Mentors matter. They are crucial to our growth and take all kinds of shapes and forms throughout our lives. I believe that the people we surround ourselves with day in and day out may even be more significant. They influence the follow through of the advice we get from mentors. They add doubt or help drown it out. They will help move you forward to get you to stop.
I had met Jane at a Bose Christmas party that was held at a local 50’s dance club. She was much older than me and yet she seemed to understand me more than anyone. She was tall, long straight hair, great smile and we connected quickly. We were together as much as possible. She had lived in Framingham, where I worked at Bose and it was halfway to Boston. She was my best friend and the only one, I think at that time in my life who fully understood me back then.
When I was just a comic wanna be, she would go with me and support me when I had no talent and no visible reason for being on stage. She would drive with me to Boston when I was petrified to go up on stage every chance she could. I can see now that God put her in my life for that reason. When my well-meaning family tried, but just didn’t understand.
I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I had never felt such support. In fact, I bought a ring and called two of my former Subway employees who had some musical talent. We practiced and brought a guitar and went outside her window one night and sang the Extreme song, More Than Words under her window. She came out smiling and crying. I knelt down on one knee nervously pulled out the ring and she hesitated a second and said, “I can’t.” Ouch.
Needless to say I was devastated. I cried myself to sleep for a week. I felt raw and the only thing I could do was drown myself in comedy. Being on stage and getting laughs was temporary relief. I remember hearing a line from an old movie, not sure if it was Punch Line of Mr. Saturday Night. The line was, “I’m in love with a woman named comedy.” It was about the fact that comedy will never let you down. That may not make sense to you, but it does to me and any comedian who was ever serious about what they do.
That pain is what drove me for a while. I needed it to break through many barriers I had. I’m thankful now for that pain and the drive it gave me. It took me years to understand why Jane had told me no. She was wiser than I. She knew it would not work and the age difference would be challenging for my family to accept. She was looking out for her heart and her daughter too.
It was amazing that she loved me the way she did. I don’t think I could have made it through the beginning years without her support. I don’t think I could have had the persistence to get the breakthroughs I needed without the pain. I wanted desperately to help people have a respite for their pain and laugh for a few precious moments.
I wish I could go back and thank Jane now. She passed away many years ago. What would I tell her?
“Thank you Jane, for believing in me when I did not believe in myself. Your unconditional love and support built the foundation for what I get to do for a living today. There is no way I would have continued were it not for you.
I understand why you did not accept my proposal, now. You were much wiser than me and knew better. I can’t imagine how challenging it must have been for you to say, ‘No.’ Thank you for loving me the way you did. I truly hope you are looking down and hearing this. If you are, I know that smile is on your face. Bless you.”
Though you may have not asked your Jane to marry you. Who’s your Jane? Who is the friend that supported you when most others did not. Who is the person who believed in you when you did not? Who is the person that encouraged you when other people did not? Who is the person who knew your flaws and loved you anyway? Who gave you tough love and maybe you replied defensively? Take a moment to reflect, can you see the difference they made now?
Would you please reach out and thank them? If you have, maybe it would be cool to remind them. Sincere words of encouragement and thankfulness seldom fall on deaf ears.
Here is what I learned upon reflection:
Who was your Jane? Please post your story or tell us what happened when you Thanked them!
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