The Orphan’s Journey

There’s no place like home, as they say, and so calling someone away from it requires a powerful motivation. In story, we call this “the inciting incident”. In our lives, it is a pivotal moment of catastrophe or a call to action significant enough to push or pull us out of our Ordinary World and into the Extraordinary World of the Hero’s Journey. This inciting incident transforms our Hero from an Innocent into an Orphan.

The Innocent

Before the start of the journey, the Hero is an Innocent. Characterized by optimism and a sense of security, the Innocent is totally dependent on parents (or other authority figures) to keep her Ordinary World in order. As a result , the Hero clings to her parents, and will resist any change to her comfortable Ordinary World.

In the opening of the classic Hero’s Journey film saga Star Wars, Luke Skywalker expresses a desire to join the Rebellion and fight the Empire, but his desire is not strong enough to override the objections of his adoptive parent, Uncle Owen. Later, when the mentor Obi-Wan first invites Luke to join him on a quest to help that same rebellion, Luke actually uses Owen’s own argument to refuse Obi-Wan’s invitation. In the Hero’s Journey, this invitation is known as the “Call to Adventure”, and “Refusal of the Call” is a mark of the Innocent.

In our careers, this period of innocence is much to be desired: we feel secure and happy; there is a sense that our employer values us; and our job meets our basic needs. It is tempting to believe that this happy circumstance will go on indefinitely. Like the characters Hem and Haw in Spencer Johnson’s 1998 business fable Who Moved My Cheese?, we may ignore signs of coming change. We may even remain in a situation long after it has become unsustainable. Change, however, is inevitable, and inevitably pushes us onto a new path.

The Dragon lays waste to the our Ordinary World, and a new journey begins…

The Dragon

The Dragon is the Fire-Bringer and the Orphan-Maker. In Star Wars, the Dragon comes in the form of Imperial Storm Troopers who set fire to the Skywalker homestead and kill the aunt and uncle who have raised Luke as their own son.

In our careers, the fires are usually more metaphorical than literal, but can be equally catastrophic. Company layoffs, serious illness or injury, or an unfavorable turn of office politics may expose us to loss of income and launch us on the “quest” to find a new job. Expenses due to a serious illness may deplete a lifetime of hard work and savings and leave us struggling to make ends meet on what was previously an adequate income.

Even something as commonplace graduating from school can be an inciting incident for change, psychologically speaking. The common reference to schools as Alma Mater, or “nourishing mother”, underscores this.  

First, we are forcibly pushed out of the familiar and nurturing environment we have inhabited for twelve or more years into a new world where it is no longer enough to do as we are told. Then, we are told we must seek our own way in an unfamiliar – and often unforgiving – world. A hero’s journey, indeed!

The Orphan

Where the Innocent was secure, the Orphan is fearful. Where the Innocent trusted in others to protect her, the Orphan is abandoned and alone. Just to survive, the Orphan must develop a level of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness that she was not required of her in her prior life; moreover, she must do this while trying to avoid the very Dragon that destroyed her Ordinary World. There may be a period of depression and inaction where we refuse the call, but eventually we must take action toward finding or creating a new “home”, and a new normal.

The first act of the Orphan, therefore, is to flee from the dragon and seek safety; the second is to piece together some new way to survive. As she relies on her own wits and resilience to provide for herself that which her parents previously supplied, the Orphan develops a new sense of self as distinct from the Family. With the Family gone, she eventually realizes that this loss brings not only responsibility but also a measure of freedom, including freedom she did not previously have to answer the Call to Adventure.

In Star Wars, Luke ultimately leaves the devastated farm and joins Obi-Wan on the quest to deliver valuable information to the Rebellion. In our lives, we also begin to consider next steps. Perhaps we simplify our lives and reduce our obligations to enable us to weather the storm. We may undertake training in an area of long-suppressed interest, setting our lives on a totally new path. Skills we previously thought of only as hobbies may become a source for new relationships or income opportunities.

With one decision – one small step – the Orphan crosses the threshold from the Ordinary into the Extraordinary World, and so her Hero’s Journey begins.


QUESTIONS: What Calls to Adventure have you received in your career, and how have you responded? What is the most significant Dragon that has impacted your career, professional or otherwise?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Review your current goals and identify the Dragon that incited you to pursue this goal. This “Dragon” might be a personal limitation, an external obstacle to professional advancement, or a personal catastrophe that is impacting your ability to perform at work. Whatever it is, discuss this challenge with your mentor and identify one way in which you can practice self-care and begin to rebuild your strength for the road ahead.


