Role models and mentors
I am a big believer that mentors become mentors organically. They can be people who are your peers or people who are younger or older. You learn from them, they learn from you and there is a special connection that can be a champion of each others success.
Over the course of my career I have had a few role models. Some good and some bad. Some that I internally pointed to and thought I want to be like that when I get to that point in my career. Others that I pointed to and thought I never want to behave like that. Those role models are really about keeping your eyes and ears open and looking at people that you revere. You watch how they conduct themselves in management, business, as friends and perhaps parents.
Sometimes there is a fine line between a role model and a mentor and sometimes you can be both. I am in the midst of a few construction projects. The first big project we ever did set a foundation to understand the players, the process and the frustrations. We learned a lot from it and found that we love building buildings and spaces as much as we like building businesses.
There was one person in that initial project that changed the way I think about design. She was the designer/decorator. She has since retired but I was a willing and able student. I wanted to be educated on the process. She probably did not realize that she was a mentor or even a role model in some regards but when I look back at what she taught me, I think about her every time I design/decorate a space. What would she do here? Does this make sense based on what she taught me? How should I be thinking about the space?
I bump into her on occasion and am pretty sure I have told her each time how much she taught me. Last year we were at an outdoor cafe in Paris and I heard a voice that I recognized. It was her ex-partner. He came over to our table and we chatted for awhile. Their relationship did not end on a high note. She wasn’t the easiest person to get along with but I loved her brain. Her brilliance has really made it hard for me to work with anyone ever again without feeling I know more than they do. Unfortunately that has been the case in every project since. As he got up to leave he said to me “she spoiled you for life didn’t she?” I laughed because I never thought about it that way but the answer was a resounding yes. He turned to me and said “she spoiled me too.”