I was mentored by the many small lessons I learned from different people in my life, often without their knowledge.

One example is Ginna, the bookkeeper I worked for on afternoons in high school. She always taught me to fake it till you make it. She said, “When people ask if you know something, for instance on a job interview, confidently look them in the eye and reassure them that you can handle the job. Then come to me and we’ll figure out what you need to learn to make it so.” She taught me how to be confident, even when I didn’t feel confident. Ginna said this it wasn’t lying; I was being confident I could learn to do the job. 

Lisa Wilber

This advice came in handy years later when I joined my direct sales company’s newly minted network marketing program. Since I didn’t have any success stories to point when I spoke with a prospect, I painted a verbal picture of what our success would look like. I faked it till we made it! 

Another example is Mr. Jacobs, one of my sixth grade teachers. Mr. Jacobs taught us we could make a difference in the world, but that we had to be neat, clean, and punctual. He went over those points again and again. Looking back in my school yearbook, I see no mention of Mr. Jacobs. He was a “specials” teacher&mdsah;we only had him for a short time on certain days to talk about a specific subject. I truthfully don’t even remember what subject he taught... What I do know is that Mr. Jacobs told us that being neat, clean, and punctual meant that we can have and do great things in the world&mdsah;and I believed him. He knew our names, took time to talk to each of us, and told us about a future we had not even thought about before. And it all started with being neat, clean, and punctual.

Most of the mentors in my life I never had contact with personally. They inspired me through their books or audio programs. My earliest experience of this was George Shinn, former owner of the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets basketball team and Rutledge Business College, a school I attended in the mid-80s. Every student was given a copy of his book, The Miracle of Motivation. I still reread passages from it today. Through his book, George Shinn taught me valuable lessons such as: write down your goals, believe in yourself, keep growing and learning, and learn from your mistakes and struggles.

At the time I was attending his business college, I was also working third shift in a convenience store in North Charleston, South Carolina. The pay was so low that I had to save up for two months in order to get my electric turned on in my apartment. With no windows in the tiny bathroom, that meant cold showers in the dark. Reading that book at that time, made me believe that the lifestyle I was currently living didn’t have to be my end game. I could decide where I would go from there. I knew the sky was the limit if I worked hard and kept learning.

During the time right before our company launched its network marketing program, I took a job with another direct sales company&mdsah;only to quit six months later. This experience taught me I was unemployable, so I’d better bring my A-game to being an entrepreneur. The other company did not want creative high-achievers who hungered for success. They wanted employees who followed direction without question, something I am not good at. I quit that job because my boss’s boss swore at me for not following his orders exactly. I included the company name in a newspaper ad and he wanted me to run only blind ads. I remember the phone call like it was yesterday. I had very little money, but I told that him, “I don’t care who you are, no one talks to me like that!” and hung up the phone. My boss called me back and said, “If you call him back and apologize right now, you might be able to get your job back.” I told her, “Why on earth would I want to work for a company that treats its employees this way?” I learned that I needed to work for myself. The one good thing that came from that job was a gift I earned by meeting a sales goal: the audio program Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale. 

Of all the people and things that have influenced my life, this one program has had the biggest impact of all. His words made me realize I had to take 100 percent responsibility for my outcomes; that I need not look elsewhere for my big opportunity, that I need to be sure to look thoroughly at what I am involved with, as I might already have a diamond mine (as taught in his “Acres of Diamonds” story).

Having a mentor and being a mentor doesn’t have to be a formal relationship. I believe each of us have many mentors in our life and we all have the opportunity to mentor others through our example. The trick is to be open to all the possibilities and continue to learn, grow, and share.

LISA M. WILBER has been a top-10 earner in her direct sales company for two decades. She is an author and international speaker and trainer. She lives in New Hampshire with her daughter Lydia.

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