Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

One of my best friends runs his own successful company.

Something we have in common: in the past we've had this idea that we want to help some people get ahead. Give them a leg up, a break, whatever you want to call it, knowing how difficult that can be in our respective businesses.

Over the years I worked in the news media - radio, TV and newspapers - I successfully mentored countless college student interns - literally dozens. Each of them intense, rich and rewarding educational working situations. Some of them even became friends after their internships were completed - in fact if any of them read this, I bet they contact me.

An actor I coached worked with me several months a year over three years as my assistant when she was home from her acting studies at NYU's Tisch School of Drama and the Stella Adler Studio.

We worked regular 9-5 work days, M-F, exchanging my mentoring for office work; she also acted with other coachees during the day for scene work. This was an extraordinarily successful mentoring/working situation; we worked *very* hard on several projects - it was magic - and had loads of fun along the way. I count her among my closest friends today.

My company-running friend and I have accomplished innumerable successful projects with experienced co-workers.

So! Imagine our surprise and disappointment when our good intentions paved that well-known road.

We identified people - mature adults, inexperienced in our respective industries - whom we considered talented and hard working and wanted to help grease their path to the next level, including them on professional projects we created.

We thought it would be great for their resumes, reels, experience, knowledge, references, whatever is appropriate for the particular business; and that the work would be fun and rewarding for us (actually, everything I work on is fun and rewarding anyway). They agreed they were ready, willing and able to take part in these projects. We even drew up contracts.

The results have been what I call "successful disasters," and fortunately there have been few.

In my friend's case, the inexperienced mentorees would gain tremendous professional experience (the success part), but would then start to assume greater knowledge and power than they actually had with other workers; some even took advantage of him financially (the disaster part).

In my instance, they reaped a valuable education and participated in extraordinary, well-produced professional projects (the success part). Then communication would deteriorate when problems with their spouses arose - each for a different reason that had nothing personally to do with me; in one case not even the work itself but a change in priorities marked by an unannounced withdrawal (the disaster part).

After chatting about our "successful disasters," who also seemed not to appreciate the extraordinary opportunities they were afforded, my friend and I decided that, while we had to accept our 50% for any problems that developed after the successful part - much as we worked to avoid them - there will be no more.

Along with our mentorees, we learned a valuable lesson:

We found our way to the next level of our businesses and respect of our peers strictly through the love of what we do, dedication, the quality of our (very hard) work and networking with other professionals who share our love of excellent work; other inexperienced folks we meet who *really* want to be in our businesses will have to find their own way as well.

A toast to all of us succeeding beyond our wildest dreams in the new year!


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