I had an interesting talk across the bar the other day. It was with a friend who is a former high school principal and we were discussing the power of mentoring. I know in my own life, and I have seen it in others, how much impact one positive voice can have in your life.
Years ago, and I do mean years, I accepted a job as a personal assistant to a lady who owned a local billiard room. Looking back that sounds strange. Why would a bar owner need a personal assistant? Here’s why. She is an incredibly dynamic person with more ideas and opinions than she knows what to do with. She is bright and does not understand the words. “It can’t be done”.
The first time we met she saw something in me as I stood there with my GED, a single parent with two kids and a bag full of self-confidence issues. I have always been smart but what good does that do you with no education? Not a lot in a rural area of Florida where opportunities are limited but you are willing to stay here because it is supposed to be a great place to raise your kids. And it was.
My resume at that point included serving, bartending, radio sales telemarketing and some management in each of those areas. Since I joined a Brownie troop at five years old I have been naturally drawn into leadership roles. When we met I understood the basics of the bar business and I knew how to sell and how to work with people to get things done. The year was 1998.
My boss gave me the greatest gift that any employer, really any person in my life has given me. The time needed to educate myself and she allowed me to fail. In our area we are always a little behind the times but we wanted to implement this great thing called “the Internet” in the business. We decided we wanted a website and I was called upon to make that happen. After many nights at home and hours in the office, I did.
My boss became much more to me over the years and now we have grown into the best of friends. We have jumped into projects blindly trusting our instincts, learning along the way and sometimes failing. We have worked together to build a restaurant, a boat manufacturing company, we worked in commercial real estate and two billiard rooms. The last billiard room had revenue of a million plus and enjoyed a national reputation. We were ninjas. We took no prisoners and if something needed to get done we made it happen by our force of will if nothing else.
If this wonderful woman had not seen that light in me and given me room to grow I would not be the woman I am today. She is the only person in my life who has ever encouraged me without some condemnation. There is a huge difference when you are praised with the words, “That’s amazing. I can’t believe you figured that out”, as opposed to, “That’s great but imagine where you would be if you had made better life choices”. It’s huge.
Because of my best friend I am who I am today even though I still haven’t quite figured out who that is. I am a better mother, better grandmother, I have an AA degree and in a short time I will have my Bachelor’s degree, I decided to take a leap of faith and build my own business using the graphic design and writing skills that I learned along the way. I am not the only one that she has helped. She has had former employees go on to be a general manager of a Hooter’s, one administrates several very large assisted living facilities and there are other success stories. She held us to high standards and encouraged to be the best at what we did.
I did not write this post to tell you who I am. I wrote it to hopefully encourage you to open your eyes to the people around you and see someone who is not meeting their potential and put your hand out to them. Be there for them in their failures and successes. Inspire them. Help them tear down their personal barriers. To watch someone grow as a human being and to grasp some of that elusive stuff we call success is epic.
I also wrote this to put into words how much my friend has helped me. I can’t do it in person because I get too choked up. I also did not use her name on purpose she would get pissed at me if I did. You know who you are and thank you from the very bottom of my heart.