|Dedicated to my late friend, teacher, mentor and inspiration,|
Charlie "Tremendous" Jones
The acronym, TMI, has pretty much come to mean "Too Much Information" to most people. But, that is not what I have in mind for this article. Yes! We live in a society of great magnitudes of information that is ever growing exponentially. In simple terms, we live in a world of "information overload." But, this is a topic for another time.
Here is my definition of TMI for this article:
Inspirationalists (my coined word)
These are the people who come through our lives at various times and teach, mentor and inspire us and in so doing guide, mold and direct us down paths that become our future lives. I call the times, "pivotal times" and I call these people "pivotal people."
Yes! We can certainly include our parents, relatives, friends, religious leaders, teachers/professors, doctors, colleagues and co-workers among those who may fill various degrees of these three rolls. However, if you look back throughout your life, there are individuals who stand out from all those you've come in contact with from the list I just enumerated. These pivotal people may come into our lives as teachers (formally or not), mentors (those who take us under their wings) and inspirationalists (those who inspire us to grasp opportunities, take calculated risks and soar off the cliffs of life).
These people may come into our lives for a specific reason or only a season or for our livetime until one or the other of us passes on. The times they appear in our lives, regardless of whether for a reason, a season or a lifetime, is what I define as the pivotal times. These are the times when we reach a crossroad, a T intersection, a roundabout or a fork in the road must choose the path for our lives.
Some people may think this is a bit too simplistic. Life is much more difficult. No question, "Life is difficult." Those are the opening words of the late M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, in his groundbreaking book. In fact, when it comes to life being difficult, each of us is our own worst enemy. Often, instead of recognizing a pivotal person (who we typically don't recognize until long after their impact on our lives has been experienced) as the teacher, mentor or inspirationalist he or she is, we ignore or downplay what they are there to impart on us. Some time later, perhaps years or decades, we may thump ourselves on the forehead and say, IF I had only listened to fill in the name my life would have been so different (and typically better). That falls into the category of "woulda," "shoulda," "coulda" and that doesn't count for anything. It's usually too late by then.
So, who are these pivotal people?
Teachers are those who come into our lives at precisely the time we need them and teach us some specific skill or skill sets. Teachers recognize our talents, gifts or abilities, often before we do. They may pass through our lives for only a brief moment in time, sometimes as short as a few hours, or as long as several years. They may even remain with us for a lifetime.
Perhaps we have some kind of musical or artistic talent and these teachers teach us how to use these talents and gifts We may attend a lecture or a master class or individual, one on one lessons. But, ultimately, what they teach us we will use for the rest of our lives as we continue to hone whatever it is. Perhaps we have some kind of athletic ability or we are mechanically inclined and the teacher imparts on us the knowledge to excel in the chosen field of endeavor. He or she may become a lifetime friend and, often, part of our "cheerleading squad" as they bask in the afterglow of our achievements.
Mentors are those who take us under their wings for a period of time. Some of them we may refer to as coaches. While they may teach us things, they are mainly there to work with us through our growth toward some specific goals or achievements. Usually, they are very successful in whatever the field of endeavor such as athletics, business, personal or professional growth and acumen.
A high school or college athletic coach, a well-known, successful artist, an acclaimed musician or theatrical performer, a writer, audio or video producer, the list is endless. Again, these individuals usually appear just at the time we need them, the pivotal time. The challenge for us, since we are typically "green," is to recognize them for who they are and that "this" is the time. We all miss many of these people and don't understand the timing. And, like teachers, they may be in your life for a reason, a season or for life. Often, they will know when to pass you off to the next pivotal person who can mentor you to new levels.
The inspirationalist is the most interesting of all. This is a person who may or may not actually teach you anything specifically related to your talent, gift or special ability, nor are they necessarily successful in a tangible way that relates to your future goals, so they can't really mentor you. Actually, in some cases, you may never even meet an inspirationalist and get to know them one on one. Yet, at some pivotal moment in time, this pivotal person will appear in the form of a lecturer, an author, a radio or TV personality or just someone you see in a news story.
On the other hand, You may be inspired enough by this person in some manner to seek them out and get to know them personally. I have done this on several occasions during my lifetime. The greatest part of their role in inspiring you is when you realize they are just normal, regular people who may have done something that spoke to your mind and heart. Inspirationalists may be proactive and actually play some kind of role in your life and achievements. On the other hand, it may simply be what or how they expressed some philosophical thought in a book or lecture you listened to. Inspirationalists will often remain with you, at some level, for your lifetime. They will become part of your psyche and your own life philosophies.
TMI's - Can One Be All Three?
Indeed! The answer is simply, yes! Sometimes one person can fill two or all three of these pivotal roles in your life. And the pivotal times when they fill these roles may be all at once or various times. In my own life there are a handful of people, less than I can count on one hand, who I refer to as friends, clients, colleagues, teachers, mentors, inspirationalists and even father figures (filling certain roles I lost when I was 21 and my own father died).
I mentioned earlier that you normally don't recognize these TMI's until later in your life as you look back and realize where you started and where you've reached. Almost invariably you'll remember each one of these pivotal TMI's and precisely when they impacted your life, the pivotal time. You'll also recall precisely what they taught you, how they mentored you and why/how they inspired you. Even if they were actually in your life for a very short time, you remember.
One of the people I described as fulfilling numerous roles in my life and was among the small number I could count on less then one hand, passed away just shy of seven years ago, at this writing. One of his famous quotes was, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” I can tell you that, if nothing else came from my long relationship with Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, that one statement changed my life. Charlie was one of the people I sought out and we became great friends. Even though he was my elder (nearly old enough to be my father), he treated me as an equal and often told me of things he learned from me. That is a powerful relationship.
What Goes Around, Comes Around!
Here is the powerful part of this TMI concept. One day, if you've followed your dream and your passion in life, met and accepted the pivotal TMI's who came into your life at the pivotal time, you'll look back and say, WOW! What a ride it's been and I couldn't have/wouldn't have done it without my TMI's.
But, the real payoff is when people start coming to you and letting you know that you were a T, M or I in their lives. You were pivotal in their success, skills, achievements, etc. and you didn't even know it. In My McVansion hangs a plaque that says WMSC #1 recognizing me as the person who started a radio station on the campus of a small, state commuter college in New Jersey. I didn't realize until two years ago the college is now a 20,000 student university and through that dream of a radio station I had and created, I inspired at least a couple thousand students to enjoy college radio. And, of those, many went on to successful broadcast careers. That radio station is now part of the university curriculum.
There is also a medallion hanging from my sun visor that designates me as a "HERO." Well over 30 years ago I helped a person and taught him some skills one day. I had long forgotten that event. He didn't! There are numerous stories like this in my life coming back and letting me know my life impacted other lives in positive ways.