Life is messy. I learned time and time again that nothing goes as planned, but with the right people around you, you’ll overcome. I am where I am today because of four people who taught, supported and believed in me throughout my life.
My parents laid the foundation for elements that I have carried throughout my career: hard work, passion, camaraderie and purpose. They were immigrants from Greece, and being immigrants in Appleton, Wisconsin was not the easiest. However, I watched how hard work, passion, camaraderia and purpose transformed their jobs into meaningful work.
First, my dad. He was a baker who worked 11- or 12-hour days every day. He loves baking, even today in his 80s! He taught me the value of hard work and passion for your trade. Then my mom. She was a janitor who cleaned offices and bathrooms. Not glamorous sounding, right? Well for her, she had the two things that I knew I would always need in my career: camaraderie with her coworkers and purpose.
Football was my great equalizer in high school. My grades were never the best, but I was home on the field. I was talented, but not disciplined. Coach Eagan gave me the tough love I desperately needed. Without him, my life could have derailed, and who knows where I would have ended up. He is the reason why I was able to get into Ripon College to play football, as well as meet my next mentor.
I make it no secret that I was not great in school. My college years were no different than high school; I excelled on the football field, but floundered in the classroom. However, I had a professor who saw something in me, despite my poor test scores. At one point during the semester with her, I grew desperate about my grade. I made the decision to cheat, and she saw right through me. She took the hat I was wearing with the answers written in it; pulled me into her office, and made me retake the test orally. I got a C on the version I cheated, and I got an A on the oral version. (Jody gave me the F I deserved for the class.) Jody not only taught me accountability, but that I learned differently than my peers. I was officially diagnosed with dyslexia, and even though it was something that haunted me, now that I knew for certain why and how I was different, I was able to adapt and overcome.
It takes a village to raise a person! Although there are many who impacted my story, these four are my pillars, and I’ll always be grateful to them.
Tell me about your top mentors in the comments section below!