I’m an active proponent of the Toastmasters International program. For those of you that are not familiar with what it is, it is a self-driven program to help you be a better public speaker and a better leader. Even if you have no interest in being a public speaker; it is a fantastic way to build confidence and professional composure.

In each Toastmasters meeting, there is a section called “Table Topics.” These are impromptu speeches that are between one-to-two minutes in length that nearly anyone can get called on to do.

This past Tuesday in my meeting, I was called on to give a presentation on the value of having a mentor. I’ve had the topic on my mind ever since.

I was at a crossroad in my early 20s being quite the vagabond at a local community college. I had spent time studying everything from journalism, to biology, to screenwriting, to the history of monotheistic religions without any real direction or career intent. I was pretty much just meandering around the school for a few years. At this time, photography was nothing more than yet another passing fad.

It was a time where I needed to put up or shut up, essentially. So I chose to transfer to the local university and enrolled in some journalism classes; hoping to get some sense of direction.

Perhaps it was serendipity, fate, or just blind luck that I happened to meet a particular photo professor at the University.

I’m not sure he will ever fully understand the profound impact he had upon my personal and professional life. However, he was the first person to give me the opportunity to success or fail based upon what I did. He essentially tossed me right into the deep end and gave me the chance to figure out how to swim. He did not tell me you have to do A, then B, then C. Instead he inspired me to figure out what path worked for me. Had it not been for this one mentor, I never would have become a professional photographer, public speaker probably wouldn’t have hit my radar, nor would I be working in marketing today.

Who in your field inspires you? Who do you know truly pushes you to new levels?

Or what if you are motivating someone else? Can you set aside a personal agenda to shift them towards their goals and their dreams?