Walking down the streets of Bethesda more than a decade ago, hearing the loud beeps of impatient drivers, and seeing a pedestrian nearly get run over, I thought to myself, “I’ve gotta get out of here. I don’t want to be like these people.”
I had quit my job a week prior, unaware of my financial situation when I resigned, and as a result had $37 to my name. I was filled with anxiety, desperate to find a sense of belonging and wondering how I would pay my rent in a couple of weeks.
It was soon after that moment of despair when I heard these words for the first time: you become like the people you spend the most time with. At the time, that someone was pretty much just me. And spending time with me was exhausting.
Nervously roaming from one coffee shop to the next, talking up the people at the gym, and rushing from one informational interview to the next (150 in six months), I prayed for an invitation.
“Someone please invite me to your home, hire me, or at least sit with me for a while,” I pleaded to the universe.
Six months went by, I met dozens of people but continued to struggle with “belonging”, though I would not have been able to express it that way.
“Surround yourself with positive people, and you’ll become like them,” I heard from motivational speakers and well-known businesspeople.
So, I tried it.
I asked for invitations, and even for mentors. I wanted them to take me by the hand and show me exactly what to do every day, how to behave, and where to spend my time so that I could become successful.
Of course, it never works that way, but I was invited to events and lunch meetings. Still, I struggled with my own expectations of what they should be doing to help me succeed.
“Why aren’t they making critical introductions for me, giving me important opportunities, and showing me how to become successful?” I asked myself, “Don’t they know that’s their job as my mentor?”
I didn’t understand.
Then, one day, I started paying more attention to people who moved me emotionally, often through small acts of kindness. Here’s one:
While I was at an inspiring event in DC, I noticed someone walk up to the host before the event started, hand over a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and say, “It’s already a big success. Great work.”
Later, I found out that person had never met the host prior to this event. The thoughtfulness and generosity of that moment inspired (and instructed) me greatly.
Then, I remembered a man who briefly came into my life during my time in Bethesda. His name is Bob Artz, and he came to our informational interview with an expensive set of CDs called The Goal Achiever.
“Listen to these,” he said, “I think they’ll help you.” I devoured that program and scraped the funds together to buy A View from the Top, which I listened to repeatedly.
Then there was the day I walked into Arenal, the CrossFit gym where I work out, and was approached by Ruslan, a talented trainer, who said, “Misti, you don’t seem like yourself recently. Is everything okay?”
No, everything wasn’t okay. I didn’t realize how much I was struggling until he asked, and then hugged me. His actions inspired (instructed) me that day.
Then, just last week, I had my first meeting with a woman who runs a successful non-profit here in Baltimore. During the meeting, I invited her to my book launch, which was a fundraiser for MissionFit, a new non-profit in Baltimore.
That night, she sent me this email…
I truly want to wish you the best of luck on Thursday night. I unfortunately do have a board thing that evening which prevents me from attending. I did, however, make a small gift to the organization in your name.
I never checked to see how much she donated—it didn’t matter. What mattered was the incredible feeling of connection and belonging I felt when I read that email. What mattered was the opportunity I had once again to be inspired, instructed, or if you prefer, mentored.
Beyond seeking out traditional mentors, consider how much we learn by noticing the behaviors that provoke a feeling within us. Whether the feeling is good or bad, we learn. We need to pay attention to the actions that inspire us to do more and become more.
There are no perfect mentors, but there are zillions of opportunities to learn from the best teachers. They’re around us every day. Can you feel them? Do you see the random acts of kindness happening around you every day?
Look for them. You’ll find them, I promise. They are there just waiting for you to notice.
Observe how these uplifting moments make you feel and then look for opportunities to imitate those actions. You won’t need anything in return. The act of generosity alone will fill you up and leave you feeling successful.
Interestingly, I’ve found that elusive sense of belonging most often when I share without expectation, invite others to be a part of what I’m up to, and support them in the work that’s meaningful to them.
Now, rather than looking for mentors I notice the ones that show up and then seek to imitate them. Do you?
Here’s to Your Greatness,
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