A Tale of Two Mentors

I had two professors in undergrad whose shared guidance let me to exceptional growth in the four years I spent with them.  Either of them on their own would have been a benefit to my education, but the power of their mentorship styles combined was amazing.

The first professor was the theatre department chair and taught many of my classes.  Because I worked in the Speech/Theatre Office as well as served as the House and Box Office Manager for department productions, I spent a lot of time with Jeff.  Every time I saw him (it seemed) he had a new project, and that project’s success usually required my attention.  Often, it also required skills I didn’t have (yet).

As far as I could tell it never occurred to Jeff that I might not know how to do the work he asked me to do.  He assigned it and crossed it off his list as done–in full confidence that I’d figure it out.

He was almost always right.  There were certainly a couple of embarrassing mistakes, (beautiful audition posters with the wrong date on them come immediately to mind) as well as a project or two I just didn’t do in hopes he’d forget about them.  In those cases he never yelled.  He just insisted I personally fix each resulting problem.  It was exhausting–and exhilarating.

I could not have asked for more opportunities to do “real” work as an undergraduate.  Because of his unreasonable levels of confidence in what I could do I finished my baccalaureate degree with work experience that rivaled some graduate students.

And yet, all that pushing to continually do more might have been too much on its own.  Luckily I had another mentor with a completely different approach. Continue reading

What if you didn’t need permission?


Truck stuck in the mud

Image via Wikipedia


I’ve been stuck.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but my forward momentum on several fronts has slowed or stopped in the last month or so.

I’ve tried a lot of “getting unstuck” methods.  I’ve pushed really hard, I’ve stopped pushing all together.  I’ve waited, I’ve looked at issues from new angles.  I’ve pretended I wasn’t stuck, I’ve explored what people in other lines of work and from other cultures do when they are stuck.  I’ve seen a glimmer of hope here and there but mostly it was still just me, in the mud, starting to worry that maybe this was as far as I was meant to go.

Until Friday.

On Friday, I met with a local executive coach who is connected with my MFA Master Teacher.  I expected to learn more about the local arts scene and (hopefully) get connected with people who could help me get back to full-time theatre work.

That is not what happened.  In fact, he didn’t bring up the name of a single person who could help me find a new job.  Instead, he argued I had a great job already and the “thing*” standing between me and keeping it could be solved in less than a week.

It wasn’t a pleasant conversation, and his solution to the thing* wasn’t exactly right–but he absolutely nailed one important thing.

I’ve been waiting for permission.

This was a huge revelation to me.  I don’t think of myself as a “wait for instructions” kind of person.   I’ve always seen myself as a leader–as someone who sees what needs to be done and does it, for the benefit of the group.

In a lot of ways that is true.  And yet, I’ve known for three years what needed to happen for my program to thrive–but because no one gave me their blessing to lead the charge, I’ve been waiting.

It just seemed polite.

Now I am done waiting.  I have a plan.  I have co-conspirators.  I’ve never been so excited to go to work in the morning.

Things are looking up 🙂

Your Turn

What’s blocking your path?  How would things be different if you could stop waiting?

*sorry about the lack of specificity here.  The secret plan involves launching a thing and I don’t want to spill the beans yet 🙂