We Teach Best What We Most Need to Learn
I've had mentors for the better part of 40 years. Calm, confident and insightful influencers that appeared to see right through me with their sage wisdom while I struggled to feel worthy of their teachings.
My creative writing teacher in high school once decoded my daily journal as he reviewed a few entries. One day he asked "are you the protagonist?".
My worried stare was the yes he didn't need before offering to post one of my entries in the hallway of our school. Before I could say no, he said "Anonymous?". I reluctantly nodded in agreement.
Five years later, as I woke up to the realization that I was writing for pleasure, I decided to send him an anonymousl letter that I signed "Lawn Boy". (mowed much of my neighborhood until I could afford my first car to haul the mower further)
In the letter, I let him know how grateful I was that he saw me when I felt invisible. I didn't grow my last 6+ inches until I graduated, so the cerebrally-challenged students (and ironically one psychology teacher) liked to pick on me for being short.
Years later, my photography mentor asked me to move back to Pendleton to be his studio partner. He offered me ownership if I would first work with him for three years.
He was convinced that I had a way with people, but it was something I couldn't see. "No really Lou, I just want to shoot scenics", I even said "I could never be stuck in a studio".
"You can still take scenics at the same time, you just put people in the scenes..." I reluctantly accepted his offer two years later.
I returned in 1988 to begin, and paid a visit to my high school art teacher Mr. Remington. I had taken every photo-related class including journalism and yearbook, so he allowed me to take "Art" as excuse for another photo class. I pitched him the idea of converting a janitor closet into a darkroom, so he walked me to the Principal to get approval.
Learning of my "success" with my mentor's studio, he invited me to speak to one of his art classes. While walking the hall to meet with him, I passed my creative writing teacher Mr. Chrysler.
We both pivoted back with a double-take. He shook his finger toward me saying "You're Lawn Boy, arent' you?" I smiled, causing him to say "I knew that was your voice in the letter."
After eight months back in Pendleton, I declined the studio offer. Lou's condition was that I keep it there and I missed Portland.
I'm now in my 24th year on the entrepreneurial roller-coaster, and once again starting to write.
For the better part of the past 10 years, I've been calling my friend Sandy my writing mentor. He inspires me to write. He sees through my challenges, and holds me to account to produce what I feel compelled to share with others.
When we met in '09, both writing at a nearby Starbucks each morning, I had no idea that he had so many pubished books. He was just "some guy at the coffee shop" until my oldest daughter asked "Why are you reading Under the Blood Red Sun?.. I had to read that in middle school."
Echoed by her younger sister, "Yeah, I have to read that this year too."
I couldn't wait to return to the coffee shop to tell Sandy, a.k.a. Graham, that my kids "HAD" to read his stuff! HA
I stopped writing for over a year while I recover from a concussion. Business took a dive of around 42% last year while I dashed between frequent naps, occupational therapy, accupuncture pain treatments and forging my ability to work. I maxed out my credit cards to make ends meet, and I learned to say no.
No to all of my volunteer activities, committees and operating 6+ Facebook Pages, several Instagram pages, and so on... Sadly this meant "no" to writing, as I needed this time to market my business.
Two months ago, Sandy turned me onto a book by Neale Donald Walsh called The Essential Path. It helped me to remember something important about my business histogram of success.
I realized that regardless of the recession, regardless of the concussion, my studio was always thriving while I was giving, teaching and sharing.
When my client Lisa Catherwood, (director of the SWIFT program) asked me to participate in the program, it was a yes I could not stop. An ineffable feeling that my body had been hijacked to say a word I had just mastered in order to guard my time.
Halfway through my duties of mentoring this budding photographer, I began to feel a bit overwhelmed. I was falling behind as I invested a great deal of time to narrate to him, the processes of all that I was doing. While shooting, while editing, while culling images - saying why I chose this pose over that pose...
During my O.T. in the months prior, my Speech Therapist advised me to verbally narrate everything that I did while working. Because I work alone, there was nobody there to remind me of this homework. With prefrontal cortex damage, my short-term memory loss was a big obstacle.
Mentally exhausted, I couldn't wait until he left one day. Audibly narrating all of the step-by-step bouncing between several apps during post-production just took it out of me. As he left the studio that day, the proverbial lightbulb lit up - "I am narrating! I said outloud, alone in my studio"
That nudge to say yes, turned out to be for me just as much as it was for him. Teaching Isidro helped me to remember all of the hurdles I had lept to get where I was. So, who was helping whom?
He came while I was renaming & branding my business. I had COUNTLESS balls in the air while creating a new logo, setting up a new website, converging my two prior names, sites and social media pages to this new one.
Creating marketing pieces to explain the changes. Fixing, redirecting, editing auto-replies and a barrage of things related to those tasks from Adobe Illustrator to Lightroom, to email, to Evernote, to Bridge, Photoshop, Squarespace, Acrobat, Shootproof, PayPal Invoicing, Firefox, Word, Scheduling software and so on.
Had I not been narrating, I have no doubt that I would have become distracted, overwhelmed and far less efficient while fixing printers, network issues and optimizing sluggish computers.
I'm sure I got short with him at times, but between Sandy and I, we filled this young man with insights that both of us wished that we were given along the way.
Today I had the honor of attending his SWIFT Program graduation. To hear all of the challenges these kids overcame to be here, learning life and job skills in a city much larger than their homes. The job was just one of many things on their "adulting" lessons.
It served as a great reminder about that transition between "things just happen" and "nothing will happen unless I make it so."
More importantly, it caused me to reflect on the teachings of my favorite so-called fiction writer, Mr. Richard Bach. Within his book "Illusions - The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah" there is a book of profound Wisdom nuggets called "The Messiah's Handbook".
One of those nuggets has come back to visit me numerous times in my life, none more obviously than today. That is - "We teach best what we most need to learn."
For perhaps the first time in all of my years of being mentored, I had the proud moment of seeing MY mentor being named SWIFTY of The Year. Voted by his peers, his job coach and in no shortage agreement, his employer!
Thank you Isidro, for being here. For allowing me to teach me, while it only appeared that I was teaching you. I had forgotten many important lessons of progression over the years, and allowing me to share with you, was the lesson that I may have needed even more than you.
As OUR Hawaiian-raised mentor Sandy often says - imua (ee mooh ah) - Move forward with strength!