Happy Mentoring Month! The beginning of each new year not only gives us a chance to set goals for the future, it also offers an opportunity to reflect on the past. We’re delighted to report that 2014 was a banner year here at the Over My Shoulder Foundation. Here are just a few highlights, from awards and events to media sponsorships and emotional mentorship stories.
[box]My dream for the Over My Shoulder Foundation has always been to support and encourage mentoring relationships. We do that by producing stories, events, music, and awards that pay tribute to our own mentors and tell their stories. The journey has been so rewarding, and we have been so very fortunate to meet amazing people committed to making the world a better place. We have featured unique people like the graffiti artist Toofly; author and former white supremacist Arno Michaelis; and the brilliant lawyer Rick Dyer, who overcame addiction and now practices in the same court where he was sentenced eight times! Our stories have come to life via Jordan Rich’s nationally syndicated radio show and have been able to tell our story on the website of the acclaimed jewelry company, Alex and Ani.
Today I’m pleased to announce OMSF’s relationship with a fabulous new movie, “All Saints.” By the time I hit page twelve of the script I could already hear the songs, drenched in mentoring, with a movie score that could inspire hope and mentorship. The producer, Martha Chang, is a long-time friend. Back in the 1990’s we watched a little film project of ours—called 3 Ninjas—come to life and take flight! I’m blessed that this friendship has flourished all these years, and I am truly honored to be working with her again on this amazing project!
—Dawn Carroll, OMSF Executive Director[/box]
The Reverend Michael Spurlock and his congregation at All Saints Church in Smyrna, Tennessee, know that the Lord works in mysterious ways.
And so does mentoring, as they have come to find out. Spurlock helped a group of impoverished Southeast Asian refugees make their home in the United States while they showed him how to save his dying church at the same time. Now their story is on its way to becoming both a Hollywood movie and an innovative mentoring opportunity.
In 2007, Spurlock made a midlife career change and became an Episcopal priest. His first assignment was to move to Smyrna and close down All Saints, which had lost most of its congregation to a more conservative rival Anglican church. That’s when an unexpected influx of new worshippers appeared: seventy Karen refugees from Myanmar (also known as Burma), Christians forced to flee their country or face possible death.
Rather than sell All Saints, as he had been ordered to do, Spurlock decided to revive the church by utilizing the Karen’s skills as farmers. Despite many formidable obstacles—including drought, floods, lack of equipment and money, and skeptical church superiors—the plan worked. The church was saved, restored to health by this infusion of committed congregants.
A piece about the small miracle in Smyrna appeared in a Nashville newspaper and came to the attention of Steve Gomer, a TV and film director on the lookout for a special kind of story.
“There was a writer I had worked with closely and we wanted to find something to do with a clergy person,” Gomer said by phone from his summer vacation in Vermont. “We thought it would be a good area. I had done some research. When you read about studies that have done with clergy, you see there are similar problems. The kids have problems, the spouses have problems, and they deal with interesting life or death things. We found this article about what happened at All Saints and started looking into that. The more we found out about it the more interesting it became.”
Producer Martha Chang was also keen to work with Gomer—but she was dubious when Gomes told her about the All Saints idea.
“It actually started with Steve saying there are all these Karens in Tennessee,” Chang recalled from her home in Los Angeles. “And I said, ‘No, I think all the Koreans are here in Koreatown in L.A.’ And he said, ‘No, the Ka-RIN, K-A-R-E-N.’ It turns out they’re a minority group from Burma and they’ve been going through a form of genocide, although I believe that’s calmed down quite a bit now. They had been brought here as political refugees.
“Steve said, ‘I think this is a story you’ll really like. It’s about a priest.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’m not sure I want to do a movie about a priest right now.’ And he said, ‘No, it’s really about faith.’
On Friday evening, September 5, Over My Shoulder Foundation Executive Director Dawn Carroll was thrilled to present Boston design legend Yolanda Cellucci with the second annual “Designing the Next Generation Award” during a VIP reception at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation.
The “Designing the Next Generation Award” spotlights the importance of mentoring across generations and cultural barriers—not only to the field of design, where it is vital, but also to the work of creating a better society. Founded by OMSF in 2013, in partnership with the Cumar Marble and Granite, the award’s inaugural recipient was Governor Michael Dukakis.
For more than four decades, Yolanda Cellucci has worked tirelessly to translate movie-star glamour from the runway and the red carpet to the streets of America. In that time, she has mentored more than her share of young women and men: fashion designers, interior designers, and local media fixtures—as well as a familiar face.
“Like so many young women, I launched my career at her store,” explains Dawn Carroll. “She ignited confidence in me that women could be powerful business leaders, glamorous wives, and nurturing mothers. Yolanda was a wonderful mentor.”
Friday night also marked the opening of “Yolanda: Innovative Fashion Icon; 50 Years of High Heels, Headpieces, and Haute Couture” an exhibit of high-fashion gowns that features an all-star lineup of twentieth century designers. Curated by Cellucci herself, the exhibit includes several items from her private collection.
This is the time of year when I flash back to 1975 and start singing “Summer Breeze” by Seals & Crofts non-stop. In the summer, I stock up on new books and music, searching for story-tellers with muscular, mind-blowing, mentor-centric tales to feature on the OMSF blog. Thanks to my wonderful boyfriend and his parents, Martha’s Vineyard has become my creative retreat. The island has its own natural philosophy, and the very first edict is to slow the &#^*@ down, soften up, and unburden yourself. The Vineyard has a way of tranquilizing even the busiest of minds.
Through the snarl of the city, against my workaholic inner voice, I curse and argue, knuckles white on the steering wheel, and aim my car towards the Cape. Once I sense the salt air and drive into the belly of the Vineyard ferry, my nerves start to unwind. On this road trip, the workaholic loses; my artsy self wins. When I reach the secluded island I am a world away—swapping my suit for shorts, my painful high-heels for sandals, unapologetically stripping in the front seat of my car. I’m ready to be surrounded by water, to lose myself on country roads, to sink my teeth into something freshly retrieved from the earth—to be mentored by this amazing earthy way of life. Sun, sand, and salt-spray release the tension in my over-worked mind. The ebb and flow of the surf mentors me to calm, and calm feels so good.
Before I get to the beaches, I stop to grab a bunch of books at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore or Edgartown Books. To become fully intoxicated by my surroundings, I always kick off the read-fest with an island author. These titles almost always come from the local publisher Jan Pogue and her Vineyard Stories. I always—without any research or hesitiation—see films produced by the Weinstein Company, and buy music released by Virgin Records or Geffen Records. That’s how it is with Vineyard Stories. I’m drawn to their artistic taste, and they never let me down. I was delighted when Jan was also able to find time in her crazy schedule to meet me; we’ve become friends since I featured one of her books, Star Child by Kay Goldstein, here at the blog. I admire Jan for her ability to discover a great story as well as her brave, entrepreneurial spirit. I knew that she would become a prized mentor in my fabulous mentor collection.
