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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Long-term payoff

A good friend of mine once counseled that I must think about how I can solve a particular editor's problem, as in their need for good stories/ideas, etc. Of course I should've known this because I've been an editor with those very problems. But somehow hearing his words and "steady there" always seemed to set me in the right frame of mind for evaluating a potential project. And so whenever a new one wafts my way, he is the person I consult first. The reason is that he's never given me bad advice.

In fact, in a way he's been the one to gently shove me when I've hesitated and the one to cause me to ease off the gas when I'm a bit too jazzed. How can you thank a friend like that? It's impossible, really, except that you have to do what he espouses daily and pay it forward to someone else.

And that's exactly what I hope to do. Because the words he shared with me back in March and April, when I was still wondering if I had made the right decision about my career, are literally paying off for me now in terms of steady assignments.

There's not a professional situation I launch into these days in which I don't hear his words in my head: "Steady there," "turn this over in your mind a bit," "think about what problem you can solve," "how can you make a connection here," "how can you turn this into a positive for Wendy Hoke."

Though I consider him a friend, I suppose he's really been a mentor. The reason I bring this up now is that I've been reading and writing a lot about mentoring. I'm convinced that behind every successful individual is a mentor or mentors who were early observers of potential, and coaches for life. In a story I just completed, I asked CEOs of 10 companies about their mentors. All along the way, they were quick to credit someone who saw in them qualities that would pay off in the long term.

Although I'm still a long ways from my dreams, I take comfort in knowing that my friend and mentor is a phone call or an e-mail away, always the calm to my frenzy and the cheerleader to my doubting Thomas. And the constant reminder that I must be happy in small ways. With a little luck and effort, I hope to return the favor.

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