Silent mentorship

This past Wednesday woke me up bright and early to attend a WXN breakfast networking session. WXN is an organization that connects women in “management, executive, professional and board roles.” Basically that means there’s a lot of networking, acknowledgement of success, and mentoring opportunities. As I sat there during the breakfast in Ottawa’s Rideau Club, pushing around a sausage that I suspected contained gluten and listening to the panel of speakers, it made me think of some of the incredible people I’ve met on this journey through to recovery and beyond. Though none of us ask to join the cancer club, we’ve nevertheless been inducted – and I’ve got to say, bright-side-thinking, it’s connected me to some incredible people.

So am I an executive? No, no, no. I’m a writer who was invited by my mother (president of her own consultation and health company) to the breakfast. We planned on visiting the spa later in the day, but before going to the Nordic, she invited me along to this breakfast event. (I sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor – Hungarian, by the way –  living in the lap of luxury and flaunting it! But the spa is really quite a special treat. Those saunas are great for detoxification.) And therefore I found myself meeting and greeting with a sharp group of high-level women in this high-rise, thick curtained, wood panelled room with a view of Ottawa that would drop the jaw.

It was slightly surreal to meet people and say, “Hello, my name is Catherine. I’m a writer.” And hear them replay, “Hello my name is _______. I work in _______.”  It’s not a natural way to behave, I think. But then, networking is a funny business. Feels a bit like speed dating, eh? I’ve never speed dated – but I can imagine that they are quite similar. You meet, exchange information, get a sense of how/if their business fits your business, and then move on to meet others. Like my mother says, “you only need that initial impression. If you like them, ask to go for a cup of tea later!” Which makes good sense.

(Actually, I met some really cool women and it was interesting to learn how communications, writing, and social media fit into their businesses. One lady was head of communications – which makes me think, “wow.” And another woman had just started her own mentoring business and was looking for a blogger . . . so there you go, well worth an early morning.)

Speakers included Rear Admiral Jennifer Bennett, Chief Reserves & Cadets for the Canadian Navy, Judith Shamian, President & CEO of the Victorian Order of Nurses Canada, and Janet Longmore, President & CEO of Digital Opportunity Trust. And as the room drank their coffee, ate their eggs and tweeted on their ipads – these ladies were lead by Tobi Cohen of Postmedia news in a discussion about leadership, chasing opportunities and mentoring.

It was the mentoring that really caught my attention. Rear Admiral Jennifer Bennett  – a women very high up in the Canadian Navy – spoke about the silent mentor. This is someone who sets the example in the way they handle situations, support others, forges opportunities, etc. And it made me think of the men and women I’ve met over these past two years who have inspired me with their confidence and drive.

I think of . . .

. . . My surgeon. He inspired me with his self-confidence as he quietly, but most certainly, let me know he was the best in terms of mastectomies. I’ve never claimed to be the best at anything, so seeing his confidence was such a different perspective. It made me wonder, what am I the best at? His approach was totally outside my normal way of thinking, but it caused me to consider that being very, very good is not necessarily cause to act very, very humble. Okay, so this doctor was quiet and not showing – but humble? Well . . . he wasn’t going to self-depreciating, that’s for sure. And really, why should he? He was the best.

. . . The blogger whose site was about moving beyond cancer. I’ve been following her webpage ever since diagnoses and through it connected to a larger #bcsm community. Back when my life was first being blown to bits with shock, fear and oncoming chemotherapy . . . I found hope in her journey beyond all those troubles. There was another side, and I could reach it too.

. . . my friends at Facing Cancer Together, who are so quick to respond to questions – go off around the world on journey, fight to make things better, give care to a loved one, stay strong for their children, defy the odds and succeed beyond expectation, and simply tell their story. People on this site lead with courage. It gives me strength to be open and honest.

. . . That woman who went into chemo every week cracking jokes and looking, quite frankly, very pretty. She was staring chemo in the face and spitting at it, laughing at it. Clearly this was her her defence, and I know it wouldn’t work for me (because makeup and nice outfits were the last things on my mind), but seeing her determination made me smile. And goodness knows, it’s good to smile.

. . . The bloggers, the tweeters, the facebookers, the friends stopping by with food, the family writing letters and talking on skype, the husband finishing his PhD . . . the people who made life so much more bearable!

You never know where strength can derive, and I guess it’s also easy to not realize the strength you provide. But people are wonderful, people have been wonderful. . . and I’m quite thankful to my silent mentors for all they’ve been able to share. They’ve challenged me to think differently.

And so, as I finished my green tea at the WXN breakfast and passed out a few business cards, I reflected on the community of woman, and how good it was they wanted to grow with one another. And then I reflected on this community, and how lucky I am to have met so many incredible silent mentors.

So thank you, everyone, for giving me those slices of perspective, signs of love and friendship, flashes of hope, and amazing patience . . . because you’ve read to the end of this post – and I appreciate that very, very much.

Now I’m wondering: am I alone in all this inspiration, or do you have your mentors too? Who are your mentors (silent or otherwise) and how have they impacted your life? Do share – cause I’d love to hear your story.

Till next week!



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