One of the books released this year by Vineyard Stories is Some Kind of Lucky. It was my first summer read of 2014. I completely adore this book. The author, Joan Cowen Bowman, has been coming to the island for fifty years for the same reason I go there: because it offers a simpler existence. Like Joan, I find the mysterious secrets of the island nurturing and healing. Like her, I drift into this magical place and become a better version of myself.
In the book, Joan recounts her life as a divorced woman in the 1960s struggling to raise four children. As a person who watched my parents’ marriage crumble during the 1970s, I know first-hand how unusual that was. A decade after Joan’s divorce, my parents were among the first divorces in our small town. When the news became public, my life changed dramatically. Other families thought we were contagious. We were socially quarantined.
Some Kind of Lucky is like the ocean around the Vineyard: serene, fascinating, and turbulent in turns. Joan and I both return to the island year after year for the star-filled, whisper-soft nights; for the sun-kissed days, the moody early mornings, and the mysterious foggy nights; for the fire-fly ballets and the crumbling stone walls. We have both felt loss at sea in our lives, and both crave for the simpler existence the island presents.
Martha’s Vineyard allows you to lose the signal of the mainland and be still. It absorbs all that you bring to its shores, and then tenderly washes away all the confusion, pain, tension, and toxins. It’s a kind of magic. As the jacket of Some Kind of Lucky reads:“sunrise and moonrise, birdsong at dawn or dusk, the lullaby of the tides as we sleep-all this remind us throughout our days and nights that there is some kind of law and order in the universe.”
[box]About the Author
As the co-founder of the Over My Shoulder Foundation, Dawn Carroll is leading the way in what she calls “mentorology.” OMSF is a unique media-based project on a mission to raise awareness about the lifelong benefits of mentorship. An award-winning stone designer, writer, producer, songwriter, and mentor collector, Dawn believes that mentoring stimulates the creative mind and that creative minds will find the answers to many problems we face today. Mentoring creates leadership skills and stronger, more compassionate leaders.[/box]
[box] “All alone, on my knees I pray / For the strength to stay away / In and out, out and in you go / I feel your fire / Then I lose my self control /How can I ease the pain / When I know your coming back again / And how can I ease the pain in my heart.”
I am so excited to be have the opportunity to share singer Lisa Fischer’s mentoring story with you today.
Lisa is one of my music heros and it is an honor to feature her at the Over My Shoulder Foundation. Her hit song, “How Can I Ease the Pain,” was the soundtrack to my life during a tricky break-up while I was living in Los Angeles. I listened to it over and over while I re-grounded myself. I knew and felt every word, and wished that I could write beautiful lyrics for Lisa to one day sing. With eloquence and ease, her voice soars, an takes you away from your worried world. Her gift has been a sanctuary for me.
Many years ago, in Boston, Lisa and I briefly met. She was touring with the Rolling Stones, and had just gotten off stage and come back to her hotel. I happened to be in the Lobby. Lisa and I had mutual friends, so she came over to the table to say hello. I was completely star-struck but managed to blurt out, “ Your singing saved me. One day I want to write a song for you to sing!” She smiled and said, “Well then do it!” I doubt she remembers that night, and while this post may not be a song written for, her story is one you soon won’t forget. If you have seen Lisa on tour with the Stones or in the film “20 Feet From Stardom,” then you know what an unforgettable spirit she is!
Dawn Carroll, OMSF Executive Director[/box]
Lisa Fischer has spent most of her life standing “20 Feet From Stardom,” as the title of this year’s Oscar-winning documentary film puts it. Most of her fellow-background singers in the film ached for the spotlight to shine on them. But not Fischer.
“I never feel like I’m relegated to the background,” she said by phone from her home in New York City during a break from the Rolling Stones current world tour. “I don’t know how other singers feel, but for me, I just love background so much. I really enjoy watching artists who love what they do and need someone to support them. So for me it’s a beautiful journey. I’ve been really lucky and blessed to be with amazing artists who I love and respect.”
Fischer has had her taste of chart success, awards and, yes, the spotlight. Her rendition of “How Can I Ease the Pain,” a song she also co-wrote, was a smash hit that won her a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1992. Rolling Stones concerts feature a rendition of “Gimme Shelter” where Mick Jagger moves over and “backup singer” Lisa takes over with houseshaking effect. She also moves to the front of the stage when she tours with Tina Turner: after going toe to toe with the volcanic Tina on “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll,” the duet turns into a solo showcase for Lisa’s powerhouse pipes.
Yet somehow these small samplings of the limelight have not instilled a gnawing hunger in Fischer for more fame, more money, more of everything. She has found joy and contentment helping others shine.
Fischer’s story begins in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, where she started on her musical path as a child. “My mom sang a lot at home,” she recalled. “My dad sang a lot at home, too. My grandparents bought us a piano and we would just sing. It was part of life. And I’d sing at school, elementary school, high school, college. It was just an extension of the life they started for me.”
By the time she finished junior high school she was dreaming of a career in music, thanks to the guidance of an educator who recognized her talent.
“There was a teacher named Dennis Moore,” Fischer said. “He’s the brother of Melba Moore. He was really kind and was interested in knowing what I wanted to do with my music. I was, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ And he gave me the idea of auditioning for [New York City’s] Music & Art High School. He helped me choose songs for the audition. He gave me piano lessons and didn’t charge me. He was just patient because I was just a kid, insane, and didn’t know what I wanted to do. He was just lovely. He could see me so clearly. That was just beautiful. And so I went on to Music & Art and then Queens College and just started working in clubs after that.”
We’ve used our Over My Shoulder Foundation blog to share some helpful tips for how to be a good mentor, but we haven’t really discussed the other part of this important relationship: how to be a good mentee. To get the most out of your mentor/mentee relationship, we wanted to share some helpful tips for mentees:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your mentor has willingly entered into this relationship and is more than happy to help you in any way that he can; however, your mentor will not know how he can help you unless you ask.
- Touch base on a regular basis. Even if you have nothing new or exciting to report, keeping the channel of communication open is essential. This could be as simple as dropping your mentor a note to keep her in the loop about an upcoming seminar that you plan to attend or sharing a news article where your business was mentioned.
- Be focused and prepared for your meetings. Since both your time and your mentor’s is precious, plan to get the most out of your meetings by being focused on the task at hand and prepared when getting together.
- Retain confidentiality. Sometimes your mentor will share information with you that is only for your ears to hear, so keep his trust by keeping this information confidential.
- Follow-up with your mentor on her suggestions. This will help your mentor to see that you appreciate the knowledge and wisdom that she is sharing with you and that you are executing on these shared strategies.
To learn more tips for mentees and the powerful impact that a strong mentor/mentee relationship can have, please contact us the Over My Shoulder Foundation.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image © Craig Sunter
“I thought forgiveness was important for anyone to move forward in life. But most importantly, forgiveness is for ourselves! Just like many spiritual teachers stress. Oprah, in one of her life classes, taught about the art of forgiveness and how its practice enriches the mind, body, and soul. Freedom and forgiveness go hand in hand. When it’s in full swing, you can now put the past behind you. As someone once said; “When the past comes knocking, don’t answer, it doesn’t have anything new to say.”
