How a mentor changed my life

There are a lot of things that I can find to be thankful for in life.  I’m sure everyone can and if you really dig down deep enough, the sheer number of things to be grateful for can be downright staggering. I have people that love me, I am very healthy and I have had all the benefits of a wonderful education and a very comfortable life filled with rich experiences and wonder.  And one of the things that I am most thankful for is that by fortuitous dumb luck, I came across a mentor early on who shaped and changed my life for the better. I say ‘dumb luck’ because at the time this person graced my life, I wouldn’t have understood the implications or even identified this person as a mentor.  It is only with the gift of hindsight that I have been able to grasp the good fortune that a chance meeting has bestowed upon my life.

In the modern world of business there has been much written about mentors and the role that they play in shaping careers and providing opportunities.  According to leading business thinkers you should definitely find yourself a mentor because it will lead to greater success and better overall wellbeing.  Articles have been written on how to find a mentor, what is the power of having a mentor, how to leverage the relationship and more. I find very little to disagree with in any of these articles. I would also note that it is not an easy thing sometimes to find a mentor, because like all relationships, there is a certain chemistry that is needed to get the flow just right. Many people I have spoken with shy away from finding a mentor due to the awkwardness of having to approach someone and ask them.  I totally understand that.  It would seem trite and a little strange.  I have been fortunately spared that awkwardness when I have found mentors, purely because I blindly stumbled into the situation and only discovered what was happening much later. My mentors however, canny individuals with more foresight than I possessed, seemed to select me. Why entirely I will never know. But I am eternally glad of it.

All mentor relationships are special and bring different things to your life.  However, I don’t think you ever forget your first. 🙂 And that is the one that I am reflecting upon right now.  Maybe there is someone like this in your life right now and you haven’t noticed and are blind to it as I was.  Maybe these musings will stir memories for you and help you to feel that relationship more deeply. But mostly, I would like to pay homage to an amazing man who had an amazing life and despite his passing away, will never be forgotten by me.

I met my mentor, lets call him Ray, when I was still in my late teens and working in a coffee shop/kebab takeaway. Literally the most unglamorous of venues, opposite a massive pub in the town of Brisbane, Australia.  Brisbane back then was no more than a little country town and the chance of meeting people from a vastly different background and life experience was rare.  Possible of course, but unlikely as people tended to swim in the circles they were familiar with and there was no need for extending your acquaintances. Most people were born and bred in Brisbane, lived happy and fairly uneventful lives under the gorgeous blue sky and warm sun of a lazy oasis. Things moved slowly and Brisbane was unlikely to take the centre stage in a milestone political event any time soon.

I went to work on minimum wage on the slow Saturday and Sunday shift, where most of the people that lit up the night drinking at the famed local establishments were sleeping off their hangovers and resting in preparation for the coming nights festivities.  So days were just Ray and I.  Chewing the fat and serving the slow trickle of slightly vacant patrons who needed caffeine, carbohydrates and fat to soak up the alcohol.

Writing out loud to rekindle inner voice

Embarking on the 30 day writing challenge seems like a counterproductive solution to being overwhelmed with launching a business, but bear with me through the thinking on this one. I find myself smack bang in the middle of launching a business, with an aim to support myself and work towards achieving the life I want. A lofty goal and one which fills me daily with fears, reservations and self doubt…. all things that induce anxiety at best and cause paralysis at worst.

So in the midst of trying to figure out just what should be done to motivate me and push me to the next level, I was listening to a Fizzle podcast and heard from a Fizzler, Jonas Ellison who launched his blogging career, purely (sort of 😉 ) through doing the 30 day writing challenge and posting his thoughts online to build up his writing mojo. And like most things that come to you in the form of the proverbial bolt of lightening, inspiration and creativity, my brain shouted “Eureka” and that was that.  I knew how I was going to take the next step forward. A blog.  Musings, thoughts and spontaneous writing about things that I want to write about, for me… and maybe for you if you are reading this. Unlike journals which are private, a blog is the type of writing that forces you to compose your thoughts and make them at least somewhat intelligible for the reader.  Hence the training. Hence the discipline.  Hence the process (hopefully) to spur me onto action.

Culture shock in the Paris of the East

Moving to Shanghai, the so called Paris of the East, has been a bumpy ride filled with many new experiences, mostly all counterintuitive to your basic gut instinct of how things should function. I had heard of the term ‘culture shock‘ prior to moving here, but had never really embraced the full implication of the term. When I worked at the Queensland Ambulance Service, someone “going into shock” after an accident was dazed, confused, irrational, capable of walking into oncoming traffic and not really able to understand that this was essentially a poor life choice.

Culture shock as opposed to traumatic shock is like the more chronic version of it’s acute level cousin. You think you are perfectly fine, whilst stockpiling toiletries until your home resembles a WWII bunker and you can’t get in the front door.

Are your actions rational or productive? Not really. But unlike walking into oncoming traffic, you can get away with them for quite sometime before the sane part of your brain or peer feedback kicks in and forces you to reassess.

Now the upfront disclaimer here is that we are living in the very swanky Former French Concession Area.  TripAdvisor rates it as #11 of the places to visit in Shanghai because “it is appreciated for it’s cafes, tree-lined avenues and tudor houses”.  All true and if there is one place that is more of an oasis in a city of 23 million people officially or 27 million people unofficially, depending who you speak to, the Former French Concession Area is a place of relative peacefulness and cleanliness in the never ending peak hour debacle that is Shanghai. Or just China in general.

However, to truly appreciate the factors that lead me to my months long culture shock, I need to tell you few stories.