Heroes, Mentors and Making Things Happen

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

I’m not sure exactly when the realization dawned; that heroes and mentors were different entities. Not that they can’t co-exist. They can. But they can also be entirely separate of one another.

Me and my hero

Me and my hero

For example, if you were to ask me who my hero was growing up, my answer would have been my mom. In fact, if you were to ask me today, my answer would still be the same. But do I consider her a mentor? No. I look up to her. I love the values she believes in. I hope to be as firm in my faith as she has always been. She’s been through some of the toughest things you can imagine and kept her belief, her joy, and her family together. I hope I inherited her strength.

Of course, being who I am, I looked up the definitions and here’s what Merriam-Webster had to say:

Hero-

: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities

: a person who is greatly admired

: the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc.

Mentor-

: someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person

Strange as it sounds, despite the definition, my teachers were never people I considered to be mentors, either. Although they taught me and I respected them, it was more clinical. Not bone deep…pushing me to grow, encouraging me, and driving me to be more.

Maybe it’s because I was a girl with whom knowledge came easily, but it wasn’t until my late 20’s that I’d ever truly felt challenged…in a good way. I skated my way through most things based on natural ability, charm, a lot of common sense and my own driven nature. Then things changed and I discovered my first mentor.

No longer happy with the career path I’d had for the first 10 years of my working life, I decided to shift from medically related to retail sales. As a sales rep and eventually supervisor, my natural love of and ability to read people made me highly effective. I was quickly promoted up through the ranks into a single location manager role.

Then I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I had a specialty, you see. I was great at networking and being able to build mutually beneficial relationships in a shared partnership environment. So when my company decided to create a manager position that encompassed 4-5 smaller scale locations (much like a mini-district manager), my boss considered the position designed for me, and a no-brainer. The problem was that there were no guidelines, boundaries or examples because the role was literally just created. It would be a trial and error situation where we figured things out along the way. In commissioned sales, this was definitely not the norm. For the first time, I struggled. My results were inconsistent.

Strangely, through this struggle, I discovered my first mentor. I already knew her. She was my boss. Her name was Ashley. When we sat down for my first performance appraisal I received my first less than stellar score. Frustrated, feeling like I was doing everything I possibly could, I asked her what I could do. She looked me in the eye and said, “I’d like you to work on one thing this year. Hold your team accountable. Don’t let them get away with excuses.” In fact, she took it one step further, and it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. She said, “I don’t accept excuses from you, so why are you allowing it from them? When you allow your team to get away with excuses you’re sending them a message. You’re letting them know you don’t believe they’re capable of anything more.”

She didn’t micro-manage me. She didn’t coddle me. She told me the biggest thing she thought would improve my business and let me sink or swim, but she was there to listen and give advice whenever I chose to reach out. In the past it was easy to sway my team to my point of view. I was beside them all day. In this role, my staff only saw me one day a week as I rotated locations. She was right. I couldn’t simply talk to them and be done with it. They needed to know that if they didn’t follow the action plans I rolled out, there would be consequences. I got very good at accountability. My team developed into her “go to” group whenever she needed strong business results regardless of where our company shifted their areas of importance. To this day I look up to her and hold her up as an example of an incredible leader.

Fast forward to today and why I’m telling you this story…..

As many of you know, a little over a year ago I decided to pursue writing seriously. Honestly, when I toyed with the idea in my mind, I had no idea if I had what it took to do this. For all I knew, publishing a book was a pipe dream. Shoot, I’d been writing most of my life but never pursued it because when I was growing up, the only option was New York and, for the most part, you had to know someone/have an ‘in’ to even be considered.

It meant the world to me that my sister and my best friend both told me, “I always thought you should’ve been a writer anyway.” But let’s face it. They loved me. They were biased.

But…a mutual friend was not. When I told her my dreams of writing, she asked what I wanted to write. I honestly don’t think she expected me to say erotica/erotic romance. She surprised me, though. She asked if I had a sample she could read… somewhere around 10,000 words. Suddenly I was terrified. Why? Because she’d already been successful in this field. She’d actually won the Maggie Award. Her name is Kaye Chambers.

Instead of laughing, she took me under her wing and taught me. Sure, sometimes it was the little things like how to properly format Word while writing. Other times it was to tell me that I needed to add more dialogue or that I could be awfully heavy handed when hammering a point home, and that I needed to use the subtlety techniques I used when writing poetry to allude to an idea rather than beat my readers over the head with a mallet.

Here I was, this random person who she barely knew when she reached out a helping hand…but that’s exactly what she did! The thing is, I’ve read her stuff. In fact, I LOVE the way she writes. She’s got savvy, sassy heroines and she writes these amazing opens (something I still struggle with). She creates these entire shifter universes that I think are beyond cool. It blows my mind! If you’ve never read her stuff…check out her girl Sasha, a cat shifter, in Tiger By the Tail. Or read Blood and Destiny. Her book that won the Maggie was Angelic Avenger…also awesome, but very different from the other two. It’s amazing how, sometimes, what you’re looking for is much closer than you realize if you only have the courage to ask.

