All posts by Tara Browne

The Wanderer’s Journey

Separation: The Wanderer-Hero

  • Having left home and the familiar behind, the Orphan-Hero voyages in search in search of a way to defeat the dragon, thus transforming into the Wanderer-Hero

  • Characterized by the search for individuation and personal power, the Wanderer-Hero rapidly develops adaptability, resilience and self-confidence; when she confronts the dragon, she gives chase and is reborn as “the Warrior”.

In the first act of the Hero’s Journey, an Inciting Incident forever alters an Innocent’s path, setting her upon a quest to avenge or recover that which was lost in the Dragon’s attack on her home. Up until the point of the Dragon’s attack, the Hero has had all her needs supplied by parental authority figures.

Professionally, the period of innocence may correspond to such situations as:  the safety of a high school alma mater; a stable job where we feel well within our comfort zone; or a period of entrepreneurship where our billable hours are fully booked, and our products are selling like hotcakes. Take away this security and we may indeed feel “orphaned”, left alone in the world without shelter, resources or companionship.

The Orphan’s response is to flee, to hide, and to absorb the enormity of what has happened.  In our professional Hero’s Journey, major changes may at first cause us to withdraw and seek solitude for recovery.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously grapples with this point of decision in his best-known soliloquy:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. [1]

The Hero, of course, ultimately makes the choice “to be”, and “to take arms against a sea of troubles.” Having made that choice, the Orphan is reborn as the Wanderer-Hero as she acquires the resources, develops the skills and forges the alliances she will need to succeed in her Quest.

The Training Montage

The Mentor plays an important role in this next phase of the journey, providing training and tools the Hero will need to succeed in her Quest. In the seminal Hero’s Journey film Star Wars, for example, Obi Wan bequeaths Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber to Luke, and as they journey toward the Death Star where Princess Leia is held captive, Obi Wan instructs Luke in the use of the weapon.

In the career-related scenarios mentioned above, this period of instruction might include such options as:

  • upon graduation, pursuing higher education to become qualified in a specific area of professional expertise;
  • upon being “made redundant” from a seemingly secure job, hiring a career coach to help you strategize your job search;
  • upon experiencing a dropoff in billable hours or sales, hiring a marketing firm to help you build up new business.

Then again, we may lack the resources to pursue such options.  In that case, do we just give up?  Of course not.  In his article “3 Ways to Go Further, Faster,” Michael Hyatt advises:

…note that I said, “hire the best coaches and instructors you can afford” For years, the most I could afford was to check out a book from the library. Don’t worry about what you can’t afford or do. Focus, instead, on what you can afford and start there. [2]

If you are a member of Mentors and Masterminds, of course, this would include reaching out to other members here and letting them know of your situation. And if you aren’t a member yet…CLICK HERE to register. Membership is free, and always will be. Use social sites like Twitter and Facebook to let your network know you are looking for help and advice. Pick up those business books that you’ve been wanting to read, and use them as launching points for publishing your own ideas via LinkedIn or on a personal blog.

A special mention here is Toastmasters International. This organization was founded in 1927 to help its members develop crucial communication skills, and their learn-by-doing approach to both leadership and communication skills development delivers excellent results for as little as $7.50 (USD) per month, plus a one-time new member fee of only $20. [3]

The Road of Trials

The second major feature at this stage of the journey is the appearance of challengers that test the Hero’s growing skills, and magical allies that help her to overcome these challenges. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell offers the example of Psyche’s quest to win back her beloved Cupid from the underworld:

When Psyche pleaded with Venus, the goddess … took a great quantity of wheat, barley, millet, poppy seed, peas, lentils, and beans, mingled these all together in a heap, and commanded the girl to sort them before night. Psyche was aided by an army of ants. Venus told her, next, to gather the golden wool of a certain dangerous sheep…But a green reed instructed her how to gather from the reeds round about the golden locks shed by the sheep in their passage… Psyche was instructed finally to bring from the abyss of the underworld a box full of supernatural beauty, but a high tower told her how to go down to the word below, gave her coins for Charon and sops for Cerberus, and sped her on her way. [4]

In practical terms, we may not have magical helpers who solve our problems for us, but when we approach our challenges with optimism and a generous spirit, unexpected helpers often appear on our path.  A phenomenal example of this was the recent Webathon Weekend fundraiser organized by Lucy Brazier and Executive Secretary magazine on behalf of the inimitable Vicki Sokol-Evans to assist in her fight against breast cancer; over 50 world-class trainers came together and donated their time and content in a marathon of training delivered to hundreds of administrative professionals around the world.

In my own life, I have time and again been blessed with timely assistance from unexpected places. Whether large (being awarded the Northeastern University Carl S. Ell scholarship in 1993, just when my last hope of going to college had seemed to fall apart) or small (my son offering me the use of his truck so I could get to work and back until I had funds to repair my car after it failed inspection last month), I am continually amazed at how things do always seem to somehow work out.