References

“Alma Mater”, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alma_mater 


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series of articles that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. 

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Meet Joyce Wenger

Today’s Member Spotlight features Joyce Wenger, an energetic and enthusiastic champion of the administrative support professions.  She currently works as Office Overhead Program and Administrative Manager for Arcadis, a Netherlands-based global engineering firm with offices all across the United States. Joyce is always on the lookout for ways to help her team of admins excel.

Joyce Wenger, Office Overhead Program & Administrative Manager
Arcadis, Raleigh, NC

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joyce-wenger/
Experience: 11+ Years in Administrative Support
Greatest Professional Strength:
People & Team Building. High Intuitive Nature, MBTI ENFP.
StrengthsFinder: Futuristic, Strategic, Restorative, Individualization and Ideation.
Current Professional Priority:
I love people and ideas. I can see potential in others, sometimes before they see it themselves. I love building teams to accomplish tasks that seem impossible but together as a team – organize, set the plan and let’s get it done!
Interested In: Peer Mentoring, Be A Coaching Mentor, Lead a Mastermind, Local Networking
Meeting Preferences: Face to Face, Online or Teleconference, Industry Events
Location: Raleigh, NC, United States of America

Where I’m From

Would love to connect with other local professionals.  I travel across the states, but mainly New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver.  I am originally from the Hudson Valley, NY and love going back to visit!

I have had a long time in the administrative field and I think that it was a natural fit for me, since my Mom was also very administrative as well.  (Is there such thing as the administrative gene?  Maybe so!)  I had many different jobs before starting my career in administration: McDonalds, a local delicatessen, retail and banking.  I’ve worked for non-profit, small business, R&D firms and IBM, as well.

In the administrative field, I started out as a receptionist; have been a secretary, executive assistant and an office administrator.

Where I’m At

I am now an Administrative Manager for Arcadis (a global engineering consulting firm) managing approximately 70 staff nationally.  I enjoy what I do and have an insatiable quest for knowledge, learning and connecting with people  – which I think is part of what has brought me to where I am currently on my life journey.  (Everyone has their own interesting life story!)

Where I’m Headed

I found Tara on LinkedIn through reading an article.  I reached out by messaging her and asking her to connect.  I am excited about her mission/vision.  What I hope to find here are ways to synergize with Tara (and others globally) on ways to grow & help bring about the realization of the greater mission of Mentors & Masterminds.

What I’m Most Passionate About

I’m most passionate about helping others live out / become all that they are made to be – living their authentic selves (with their unique talents/strengths) and helping them to connect with others to make their impact & difference in the world.

If you enjoyed learning about Joyce from this article, be sure to drop by her profile page HERE and leave her a message. (If you are a current or former administrative professional and would like to join our community and connect with Joyce, click HERE to register!)


Member Spotlight is a series of articles featuring the talents and accomplishments of our members at MentorsandMasterminds.com. Member Spotlight is published here on our blog on the second Wednesday of every month.

  • To be considered for a future Member Spotlight feature, members must complete their full member profile using the profile edit page. 
    • Members will be contacted for approval prior to being featured in Member Spotlight.
    • Members with incomplete profiles will not be considered for this feature.
  • Members who prefer not to be featured can  also select the “Please do NOT feature me in Member Spotlight” in the “MEMBER SPOTLIGHT” section at the bottom of the profile edit page. 
  • To access your profile edit page, cursor over your profile name at the upper right corner of any page on the site, then select “Profile” and “Edit” from the dropdown menus that appear. Be sure to save changes before closing out.

How Weaknesses Make us Better Mentors

One of the most surprising things about being a mentor is that it turns our weaknesses into strengths. It’s not that our weaknesses are magically transformed simply by donning the mantle of “mentor”, but rather that our struggles become our areas of expertise. In addition, the teaching process itself embeds the lessons more deeply within us, often leading to new insights and allowing us to further refine our own work as a result. In the words of Yogi Bhajan, “If you want to master something, teach it.”

The reasons our weaknesses serve us so well in mentoring others are two-fold. First, the struggle itself breaks down barriers and establishes a common ground with our protege. Second, the struggle to learn forces us to articulate knowledge in a way that being gifted does not.

Establish a Common Ground

In her TED Talk “On Being Wrong”, self-styled wrongologist Kathryn Schultz says, “Most of us do everything we can to avoid thinking about being wrong, or at least to avoid thinking about the possibility that we ourselves are wrong.” Our need to “be right”, she proposes, robs us of tremendous creative, intellectual and moral potential. Certainly the fear of being wrong and its corollary, the insistence on being right, rob us of many opportunities for meaningful connection. We may feel safer on our “Pedestal of Rightness”, but it comes at the cost of remaining remote.