I reached out with a few questions and she gave me so much more than I ever imagined. She chose to mentor me. She held my hand through my fears. She pushed me to be better. She challenged me to give more than I ever thought I was capable of…

And when I finally pushed that button to publish my first piece, she cheered me on! Her words? “You did all the work. I just gave you a bit of direction and support. You should be very proud of yourself.” With the help and belief of my mentor and the folks who love me, I was able to make my own dream come true.

One day I hope that I can do justice to the faith that Kaye has shown in me, much the way I did for Ashley. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be strong enough, knowledgeable enough and with enough experience to be able to mentor someone else in this new, exciting world.

What about you? Do you think there’s a difference between a hero and mentor? Who have yours been?

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29 thoughts on “Heroes, Mentors and Making Things Happen

  1. Mae Clair says:

    I love the photo of you and your mom! It’s adorable.

    When it comes to heroes, I count my parents and my husband. I wish I could name a single mentor in my life, but rather, I think I’ve gleaned from so many different people — through school, friendships, writing connections and my career. I’m like a sponge, constantly soaking things up 🙂 It’s amazing what we learn that others don’t even realize they’ve taught us. And how wonderful that you found such a great mentor in writing. It’s fantastic when you click with someone like that!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      For the most part, I’ve been like you, Mae… These two women have been my exceptions.

      What is even more interesting is that Kaye tends to write paranormal romance, not really the erotic stuff that I do… So in some ways she’s more like you than me in writing. 😉 Still, she’s a brilliant teacher & she pushes me. I’m forever grateful for both her mentorship and friendship.

  2. Kristy K. James...Where Romance and Fantasy Collide says:

    How cool that you’ve had such amazing people in your life. Yes, I do think there’s a difference between a hero and a mentor. I’m too tired to explain it properly but I think a hero is someone who just lives their life doing the best they can and who is there for the people in their lives. I mean outside of those in the military, law enforcement, etc…

    A mentor is someone who takes you under their wing, who gets to know you, and teaches, supports, and encourages you to be the best you can be…even if some of the lessons aren’t easy. 🙂

  3. cravesadventure says:

    Great Post! I think a mentor can be a hero and a hero can be a mentor. My biggest mentors and heroes have been the women in my life that have raised me as well as protect, support, love and cheer me on:)

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thank you. I think it’s wonderful that your heroes and mentors have overlapped. It just struck me that I should take a moment to share my appreciation of a couple of people who’ve had big impacts on my life.

  4. claywatkins says:

    I have had some amazing influences in my life – people who popped into my life at the right time to nudge me in the right direction, when I needed it most. There have been times when i should have listened more carefully, but the lessons learned were probably more important than the advice offered. I love the photo of you and your mom… I love talking to my mom and wish I was closer in proximity so I could see her more often….have a great day. It is warming up here, slowly at least the sun is shining!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Oh, I know well the “listen more carefully” lesson. Not that it probably would’ve helped me. I’m a bit on the stubborn side. LOL! Still, you’re right. There are awesome lessons in the learning the hard way, too. Those seem to stick long after we forget all the other ones. 😉

      Glad to know it’s warming up in your neck of the woods. Everyone deserves a bit of warmth and sunshine in their lives.

  5. brickhousechick says:

    What a beautiful post, Kitt! Love it that your mama is your hero – I feel the same way about mine. They broke the mold when they made them, didn’t they?

    It’s wonderful that your mentor believed in you and chose to shepherd and guide you along the right path. She is a smart woman! 🙂

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks! Sometimes we’re too close to see the flaws. A really insightful, honest person with your best interests at heart can help you cut through the BS & move forward if you’re willing to listen. 🙂

      • Tana Bevan says:

        So often those closest to you don’t want to “hurt your feelings” so you don’t get what you need. When it comes to writing, it should be about the WRITING itself, not the writer. That is if you want to improve.

        • Kitt Crescendo says:

          Oh, absolutely! I think that is the issue many have with honesty in the arts. Writers, musicians, etc… To grow, one needs honesty & a willingness use the feedback to improve. Of course, the feedback also needs to be constructive, not destructive.

  6. Patricia Sands says:

    How lovely to read of your good fortune, Kitt. Heroes and mentors are such a bonus in life and fortunate are we who have been blessed with them. Thank you for sharing these invaluable influences who have been with you on your journey so far.

  7. The Regular Guy NYC says:

    The pic of you and mom is awesome!

    What a great post. I think we all need a hero and mentor in our lives to look up to and help shape who we become as people. Even multiple ones at that!

    These days our youth looks up to the wrong people as heros. For many our parents were our heros. It’s a great sentiment.

  8. Professor Taboo says:

    So sorry Kitt for just now getting around to this post. A wonderful story about heroes and mentors. Thank you! Definitely a difference between the two: Heroes, to me, are a bit more temporary; as in they sort of come-and-go. Mentors, however, are around for a LONG time, investing much quality time together. I am blessed to have both in my life presently and in my past. And it is so good to know that we are eternally bound from our past lives, this life, and our future lives! 🙂

  9. Tana Bevan says:

    Isn’t there a saying to the effect that when the student is ready the teacher will appear? Perhaps that can be modified or adapted to be “When the mentee is ready, the mentor will appear?” Regardless, congrats again on your book and kudos to the Universe/Powers that Be for bestowing/blessing you with wonderful mentors.

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