Giving Chase to the Dragon

Finally, there is the question of the Dragon, who is never far from the Wanderer-Hero’s thoughts. The omnipresent danger heightens her alertness, and gives her motivation to continue her training and overcome the obstacles along her path. With newfound skills and confidence, the Wanderer-Hero gives chase where the Orphan-Hero fled and hid.


QUESTIONS: Up until now, what training have you pursued or services have you engaged to further your career or business? How do you maintain a positive attitude when faced with challenges? What unexpected helpers have you found along your way?

CO-MENTORING CHALLENGE: Identify at least 3 resources – e.g. classes, coaching or business services – that could help you in achieving your goals. Discuss the options with your co-mentor and develop a strategy to pursue at least 1 of them.


FOOTNOTES

[1] Shakespeare, William. “To be or not to be” speech from Hamlet
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56965/speech-to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-question

[2] Hyatt, Michael, “3 Ways to Go Further, Faster”
https://michaelhyatt.com/3-ways-to-go-further-faster.html

[3] I am not an affiliate of Toastmasters International, nor am I compensated by them in any way for making this endorsement of their organization. I am simply a satisfied customer who has received considerable personal value from their program, and who enjoys recommending it to others who may benefit from it.

[4] Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, pp 81 – 82. New World Library, Novato, CA, 2008.


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.

Katie Orman

One of the most amazing things about being a management assistant in the internet age is how easily we can connect with other professionals in our field…

Most corporate and other institutional structures still have a way to go in terms of fully including and integrating administrative staff [1], but if we just reach out, we no longer need to be professionally isolated in our offices and cubicles.  Through online communities – and through the events that grow up around these communities – we are able to connect with like-minded professionals both locally and across great distances, even around the globe.

This month, Mentors and Masterminds is very pleased to introduce one of the members from our international community, Katie Orman of British Canoeing.

Katie Orman
British Canoeing, Nottingham,  Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katieorman/
Experience: 11+ years
Greatest Professional Strength: Organisation & Planning
Current Professional Priority: Leadership & Management
Interested In: Peer Mentoring, Find a Coaching Mentor, Be A Coaching Mentor, Join a Mastermind, Local Networking
Meeting Preferences: Face to Face, Online or Teleconference
Primary Location: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
Other Locations: Loughborough, Leicestershire

Where I’m From

I have been working in administrative roles for 15 years from Admin Assistant, Senior Administrator / Executive Officer and PA to Project Manager roles.  I have over 9 years experience in Sports National Governing Bodies with a particular focus on Performance Sport.  My key areas of interest are learning and development and how teams work including personality types, psychology and the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into working practices.

Where I’m At

I found out about Mentors and Masterminds through LinkedIn and am keen to improve and develop myself along with providing what advice I can to help others.

Where I’m Headed

I would like to continue to work in high performance sport or in the not for profit / charity sector.  I would be keen to further develop my skills in learning and development in the future.

What I’m Most Passionate About

I am a keen runner; I work and volunteer at a number of races and sporting events.  I am also passionate about animals, particularly dogs, and I’m a re-homing centre and event volunteer at a Dogs Trust rescue centre.


FOOTNOTES
[1] For a look at the pros and cons of how administrative professionals are positioned within organizational hierarchies, see Phoenix Normand’s thoughtful article, “Out Here on Our Own” at LinkedIn.


If you are a member of Mentors and Masterminds, be sure to drop by Katie’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 Katie, 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, Mind the Gap

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When Sheryl Sandberg’s blockbuster manifesto Lean In first came out, I was burnt out from years of being a single mom in a pigeonhole career, and I was in no mood to hear what she had to say.

My situation was not for a lack of trying. I followed all the career advice I could find…or at least as much of it as I could understand. I let my boss know I was looking to grow my career and earning power, and would be thrilled to make any move that put me on a growth career path. I accepted the challenge of covering maternity leave for one of my colleagues, proving my potential over a grueling six months. After this trial by fire, my boss gave me a great review and wrote a promotion into my official Career Action Plan. When that very job became available three months later, it was offered to an outside candidate. I never got an interview, and another opportunity never came up while I was with the company.

First, Acknowledge the Gap…

This experience – and others like it – made it very hard for me to sit through panels of senior executive women lecturing at “women’s empowerment events” sponsored by “women’s employee interest groups”. These executives spoke of work/life balance while wearing Christian Louboutin shoes that cost more than my annual childcare budget. They told mom-guilt stories about how hard it was to find just the right nanny, and explained the agonies of allocating their hours while relying upon spouses and hired help to take care of their households and kids. I struggled to juggle everything alone on an inadequate fraction of the salary. They spoke of Hillary Clinton and her famous chocolate chip cookies. During one particularly lean period, my sons were grateful to have anything other than ramen and oatmeal to eat.

