By Barbara Brett
Often when we see someone who has achieved sudden, even surprising, success, we refer to that person as a “self-made” man or woman. In reality, I think there is no such thing. We, and our successes, are all bits and pieces of the people who, along our way, took time out of their lives to give us a helping hand. Sometimes they did it with a word of advice or encouragement. Sometimes with a sympathetic listening ear. Sometimes in a way we may not have been aware of at the time—if ever. I’ve been giving that a great deal of thought since Thonie invited me to write about mentors. Thank you, Thonie, for a big awakening.
There are long and short dictionary definitions of the word “mentor.” I think that “a wise and trusted guide and advisor” says it all. Our first mentors, though we may never have thought of them as that (certainly not when we were teenagers!), are our parents. They are the ones who guide us through the perils of growing up, who teach us right from wrong, who believe in us and encourage us to do our best. Then come our teachers, and after that the people we work with and meet along the way.
Of course, not all of them are mentors. I’ll always remember my high-school freshman English teacher who told me I couldn’t write well and only reluctantly let me move on to a creative-writing course. (Years later, when I sold my first story, I remember looking at the check and thinking, “Take that, Mr. H–!” So, maybe he gave me a negative push in the right direction.) But, soon after the disastrous Mr. H, there was my high school journalism teacher, who gave me all the tools I needed to succeed in my career as an editor and as an author.
According to Oprah Winfrey, “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” That was certainly true of so many of my teachers and professors. In addition, they helped me recognize that I had the ability to turn my hopes and dreams into reality. Think about the mentors in your life, and you’ll see that they have done that for you too.
I never really thought of myself as a mentor. When I was a magazine editor and a book editor, I worked hard to encourage my staff to be the best they could be, and I’m delighted that so many of them have moved on to great success in their careers. Was that mentoring? Only they could tell you. I also worked hard with authors to help them revise their work so they could create the best story or book possible. Was that mentoring? I thought it was just doing my job. And then, at a writers conference several years ago, a woman rushed up and hugged me. “I just heard that you’re Barbara Brett,” she said, “and I had to come over and thank you. When I was writing stories for you, you worked so hard with me. You taught me all I know about plotting and creating characters. That’s why I’m on the best-seller list today!” I felt overwhelmed, yet gratified, too, to learn I’d helped someone’s seeds of talent blossom into success. So maybe I was a mentor. I’m happy to report that that author is still on the best-seller lists.
Part of the mystery of mentoring is that though we can recognize most of the mentors in our own lives, we are often unaware of how much we have been mentors to others. So whatever we are doing, we should do our best—and maybe in that way, we’ll be helping others to do their best too. Still, in our own lives, we should remember the wise words of Diana Ross: “You know, you do need mentors, but in the end, you really just need to believe in yourself.”
They are the most powerful men in America: billionaires born to privilege and linked by their membership in the nation’s most elite fraternity. They have always snatched what they want. From the halls of their ivy-league college to the counting houses of Wall Street, nothing has ever stopped them from reaching their nefarious goals. But as they gear up for their biggest takeover of all—the presidency of the United States—they discover to their horror that someone else has a secret agenda too. One by one, they are being castrated by an unknown attacker….
SECRET AGENDA—a riveting mystery of political ambition set in the glittering heights of New York society and darkest depths of Wall Street depravity!