So true! Here are two quotes I found on Oprah’s Life Class website, and incorporated my own words, enjoy.
“The knowledge of the past stays with us. To let go is to release the emotions, the grudges, the pain and sorrow that hold us back. Forgiveness is not something you do for someone else, it’s something you do for yourself. And once you forgive, you feel free.” [box] About the Author Marissa Ranahan is a student at the University of Hartford. She hopes to pursue a career in writing.[/box] Marissa Ranahan
If you take a closer look at some of the most successful people throughout history, I bet you would find that the majority had a mentor or two along the way that made a positive impact on their lives. Harvard recently released a list of some of the most powerful people in the world, and I found it particularly interesting to see who some of these listed as their mentors. Read through this list of famous mentors yourself and see if you have the same feeling:
- Oprah Winfrey: Mentored by Mrs. Duncan, her 4th grade teacher.
- General Colin Powell: Mentored by his father, Luther Powell.
- Dr. Martin Luther King: Mentored by Benjamin E. Mays
- Henry David Thoreau: Mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Quincy Jones: Mentored by Ray Charles
- Mitch Albom: Mentored by Morrie Schwartz (Tuesdays with Morrie)
And while the following mentoring relationships are fictional, Hollywood can’t help but demonstrate how a strong mentor can positively shape a person:
- Luke Skywalker: Mentored by Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi (Star Wars)
- Harry Potter: Mentored by Professor Dumbledore
- US President Josiah Bartlet: Mentored by Dr. Benjamin E. Mays (West Wing)
As you can see, this list of famous mentors includes interesting pairs that bring together diverse backgrounds, both across differing generations and areas of expertise. At the Over My Shoulder Foundation, we believe that this type of mentoring relationship can be mutually beneficial to both the mentor and mentee and therefore strive to raise the awareness of “Mentorology.” Please contact us to learn more about our organization and how you can become involved.
Image Source: Alan Light
I am worried about the future of women. If you don’t understand, I don’t blame you—but if you’re a woman, go find a mirror. Take a long look at yourself. What is the first feature you notice about yourself? Likely it’s a physical trait. Is your reflection starting to get foggy? Are you comparing yourself to someone else in society? Many women’s mirrors fog up because they are comparing themselves to airbrushed advertisement models and societal images of what is “beautiful.” I imagine a 13-year-old woman opening a beauty magazine, then tugging at her thighs and dreaming that “life would magically be better” if she only had that “majestic” thigh gap so many girls desire. This “foggy mirror” image of young women is why I am worried for the future.
However, there is some solace in knowing that I am not the only one who’s worried. A new documentary, Miss Representation, looks about how women are misrepresented and influenced by the mainstream media. A particularly exciting segment of the film focuses on “minute mentoring,” in which young women go from one successful women to another, asking for mentoring advice from each one.
“Women have the desire to be mentored,” says Jessica Shambora, one of the brains behind this mentoring initiative. “When women mentor each other, it is really powerful.” The girls in this film listen attentively to the women that spoke to them. Many of the girls said they felt empowered afterward, and energized simply by meeting successful women who take an interest in mentoring them.
However, girls still feel tension between their intellectual ability and their appearance.
“There is no appreciation for women intellectuals. It’s all about the body, not about the brain,” says Ariella, a high school student. “When is it going to be enough?” asks Maria, another high school student featured in the documentary.
Miss Representation shows how young women feel the constant pressures of the media: the sexualization of women in advertisements, the obsession over weight, the negative effects of social media. All play a key role in distorting the self-image of young women. But positive media can act as a mentor to clear up the fog.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the director of the film, has done a fabulous job creating awareness through cinematography. She imagines a world when her daughter can be confident with her own image, but also recognizes that we have a long way to go. The film features prominent women such as Rachel Maddow, Condoleezza Rice, and Jane Fonda, speaking about their experiences with media distortion through supposedly benign weight jokes, “bitch” jokes, and negative stereotyping. It’s time women ask themselves, When is it going to be enough?
Miss Representation has started many (positive) media campaigns to help raise awareness about this topic. “The Representation Project” on YouTube has videos about the media’s effect on young women. The videos are simple and appropriate for girls of all ages. The film’s website has several ways young women can get involved in the body-positive movement. It also features “media positive” advertisements for girls to watch and compare with mainstream ads—I call this media positive mentoring. If we show young women that their worth is not about their waistline or their appearance, a generation of women intellectuals can be nurtured. It’s time that young woman became just as “obsessed” about being a senator as they are about makeup products.
Everyone can be a media-positive mentor for the young women in our lives by asking girls questions about issues that really matter, by showing them that not all girls are judged by their appearance, by teaching them about successful women past and present, and by showing them how to break down barriers and stereotypes. One of the mentors from the Minute Mentoring program summed up their message simply: “To thy own self be true.”
Visit the Miss Representation web site and click on the link “Take Action” to find more ways to get involved.
[box]About the Author
Marissa Ranahan is a student and staff writer for OMSF.[/box]
[box]Singer-songwriter-mentor-performer-mother-philanthropist-healer: meet my beautiful friend, rock icon Robin Lane. Like many aspiring female rockers, I sat glued to MTV ( when it was actually about music) waiting for my favorite videos. One of theses was by Robin Lane & The Chartbusters—their big song, “When Things Go Wrong.” Years later Robin still writes, sings, and performs. She also dedicates much of her time to supporting people when things go wrong in their lives. Her nonprofit organization, Songbird Sings, uses songwriting and music to mentor people who have been through difficult experiences, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, and human trafficking.
Now Robin Lane’s life story is about to come to the big screen, in a new film by Tim Jackson—named after the big song—and we are very pleased to have Larry Katz interview Robin just a few days before the movie premiere and benefit this Friday, April 4, at the Regent Theater in Arlington, MA.[/box]
“When Things Go Wrong,” the new film about Robin Lane, includes all the elements you expect to find in the story of a rock musician’s life.
Troubled childhood? Check.
Wild teen years? Check.
A shot at stardom with a major label record deal? Check.
The band’s breakup and the hard times that inevitably follow? Double check.
It’s all there in “When Things Go Wrong,” a new film which will be seen for the first time on Friday, April 4 at 7 p.m. at the Regent Theater in Arlington, MA, a premiere benefit screening that will include a live performance by Lane and her former band, the Chartbusters.
But—spoiler alert—the movie does not end with either the rehab stint or triumphant comeback found in your typical “Behind the Music”-style rock doc. These days Lane, the queen of the Boston new wave scene circa 1980, has found a new venue for her voice and guitar: leading songwriting workshops as a way to help victims of sexual and domestic abuse, at-risk teenagers, prison inmates, and the elderly.
