An Artist of Encouragement

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The mentor’s spirit is that productive liberating power that heartens us to….develop into our best selves,

[the] who we were born to be. Marsha Sinetar

Now that it’s been almost two weeks, I’m ready to share.

In late 2005, I started taking voice lessons because I wanted to find my literal (and my figurative) voice. Though I am quite competent on the piano, I am neither gifted nor trained vocally. But the quest merits the effort, and thus, I persist.

My lessons were moving along swimmingly until my teacher announced that there would be a vocal recital in April. So keen was I to participate that when the e-mail announcement came around, I impulsively hit the “reply to all” button, notifying my teacher and all her students that I wanted to participate.

But guess what?

When I arrived at my next lesson, she was quite reluctant about my participating in the recital. Never saying no outright, she simply did her best to dissuade me. Fresh off the Ruff Ruffman auditions, I was acutely observant of my teacher’s response – and while her discouraging me could have been to protect me from embarrassment, my interpretation was – she thinks I’m really bad.

Things got worse from there.

A week later, still feeling a bit unraveled, I cancelled my next lesson. When I did so (mind you, 48 hours in advance), she indicated that I had cancelled too many lessons without rescheduling – and that she needed to make a living. Not realizing that this was an issue, I quickly said “my bad” and promised to pay for the missed lessons.

But I was devastated.

Because this e-mail seemed to confirm that she didn’t really have a vision for me, that money was her first priority, and my desire to find my voice was by comparison inconsequential. Not to mention the fact that I wondered, “Am I really so hopeless as a singer that she doesn’t want me to sing in the recital?”

With my tears now dry, I am grateful for this hard bought lesson on the art of encouragement.

For I now KNOW at a very, very deep level that when you or I teach/mentor/make deposits into the Intellectual Immigration fund, though the deposit will, in part, be about us (what do I get for what I give?), the primary reason for mentoring — whether a stranger, friend, or even a child — must be because we see something magnificent in her that she can’t yet see, and that we are here, in this moment, to be her see-er until she can be her own.

It just must.

I’ll end with where I began – Marsha Sinetar – “Anyone who intuits our life’s essential vision or themes and somehow affirms these so that we can reach out for them is an artist, an artist of encouragement.”

And when we do encourage another’s best self, becoming an artist of encouragement – well, just think of the masterpieces yet to be wrought, the stories to be recorded and shared…

When you have been with someone that prompts your best self – how do you feel?

For example, Lorna Rousseau, my personal trainer at the gym does an amazing job of encouraging me (sometimes pushing/sometimes pulling) toward physical well-being. I always leave a workout session feeling better no matter my mood when I walk in. My children's school teachers, karate and gymnastics coaches are true artists of encouragement.

Or what about the half dozen people in your life that whenever you see or hear from them, they say something that allows you to see your best self?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to encourage someone within your sphere of influence to be her best self?

Who are the people in your life that you are mentoring or teaching right now, whether professionally or on a volunteer basis? How does this feel?

Are you excited enough about his/her magnificence that the deposits you make on their behalf can be more about them than you?

If your heart doesn’t extend to this person, do you need to find a way to have a change of heart? Or is this simply a signal that both you (the mentor) and the men-tee could find more productive, learning relationships elsewhere?

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