As parents, we often see our teaching discussions with our children as very black and white, wrong and right. Being more experienced in the harsh realities of life, we can try to drill lessons into them by sheer force of will. It is, however, when we admit to having the same struggles that they begin to open up to us, and become open to our guidance.

In the cartoon above, for example, ”Mister Man” is teaching a very important lesson to his son, but the lesson backfires when it starts a mental feedback loop in which the boy sees no way to succeed. Mister Man has provided the “what” without providing the “how”. Mom breaks the mental loop by admitting she shares the trait of forgetfulness; moreover, she is a credible teacher because she’s learned ways of coping with forgetfulness. Mom embodies the possibility that things can get better.

When we as mentors share our struggles with our proteges, we do the same for them. We step down off of the pedestal of perfection and ask them to see us in a new light, right there with them struggling with the very same problems. We can show them the path, instead of shouting at them from a high distance.

Embrace the Struggle to Learn

In the cartoon scenario, the breakdown of Mister Man’s lesson comes because he provides the what without explaining the how. This leads us to the second benefit of getting comfortable with our weaknesses: the struggle to learn forces us to articulate knowledge in a way that being gifted does not. As a reasonably gifted painter, I have rarely been challenged to articulate my technique: I just ”get in the zone” and “let it happen”. When I am asked to explain what I do and how I do it, I sense there is often no expectation that I will communicate something my listener can imitate; rather, I am explaining the mysteries of something “other” and “special”. Since I am guided by intuition rather than discipline, I often find myself at a loss for words.

Not so with my maestra Shiloh Sophia. For Shiloh, the process of earning her skill as a painter impressed upon her a clear knowledge of what she does and why. She articulated her knowledge as part of the process of acquiring it, and as a result she can teach what she discovered to others who face the same struggle.

When she was younger, “experts” told Shiloh that she had no talent as a painter; she enrolled in art school, then dropped out and eventually settled for a corporate job. Shiloh’s calling was to create art, however, and it would not be denied. When she finally found her style, it came in the form of a simple visual language, combined with layering and design techniques that were extremely teachable. Ultimately, Shiloh not only developed an extremely successful career as a fine artist, but founded the Color of Woman school of painting and established the Intentional Creativity Foundation and Power Creatives TV to help others learn to become creators in their own right. Today she is a mentor to thousands of women who, like her, had been told they “have no talent”.

While most of us will not go on to create an entire teaching methodology or business from our struggles, we can still learn to use our weaknesses as an asset in our mentoring. When in doubt, as yourself this question: would I rather be right or helpful? In truth, it’s not an either/or proposition, but a question of starting with the right priority. If you start with the desire to be helpful, you will find the way to the “right” place for yourself and your protege. Your heart can show you how to be both.

#BeTheMentor


REFERENCES

“If you want to master something, teach it.” Yogi Bhajan https://www.harisingh.com/newsYogiBhajan.htm

“On Being Wrong”, TED Talk by Kathryn Schultz https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong#t-132401 


About This Series

“Be the Mentor” is a series in which I explore the joys and benefits of stepping up to be a mentor, and offer my insights on how to do it well. “Where Do Mentors Come From?” is the first article in this series.

Be the Mentor is published on the first Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Mary Berard, Realistic Solutions MR

Today’s Admin Trailblazer features Mary Berard, an administrative entrepreneur specializing in medical billing, collections and credentialing. As an award-winning business owner who has recouped millions of dollars for her clients, Mary is a tremendous role model for those who seek to articulate the actual and potential value of administrative expertise.

What was your first experience in an administrative support role, and why did you choose to take that opportunity?

My first experience in an administrative support role was in 1994 as a Clerk in a nursing home. I took this role because I had just completed college and was asked by the administrator to work both the office and CNA in the same facility.

When did you first decide you wanted more out of your administrative career, and what did you decide to do about it? How did this lead you to where you are today?

I decided I wanted more out of my career when I was working with Worcester Fights Back, Friendly House as a Board Member, and Low Income United Inc. What did I decide to do about it? I went to college and earned a degree in Medical Office Services. This lead me into opening my own medical billing company, which I have operated and grown successfully for the last six years.

In pursuing this new endeavor, what was your greatest setback, faceplant or challenge, and how did you overcome it?

