Try to imagine the perfect family… can you? For many, it may be hard to believe that one could exist, but for me as a kid, mine was. I was youngest of 4 siblings growing up in a middle income family with access to all of what one might expect a perfect family to have… living in a nice house in a quiet neighborhood, having frequent family get-togethers with the many extended relatives that all lived close by, being in a close knit church community and receiving all the supports that come with that, having numerous opportunities to play a variety of sports and just enjoying the freedom of being an adventurous a kid who had pretty much everything a kid could hope to have. It wasn’t a life of over-indulgence like so many kids of today have. Rather, it was a life where love was generously provided, where I felt absolutely safe and secure and where I rarely, if ever, felt any significant disappointment or loss. It was as “Leave it to Beaver” as any family could possibly be. Simply put, I loved my life as a child.
When I was growing up, my parents did everything imaginable, or at least everything they knew how to do, to ensure that I would become a success, both personally and professionally. After high-school, I attended one of the best colleges, graduating with a major in Business and within 10 years, I was working in management for a major high-tech company, holding a sizeable portfolio and making six figures. My personal life was filled with much joy. I had married my high school sweetheart. We lived in a beautiful home, drove nice cars and had two children – both handsome boys – and had one on the way. We served in our local church, where we spent a lot of time helping young people. We were also involved in the local hockey community, where we were always doing our best to help others. I was duplicating for my children the same life that I had as a kid. Life couldn’t have been better; I was on top of the world… or so I thought.
Fast forward to 2007 and in a matter of a few years, all hell broke loose. Everything I had worked so hard to build seemed to unravel before my eyes. Of the three boys we had, one was diagnosed with type 1 Juvenile Diabetes and another received a dual diagnosis of both type 1 Diabetes and Cystic Fribrosis – a double whammy. I was surprised to discover that my marriage was not the perfect relationship that I had thought it was. It did not take long before I was divorced. Struggling with so many personal issues, my performance at work was affected and shortly thereafter, I was let go from the job I loved. Within such a short period of time, I had to deal with multiple losses – the health of two my children, my family, my home and my career.
As I reflect back on those times, in spite of the best efforts of my parents, I had never been prepared for the many challenges life was throwing at me. In some ways, the idyllic life I had as a child magnified my feelings of loss. I felt very alone, partly of my own doing because my way had always been to keep personal matters private and because the pain of my many issues was so intense. However, it was also because few people seemed truly interested in listening to me talk about my struggles or providing any meaningful support.
The next 5 years would turn out to be a journey into no man’s land. Not only could I not find a job that was anything remotely close to the one I had, it was hard to find a job period. I did some consulting, although that was somewhat inconsistent and required that I augment my income by other means. Jobs were not plentiful at the time, which meant I didn’t have the freedom to be choosey, but I did find a job working for a company requiring that I work full-time Monday to Friday, but also evenings and weekends. I was doing the best I could to support my family but in the end, my situation was financially unsustainable. I had no choice but to claim bankruptcy.
During the chaos of those times, I needed help on many levels. I was struggling daily just to cope with everything that demanded my time and money. However, I was shocked to discover that the people who I thought would “be there”, weren’t. To add to the other losses, my father and chief mentor had been diagnosed with cancer and died not long afterward. Without his gentle, calming presence to help guide me, I needed the support of people who could “be there” and who could help me to get back on track both personally and professionally. Fortunately, there were a select few who stepped up to the plate and with their support, I was able to finally find solid ground beneath my feet again. If it wasn’t for these people and the support they offered me, I don’t know what I would have done. I’m so grateful to those who were willing to stand beside me to help me get through those trying times. It was profoundly challenging having to go from being someone who so often was a help to others, to being someone who needed help himself… and who needed to be able to ask for this – a very humbling experience, but also one that provided much opportunity. I don’t think I am alone in feeling more comfortable being the helper than being the helped. However, I learned in a completely new way how true the axiom is that every time there is someone(s) who serves in the role of being the “helper”, so too must there also be someone(s) who functions in the role of being the “helped” and that we all need to be prepared to perform in both roles.
I have always been passionate about serving and helping people. Doing so brings me great satisfaction as does seeing others succeed at something. Yet, I have discovered from others and from my life journey that people often live their lives with so much disappointment and regret. They are either not happy with their career and thus their personal life suffers or the opposite can be true and that, as occurred with me, they don’t necessarily know what to do when this happens. Where does one go for help to manage and cope with life’s many challenges? We are taught to be independent beings, but innately, we are also collectively wired to be interdependent with one another. These two paradigms – independence and interdependence – are always in tension with one another and the challenge we each face is to find balance between the two. We grow up wanting to be able to “do it myself” and yet as we go through life, we are each challenged in unique ways to discover that we cannot. If you consider the analogy of your life as a department store, where each section is connected to the other, I like to think of our lives as having two distinct departments – Our Personal and our Professional and that We balance what we do between both of them. Success or failure in one department can determine the success of the other. If you want to take it to another level… the profitability of the Personal department determines the profitability of the Professional department and vice versa.
We are not meant to be alone and because of this, I believe that a collective wisdom also exists among us all as a society. Because we tend to learn as we get older and because as a society we have such a large generational and aging group in the baby-boomers, so too do I believe that they have a collective wisdom from which we can learn.
I created The Mentor+ Project to be a part of the solution and know there are others that want to be the same. We observed that there was a need to build a mechanism that could bridge those who can help with those who need that help. The Mentor+ Project focuses on bringing individuals or groups together in a way that makes it easy and simple to get personal and actionable advice. Having struggled in my own life in many ways, I know this would have been helpful to me. Hence, the reason for this project and why we are proud to now announce that we have a mobile app called Hitch+. This is unlike any other social or professional community as it aims to provide the help and advice you need to find success in both your career and personal lives. It is also easy and fun to use.
I hope you join us on the journey as we move forward together with our lives the best they can be! If this sounds good to you, please download our app and check us out. We appreciate you giving us a try and getting your feedback.