and I recall being in her office area and feeling like I was standing next to a broadcast giant. (I was, she was one of the first black broadcasters and certainly one of the first female black broadcasters,) and I was over-apologizing like any insecure 21-year-old might do. She turned to me and sternly and loudly said “Stop apologizing. You are a young woman and people are going to ask you to apologize for that your entire life. Stop. You are not a victim nor a villain, stop apologizing.” I was red in the face. I cried on the way home on that seemingly long train-ride. I didn’t want to go back but I did, and I stopped apologizing. It changed my life; because I realized my habit was holding me back, and in an instant, she helped me alter the course of my business and personal life.
After working in broadcast a bit as Trudy’s assistant, with the glamor of working in the Entertainment department and going to private showings and lunches, I had the taste of journalism on my tongue even more. My studio was carrying me financially and I had more time; still quite young, maybe only 21. I asked Paul Gluck, the news producer if I could be a writer. I recall the interview/audition where I had to summarize the news. It was during the Loni Anderson and Burt Reynolds breakup. How do I recall this? Because out of all of the news he gave me, that was the only item I could write about because I was so detached from the world around me barring entertainment. Gluck sat me in his office, gave me a lengthy meeting and helped guide me; he told me to write for a newspaper for a year, then go back to him.
I went home, and between extra dance bit parts in movies (Hairspray, Age of Innocence) and teaching dance, I begged my way into an interview with my next mentor, the city editor of the local paper. Now a good friend, Bruce Mowday (who is now a well-known regional historian and author of many books), said he would give me a shot, after my pathetic begging to write with zero journalism experience under my belt barring a few monthly essays in a city magazine.
Without Bruce giving me a chance, I would not be where I am today.
Other mentors include Tim Hawthorne, of Hawthorne Direct, the father of the informercial, who was a longtime mentor that I reached out to after reading his textbook; I was pretty shocked when I did get a return letter from him and we started communicating for a few years.
I could go on but you get the point. Now, as I write, as a licensed therapist, a neuromarketing strategist, who has in her background a list of career stations that even singularly would be a blessing, such as QVC On-Air Guest/Spokesperson, television broadcast producer and host, television choreographer, author, writer, trauma specialist, radio host; I can say that this is all because of my mentors.
The power of mentorship is palpable; you can literally feel the energy exchange when someone supports and helps you with an outstretched hand. In neuroscience you might say that the act of support is helping you not only physically but also intellectually and emotionally; that mentorship is a mastermind approach to giving seasoned experts a way to give back, to help others carry the torch and, to give those who are aspiring onward to have a learning experience that is experiential and steeped in depth and transformation.