In opening my company the setback was trying to open the doors with no financial backing or money in the bank. The biggest challenge was overcoming others’ opinion of my failure before it happened. My company is going strong and is well-known nationwide. With over 25 years of experience in medical billing and making 1.8 billion dollars for medical providers, I received an award for Woman of Excellence in Dedication and Perseverance. I was also recognized as a Strathmore Professional of the Year in 2017, and included in the Library of Congress.

What mentors have you had, and how have they helped you to get where you are?

Some of the greatest mentors were my employer and colleagues, especially Michael Mikitarian and David Kession. Both of these men are outstanding and compassionate. They have each taken the time to help with any questions that I have, with side-by-side mentorship.  

What’s the funniest story you experienced on your path to success?

The funniest story that I have experienced on to my path to success is that when I say that I have made fourteen hundred thousand dollars for seven medical providers in ninety days, the providers all have an expression of incredulity. Then they ask, “So, can you do that for me?”. My answer is, “Yes!”

What advice would you give to other admins considering following this path for career advancement?

Believe in yourself even when others do not believe in you and you will be very successful.

ABOUT MARY BERARD

Ms. Berard is the founder and CEO of Realistic Solutions MR, a Western Massachusetts-based firm specializing in medical billing and collection projects, as well as providing credentialing services for private practices, hospitals, home health agencies nursing homes, fitness and wellness centers and pharmacies nationwide. Mary is a 2017 recipient of the Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide Professional of the Year award.

Website: http://www.realisticsolutionsmr.org/home.html.


Admin Trailblazers is a series about serious administrative professionals who have excelled in their role and gone on to the top of the profession, management roles or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Admin Trailblazers is published on the fourth Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

The Map and Milestones of the Hero’s Journey

The wonder is that the characteristic efficacy to touch and inspire deep creative centers dwells in the smallest nursery fairy tale – as the flavor of the ocean is contained in the droplet, or the whole mystery of life within the egg of a flea. For the symbols of mythology are not manufactured; they cannot be ordered, invented or permanently suppressed. They are spontaneous products of the psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces 

Where do mentors come from? One answer is that mentors are those who choose to share the treasures won on their own Hero’s Journeys. To become better mentors, then, we can use the Hero’s Journey as a lens through which to reexamine our own life journeys for gems of experience which we can share. To do so, we must begin by understanding the map.

The journey itself is a deceptively simple pattern, starting with a crisis, followed by a departure from home, a transformation of character, and a homecoming. However, as the opening quote of this article implies, the journey “bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.” By reframing our stories in the context of the Hero’s Journey, we not only lay claim to the talismans of Universal Truth that lie within them, but connect to the power behind that truth2. Like the Sankofa Bird of West African legend3, let us see if we can learn to use this map, retrace our steps, and seek out the treasures that have been left behind.

Stages of the Journey

In the “4-Act Story Diamond” Hero’s Journey model used for this series of articles, the hero’s journey of transformation is accomplished in four distinct stages4:

  1. Preparation
  2. Separation
  3. Initiation
  4. Return

Within this framework, each leg of the journey is a kind of miniature hero’s journey of its own, characterized by a heroic archetype that informs the hero’s choices and ultimately transforms into the hero of the journey’s next phase:

  1. Preparation: The Orphan-Hero
    • A great crisis (dragon) drives the hero from his home.
    • Characterized by risk-aversion, powerlessness, and a dependence on others, the Orphan-Hero flees from the dragon, and is reborn as “the Wanderer”.
  2. Separation: The Wanderer-Hero
    • Having left home and the familiar behind, the hero voyages in search in search of a way to defeat the dragon.
    • Characterized by the search for individuation and personal power, the Wanderer-Hero rapidly develops adaptability, resilience and self-confidence; when he confronts the dragon, he gives chase and is reborn as “the Warrior”.
  3. Initiation: The Warrior-Hero
    • With growing confidence in his Ego identity and power, the hero now approaches the the dragon’s cave, where treasure and victory await.
    • The Warrior-Hero finds the tables turned as he must submit to the dragon and be reborn as “the Martyr”.
  4. Return: The Martyr-Hero
    • The hero must now grow beyond personal power to forge or claim his TALISMAN and prevail against the dragon; transcending his ego, the Martyr-Hero journeys back home as a very different person that the Orphan who set out.
    • The Martyr-Hero confronts the dragon for a fourth and final time. Through the transcendence of his ego and re-engagement with his role in community, he integrates the dragon’s power within himself and is reborn as the Magician.

