Dear Professionals, we have a job to do.
Many years ago, too many to admit, I met an entrepreneur who I decided to stalk. Now this probably wasn’t real stalking (social media hadn’t been invented yet), but I did find every article written about her and I figured out a way to meet her and interview her for one of my MBA assignments. I remember we had this amazing, insightful conversation. However brief in actual time spent, I learned volumes. She probably didn’t know that she became my silent mentor from that day forward – just from that one conversation. She fascinated me.
From all the sage advice I soaked in, I can still hear her say this to me, “every week, I take one young professional out to lunch.” She told me that she felt it was her duty as a professional, as an engineer and as a business owner to encourage others to follow their aspirations. She told me that if professionals do not take this time to give back to others, then we are not doing our job. To me, she was the ultimate entrepreneur and I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
I am reflecting on this now as I’ve come to the revelation that I spend much of my time, with great enjoyment, meeting and encouraging potential rising stars at every and any age and background. But, I didn’t do this consciously, meaning that I haven’t woken up every morning for the past 10 years and said, “I must mentor someone today – who will it be?”
I am thinking about all of this at the moment as I sit in a café in a little town on the top of one of the Cadeia do Espinhao mountains in Brazil. I am waiting for a young, eager group of university grads to come join me for lunch. During my work here in the area, they have found me and asked to talk to me about their ideas to start a company. They are asking for my advice and to learn from what I’ve learned in starting 3 companies in the same amount of years. In fact, they’ve invited me to lunch.
I love doing this. I love having a chance to talk to anyone who is seeking something more in their profession and in their life. I don’t have the answers. I have learned some things and I have many more things to learn – and this is what I tell them. Sometimes, it helps just to have a listening ear with someone who can inspire you to take a leap and try a direction that may put you towards your goals. I have had this someone in my life, many ‘someones’ in fact. I enjoy the fact that I could be this someone to even one person. The reality is that I take inspiration from the same people that seek it from me.
So, dear professionals in any field and at any age, I encourage you to reach out and invite others to learn from your own story. Don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned, even if and especially if you feel you had more setbacks than successes. The greatest entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs) in the world will tell you that they have failed many more times than they have succeeded. (Some of my funniest stories are from when I have “failed”.) The reality is that others will see what you have accomplished – and sharing what you have learned with others will give you a greater sense of what you have achieved.
I shall repeat what my adopted mentor told me, “It is your duty to help others to reach their dreams.” We all have stories to share. We can all learn from each other’s stories. Take someone out to lunch. Invite a conversation over coffee. Listen with your eyes and with your heart. Share what you have learned.
During my week here, I had the extreme pleasure to meet 355 young girls, ages 9 to 19, from this small town in Brazil. I had spent the day with them showing the fun in science and sharing my stories of how I became an engineer. As I was leaving the event, and after 355 hugs and facebook photos, a 14-year old girl quickly ran to her teacher to ask her how to translate a sentence from Portuguese into English. She ran up to me and whispered in my ear, “You fascinate me.”
Dear Professionals, you have a job to do.