Jan is an author, speaker, retreat leader, and spiritual director. She also writes deeply meaningful articles at her two blogs, Awake Is Good and Awakened Living. When I first connected with Jan, I was drawn into the honest and caring space she has created in her writing. Stop by for a visit, and you too will feel the warmth of being in her presence.
As Jan and I talked over the last couple of months, she indicated she had a special story she would like to share. Today, that story is a gift I am honored to share here.
Jan will be taking us back to an earlier time in her life, and how a very special gentleman gave her a beautiful gift – the gift of his time and caring. This is a wonderful story of how we can all touch another person's life through our caring and love. Please read along, as Jan shares:
Frank and Me: A Legacy of Mentoring
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou
It was the early 1990s and I was the mother of three small children, earning a part-time living as a rep for a direct sales company. I enjoyed my work, sharing an exceptional line of self-esteem based products to parents, teachers, and counselors.
It was at our annual convention in Salt Lake City that I met Frank, the mentor who would change my life. This is his story—and mine—and how I came to know the importance of reaching out and helping others through mentoring.
Actually, I never met Frank at the convention that year. I saw him from a distance, an energetic and affable consultant they’d brought in to fire up the sales reps. Rumor had it that he was a retired multi-millionaire, having started, or bought and sold ten companies. He didn’t need this gig as a consultant; he was doing it for the pure pleasure of it, and as a favor to the owners.
I also heard he was cherry picking reps, working with them one-on-one to improve their sales. The thought terrified me. With three kids, a multitude of household and volunteer duties, I sure didn’t want someone breathing down my neck to urge me to do more than I was already doing.
I remember the day all that changed. The phone rang, I answered it, and a voice boomed, “Hi, Jan, it’s Frank ____, from the convention. Have you got a minute?”
I was immediately struck with feelings of terror. I did not want to talk to this man; I did not want to perform better or achieve sales goals. But for whatever reason—now it’s known to be Divine Providence – I said, sure, I had a minute.
“I’d like to mentor you,” he announced. He went on to explain how he would do this and what would be involved on my part. Actually, it all sounded pretty good, more supportive than scary, but I was still puzzled. Why had he honed in on me? So, I asked him.
“Jan,” he replied, “I see something in you that you don’t even see in yourself. I’d like to help make that picture a reality.” I was intrigued so I agreed, hesitantly, and we were off. Thus, began the mentoring relationship that changed my life, a relationship that, in time, steered my own life path toward mentoring.
Frank called me every week for one year, on his dime. He told me what books to read, what tapes to listen to (no CDs then!). We started with Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, and my eyes were opened. What seminars to attend—Tony Robbins, Dan Kennedy, Denis Waitley, and my world shifted a bit more. Frank taught me how to motivate myself; to set daily, weekly and monthly goals in all areas of my life, though we focused primarily on income, work performance, and another of his passions, health. He taught me how to visualize and manifest.
Soon, my goals were being met, income was rising, and my self-esteem was off the charts. At the next annual convention, my efforts were recognized. I’d made it into the Top 10 in the nation in sales. And, within months, Frank had me training other reps at regional conventions. Before I knew it, I was a full fledged personal and professional growth speaker and trainer.
And then the day came, a day I will never forget. Frank called me for our usual weekly phone conference, but this time, his tone was different. Serious, quiet.
“Jan,” he said, “this is the last time you’ll be hearing from me. Our time together is done. You’ve done a great job and I couldn’t be prouder.” My heart sank. Tears filled my eyes. I had come to deeply love this man. As a mentor, he’d accepted me as me, something I’d rarely experienced with others. He gave of himself in such unselfish ways. When I failed or experienced self-doubt, he was there to encourage. He looked for the light within me and helped fan it to flame. I had grown by leaps and bounds under Frank’s tutelage.
I couldn’t believe our relationship was over. Surely, we’d be in touch? “Nope,” he said, “but I will be in touch one way, because I know, beyond a doubt, that someday I will be listening to your tapes and reading your books. (With that pronouncement, I remember thinking to myself, ‘Ridiculous.’)
“Now, I need you to do something for me. I need you to do the same thing for others as I’ve done with you. That’s what life is all about, you see.” With that invitation, Frank said goodbye. I never heard from him again.
Though I did try to contact him, I never imagined myself an author, so when I did write my first book in 1998, I sent Frank a copy. No response. I sent him a letter, just wanting to touch bases; to thank him for all that he’d done for me. Nothing. It was true, he was not reachable. All I had were memories, and Frank’s voice echoing in my head reminding me to do for others what he had done for me.
And so I have. In 2000, I dedicated myself to mentoring others, though the form was different than Frank’s. It was focused on the spiritual. Via a formal, three-year training program, I found my way beyond Zig, Tony, and Og to Meister Eckhart, Rumi, and Teresa of Avila; to Jesus and Buddha and beyond.
To mentor, to offer myself in support of the life path of another has been a profound experience, even beyond teaching or writing. To see a spark of the Divine in each person and help fan it to flame; to encourage him or her to see their innate beauty and light, what joy!
This, I believe, is what we all must do for one another, especially now, with the world being what it is. In this pivotal time when so many are suffering or confused; anxious or depressed; weary or overwhelmed, we can mentor. Offer an outstretched hand, a listening ear, an affirming blog response, a phone call or handwritten note of encouragement. In whatever way you do it best, bear witness to another’s heart and lend a piece of your own. Be a supportive presence.
I pass the baton, today, from Frank, through me to you. Mentor. Mentor with all your heart. Will you accept?
Who crossed your path today? To whom can you give a kind word, a gentle touch, pockets of your time? Everyone wants to be validated, valued, and understood. Will you accept my invitation and mentor someone? Frank would be really happy. I will be, too.