The journey in its entirety yields a valuable lesson or Talisman which the Hero can use for the benefit of himself and his community, but so too does each leg of the journey. Indeed, even within each leg of the journey are smaller moments of choice and change that ‘bear within them the germ power of the source,’ and reflect the recurring pattern of of crisis, change and transformation . When we use this tool as a lens to review the great challenges of our past, we can recover many treasures indeed from each story we take the time to explore. By collecting these talismans, we build a rich store of treasures “where neither moth nor rust consume”, from which we enrich both ourselves and, if we so choose, our communities as well.


QUESTION: What experiences have you had in your life which, in retrospect, could be described as following the pattern of the Hero’s Journey? Which archetype resonates most with you at this moment in time?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Choose a problem you are facing right now and pick the archetype that most closely describes how you are responding to that challenge. Explore together ways that you can move past that challenge and move toward integration and claiming of your power in this situation, including the personal growth you may need to experience along the way. Commit to one concrete action you can take in this direction between now and your next co-mentoring session and report back on results when you meet again.


Endnotes

1. Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, pp. 1 – 2.
2. Baron-Reid, Collette, The Map: Finding the Magic and Meaning in the Story of Your Life, pp. 111 – 112.
3. I first learned of the Sankofa Legend from Dr. Frank Robinson, who used this motif as a key theme in his 2015 Martin Luther King Day speech at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. See also: Wikipedia, “Sankofa” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sankofa.
4. Ferguson, Andrew, The Four-Act Story Diamond. http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.
Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Meet Jomarie Ramirez

Today’s Member Spotlight features Jomarie Ramirez, a bilingual staff assistant whom I met in 2014 through our mutual membership in Baystate Toastmasters. Shortly after our club was chartered, she accepted the challenge of serving as Club President when our first club president had to step down from the role. Since then, Jomarie has continued to invest in developing her communication and leadership skills.

If you should ever find yourself in Springfield, MA on Three Kings Day, be sure to check out the annual celebration she organizes! You might also want to ask her about the world’s longest holiday…

Jomarie Ramirez, Staff Assistant

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jomarie-ramirez-m-s-cim-chi™-1396a317
Experience: 11+ Years in Administrative Support
Greatest Professional Strengths: Multi-tasking, ability to work with different groups, cultures, personalities of people, creativity.
Current Professional Priorities: Career change and growth. Opportunity to put my degree to use.
Interested In: Peer Mentoring, Find A Coaching Mentor, Join a Mastermind.
Meeting Preferences: Face to Face, Online or Teleconference, Industry Events.
Location: Springfield, MA, United States of America

Where I’m From

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and lived there until graduating from the University of Puerto Rico with a BBA in Office Systems Administration. I worked for a food company until I moved to Massachusetts. I am fully bilingual in Spanish and English, and in 2016 I became a Certified Healthcare Interpreter with CCHI.

Since moving to Massachusetts, I have worked in the manufacturing industry (Dielectrics, Inc.) and healthcare services (Habit OPCO, Baystate ADS Sloan Clinic). I currently work for Baystate Brightwood Health Center as a Staff Assistant, and in this role I wear many hats, including: project coordinator, payroll processor, schedule manager, and general office administrator.

Where I’m At

I am currently seeking career growth in a position where I can contribute my knowledge, educational background, and experiences, both professionally and culturally. What brought me to Mentors and Masterminds is the desire to connect with a mentor who can help me make the transition to a new field and working in a new environment/state.

I am a very creative person, and I would especially like to start working in a career where I can combine my knowledge in office administration and my creativity.

Where I’m Headed

My goal is to have a career where I could combine many of the things that I’m passionate about: helping others, sharing knowledge, continuous learning, travel, creativity, culture, photography and food. My dream job would be with The Travel Channel, or a job related to culture, traveling, sharing information about situations around the world.

What I’m Most Passionate About

I’m passionate about my culture. I’m extremely proud to be a Puerto Rican woman and I love sharing information about our history and culture. My current hobbies are photography and making glass lamps from wine bottles. I enjoy re-purposing items that otherwise would end up in the trash.


If you are a member of Mentors and Masterminds, be sure to drop by Jomarie’s profile page HERE and leave her a message. If you are a current or former administrative professional and would like to join our community and connect with Jomarie, click HERE to register!

Member Spotlight is a series of articles featuring the talents and accomplishments of our members at MentorsandMasterminds.com. Member Spotlight is published here on our blog on the second Wednesday of every month.