While what Lane does in her workshops is a form of music therapy, she is quick to point out that she is neither a therapist nor a counselor.
“I’m a facilitator,” she said from her rural home in Western Massachusetts. “I facilitate these situations where people can, through songwriting, find a key out of their dilemma—a key to their own healing capabilities. My role is really just to help them find a way to write a song, to help them to heal themselves and get out of whatever they’re in that’s dangerous and not good for their lives.”
It’s not a job she consciously pursued, at least not at first, but it’s one that Lane has found herself eminently well-qualified for. Music, after all, had always been her own lifeline.
“I’d been writing songs for years,” she said, “and didn’t realize why. I’d always loved music, but if I hadn’t had songwriting I would be scared to think of what would have happened to me.”
Lane’s life story has more than its share of mental and physical hurt. Distant parents. Sexual assault. Domestic violence. Divorce. And a tantalizingly close, ultimately frustrating brush with stardom. When the first two Robin Lane and the Chartbusters albums failed to sell as much as expected, the band was tossed aside by their label, Warner Brothers. And after Lane gave birth to a daughter, Evangeline, she found she was no longer considered a serious contender in the male chauvinist rock world of the 1980s.
“I raised my child,” Lane said of her post-Chartbusters years. “Got married again. Had a couple of dogs. Played around. Made the ‘Catbird’ CD [ed. 1995]. Then I got divorced, around 1999.”
And almost without realizing it, she was embarking on a new career as a songwriting mentor.
[box] We are thrilled to feature this inspirational interview between Larry Katz and Sam Polk. It’s incredible the way a mentor at the right time can pry us open, leaving just enough space for the light to shine in, providing enough leverage for the next unexpected mentor to step up. Enjoy![/box]
Would you walk away from a job that paid millions?
Sam Polk did.
Four years ago Polk was working for a Wall Street hedge fund. When he received a $3.8 million bonus on top of a $1.5 million salary, Polk reacted with anger. He demanded that his bosses increase his bonus to $8 million. They raised their offer, but only if he agreed to stay with the firm for several more years.
Polk refused. He said he didn’t want to make the commitment.
But the bonus amount wasn’t the reason Polk quit his job. He had come to believe he was an addict hooked on making money—and it didn’t feel good.
Polk tells his compelling story in “For the Love of Money,” an essay published in January on the front page of the New York Times’ Sunday Review. It attracted far more notice than he expected.
“I had no idea of the impact it would have,” Polk said from Los Angeles, where he has launched Groceryships, a non-profit he has co-founded with his wife to provide needy families with “scholarships for groceries.”
“I’ve gotten over 10,000 emails,” he said. “I’ve been interviewed and been on all these radio and TV shows. It’s been overwhelming and shocking.”
In his New York Times story, Polk outlines how he came to understand the wisdom of that old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.” It wasn’t an easy lesson, especially since he grew up being told the exact opposite. Polk’s salesman father, he writes, “believed money would solve all his problems.” Then, while attending Columbia University, Polk read in “Liar’s Poker” how a young Michael Lewis made hundreds of thousands as a Wall Street bond trader. He somehow missed the book’s dark side.
“My heroes,” Polk said, “were people who had made billions of dollars and risen to the top of Wall Street.”
A very different set of heroes would emerge later in Polk’s life—unexpected mentors who would profoundly alter his definition of success and a well-lived life. We wanted to know more about these influences and Sam Polk was happy for the opportunity to tell us about them.
On Monday, March 24, the Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF) partnered with Cumar, purveyors of fine marble and granite, to present Charmed by Charity: Mentoring in the Music, Design and Fashion Industries.
The event was held at the Alex & Ani outpost on Boston’s trendy Newbury Street, and featured a mix of local celebrities, media, and mentoring supporters. Guests were treated to light fare and copious attention from the Alex & Ani staff, who were on hand to help customers choose from an array of beautiful bangles and bracelets.
Headquartered in Cranston, Rhode Island, Alex & Ani is known for their collection of meaningful jewelry that “adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.” 15% of proceeds from the evening’s sales were donated directly to the Over My Shoulder Foundation; guests who purchased $100 or more in merchandise were treated to The Path of Life, a book of testimonies by Alex & Ani customers, who share the ways the positively-focused jewelry changed their lives for the better.
Janice O’Leary, health and wellness editor of the global luxury publication Robb Report, formerly editor-in-chief of Boston Common magazine, was the event’s emcee, which kicked off with a welcome from Dave Connor, CUMAR general manager and OMSF board member. Guests were also treated to a song put together especially for the event: “The Path of Life” was co-written by Grammy-nominated Boston rocker Jon Butcher and OMSF Executive Director Dawn Carroll, and was inspired by the Alex & Ani book of the same title.
After that, Amanda Frederick, assistant manager of Alex and Ani’s Boston location, discussed Charity by Design. Cumar’s executive vice president, Carlotta Cubi, and Paula Daher, principal of Paula Daher Design, talked about the importance of mentoring in the stone and interior design industries, respectively. Then stylista Denise Hajjar, of the eponymous boutique, shared her insights from the fashion industry.
Before she took the mic, Paula Daher mentioned just how important mentoring has been to her as her career’s progressed. “It took me awhile to find [a mentor],” she said, “And in fact, I never thought I would. It’s men who tend to hold positions at the pinnacle level.” In response, she says that she feels even more compelled to mentor—in particular, women—now that she’s established herself.
Janice Dowling, another area designer and instructor at Boston Architectural College, agreed, and added that, “It doesn’t matter how far along in your career you are, or how old you are. There’s always something to learn. Be a sponge. Ask questions. Be curious.” Which just goes to show: mentors are needed at every stage of life.
About the Author
Karyn Polewaczyk is a freelance writer living in Boston and a staff reporter on personal finance for the Boston Globe.
When we build a mentoring relationship, the way we show up for the other person can empower them to find their voice or it can unintentionally stifle their authentic expression. What does it take to create a space where another person, an adult man or a teenage boy, can dig deep and speak their own truth without the fear of being judged or being “told what to do?” What does it mean to really be there for and with a teenage boy? What can we do to invite him to discover and become the man he wants to be?
The Boys to Men Mentoring Network, which offers group mentoring programs for boys ages 12 to 17, has devised a simple yet elegant communication model that is at the heart of the mentoring relationship. Mentors and teens are taught to communicate consciously, using a model called LAAMB: listen, accept, admire, model, and bless.
This model is in direct contrast to the FRAP style of relating to which many men are socialized: fix, rescue, advise (unsolicited), and project.
Because men are often taught they need to “have the answer,” or “solve the problem,” it may be hard to just sit and listen to a teenage boy speak about his experience, especially when some of his choices or decisions are problematic. Yet when a man feels a need to give unsolicited advice, tell the boy what to do, or respond from his own discomfort with the boy’s path through life, he inadvertently clips the boy’s wings.
