By now fulfilling dreams sounds like a lonely business (as evidenced in our first steps of the series starting here). But that’s not true. In the midst of our pursuit, we need people. And so the “R” in our ATTA GIRL acrostic is for “Rely on Others.”
We aren’t “lone rangers.” We need encouragers—people who cheer us on. We also need mentors—people who can polish our skills by sharing with us their journey. Do you know the difference between an encourager and a mentor? An encourager loves everything you do; a mentor actually knows if it’s any good! And we also need contacts—people who lead us to someone who can get our foot in the door.
In her book Breathing Freely, Ruth McGinnis talks about some people she met in the music business, and says this:
“I needed these individuals to come into my life like I needed oxygen to breathe; surely they are testaments to how God’s hand plants people, like grace, in our way and clears a path forward.”
Hebrews 10:25 tells us: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Kathy was one of my best encouragers. She was the person who prodded me to seriously work at my writing. We had been talking about books one day, and she asked if I’d ever done any writing. I told her I’d done a bit, including writing a little short story, which she politely asked to read. I took her up on it! She returned the story to me with this little note on it, written on two post-it notes:
At her suggestion, I sent that story out to a magazine. That was almost 20 years ago. I’ve now sent that story out 22 times and received 22 rejections! And while that’s disappointing, it’s OK, because it started me writing again, and I’ve had 100 other things published. Find someone who believes in you and your dream.
We also need mentors, people who share the same dream but are further along the path to achieving it. Jo, whom I met at that first writers conference, was that for me. She’s funneled me work, applauded my successes and told me who to submit articles to.
Mentors can help us realize the dream is achievable, because they’ve achieved it, or are at least closer. They can suggest the next step and point out pitfalls to avoid. Look for someone who doesn’t want to mold you into their own image, but instead helps you move forward in your unique God-designed direction. Ask God to lead you to the right mentor for your dream.
In addition to encouragers and mentors, we need contacts. Contacts are the people who can introduce us to the people who can help us fulfill the dream. We all want to believe it’s not whom you know but what you know, but often it’s not true. It’s hard for strangers to take a chance on you, particularly when you’re new at something.
Keith was a contact for me. I had always wanted to act, but after a humiliating audition in high school, I’d given up, other than the occasional church Christmas play. Keith went to our church and was involved in community theater here in Lancaster, the very theater that was going to put on Anne of Green Gables, one of my favorites. I gathered my courage and went to the open auditions. I didn’t get a part.
I mentioned my disappointment to Keith. He obviously talked to the director, because the director called and offered me a bit part. I worked hard on those 5 lines! When someone goes out on a limb to make something happen for you, do your best not to disappoint them. Give it all you’ve got. I did all right and later had another, larger part. I was offered more but moved away.
Discouragements will come as you pursue your dream. The paintings won’t sell, you don’t get the part, or you flunk a required course. When that happens, seek out the people who will support you, cheer for you, teach you, speak up for you—bathe yourself in their love and belief in you. And let them prod you to keep moving on.