  • To be considered for a future Member Spotlight feature, members must complete their full member profile using the profile edit page. Members will be contacted for approval prior to being featured in Member Spotlight, and members with incomplete profiles will not be considered for this feature.
  • Members who prefer not to be featured can also select the “Please do NOT feature me in Member Spotlight” in the “MEMBER SPOTLIGHT” section at the bottom of the profile edit page. To access your profile edit page, cursor over your profile name at the upper right corner of any page on the site, then select “Profile” and “Edit” from the dropdown menus that appear. Be sure to save changes before closing out.

Mentors Don’t Have All the Answers

Taking the step from being a professional to becoming a mentor – proclaiming yourself an expert in your field – can be really intimidating.  Certainly, this has been my experience. As I mentioned in last month’s “Be the Mentor” article, I had a major confrontation with the “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” bogeyman[i] when I realized that I couldn’t just take a back seat and hope this community would grow itself.

If there has ever been an experience that prepared me to do things for which there is no possible way to prepare, it’s parenthood. And in parenting, as in mentoring, the rewards are commensurate with the risks. In this series, starting with mentoring lessons from being a mom, I hope to provide you with the inspiration and encouragement to take that next step and become a mentor.

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers

As they grow into teenagers, the children you thought you knew can seem to become near-strangers as they withdraw and individuate themselves in preparation for adulthood. The things they used to love are irrelevant. When you ask what they are most passionate about now, the responses can be, well, less than impassioned…

All of this can conspire to make you feel pretty helpless as a parent.

As my older son Andrew worked his way through of high school, I asked him all the questions a good mom is supposed to ask. Have you started thinking about colleges yet? Do you know what you’d like to study? And so on… His answers – often sounding more preverbal grunts than actual words – left me very anxious. Had I missed some opportunity to help him explore his interests? Had I somehow inadvertently put the kibosh on his heart’s true calling, just as a tender seedling was, unbeknownst to me, beginning to sprout?  Doing my best to keep my freak-out to myself, I decided the best course of action would be simply to stop pushing on the questions that weren’t working, and focus on the things that allowed us to spend more time together instead.

Our conversations during those relaxed times began to reveal who my son was growing up to be. At his suggestion, we made several trips to local museums: what a delight! I would never have thought to propose it. He seemed to be especially talkative in the car, so I took every opportunity to drive with him and our conversations ranged from current events to history to Latin etymologies to deliberately mangled French. He knows I love to write, and sought my editorial advice on many a school project: I was free with the red pen, and he felt free to take or leave my suggestions.

In his last year of high-school, he wrote a 10,000-word novella, volunteered with a friend’s campaign for Select Board in our home town, and got an after school job. In February, he received full tuition scholarship from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and when he was ready he came back to me and his stepdad with questions that led him to a decision to major in Political Science and minor in Creative Writing as a pre-law course of study.

The truth is, Andrew has come to all these answers in his own way and time, and in the 4 years to come, all of those decisions may turn completely around.  My job as his mentor during this time was never to have the answers for him, but just to be available. I provided honest feedback about his plans and ideas based on what I know of him. I offered advice when – and only when – he asked for it. Above all, though, my job was to provide loving support and a dose humor to relieve the pressure of this major transition. Ultimately, my job was to care.

Take this attitude into your own mentoring and you will find that as the pressure comes off, the relationship blossoms. There is no greater joy than seeing your protégé arrive at the solutions and answers they need in their own way in their own time!

You don’t have to have all the answers. Be a good listener and, in due time, your protégé find their own answers.

[i] This is otherwise known as Impostor Syndrome, which Wikipedia defines as “an inability to internalize…accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome)

Layne Tinsley Sparkles!

What was your first experience in an administrative support role, and why did you choose to take that opportunity?

I prepared to be a high-level assistant by attending college for their certificated Legal Secretarial Specialist program. It was a tough program. To graduate, you had to complete assessments for typing 60+ wpm and shorthand at 100+ wpm, along with legal, computers, accounting, English, writing, and speaking & presentation courses. I was young, married, and two little babies and determined to attain the Dean’s and Honor’s list every quarter. I wanted to do great work for great leaders. What better than legal?

Through a serendipitous meeting with the office manager of the city attorney’s office, I was invited to interview for the position as the assistant to the partner of the law firm, assistant city attorney, and premier eminent domain attorney in Minnesota (all one person). It was the one attorney in the law firm that none of the assistants wanted to work under. I was up for the challenge.

When did you first decide you wanted more out of your administrative career, and what did you decide to do about it? How did this lead you to where you are today?