By giving a boy the space to share his experience authentically, without judgment or interruption, by looking for positive behaviors or actions that he can appreciate, and by responding with advice or feedback only when asked, a mentor shows his faith in a boy’s ability to find his way and to access resources only when he needs them. The mentor then also models a kind of humility that is also important for a young man to experience. There is so much pressure to know, to fix, and to figure things out—seeing that we don’t always know, can’t always fix things, and don’t always need to figure things out, provides a healthy balance. More importantly, the kinds of “solutions” that come out of the FRAP model are not even what is needed some of the time. Being truly heard and seen can be a very powerful gift.
A beautiful feature of the LAAMB communication model is that, once you understand the principles, it can be done without great effort. Men can mentor simply by being with a teen, rather than what they do for them. Many men shy away from mentoring teens for fear that they won’t know what to do, preventing them from showing up and supporting boys who simply need their presence and personal connection.
While an entire course could be given on all the elements of LAAMB and FRAP, understanding these important principles provides a way to create safety and trust in any relationship.
Boys to Men New England is having its 3rd Annual Benefit Concert at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston on Sunday, April 13. This year’s theme is “Building Community Through Mentoring.” Keynote speakers are Marty Martinez, Executive Director of the Mass Mentoring Partnership, as well as Victor Martinez and Carlos Cordero, Founders of Boys to Men Lawrence. Headliners include Geoff Bartley, the godfather of folk, and jazz diva Tracy Clark. Performers include teens as well as adults. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased through: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/535928. Donations of any amount are welcome. Checks payable to BTMNE can be sent to BTMNE c/o Linda Marks, 3 Central Avenue, Newton, MA 02460. For more information contact Linda at 617-913-0683 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[box]Linda Marks is Board Co-Chair of Boys to Men New England. A single mom, Linda found BTMNE 6 years ago as a resource for her then 12 year old son.[/box]
[box]OMSF is honored to work with young talented volunteers who are willing to share their experiences and thoughts on mentorship. Today I am particularly proud to feature a story written and designed by our new mentoring friend, Ali Shirazi. Ali is a senior at Northeast Regional Vocational High School in Wakefield, MA. He loves music and hopes someday to be a songwriter-producer. A connoisseur of iconic music talents, he also happens to be an expert on our the career of OMSF co-founder Patti Austin! We couldn’t survive without our altruistic volunteers—people who share their time, wisdom, and expertise to remind us all how much we need each other. Thank you so much, Ali, for sharing this story with us today!
—Dawn Carroll, OMSF Executive Director[/box]
Faces upon faces upon faces, all unique and all special in their own particular way. Nothing links these faces except for maybe a few things. They all share similar feelings: of excitement and assumed preparedness, ready to take on the next four years of their lives. They think all will soon be great and each day will be filled with excitement and pure splendor.
The thoughts, for some, are of hope for a NEW BEGINNING. They see the halls them with seemingly infinite doors, thinking hope should lie somewhere. The people around them seem intimidating or friendly. But another feeling they might have is a sense of fear. It’s the fear that keeps each person on edge, causing each step to shake more than the last. Despite the excitement and hope, underneath lies an ugliness. There lies a doubt about all their hopes:
“I’ll make FRIENDS, but, maybe I won’t”
“I’ll join football, but, maybe I’m NOT GOOD enough.
“I’ll join DRAMA, but, what’s if I get stage fright? Or, if I’ll even get on the stage…”
“I’ll get my voice out there for once, but, maybe NO ONE CARES. They never had before…”
Those are the few examples of the hopeful yet frightened thoughts that linger within the young minds.
I had volunteered to stand in front of a group of children with these same ideas—the “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” mindset—hoping I could change that, or at least make them feel less anxious. They sat in front of me, their many questions forming a whirlwind. I had to take on the persona of “Time”, to dissipate the tornadoes oncoming with question marks.
In my role as a Junior Mentor at Northeast Metro Tech, the goal was first to help students by easing them from anxiety into more positive thoughts, from fear to pure excitement. I was also expected to ensure they know all the rules and customs of the school, and answer routine related questions. Lastly, optional yet expected, was to be there for my assigned freshmen, or any freshmen that looked like they needed help. Sometimes, just say hi to them to let them feel welcomed. Not just welcomed to the school, but even welcomed by you, a peer. And I had done just that, exchanging greetings with them and asking them if they need help. They’d smile and say hi and how are you. Then, usually, they’d tell me they’re doing fine or they’d ask a quick question.
There are a few instances in which I felt proud, not so much of myself, but of them. One of the girls I mentored came to me during lunch—she asked to sit with me and I said, of course!—and she began telling me how her year went by so far and how well she’s been doing. I was glad that she felt comfortable enough to tell me, that she knew I would listen—it was very brave of her. In another instance, I greeted a boy in the hallway as usual and then he said, “Guess what?” He told me about getting into the shop class he was excited to take and about signing up for sports, that he’s keeping up his grades and he loves the school so far.
I’m happy I got to help some kids with their transition into high school. When I was a freshman, I needed a guide. The teachers stood around and offered direction, but that was about it. However, a senior girl I was already friends with offered me a place to sit at lunch as well as her advice. She introduced me to one of her friends as well. I was lucky to have had a mentor. I appreciated that more than anything, and now I’m glad I got to do it for a new class of students. To greet the minds filled with questions and the “maybe I will and maybe I wont’s” to see them filled with answers and to hear them say, “I know I will.”
As a mentor collector, I am naturally surrounded by experts, and every day the OMSF journey introduces me to exquisite , committed individuals, who dedicate their energy to making the world a better place. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a Boston Icon named Jordan Rich at a dazzling Boston music mentoring night. OMSF was giving a life-time achievement award for promoter Fred Taylor, who has been mentoring in the Boston Music scene for many years. The award ceremony was organized by the fabulous Linda Marks, whom I met when she wrote her magnificent mentoring story for last years Father’s Day, and Jordon Rich was presenting the award to Taylor. I was thrilled when, a few weeks later, Jordan invited me to be a guest on his radio show at the WBZ Studios in Boston.
It was a thought-provoking experience . New ideas were stirring around in my head like a New England Blizzard. As soon as I got home I emailed Jordan to ask if we could bring all the OMSF stories and heroes to his prestigious show: and to my total delight, he said yes!
I am very pleased to announce that OMSF’s mentoring stories—the ones you find right here on our Web site—will also be featured regularly on Jordan Rich’s show. We are so very grateful for this new collaboration, and will be posting the radio interviews on our site. Jordan has interviewed many film, TV, Music stars over the years, and his eclectic show spotlights the whole range of human experience: arts, history, health, sports, politics and now mentoring! Not only that, but Jordan is also mentoring me as I fine tune my radio production skills, and he has graciously offered me the role of Associate Producer, overseeing these mighty mentoring interviews!
Get ready to tune in to the Jordan Rich–OMSF mentoring story of the week!
