women

The Women Who Have Mentored and Inspired Me

Last week I was honored to be the keynoter for the Professional Mentoring Luncheon for Women in Cable Telecommunications. Here's an excerpt from my speech: 

My career and success since my early days in cable have been disproportionately influenced by women. Women who taught me what was important and how to understand my own potential. Women who were role models for me. Women who helped an average guy succeed!

I think of my wife’s mother Youngsook whose family escaped North Korea. She became a Korean War bride and entered the US not really speaking any English. She went on to earn her BA, MA and PhD in Anthropology and wrote a textbook that is still used in colleges today. Her story is another reflection of the American dream. Her wit, intelligence, and love for life are legendary. I never met her before her untimely death at the age of 49, but her memory mentors me.

Youngsook
Youngsook circa 1957

My mother spent 4 years in the internment camps during WW2, then became an American mom of the 50’s confined to the home in a male dominated world of limited choices. At the age of 49, she decided to take a painting class. Last year she was on the cover story of American Artist Magazine. Her lessons about how to use the right side of my brain, the importance of community service and that it is never too late to change, mentors me everyday. 

After I left the cable world my boss at the UCLA Alumni Association was Bea Mandel who became the first female alumni regent of the University of California in 125 years. Bea was a tough no-nonsense leader who taught me about focus and results. After I left UCLA, I was involved in a pioneering effort to develop online higher education. I ended up reporting to Paula Singer when my little venture got merged into Sylvan Learning Systems. Since 2003 I have been a member of the Walden University Board which she chairs. Paula teaches me how to blend an uncompromising standard of ethics and extraordinary growth with candor and charm. When I led Big Brothers Big Sisters here in Los Angeles, I met hundreds of mothers who wanted a mentor for their daughter or son. And there is nothing like the commitment and desire in the eyes of a mother who wants a better life for her children. My work was re-energized each and every time I looked into those eyes. 5 years later I met Neeru Khosla and learned about CK12 and her vision for free virtual standards based textbooks.  I was treated to her passion that knew no boundaries and always focused on getting to the goal no matter how impossible it may seem. From there I was hired by Antonia Hernandez for my current job. Antonia is a true leader who provides clear direction and gets out of your way. She employs a wonderful concoction of passion, charm, and influence to make things happen. She teaches me everyday to appreciate and respect the purpose of our work.

Lastly my wife  Sarah, and my daughters Jenna and Malia have have taught me to be more patient, loving and how to lead with my heart. When you are a minority in your own family you either adapt or you suffer!

I have learned and continue to learn the most important life and leadership lessons from women who have mentored me.

We are all role models. We mentor people who watch us. All of you are helping other women or other men by the example we set, by revealing our possibilities. 

What is our role and our obligation to make a difference, to help others, to become the best we can be? I submit to you that we each need to do more.

Deepak Chopra and Dave Ramsey--Why do we take jobs we don’t want, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.

We have to move from transactional to transformational lives.

We have to move from lives of busyness to the business of our lives.

We have to move from lives of indifference to making a difference.

 Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable

For the afflictions are great and we are far too comfortable.

We should be more uncomfortable.

In all my experiences I have learned that mentoring is a lifestyle that engages others in a compassionate act of tough love to get to our truths

To awaken the possibilities in each other

To help each other make courageous decisions

To solve problems by putting the needs of others first

To answer the question What do we want? Really? 

Choices: The Path less traveled, The Path of least resistance, or The Path with your heart?

 “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo

I meet a lot of people that say they are so busy that they just want stability. They want things not to change. They want to keep what they have. They deceive themselves. No one who is ambitious and wants a better life for themselves wants stability. No parent who loves their kids wants things to stay the same. Nobody who is alive, who is conscious of the needs in our community, of the inequities in our society wants things to stay the same.

"Life is not easy for any of us, but what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained." Madame Marie Curie

Great mentoring is getting to our truths, to our passions-- to our true selves.

Mentoring is not shoulding on each other.

 Three Mentoring Goals for Your Work Together

 First: It is not about me it is about WE. We can’t do it alone. We need to help each other, understand one another. Get out of our bubbles of commonality and diversify our life experiences. We have to embrace our common destiny. That our hopes and dreams all linked, connected, networked together. We have to get beyond me and strengthen the WE.

 Second: Align our lives with our passions. What do we really want? What inspires us? How do we awaken the spirit within each of us that we have a lot more to give? Pablo Casals Takes courage to listen to your goodness and act on it. Locked inside each of us is our truths—like a sculpture locked inside the granite. It takes a hammer and chisel to sculpt. Freeing our passions from the stone of complacency is hard work.

 Third: Lead by example. We have to mentor and help one another. Each of us is a role model whether we like it or not. People look to us as an example of what to do and how to live. They need to see what is possible. What example are we setting? Who are we mentoring? What difference are we making? We each have to live our legacy. Our legacy is the example we set. That is the legacy we leave.

 This is our time. There is no other time.

The challenge is in every moment and the time is always now. James Baldwin

Right now. Lean in, but stand up, stand for something, otherwise we fall, we fall for anything.

We have much for which to be grateful. But what will we do to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

Thank you for asking me to share my thoughts.

Thank you for being here and being you.

Thank you for what you will do for each other.

Thank you for not giving up on yourself, on your dreams and the dreams of others.

We need your dreams.

Thanks for reading. John