Events in my life have taken me to move all over the country: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Georgia, and Ohio that being an assistant has allowed me the ability to take my skills wherever I go and in demand. I started the change in the trajectory of my career when I accepted positions other than legal. Legal assistants would tell me that was risky, but I don’t like to be put in a box. I chose to expand my skill set and horizons. This provided me opportunities to work in legal, engineering, real estate, telecommunications, technology, government, medical, and education. I blew the box UP!

So here is where I have seen the two biggest obstacles in an assistant’s position. One is in supporting leadership also means that when they make a change, you are an extension of that leadership and the company has to figure out what to do with you. The second is company transitions: buyouts, mergers, acquisitions, and just plain going out of business. All of these constitute downsizing and assistants can be viewed as a luxury during a restructure.

I grew and grew up in the work that I love, I also embraced learning all the different aspects and industries an assistant serves. I was the first in my family (of my parents and the youngest of five children) to graduate from high school, attend college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Business Administration, and my mother was a small business owner (a gas and service station) when most agencies and businesses wouldn’t work with a woman-owned business.

Ultimately, I wanted to be independent – an entrepreneur. As I met and overcame my challenges, I wanted to be able to encourage and inspire other women to achieve their greatness and dreams.

My path, challenges, dreams, aspirations, people I have met in my journey, and God have brought me to where I am today. I am grateful for the people, challenges, and lessons learned along the way. It all has made me a strong and resilient woman.

In pursuing this new endeavor, what was your greatest setback, face-palm or challenge, and how did you overcome it?

I was married for ten years. It was great having a partner to make decisions with. He had his talents and I had mine. It was a nice mesh. But, after the divorce, I felt that I had to do everything on my own.

My biggest challenge would be that feeling all women have, that we are expected to do it all and we are supposed to be great at everything, which isn’t possible. Nevertheless, the face-palm is that you realize that you have access to a wide group of talented people through networking, social media, and just getting out and meeting people – developing relationships.

Because I feel this way, you will find others do too… if they can help, they will. There are a lot of people who root for the underdog.

Another face-palm is realizing, “You got this.” But this happens all the time when we face our fears.

What mentors did you have and how did they help you to get where you are?

I believe we have mentors throughout our careers and lives. Many informal, some more formal. My mother and my older sister (10 years older) were some of my early mentors. Others later in life have been teachers, instructors, direct reports or bosses.

Men are trained, guided, and nurtured to develop leadership and advancement skills to their underlings. What has been impressed upon women to advance is to “hold their cards close to their vest,” so to speak, for fear of another usurping their position. Which creates a hostile environment for women to encourage one another.

When we come from a position of lack (such as there is not enough room for more women in leadership positions), we stunt the evolution of women taking their rightful positions at the leadership table. When we share knowledge and nurture one another, we grow and expand our influence.

I mentor every chance I get. As the Millennials take over where we leave off, it’s important to provide the knowledge of our experience so they can take our collective fight to the next level. The fight that we are ALL “created equal.” Our refrain does a disservice to our daughters, sisters, and mothers.

What’s the funniest story you experience on your path to success?

While working for the City Attorney’s office, during the OJ Simpson trial, it was one of the rare moments when all staff and attorneys would collect in the conference room to watch. The fascination of a high profile case on tv with legal minds – it was entertaining! Another instance when the law firm put together an event and paid for everyone to see “The Firm” with Tom Cruise. When working for the engineering firm, whenever someone bought a house, everyone was invited to the housewarming. This probably happened once a year. Other than the the traditional Company Christmas (or holiday) party, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to mingle and interesting conversation.

What advice would you give to other admins considering following this path for career advancement?

As administrative professionals, our job is unique in that we work with a great deal of technology and various levels of professionals. It is important to conduct yourself in the highest degree of professionalism – in conduct and appearance. SOFT SKILLS – work diligently on soft skills (soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, interpersonal skills, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people.). HARD SKILLS – It’s so easy today to be continually learning and expanding skills with access to Lynda, Udemy, etc, and reading. Technology changes fast with constant developments and upgrades. NETWORKING – Put yourself out there and develop relationships through local networking events (Meetup), as well as online (LinkedIn). Get engaged with conversations and participate. A big part of networking is giving and sharing. These three things will take you far.

ABOUT LAYNE TINSLEY 

Layne Tinsley is an entrepreneur helping businesses with processes & procedures, increasing productivity, while focusing on alleviating and solving administrative struggles, and challenges. Layne’s career has comprised of administration, human resources, and office management with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management & Administration and has worked in legal, real estate, higher education, technology, coaching, and government. Layne’s mission is to inspire, teach, coach, and empower women to grow, lead, and embrace their unique talents. She lives in Georgia with her daughter and their two dogs, Honey and Lucy.