When I had run out of sick time and vacation benefits for the year, I left my sick two-year-old in the care total strangers on the days when he felt the worst, because I couldn’t afford to lose a full day’s pay and his regular daycare wouldn’t take him. When my kindergartner begged me not to drop him off anymore at the local YMCA – the only before-school care I could afford – I told him he’d get used to it. Then one day I came in late, and instead of the quiet, cozy, alphabet-carpeted room where I usually dropped him off, we were directed to a massive, barely-supervised gymnasium teeming with children of every age from kindergarten through fifth grade. My young son just curled up in a ball on a bench as I turned away. I cried all the way to work that day.

When the COO of Facebook published a book called Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, it was just more of the same old red-soled execu-speak: it was not written for the likes of me.

…Then, Fill It

Since those days, I have become a big Sheryl Sandberg fan. Her PSA on the importance of mentorship and sponsorship[i] speaks to some of my most dearly-held values. I even run a website that is dedicated to promoting these values, and I’m leaning in” hard. Most importantly, though, I want to echo Sheryl’s message from that PSA: it is never too early in your career to start mentoring others.

Hearing from women like Sheryl Sandberg is amazing, and can give us something to shoot for, but even with equal representation at the c-suite level, the vast majority of women will never get there simply because those roles are themselves scarce. There are far more women out there who are like me and you, and they need to hear from women like themselves, too. We need to be available for each other: to share our struggles and, through our example, to provide hope of rising above them.

You may think you don’t have much to offer, but I assure you that you do! You may have no idea what that pleasant colleague down the hall from you is going through today, but it might just be the same struggle you yourself conquered a few years back. You may have no idea how or where or when your story could change someone’s life, but I assure you that someday it will.

Please don’t keep your story to yourself. Get the stories flowing and the healing going.

#BeTheMentor.

Let’s make this go viral.

Mind the Gap


References

Sandberg, Sheryl, “Lean In Together: Mentorship Matters” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9FIKLhx4hc


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 th

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

John Hardy, VA

As the “Uberization” of business spreads, many traditionally secure jobs are being made redundant or outsourced to freelance specialists; as a result, more and more administrative professionals are going into business for themselves as Virtual Assistants (VA).  According to VirTalent.com, “It is predicted that by 2018, online working across the globe will be worth $5 billion as the demand for outsourcing continues to grow.”

Forward-looking administrative professionals do well, therefore, to at least familiarize themselves with this trend. Mentors and Masterminds is happy to feature our member and established VA John Hardy as an example of an admin who blazed his own trail as an entrepreneur.

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

My first assistant role was as a VA (Virtual Assistant) for a company that outsources to the real estate industry. I was not employed at the time, and the position allowed me to enter a new industry and develop new skills.

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?

After working for the real estate VA services company for several years, I found that I was not getting the type of work I wanted, so I decided to launch my own business as a VA.  I got my first client almost 5 years ago, and since then I have signed on with several others.

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

At first, the biggest challenge was simply getting clients. I continued to cultivate my network, and this has led to my current status . I am a project manager for a large excel project for one of my clients and I am interviewing with another VA to join her team as a subcontractor.  I am also going to be resuming work for another one of my clients in the fall as well as a second subcontracting opportunity

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

My most important mentor has been Howard Crampton. He had a failed project launch and I have learned to overcome adversity.   Howard had a team of 4 people to help him with various aspects needed to launch his ebook.  I was responsible for the social media portion of the launch. His initial goal was to publish an ebook about love and marriage.  After 6 months, he decided that he wanted to focus on his speaking business so he scrapped plans for the book. He became my mentor in that he met with me individually (as well as the other team members) and gave me tips to help grow my business.  I still look to him today for advice and for professional recommendations if needed.  

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

The funniest thing is that when I tell people, “I’m a Virtual Assistant”, at least half of them respond with an incredulous, “You’re a what?!!” Apparently they are confusing my VA services with apps like Siri and Cortana…

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

Be persistent, be prepared to fail and cultivate your network.


ABOUT JOHN HARDY

John HardyJohn Hardy is a virtual assistant with specialties in Microsoft Office and social media. Beginning in Fall 2017, John plans to offer mentoring services for new and aspiring VA entrepreneurs.

Website: johnhardyvirtualassistant.wordpress.com
Facebook: @JohnHardyBusinessServices
Twitter: @JohnCyclistJohn
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/johnhardyvirtualassistant


References

Morency, Marie-Noëlle “Ted Graham and the Uberization of Everything” https://www.randstad.ca/workforce360-trends/archives/ted-graham-and-the-uberization-of-everything_403/

“The Virtual Assistant Industry”, https://www.virtalent.com/the-virtual-assistant-industry/ 


About this Series

“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 Orphan’s Journey

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”.

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

For another excellent overview of the Hero’s Journey (and a terrific “Recommended Reading” list), see Nina Munteau’s 2-part article on the subject at blogspot:


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.