—Dawn Carroll, OMSF executive Director
[box]Without positive influences, we become lost, both as individuals and as a society. That’s why our dedicated team searches for stories of people who use their talents to fuel greater confidence, self-esteem and self-worth in others. We look for exquisite examples of individuals who are moving us all towards a society of greater inclusion. The heart of the OMSF mission is to find a cure for hopelessness, and we believe that mentoring can help solve many personal and social issues.
Today, Marissa Ranahan introduces us to a vibrant new artist, Gemini Wired, who wrote this amazing song to stand up to bullying. Haters be gone. Let this song and all the stories we publish inspire you to get involved with mentoring. One simple way is to share the mentoring stories we write each week with all your friends—you never know how a story might inspire someone else. If we feed creative minds, they just might discover solutions to the many problems we face in this world.
—Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Director
“If you can dream it, you can achieve it. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I listened to people who didn’t want to see me prosper.”
We all have dreams. They might be to inspire, to educate, or simply to do well in this life. At Over My Shoulder, we believe in dreams, and in the unique combination of music and mentorship. Kristian Bryant of Brockton, MA, also known as Gemini Wired, dreamed of being a talented musician; recently, merging that dream with a powerful message has inspired thousands.
When I cought Kristian’s music video, “What Now,” I was entranced by her anti-bullying lyrics. The song’s focus is on overcoming the negativity that’s so often thrown at the younger generation. In her own words, she explains her inspiration behind the video “What Now”:
“I want my ‘What Now’ video to inspire as many people as possible. There are kids who have so much to offer and do not know it because they want to hide their talents or intelligence. I don’t want them to be ashamed anymore. I want them to know people like myself and these organizations have their backs. What now!”
The video, which was posted just a few months ago, in fall 2013, has already exceeded over 30,000 views. “I plan on bringing awareness to bullying through my music but also sharing my message to many kids.” Kristian hopes that the sing will give hope and strength to the victims of bullying. She will be visiting schools in the New England area over the coming year, sharing her video and encouraging children to support one another.
“When young people are busy being positive and supportive, you see less cases of (kids) being bullied. I feel compelled to spread the message.”
So, who are her mentors? She described her family as her “greatest” inspiration, constantly providing Kristian with their support and encouragement. “Everything I do is for them (her family).” She also cited her musical support, the production team Lyve City: “They were kind of that missing piece to my puzzle,” she said.
Kristian has been passionate about music from a young age, when she formed a small, short-lived all-girls group. In college she gained knowledge about “producing music, writing music, and beginning to record my own songs.”
Music with a powerful message has the ability to touch us all. Kristian has done an incredible job of inspiring others through her musical ability. With her talent, she’s spreading a positive message of hope. In her unique song, the essence of music and mentoring come full-circle. With inspirational songs like these, mentorship through music becomes a reality.
At Over My Shoulder, we thank Kristian Bryant for her positive messages through music, and all those who continue to write inspirational pieces for all ears to hear.
—Marissa Ranahan, OMSF Team Member
Before I had ever reflected on the word mentor, I knew that it was essential to find people who could help me realize my dreams and career goals. Most the things I wanted to do in life didn’t have schools, so I searched for people who were doing interesting things and tried to work with them. One of the first mentors I collected was Boston fashion icon Yolanda. I wanted to produce shows, and her legendary fashion shows were irresistible.
For the glamorous couture world of Yolanda, I must have seemed rough around the edges. I remember being terrified during the job interview: I lacked the tools, I did not have a fancy wardrobe, I was not particularly elegant, I had no experience. Simply put, I was not an ideal candidate for her team. But Yolanda took me in anyway and I soaked in everything I could about how this entrepreneurial wizard created her empire.
Then I took off to Hollywood. I didn’t know a soul, so I called around to the big entertainment companies and found a sympathetic ear. Marcie Rondon gave me a chance as an intern for Mitch Schneider, a powerful agent in the music world. I interned with them for six weeks, and it launched my entire career.
Years later, as I reflect on mentors and mentorship, I realize that I have been collecting mentors all my life. They’ve helped me achieve my life goals, helped me become a better person, and shaped the course of my career. That’s one reason I co-founded Over My Shoulder: to inspire others to collect mentors, and to be a mentor. “One less hopeless person” has become my personal mantra. Nothing is more dangerous in this life than a lack of hope, but mentoring can keep hope alive.
Who do you admire? Who do you want to emulate? If you know who or what you want to be, find someone who is already living your dreams. This is how I found Alex and Ani, and why I immediately added them to my personal mentor collection. As National Mentoring Month comes to an end we hope the stories we feature have inspired you to think more about mentoring.
—Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Director
One of my earliest and most-treasured mentors is David Shapiro CEO of Mentor, “the unifying champion for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States.” I asked him to offer some reasons for becoming a mentor. Here’s what he told me:
“Currently, 1 in 3 young people reach age 19 without a mentor of any kind. Absent this critical guidance and support, an extraordinary amount is left to chance—and we are too often losing these children to hardship and hopelessness. It has been proven that young people with mentors both aspire to and reach college at a higher rate. They also have better self-esteem and they make better, more productive decisions.
“The more risk factors in a young person’s life, the less likely they are to connect to mentors ‘naturally.’ With such a powerful tool in our midst to improve the lives of young people, we have a responsibility to actively engage with them. We have to learn to notice the signs that a young person needs support and use what we know about quality mentoring to create and support them.
“It is for these reasons that Mentor was founded, more than twenty years ago. It has expanded from helping 300,000 young people in mentoring programs then, to helping 4.5 million today. It is our privilege to work to inform, connect, and fuel the mentoring movement in America—whether through the National Mentoring Month campaign in January, the National Mentoring Summit, our work on advocacy and policy to advance integration and support for mentoring, or our work to help get practitioners the best information from researchers to make their programs of the highest quality.”
As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, I hope you will share in the mentoring spirit. Consider making mentorship a part of your life. Mentoring shatters barriers that separate generations of people and cultures. Mentoring fosters respect, diversity, culture, and individuality. Mentoring develops the talent of our youth, who will then have the leadership skills to amend our social and economic woes.
This is the essence of Mentorology. We hope that you will become a mentorologist too, and help spread the good word of mentoring!
—Dawn Caroll, Over My Shoulder Director
[box]Recently, I was invited to write a guest post for the blog of Alex & Ani, a company that “offers eco-friendly, positive energy products that adorn the body, enlighten the mind, and empower the spirit.” It was thrilling to be able to highlight the importance of mentorship for their community. Here is the complete text of the post, which you can also find at the Alex & Ani website.
—Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Director[/box]
A few years ago I was asked to help write a song for a very talented thirteen year old to sing with her mentor, singing legend Patti Austin. The challenge was to find subject matter that was both appropriate and authentic, something teenagers and adults could relate to. I was given a musical formula by the managers: take a base of Taylor Swift, blend it with Adele, and decorate it with some Carly Simon – with that, I was supposed to cook up a delicious song with multi-generational appeal.
