Today we have a very special guest post from David E. Dresner, the writer of ‘A Casino for Gods’ the third book in ‘The Allies of Theo’ series. I hope you enjoyed David’s words as much as I did!
Things That Have Inspired Me
My collective experiences tell me the common denominator in all of life’s important events, the positives and the negatives, are people. I’ll present those people who have impacted and inspired me from my earliest years to the present.
The earliest mentoring began from my father, Frank Dresner. Frank was a young immigrant arriving in 1910 from Hungary at age one. Adjusting to a new country was demanding.
His birth certificate’s first name was ‘Geza’, a tenth century king in his region of Transylvania. As he adjusted to being an American, he wisely changed from Geza to Frank.
Based on his many challenging adjustments he instilled in me the importance of believing in yourself. I clearly remember him telling me, at various points in my young life, “David, you can do anything you set your mind to do.” These early votes of confidence made a lasting impact.
I grew up in a small, rural community in northern Ohio called “Howland Corners’. Howland was founded in the late 1700’s. Howland had one school with grades one thru twelve, there was one church. We’re talking small here.
The church was a non-denominational community church. Robert, the minister, taught that people are all the same regardless of labels. He invited guest Sunday speakers including rabbis, Catholic priests, and various Protestant ministers.
Robert’s perspective on people served me well. In business I worked easily with people of all backgrounds including Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims. I benefited from all these diverse peoples and cultures thanks to Robert. I always viewed people as Robert would have, as individuals with unique talents, drives, and personalities.
Two Business Mentors
Fresh out of a top graduate business school, my early self-confidence was quickly tested. I was hired by the number one firm in the Fortune 500 ranking. I lasted less than a year before being fired. I was in the wrong job and never debated the firing; in fact, I was relieved. I still believed in myself.
My business fortune changed when I stumbled into my subsequent professional career. I joined a small local consulting firm with a goal of becoming an accredited actuary.
My first boss, Russ, was a World War II veteran as well as being an actuary. Russ hammered into me the importance of being ‘right’ in our work. At the end of each month, we determined the pensions for retiring city workers. I did the pension calculations and Russ would separately do them. We would then compare results for each retiree. We had to agree to the penny. Of course, Russ was always right. I never wanted to disappoint him so I would triple check my work. A word of praise made my day.
Russ moved to New York and I joined a national firm in Philadelphia. My second boss, Bob, was my age. When I initially interviewed with him, I thought he was a sourpuss. I was wrong. Bob and I became friends outside of work but never brought friendship into the office.
Bob was brilliant, a master of our profession. He spent a lot of time mentoring me in applying the complex mathematics underlying our profession. Like Russ, he demanded we be ‘right’ in our analysis. He taught me how to ‘prove’ mathematically our numbers were correct. Due to Bob’s training, I became a competent professional, confident in my work.
I Become a Mentor and Again Benefit
My lifelong experiences of benefiting from mentors motivated me to do the same for others.
In business, as well as life, people are emotionally reluctant to admit their shortcomings. Mentors know this and first establish trust. Following trust, the mentor can proceed to address shortcomings in a manner that permits understanding, acceptance, and ultimately progress. Many of my young charges have gone on to strong careers.
After retirement I taught, pro bono, middle school math, including algebra, for grades six, seven, and eight. Too many students self-labeled themselves as ‘dumb’ in math. While they needed instructional help, more importantly they needed self confidence that they could master the difficult subject. I helped them build that confidence.
We had many success stories working together. Students were surprised at their improved performance on standardized exams. While the students were justifiably proud, the biggest beneficiary was me. I knew I had made a difference in young lives, much the same as others had made in mine.