A valuable lesson in life to learn, at any age, is that we all need help to continue to evolve and grow. My life long commitment to myself has been to follow my heart and develop its passions to the fullest with knowledge, skill and the ability to make a difference with whatever calls my name.
This first occurred to me when I realized I needed to figure out a way to leave my family home, permanently, at the age of 13. My mother was a raging alcoholic and physically and verbally abusive towards me. I lived in fear of what would happen to me and what condition she would be in when I came home from school, on a daily basis. My best friend’s mother use to cover for me often, convincing my mom that it was OK for me to stay overnight on a school night, while in middle school, just because she feared the consequences to me if I went home to my drunk, out of control, mother.
My father was a wonderful, kind, intelligent man, a Harvard graduate and a criminal lawyer for most of my youth, but also a workaholic, in denial about whom he married, and not someone who was emotionally or physically available to be there for me much.
But Thank God, my father believed in the power of education and had the resources to continuously offer to pay for any opportunity I could win, achieve or qualify for that was educationally oriented. This alone allowed me to strive for opportunities, at this very young age, to escape my mother and flee to the sanctuary of summer music camps. And then, at 13, to a private boarding school for the first year of high school, closer to home, (I skipped 5th grade) before I “graduated” to attend Interlochen Arts Academy for the rest of high school, near Traverse City, Michigan. I then went on to attend Northwestern University as a clarinet performance major.
My will and my father’s money helped me achieve these opportunities, allowing me to leave my scary mother at home and the environment that felt unsafe to me behind. So, it was early on that I learned the value of believing in yourself, and counting on yourself, to build a future that would be all you wished it to be. And I also learned that it requires both personal will and initiative, and someone’s money, or support, to do so.
And so, from that age forward, I figured out I needed lots of good examples- good examples in terms of “replacement” moms, (I have had over 10) and good examples in terms of how to steer my life in directions I wanted to go and finding the support to do so.
Yet, while I had little emotional support from family, other than financially, I cannot dismiss the value and blessing those significant resources provided and how much they brought to my life!
My current goals and artistic career aspirations have lead me to my current mentor and comrade, John Cimino, Creative Leaps Intl. And while he inspires me immensely, I will continue through out my adult life to seek out mentors to help me evolve and grow into all I can be, for the rest of my life.
Mentors have helped me learn about new subject areas by listening to them, working on projects for them or with them, reading their work or books they recommend and by being able to spend time around them to observe them. Mentors have encouraged me and expressed confidence in my ability to rise and improve in areas I asked to, with their guidance. And my mentors are responsible for my successes, truly. Without them, I would not be the person I am or be able to evolve into the person I want to become.
So, where can you find a great mentor?
Usually we meet and interact with people who inspire us. They may be someone you work with, or for, or someone who has come to your school and given a presentation or appeared in a newspaper article or a local performance. They may be someone you have in your family or inner circle in some way and have always wanted to get to know better. They may appear in the form of boss, a current school teacher, a scholarship, an award, a consultant, whom you must pay for the mentorship you need, or in the form of a book you can read.
I have found most of the people who have served as my mentors in many of the ways I just mentioned. Since I am 44, and given my history, (I have been around the block already a few times) I have had the time and sought out the opportunities to find them in all of these ways.
I do believe wisdom and skills are built increasingly with age, which is why I would also suggest that a great mentor- a person- you seek out might be at least 10 years older than you. That is not to say I have not met brilliant individuals who could serve as wonderful mentors to me who are my own age, or even younger, but often those folks are busy trying to become the person they seek to be and may be a bit short on time to be able to devote to helping either of us get ahead. Of course, there is always the occasional surprise. I encourage you to follow your gut instincts when it comes to identifying the right person, at this moment in time, whom can be of the most support to you on your journey.
When you look for mentorship, focus on a core skill you wish to improve or subject matter you would like to be able to fluidly know and utilize. If you have an upcoming show you want to sell or a new idea you want to create a business plan for, identify those individuals with specific skill sets that can help you build knowledge and skill in areas you are not sure you have mastered or are concerned your judgment might not be good, yet, enough. You can also have more than one mentor, in different areas, at a time.
If you are currently building a business, I advise all clients to have a minimum of 3 mentors; none of them family or friends, and all three selected because of their different accomplished skill sets to use in your decision making process to build your venture. Ask them to meet with you once a month individually or better all together. Ask them to meet with you individually by phone or in person weekly, for a short amount of time to bounce ideas, problems, and questions off of. Those who wish to mentor, paid for or not, really want you to succeed and will take, on some level, a personal interest in you.
So by all means, make it a priority in your life to find a mentor, regardless of where you are in your life or where your career is currently. Regardless of if you have to pay for it or not, identify what matters most to achieve the next step in your artistic entrepreneurial development and find a way to go and get it!
Trust me when I say mentorship works. Mentorship changed my life and it can change yours too.