Unintentional Mentors

 In Blog

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can, there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.  Conductor, Sarah Caldwell

If you are not used to it, the attention of a photographer can make you feel pretty uncomfortable. Imagine two straight hours of having your picture taken.

I recently did a photo shoot for an upcoming speaking engagement. I felt so terribly awkward that it was all I could do to resist heading for the door ten minutes into the shoot. Luckily, I was working with noted Portland photographer and old friend Tim Gunther.

About 45 minutes into the session, Tim put his camera down and said, “Let’s get a pint.” It was 2:00 in the afternoon on a workday, but a few minutes later we were at a neighborhood pub enjoying locally brewed lagers.

Tim sensed correctly that a 15-minute break would help me to loosen up. I suspect that my face may have damaged his camera, but the end result of the photo shoot was, to my great surprise, not too bad.

Tim leading me past my nervousness reminded me of other personal encounters that taught me something long-lasting and valuable.

  •  On a job as a grocery bag boy at Bowen’s Supermarket, I was sent to help the produce guys move all of the vegetables from the displays. As I worked, an angry assistant manager named Mr. Campbell barked, “Keep that up and we’ll have to throw those tomatoes in the ditch.” Then he walked away with no explanation. That memory of Mr. Campbell still reminds me to teach people what to do, instead of what not to do.
  • Walking through Chinatown recently, I saw two vagrants screaming at each other after a fight. A Portland police officer talked with them, hands folded non-threateningly, her voice strong but respectful. Two fellow officers stayed a few yards away as she calmed things down. The officer was physically much smaller than the two arguing men, but she chose to use conversation and collaboration instead of force. I will think of her power whenever I arbitrate emotional conflicts in my work.
Stay aware of the people that you encounter and your biggest lessons in life and career may come from peers, perfect strangers and momentary encounters.

And, you may be surprised at how many people you influence every day. How would your interactions change if you acted as if each one might be a lasting example for that person?

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/matusfi/

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