Initially, I laughed about the assignment. It was like being asked to write the spell that turns lead into gold. I said to myself, “If I can write that story/song, I could retire tomorrow!” However, I enjoy a daunting task and attacked it with relish. At the time I happened to be with my niece, Meghan, so I asked her to help me. Together, we came up with many ideas in just a few hours, but there was one idea that kept me up that night.
When I was trying to make it big in Hollywood, I was working for a music management company. They represented, among others, New Kids on the Block (hey, they were pretty big at the time!) as well as singing legend Patti Austin. One time, Patti was asked to describe the recipe of her own success. She simply replied, “Mentors.”
That word kept coming back to me as I was working on this new song. I have jokingly told people that it only took 15 minutes to write a duet for Patti to sing with this young lady, but truth be told, the song had been marinating inside me for more than two decades. That’s how I came to write “Over My Shoulder.” The message of the song is simple: two voices, two generations, each one inspired by, supportive of, and paying tribute to the other.
This was the very first song I ever wrote, and at 48 years old, it was also a lifelong dream come true. The song was a hit! It initiated vibrant conversations amongst powerful leaders both young and old, and something stirred inside me as well. Jimi Hendrix, my musical hero, once said, “If there is something to be changed in the world, it can only be done through music.” I felt that I could create music, tell stories and produce events that could spotlight mentorship, to promote positive change in the world by encouraging people to care for each other.
I believe that there is nothing more dangerous than hopelessness. Mentoring is our most powerful weapon in the fight against it as well as poverty, ignorance, and hatred. We all need to become life-navigators and be open to them. It is up to all of us to design the next generation, to instill hope into the future. Without it, we become disconnected as individuals and lost as a society.
The Alex and Ani story is a perfect example of the power of mentorship. Like many of you, I gravitated to its positive energy and ethos of continuity, “inspired by the wisdom of ancient thinkers,” as the company’s biography reads. I discovered that Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder and Creative Director, created Alex and Ani to carry her family’s legacy forward, to fulfill the vision of her father. She did this not only for its own sake (and all of ours!), but for her daughters’ as well.
The Alex and Ani mission is mentorship writ large: history and values being passed across three generations and likely more to come. Mentoring truly is a life force without which none of us can thrive. It helps the next generation take over and succeed. It allows the spiritual side of passion to flourish and let a living history be passed on.
I cofounded the Over My Shoulder Foundation to shed light on these important examples of mentorship in music, design, and elsewhere. As Executive Director of OMSF, having collected dozens of stories like this, I have come to learn how important mentoring is to people. It spans across age, class and race, defying innumerable social divisions. Mentoring is a healing and hopeful force that reconnects the disconnected. Mentoring stimulates creative thinking, and it will be creative minds that will move us all toward a society of greater inclusion, integrity and value.
“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” —Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai showed the world that there is no stopping a hungry mind. At 15 years old she proved that she was willing to risk her life in the pursuit of an education. On October 9th, 2012, while riding home from school, Taliban agents stopped her car and shot Malala in the head. She survived the attack, and bravely refused to surrender her dream. Because of her courage and her dedication to the cause of education for all, Malala became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee ever. She has inspired girls around the world to pursue their goals fearlessly and NOT to let anyone get in the way of their education, or their dreams. It shows how one person can inspire change in the world.
I immediately thought of Malala when I heard the story below, written by our dynamic team member Marissa Ranahan. After you read about this uplifting example of mentorship, share the story on social media, encourage your friends and community to support the Malala Fund, and take a few moments to think about how you could make positive change in the world by becoming a mentor.
Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director
“Mentoring someone doesn’t need to be a lifetime job. Sometimes, it can simply be a lesson that can be carried through a lifetime. This story proves that anyone, at any time, can be a mentor in their own way. It’s the little things that have the greatest impact.” —Marissa Ranahan
Those were her exact words, and I smiled as soon as she mentioned the word mentor. Since joining the team at Over My Shoulder, it seemed to me that every person I encountered had someone in their life as a mentor.I asked her quickly if she enjoyed reading, and her face lit up. She was twenty-three years old. She had a soft smile, with a brightly colored hijab wrapped tightly around her head. We started to talk about books and different genres of literature. She nodded her head in agreement and smiled as I spoke. “Can I tell you something?” she asked. “I have a mentor who taught me how to read, because I am not allowed to.”
This young woman came to America from the Middle East, where she was never taught how to read. Although she always longed to learn, she was not allowed. When a neighbor in the U.S. found out she wasn’t able to read, the woman offered to give private reading lessons, without the knowledge of her disapproving family. They met every Wednesday night in secret until the young woman’s family came home from work. When everyone was asleep, she would take out her books and practice the sentence structure her neighbor had taught her. After six months of study, she was already reading chapter books.
“To me” she said, “Reading is like a different language. After listening to it, I hungered for more, but I was restricted from reading. I consider my neighbor my mentor, my reading mentor, and a woman who had opened up new doors to my knowledge. To me, this is the best guidance I have ever received.”
The admiration she had for this woman was obvious, even in our brief encounter. I asked her what a “mentor” was in her own words—she responded, “A mentor is someone who comes into your life like a guardian angel, and helps you fulfill a passion that was missing before. It might not be for a lifetime, but as soon as you feel like someone believes in you, that feeling will carry through your lifetime.”
I haven’t seen this young lady again. But the message of her story is universal, and deserves to be heard. Anyone can be a mentor. Small acts of mentorship, like teaching one person to read, reverberate for a lifetime. The reward of helping another person is priceless.
Marissa Ranahan, Over My Shoulder team member
As I continue to learn more about the cutting edge designers, builders, and architects out there, I am amazed by what I find. My partner and co-founder Dawn Carroll just introduced me to the bio of super star architect Zaha Hadid. Oh how I would love to be mentored by her!
She was most recently recognized at the international level for her incredible design of the Olympic Aquatic Centre, which houses two swimming pools and 22,500 seats. Other notable designs include the Bridge Pavilion in Spain, the Bergisel Ski Jump in Austria, and the Vitra Fire Station in Germany. She has also begun planning for an 11-story condo building on NYC’s High Line. Her successful career in architecture has earned her the Pritzker Prize and the label of one of CNN’s ‘Leading Women’ among many other accolades.
Surprisingly, there are very few leading women architects in the industry, which makes me wonder why this is the case. The RIBA Future Trends Survey indicated a 7 percent decline in the number of female architects over the past two years.
According to Zaha, she thinks that it is because many women struggle with the work/life balance and often feel overwhelmed trying to be the best at everything: career woman, homemaker, mother, and wife. By trying to juggle all of the tasks related to their personal lives, they may feel as though they don’t have the focus or drive to become successful architects.
To help create more successful women architects in the future, Zaha is a believer in women in mentoring relationships. In fact, while she used to not like being labeled a ‘woman architect’, she now knows that her role as a leader in the industry can be inspirational for other aspiring women architects and help to reassure them that it can be done.
