Happy Thanksgiving! It’s my favorite holiday—we celebrate our many blessings, we give to the less fortunate, there’s always room at the table for another; we cook, eat, nap and watch football. What could be better?
There’s more: I’ve never had someone get mad at me for failing to buy them a Thanksgiving Day gift, or send them a Thanksgiving card. The hardest holiday shopping is the Costco parking lot the day before the big event, and even then, it doesn’t require traffic cops like the mall does on Christmas Eve. (Not that I’d be caught dead there and then.)
But I digress. It’s Thanksgiving, and I wanted to share what I’m thankful for. Since this is a blog about work and purpose, I wanted to specifically acknowledge mentors who have been important to me: I got a wonderful surprise via Facebook last week, which was a blog post via aPriori International about my blog post on styles. You can read the whole thing here, but my favorite part is this:
We don’t bring Heidi’s blog to the forefront just because she is a participant in our programs or because her latest post references the principles we espouse. Rather, we feel her documentation of her learning expands the risk that is inherent in learning. By jumping into Market Force courses, Heidi admitted to herself that there are things in her life with which she needs assistance, from employee assessments to personal time management to … whatever. And so by writing about her learning, she is taking a greater risk, a critical action in the process of becoming your “whole self.”
The thing that this post immediately brought to my mind was Charles Bukowski’s poem, “The Rape of the Holy Mother.”
Before that title freaks you out, read what this poem is really about: “To expose your ass on paper/ terrifies some/ and/ it should:/ the more you put down/ the more you leave yourself/ open/ to those who label themselves/ “critics.” (full poem here)
As Travis Carson, author of the aPriori post above, rightly says, learning is inherently risky. And that’s why today, on Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for mentors.
Mentors challenge you. They allow you to fail. They guide your learning and your experimentation. They’re not about “thinking out of the box,” they’re about tearing that whole damned box apart.
Which is pretty cool, don’t you think? So here’s my list (and only just a start) of career mentors who have helped me make pivotal choices.
I am thankful for Yvonne Young, my second-grade teacher, who constantly repeated the phrase, “You are loveable and capable!” She built tremendous self-esteem (and daring qualities), and her expert storytelling remains so memorable that I try to mimic it with my own children.
I am thankful for Andy Gottesman, my high school debate coach. Winning in debate helped me feel fantastic about myself in high school even though I was pretty nerdy. That’s a big deal, but more importantly, I truly believe that speech and debate skills got me through college and prepared me for the world of work.
I am thankful for Cliff Rowe, my college journalism professor. Cliff literally changed my life when he prompted me to apply for a fellowship even though I hadn’t declared a major in journalism. I ended up winning the fellowship, a $1,000 stipend to intern at a newspaper, and then Cliff then directed me to an idyllic summer at the Port Townsend-Jefferson County Leader. By the end of five months there, I was hooked, and spent the next nine years in newspapers.
I am thankful for Pat Jenkins, my first, full-time newspaper editor. He took a chance on hiring me fresh out of college and pushed my writing far, far forward by taking the time to show me how I could improve (not just making corrections and moving on). He helped me develop strong reporting skills to really immerse myself in a community, and also helped me navigate some tricky political stories that resulted in the resignation of a judge.
I am thankful for Dan Cook, my business reporting editor, whose passion for digging into a story completely changed my reporting style, who managed to reign in this spitfire with good humor and tons of patience, and who taught me the value of having conviction in your work (and knowing when to take a pass).
I am thankful for Lynn Parsons, marketing and business development consultant, who understands the value of real business relationships (not just LinkedIn connections) and how to manage clients with diplomacy and grace, and who I admire tremendously for running her own firm through any economic cycle. She is the master of client service.
I am thankful for Craig Robbins, Chief Knowledge Officer and “dean” of Colliers University, who has given me hours of insight into work styles and systems, and who has the kind of advice that is tough to hear but absolutely essential if you want to get through any roadblock.
And I am also thankful for Katherine Steen, director of Colliers University, who since 2006 who has given me the platform and opportunity to speak to a broader audience, share my expertise and connect with people from around the world, and tackle challenging projects with zest.
There are many more on the list, but I wanted to recognize the people above because the each played a pivotal role in my career development. I am deeply grateful for everything they shared and invested in me.
If you’re from the USA, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you’re not, give thanks anyway. I’m taking this weekend off blogging to spend with my family, but I’ll send you a post later tonight on gift-giving and see you back here on Monday, Nov. 28.