Email Laynehttp://Layne.Tinsley@mykta.com/
Sparkle Websitehttp://www.mykta.com/
Layne on LinkedInhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/laynetinsley
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Administrative.Sparkle/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MyKTA


Admin Trailblazers is a series about serious administrative professionals who have excelled in their role and gone on to the top of the profession, management roles or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Admin Trailblazers is published on the fourth Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Where Do Mentors Come From? (Part 2 of 2)

Hero’s Journey 4-Act Story Diamong by Andrew Ferguson (http://rageagainstthepage.blogspot.com/2006/01/4-act-story-diamond.html), shared under Creative Commons License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

As I explored in Where Do Mentors Come From? Part 1, if I am to keep my promise to serve the growing community of administrative professionals at Mentors & Masterminds, I must answer this question. I have been forced to dig deep to find the Mentor within me, to reshape and polish what bits of value I find there, and to courageously share these treasures (so they seem to me), so that perhaps I may help others conquer their own challenges.

Whenever I do this kind of deep personal inquiry[i], I am drawn back to the work of Joseph Campbell, and his articulation of the world monomyth, or as it is more commonly known, the Hero’s Journey. in fact, “Meeting With the Mentor” is a pivotal moment in the Hero’s Journey. In The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler’s classic writer’s guide to the Hero’s Journey, the Mentor is introduced as follows:

An archetype found frequently in dreams, myths and stories is the Mentor, usually a positive figure who aids or trains the hero. Campbell’s name for this force is the Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman. This archetype is expressed in all those characters who teach and protect heroes and give them gifts. Whether it’s God walking with Adam in the Garden of Eden, Merlin guiding King Arthur, the Fairy Godmother helping Cinderella, or a veteran sergeant giving advice to a rookie cop, the relationship between the hero and Mentor is one of the richest sources of entertainment in literature and film. [ii]

By reviewing my life in the light of this framework, I have indeed reclaimed many “elixirs” of truth that have helped me to navigate my own path, and to be of support to others. Now, I discover therein the germ of an answer to my core question, “where do mentors come from?”:

Mentors are wisdom-givers who have completed their own Hero’s Journeys.

The Star Wars movie series is often cited as the textbook example of this Hero’s Journey, and repeatedly demonstrates this truth.  Heroes of the Clone War movies – Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi – become Luke’s Skywalker’s mentors in the rebellion movies A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In Disney’s 2015 reboot of the series, The Force Awakens, Luke himself is introduced as the probable mentor of Rey, the heroine for a new generation.

The gifts which Vogler references are also a product of the mentor’s Hero’s Journey. Whether they take the form of physical objects, wisdom stories or prophecy, these gifts always come from the Mentor’s personal treasure store, imbued with a sense of history and great value. They are direct bequests to the Hero of the treasures won by the mentor own their Hero’s Journey.

Taken from this perspective, then, we are all mentors – or can be, if we are willing to do the deep work to unearth the treasures of our personal Hero’s Journeys. In this series “Beyond the Hero’s Journey”, I will explore the Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right. Each article will include a question for your personal inquiry, and a co-mentoring challenge designed to help you and your co-mentoring partner transform your stories into a gift that you can share with the world. I hope you will choose to make this journey with me.

QUESTION: What mentors have you had in your life, and how did their own experiences (as far as you knew them) equip them to become a mentor to you?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Pick one professional challenge you have overcome and, as simply as possible, share that story with your co-mentor at your next monthly meeting. Discuss your lessons learned, and ask your co-mentor what insights they gained from the story.


Beyond the Hero’s Journey is a series that explores elements of Joseph Campbell’s classic Hero’s Journey as way to reclaim the power our professional “stories” for personal growth, and to bring the “Elixir” of our triumphs to benefit others by moving beyond the Hero archetype to become mentors in our own right.

Beyond the Hero’s Journey is published on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at www.mentorsandmasterminds.com.

Endnotes

[i] Here I would like to acknowledge the influence of my teacher, artist Shiloh Sophia (http://shilohsophia.com/), and her process of Intentional Creativity.  To learn more about intentional creativity and the Color of Woman Method, go to http://www.intentionalcreativityfoundation.org/.

[ii] Vogler, Christopher, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (2nd Edition), Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City, CA, 1998. (page 47)

 

Connecting Administrative Professionals for Collaboration and Success

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