I, along with my mentor in design, Dawn Carroll, have started the Over My Shoulder Foundation in an effort to start an international conversation on mentoring through our Designing the Next Generation series. Please contact us to learn more about women in mentoring and the powerful effect it can have.
If you ask successful people what they attribute most to their career growth, many of them will tie their accomplishments back to having strong mentors along the way. The same could be said for Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO of Facebook. Throughout her professional career, she played a hand in the IPOs for both Facebook and Google, and served as the chief of staff for the United States Department of Treasury. She was recently named the fifth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.
When it comes to mentors in the business world, Sheryl Sandberg mentions in this CBS News piece that we often think of a man-to-man mentoring relationship versus one that is comprised of a man and woman. She shares that it’s natural for two men to share a beer and have this type of camaraderie in a hotel lobby while traveling for business, but may send out the wrong signals if a man and woman were to have a drink in the same environment. For this reason, she explains the importance of more senior and tenured professional women taking on younger women as mentees to help guide them along the way in their careers.
Just like Sheryl Sandberg, Patti Austin and Dawn Carroll attribute much of their success to the strong mentoring relationships that they have developed throughout their careers. Wanting to spread the word on the power of “Mentorology,” they founded the Over My Shoulder Foundation. The goal of this non-profit organization is to raise the awareness of what a positive impact mentoring can have across generations and cultures.
For more information about the Over My Shoulder Foundation and our mission, please contact us today!
This topic is so close to heart because finding a mentor is important to everyone. Finding a mentor is SO IMPORTANT that I have dedicated a large part of my life to starting Over My Shoulder Foundation and promoting the idea of Mentorology – the art and science of mentoring. Justin Locke, a previous member of the Boston Pops Orchestra, appeals to teenagers as he writes this Beginners Guide to Being a Successful Mentee. Yet, most of as really ARE all still just kids at heart wondering what we’re going to DO when we grow up. Mentoring IS often understood as an older person teaching someone younger how to do a specific thing, or teach that youngster some lessons about life. Yet in Mentorology there is an even exchange. Mentor and mentee share valuable insights with each other and grow because of it.
Even Warren Buffet’s career advice is to “do what you’d do if you were independently wealthy.” Why not start now by finding a mentor? It’s so easy with Justin Locke’s step-by-step mentoring advice below.
-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder and Executive Director
Okay, so you’re a high school kid who has been reading this Over My Shoulder blog, and now you’re saying to yourself, “wow, how do I get in on some of this fabulous mentoring action?” Well, read on, we will explain the basics
of how to do it, or at least one approach.
Finding a mentor is actually pretty easy to do. Even if you’ve never encountered someone who took any interest in you up until now, if you follow the rules and procedures, you too can have a fabulous mentoring experience.
Step one: It all starts with desire. Here is a trite question, but it’s also one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself: what do you want to be when you grow up? It’s kind of important to not take this lightly. Also, you are probably surrounded by people who are trying to influence your decision and tell you what they think you should want. So sit down in a nice quiet room someplace all by yourself and imagine that everyone around you is happy and content and willing to accept whatever career decision you make on your own. And then, ask yourself that question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Bear in mind, this can be difficult, and you may not get it right the first time. This is a process of discovery. But before you can present yourself as a candidate for mentoring, you need to at least say, “I am seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I was hoping you could give me some advice in the matter.”
The next step is finding potential mentors and hooking up with them. This is a whole lot easier than you might think. Start close to home, in your current “network.” Ask your parents if they know someone. Ask your friends and their parents if they know someone. If that doesn’t work out, start expanding your network. For example, there are wonderful things in every town in America called “Rotary Clubs.” They sponsor all sorts of programs for high school kids, including scholarships and leadership training. Not only that, but practically every Rotary club has at least one lawyer, one doctor, one banking professional, one real estate agent, and one everything else. They know everybody. They are a magnificent resource of connection, they would be happy to give you some advice, and all you have to do to start is send an email to the president of the club.
The next step is, again, based on the answer to the question in step one. You want to say to these people, “I’m seriously considering doing [x] as a career, and I’m looking for an adult who can give me some advice.” It is important that you be serious about your desire, because they will notice right away if you aren’t. Also they will notice right away if you are, and that will command respect.
Now at this point you may be asking, “why would any of these busy people want to take time out of their day to spend time talking to me?” The answer is, for all sorts of reasons. Every single one of these people was, one
time or another, a teenage kid just like you, so they can empathize with your current situation more than you might think. Many of them will have memories of being a somewhat lost and confused teenager, wishing that
someone had helped them out and given them guidance. Helping you is a way to heal their own past. Or perhaps someone helped them out way back when, and now they are eager to “pay it forward.”
There’s also just plain old ego. Many people are eager to share their philosophy, or just show off their knowledge. And no matter who you are, it feels good to help other people. And don’t forget, there is tremendous
“equity” in youth. Older people like to be around younger people. You’re so full of life.
Getting Into Your Mentoring Relationship
There are all sorts of ways to get into a mentoring relationship. You can take someone to lunch. Or, you might volunteer or sign-up for an internship. The best mentoring opportunities are totally unique and don’t
fall into any pre-existing forms. To make it happen, just hang around, or maybe offer to make yourself useful. Ask people the magic question: “How can I help you?” Offer to help out with menial tasks or just
sweeping up the place. If you want to be a lawyer, filing the papers or washing the windows in a real law office for a couple of weeks will tell you more about the actual business than any book on constitutional law.
Once you hook up with a mentor, bear in mind, being a good mentee is not the same as being a good student. This is not a relationship where you should be eager to demonstrate that you “know the answer.”
The real world is not school. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. Be humble. And remember this principle of applied stupidity: “The dumber you look, the more stuff people will tell you.”
There are more mentoring opportunities out there than you can count. And remember, it’s important to go to school and get good grades, but networking and making connections is just as important to your success in
life, if not more so. There are lots of people out there who are genuinely eager to help you. It all starts with articulating desire.
So, what you want to be when you grow up?
© Justin Locke
Justin Locke spent 18 years playing bass with the Boston Pops before becoming an author and speaker. In his books and presentations he talks about the confluence of education, history, and the performing arts, and how this affects current issues of organizational dynamics and management.
His books include “Real Men Don’t Rehearse” (his humorous Pops memoir) and ”Principles of Applied Stupidity” (or, the benefits of going against conventional wisdom). His upcoming book is titled “The Emotions of Money: Undoing the Effects of Poverty Thinking.” J
Justin has been featured on Chronicle HD, CBS Radio, WGBH’s Greater Boston, and in the Boston Globe, and he recently appeared as an “author@google.” Justin’s plays for family orchestra concerts are performed all over the world, and he writes a monthly article of managerial “people skills” for the American Institute of CPAs. Justin appears regularly as an entertaining and inspirational speaker for more information please visit his website www.justinlocke.com. [/box]
[box] Have you successfully found your mentor? Please write to us and share your mentoring stories with Over My Shoulder Foundation so we can keep inspiring others to do the same! [/box]